Jennings 2011, the one and only was supposed to me a nice mile May race that turned out to be on hot pit… and track.
With Keith out for this one, I picked up John in Warner Robbins area. Keith, having other obligations, has to choose which races he will miss and which ones he can make. This decision is not as simple as which race is closer and which requires the longest ride, nor is it a matter of which is his favorite track or which one he actually dislikes. Road Atlanta is a great example of that. It’s obviously the closest to his home, but it’s the one he actually dislikes. Go figure…
I dropped off a CB450 with Mr. Cook, which he will be “laying hands on” to make a nice running and good looking resale bike. John’s experience in the Honda 450/500 technology (torsion bar, not valve spring) motors made him the obvious choice for this ailing motor. Left in the driveway uncovered, but under the eves of the house, this poor bike stayed clean on the outside, but moisture was allowed to enter via the open exhaust valve. The exposed valve was obvious once the spark plug was removed.
John has since removed the head and been able to reveal a fairly nice cylinder wall. With his skills, I expect the top end to be rebuilt soon and another bike will come to life shortly thereafter.
As usual, the ride took us late into the night with enough time to grab about five hours sleep. Breakfast was included with the room so it was a munch and run exit from the hotel. The weather was perfect at 6:45 in the morning, but by 10 AM we were deep in the sweats. Wrenching on our bikes before practice, we both had minor corrections to make. John was done in time for the first practice session while I was discovering more issues the closer I looked.
Thanks to Mr. Jamie Brenton, I was able to borrow a spare rubber intake manifold as mine was separating metal from rubber. I also had both my carburetors out because each was giving me different indications. This was a day when I was quite happy about my decision to run with an SL350 rather than the Cb or CL350 tanks with their PITA crossover tubes. The SL tank allows me to disconnect from the petcock and remove the tank without the spillage associated with the CB/CL tanks.
When John got back from his first run, he had only minor adjustments to make, while I was still messing with my carbs. Another case of not enough preparation and too much make up on site.
The second practice session came and went without my presence. Wrenching, wrenching, wrenching…
Racer’s meetings just aren’t the same without Chuck and Charlotte Edgeworth. The retirement of our maternal and paternal oversight is just another sign of the “Change we can live without” that I associate with the last year’s racing. Smaller grids, less racers, missing loved ones of the sport, and higher gas prices. But the beat goes on…
Good changes this year include the introduction of new blood into the vintage racing scene. John Cook for one. Wendy Gee for another. These two started racing in 2011 and have had some of the most consistent trips to the track and the finish line, which is a major part of vintage racing. It’s an important part in determining what type of bike to race as well.
That takes me back to the time when Keith and I were “tag teaming” the Scalded Dawg 750 Norton. We had to wrench on that bike almost every time we got off the track. We used to watch these other vintage racers with their feet kicked up on coolers and sipping their water between practice and race sessions… Finally I got a 350 Honda and Keith blew up the Norton that same day. We haven’t looked back since.
500GP was out first race of the day. It was race number 5 and our next was race number 7, the 350GP.The five Honda 350s in the grids were all actually 325cc motors. 350 was a marketing term used to make a more significant difference between the 305cc model it just replaced to seem more like an upgrade than it really was.
James Walker brought his silver speed demon that he believed was finally resolved of the plagued top in power robbing issue. Jamie had his “What a Ride” pretty blue bike. I was on the “Maroon Monsoon” that was giving me stormy issues with the carbs, but I thought I had them resolved. John Cook had his very customized CL350 and his trick 2 into 1 exhaust and vee shaped belly pan in a similar maroon color. Then there was Wendy on her John Deere green and yellow machine.
All the riders were on 350 Honda twins, a true testimonial to John Early who years before had the foresight to save the 350GP class in the WERA vintage racing network. His insight to allow the most popular highway worthy motorcycle ever produced (about half a million units) into the class based on Stock carbs and stock motor (up to 1mm overbore allowed) had not only saved the class, but offered the most cost-effective motorcycle racing possible. Thank you, John!
