Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama is the finest place to be, observe, and participate in the motorcycle racing arena. This trip was even nicer than most as we had no weather issues to deal with. Upper 70s to lower 80s and clear skies, what more could we ask for?
And, as I had done most of my preparation before we left, Keith and I got to ride together. This meant bringing our trailer hitch bike carrier for my extra bike. Two bikes were required in order to increase my chances of having a bike to make it onto the track. I didn’t know if the Maroon Monsoon (CL350 with 32mm CV carbs) or the Silver Bucket with a very low mileage SL350 (28mm direct slide carburetors) motor was going to be my main ride. I made arrangements at technical inspection to have Maroon Monsoon tagged for Lightweight practice sessions and Silver Bucket took the usual Vintage 1-4 practice sessions. This gave me the ability to test ride and tweak each bike twice, not to mention getting two extra practice sessions on the track before race time…
Our trip included the traditional Alabama bench racing session till midnight. We covered all aspects of vintage motorcycle racing, politics, world trade, and philosophy. After a decently abbreviated sleep, Keith woke me up a little later than usual. Seems the snooze button was daring him more than once. Coffee in hand, we hit the road. Breakfast was to be in Alabama. We actually had some traffic as we started later than planned, Crossing the border meant that food was just around the corner.
Pre-registration was a bit of a time saver. We had our bikes unloaded and practice sessions were just beginning.
First problem showed up while removing Silver Bucket from the truck. A very pronounced “clunk-clunk” in the front end turned out to be the steering bearing nut having backed off. Normally an easy fix, this problem identified another issue to be resolved. The spacing washer that made up for the CB77 (305 Superhawk) front wheel and brake combo being mounted on an SL350 stock front fork assembly proved to be a slight bit too wide. Thanks to the assistance of Mr. Charlie Young, I was able to get the bike on the track and give it a test run.
I also had the opportunity to test Maroon Monsoon. First the carburetors proved to be semi-sensitive. But the real issue was an oil leak from the traditional clutch pushrod seal. The motor was fairly low mileage, but the 40 years must have had something to do with the deterioration of the rubber seal. Not having a spare pushrod seal, I continued with Silver Bucket in hopes of not having to make Maroon Monsoon my lead bike for the day.
With the front end reassembled (Thank you, Charlie) I took Silver Bucket to the track and gave it my all. Practice went fair with an obvious top end issue caused by the 28mm carb limitation. The smaller diameter carbs gave me no issues at the start of a race. It becomes more obvious when trying to squeeze out the last few drops of horse power through a set of carbs that are the definition of bottle neck.
We had the seventh and last races of the day. This didn’t give us time to make any changes to our bikes if any issues identified themselves in the first race. But, it did leave us plenty of time to figure out if we had problems to resolve before the races. The national anthem played (this must have new meaning to my race partner as he has recently become a U.S. citizen) and the mini racers took to the track. We knew we were next…
The GP500 was our first race of the day. That meant that Doug Bowie was not going to be on the track, but Tom Marsden on his Triumph 650 would be. This was our “bump up” race, so we expected to be out gunned when actual 500GP bikes were around. Tom and I had a few great races last year. It still amazes me that Honda could make a 325cc bike that can give a 650cc Triumph a run for its money. As a matter of fact, James Walker did beat Tom for the first place trophy. But, I get ahead of myself.
We were all hoping it was cold weather that was keeping the grid size down. None of us wanted to think that the economy has taken its toll on our favorite playtime activity. But we have to admit that it has caused changes. The biggest change would have to be the lack of pay-outs in the solo races. In 2010, it is reported that WERA paid out $52,xxx in winnings to the modern bike guys. This year, they are racing for plaques like us vintage guys. This has caused a serious decrease in the number of players on the field, both young and old.
With ony five of us on the 500GP grid, we had a lot of room compared to previous Barber MSP races. Only a few AHRMA guys showed up and they weren’t racing. That left just the die-hard WERA vintage riders toughing it out in the nice weather.
If there are no video links included in this or the Nashville race, do check back. Editing the video is just one of the many things I am behind on in this $4 per gallon motorcycle sale-a-thon that is keeping me busy.
So, we are on the grid and learning another race starter’s technique. This is the young guy who once caused me to finish racing a lap early while Keith kept racing away from me. Seems he was a bit confused and gave me the checkered flag one lap too early at Road Atlanta last year. The Silver bucket was warmed up and ready for action. The bikes around me started to rev up and the green flag ripped through the air.
We headed for turn one and the gap between the V2 bike (in front of us) got real tight. The GP500 class started to push through the V2 bikes and that made for an awesome view on the track. Unfortunately, with all my bike repairs in the pits, I did not get the cameras situated to capture this race. It would have been something to see.
James Walker and Tom Marsden pulled away fairly early leaving Keith, David Hurst and me behind to duke it out. in the back of the pack. My SL350 really liked being at Barber. The tight twisties, hammer down braking, and bursts of acceleration worked out quite will for the frame, suspension and braking. The power factor was another story. In the long straits, Keith could pull away from me. In the tight twisties, I could catch up, but not pass.
The weather was beautiful. James Walker and Tom Marsden had a good race together. Keith and I were close, but I followed most of the time. When it was said and done, Keith took third place at the finish with me not too far behind him.
Back in the pits, I gave Silver Bucket one last look over to see if there was anything I was missing that might cause the minor shortage of horse power I needed to get back in front of Keith. And there it was, staring me in the face the whole time. 28mm carburetors don’t breathe like 32 mm carbs. Will have to make arrangements for a 32mm head and carbs.
The GP350 race was our last trip to the track at Barber MSP for 2011…
My front tire came off the ground. That little hill climber really took off from a dead stop. Anything that resembled a ride in the country was an inspiring challenge for Silver Bucket. But, the long haul strait shots were just too much for the little choked motor.
Keith and I both had successful video captures for the GP350 race. So at this point I am going to link you to the race video. Check out how one of the Formula 500 two-stroke bikes kept getting in the way of our 325cc four-stroke motor bikes. The bike that we were trading places with was a 400cc Yamaha RD400 two-stroke. There were four of them in the Formula 500 class and they have been known to go very fast.
Here’s the GP350 race at Barber Motorsports Park, May 2011! By the end of this race, Doug Bowie had all but lapped us on his Ducati production racer. But, back in the battle area, Keith took second place and I came in behind him in third. I like placing when I race. Not only does it feel good when friends and family ask how I did, but it also gives me the chance to stand before my fellow racers (and readers of my blog) and shout the praises of my sponsor, Sirius Consolidated Incorporated – THE Keyster Carb Kit Capital of the World for their support in my racing adventures. Thank you, Martin, Dany, Mercedes, Chris, and the whole SCI crew up in the great white north. Glad you all are now getting some summer time weather to enjoy.
The only Jennings GP race of 2011 is next. Stay tuned for the details.
Still catching up and hope you don’t mind when I shorten