The track was hot, the racers were ready and the green flag flew through the air! Our start was classic. From the start line to turn one, everyone fell into their respective positions for the turn. Leaning hard while also accelerating, racers vied for the ideal position for their pace. Uprighting from turn one at similar points on the track, the acceleration toward a point almost a half mile down the track gave all the impression they each had a chance at the checkered flag first. It’s the end of that half mile point where racers separate from the pack.
Turns 3, 4, 5, and 6 can have a serious sobering effect on the squeamish in all of us. Handling it best is a matter of overcoming what the curves look like and sticking to what your line is like. Keith Bennet loves this part of the track, because he has overcome the visual artifacts.
Although not feeling like it was bursting with power, the Monsoon was pulling my 200 pounds plus gear fairly well. All the futzing with the carbs seemed to have resolved my top end issues. So, that left me without any excuses. Chasing Jamie was fun. His ride was behaving well. And, his skills had been refined since his rookie year last year. Now his aggressiveness was kicking in and my 45 pound excess was beginning to show.
Rounding each lap, Jamie took another couple hundred feet lead on me. Consistently pushing a little harder in the turns as my tires got warmer could not seem to make up for the pull away power Jamie had. As the distance became greater, I let my mind wander and wondered about that “end all be all” motor I was building in my basement. How much more power could I get out of a 1mm overbored motor with higher compression from fresh rings and newly honed cylinder wall…
I was doing my best to keep up with him when all of a sudden I got “that sensation”. When I let off of the throttle, it was like my bike was turning off, rather than just engine braking. Then, when I would hit the throttle again, there was a serious hesitation then a burst of power. This was exacerbated by the fact that I was still getting used to the new rear tire. An Avon Road Runner deep tread design made me feel like I’d have a great advantage if it were to rain, but the slipping sensation was not comforting, even before the power burst scenario began.
By the end of the race, Jamie had a good chunk of turn one lead on me. By the finish line, Jamie had me by a total of 12 seconds. His best time was a half second faster than mine and his top speed had me by 1/2 MPH as well. And James Walker was so far ahead of us that I assumed his top end issue was resolved. Six seconds per lap faster than Jamie and I was quite an impressive run.
Back in the pits we rehydrated, topped of our tanks and let the bikes cool a little bit.
The 350GP race had the same players, but James Walker was on Dean Middleton’s V1 350 Honda. So in this case, James was on the track, but not in our class. I vowed to pick up the pace and take the first place from Jamie. All I needed was a second a lap faster than the first race…
Green flag for the 500GP had everyone racing for the turn one lean. Bikes were slightly weaving for the best angle to exit the turn. Engines roaring, we all pushed harder than in the previous race, including Jamie.
Jamie to the lead a little earlier in this race. I followed and looked to see where I could learn from Jamie. Trying to find out what he had most recently learned. There wasn’t anything there that Keith and I hadn’t told him. He just did it better, faster, and lighter than I could.
Jennings Raceway is the best marked track we race at. Since I learned that fact, I have been hoping perhaps Mr. Jennings Raceway would go to Roebling Road Raceway and mark the track with those very helpful red dots. The markers are 12″ x 12″ white signs with big 10″ red dots in the middle. When you see a red dot, that’s your target. They also face the point where you need to be when they go from your peripheral vision to your main attention view. Aiming for them until you have a new one to aim at makes understand Jennings so easy.
Needless to say, Jamie too had the vow to improve.
Eventually I realized that this too was not the race I would finish in front of Jamie. Looking behind me, I saw that there was nobody as far as the eye could see. So long as I didn’t crash, this was the finishing position for the checkered flag. Second place and a little more tweaking to go. Next time… I’ll get him next time!
That race weekend went fast and furious for everyone. Nobody crashed! Not one red flag all day long. It was a good day for all and everybody got their therapy for a short time to go. I also had two opportunites to thank the corner workers for volunteering so that we racers could play on the track, WERA for giving us places to play on the track, and of course to thank my sponsor Sirius Consolidated Incorporated the Keyster Carb Kit Capital of the world the support I have received for years. It was a great day of fun in the sun with many of my motorcycle friends.
Stay tuned until the next exciting episode….