The days that led up to the RRR end of July race (about 20 miles inland from Savannah) were quite sketchy. Jamie gave me a call to see about us riding together, which would have been great. I am always surprised by the alternative perspective that Jamie has to offer on a myriad of subjects. Keith was not able to make Road Atlanta due to mechanical difficulties and a time shortage. And, he still had not committed to making the Roebling run.
John Cook also seemed out of the running with all he had to do after his turn 12 incident at Road Atlanta. Although he had reassembled the bike after the crash, with some help from almost all of the GP racers, in order to re-tech and make the second race, it wasn’t up to his standards for bringing a bike to the track. Doug and James were in and riding together and that was about the total of ride share status a week before the race.
But, as the week got hotter the serious got to work. John made a serious effort the few nights before the race and gave a laundry list of accomplishments during his “I’m In” announcement. Keith’s stepping up to the plate was nowhere near as dramatic, nor was it as reassuring. But he did lay claim to going to Bloomingdale, GA for the race day. Mike and Wendy made their announcement much earlier.
So, what I am saying here is… There were at least seven friends that all do what they can to show up at a track somewhere in the southeast part of the country to all race against each other, even if it means pulling spare parts, supplies, fuel, oil, or what have you, just to race against each other. When in fact, we are all racing with each other. The difference is subtle, but so is the concept of call this therapy.
Jamie drove down to Warner Robbins and picked up John Cook, just like I had the previous Roebling Road race weeks before. Keith and I got a call from them as they were heading into radio shot of Savannah. Later we got a call telling us the Red Roof in was packed up full. We stay in a different part of town, but the fact that anything in this economy could fill up hotels 20 plus miles away from Savannah. Keith’s lack of time for the past few weeks caught up with him, so I drove. He’ll be finding out about what he missed as he reads this section.
I checked in where the only separate bed option was a smoking room. Seems like nobody had smoked in that room for a long time. Smelled fine and fell asleep fast. Keith did hear me calling home to check in as he faded to sleep without the check in call. He’s still in the dog house.
The ringing of the wake up call came through my bad ear, loud and clear. Keith’s snoring did not. That’s the most rest I’ve grabbed in six hours since we started racing as “Team Old & Oily”. Breakfast in the lobby. Double coffee to go. We filled up the tanks and then returned to the hotel to check out, turn in the key, and get the receipt. Then, we were read to race.
There were virtually no lines at the gate nor at the registration line. turnout was typical for the last couple years. The rumours and concern about WERA’s existence and the ability to make enough money to pay everybody it takes to keep the club racing alive becomes a major concern. Later at the racer’s meeting, we heard that practice days costs start at $3,000. So, if you don’t have enough people to cover the costs, it just won’t happen. Same goes for racing days. And there are more expenses in racing days.
Saturday was very much like the Kershaw race the year before where more vintage racers showed up then modern bike guys. This is a serious concern for those of us who, even though this is not covered by our insurance policies as psychotherapy, understand that we do get major benefits from our spins around the track. We also understand the saying that “You won’t see a motorcycle in front of a therapist’s office, unless he/she decided to ride that day”.
The morning started out quite comfortable. We hydrated early, parked in the shade, and set up the bikes in the roads the curved around the infield. There was no scramble required as we were, as usual, the sixth practice session and there were no lines at tech inspection. The leathers came out of containers along with all boots, gloves, helmets and anticipation that was packed away for this trip.
Roebling is a very fast track. It’s probably the least likely track to have your brakes fade on you. First, you really don’t have to use much brake power, especially on a 325cc forty-year old $695 originally priced street bike. 30 horsepower is about the most you can get out of a stock (up to 1mm overbore) motor with stock CV carburetors. Its pretty much the ultimate equalizer. The only way to truly make the match even more even, and it has been discussed among those who would hypothesize on the subject, would be to add weight like they do at a horse race.
This means, that the speed you scrub off in a turn will cost you coming back out of the turn while trying to accelerate. You can not buy back the speed with the throttle any better than the guy running the same/similar 30 hp bike. At the end of a race, when you have been trading places with a guy trying to do just a little better than you can, on the same track, same bike, same turns, and similar results, it usually comes down to who makes the least amount of mistakes. Or, the guy who got caught behind a debilitating rider. So, don’t let that happen!
The practice sessions began. The pit chairs were moving with the music as racers tried to share their buddies fans and breezes. The leathers went on in time for our first practice session. This is always the time to find out how your bike is behaving and will hopefully continue to do if all is well. As the bike proves itself, it’s then up to the rider to follow suit. Remembering the nuances of the track is always key to improving on what you know. Lap 1 is for the bike. Getting the tires warmed up and testing things like brakes and handling came first. Then, the test shifts more toward the rider. Eventually, the bike becomes one with the rider and the track us just the place to play. Practice session over.
With everything on my bike behaving well, it was time for an inspection. Lubing the chain while it was still hot was expected. Wiping the excess and any road grunge followed. Lock wire check everywhere. Cable tie connections were secure and Velcro flaps were engaged in all locations. Battery registered fine, but since I left immediately after Road Atlanta, it was likely that I had not charge the stock CB350 battery used in a total loss configuration. I pulled out the spare and connected the charger to the static inverter clipped onto Keith’s truck battery. Yes, before the racing was over, I had discharged Keith’s battery to the point it would not start the truck. One extension cord later with that same charger and we were good to go.
Second practice session was going so smoothly I had that “issue” that gives me a scare. I was running at a pace that seemed like a race pace. And, since there are no point for practice sessions, I pulled in a lap or two before the checkered flag. I was ready.
Keith needed to bump up his gearing. He was at 16 front and 34 rear sprocket and that was causing him to “wind out” in the long straight at RRR. Everybody else simply talked about what they were running and were happy with what they had.
At the rider’s meeting, I did have a bit of a gut wrenching. After the fact it was much easier to understand the misunderstanding, but when the announcement was made “that Ed Bargy is no longer with us”, my heart dropped. Later in the conversation it was a relief to hear the Ed is no longer associated with WERA. With the confusion cleared up and the changes within WERA defined, we went through our usual starting flag rehearsal.
We had a while to wait between the rider’s meeting and the sixth race. All we could do was feel it getting hotter and hotter. We did take occasional trips to the fence to watch the faster bikes race. That’s easy to say when you race in the slowest class of race bikes out there. It’s also a good way to get tips on how to get faster on the slower bikes.
Race six, GP500 time. We turned on the cameras, donned out helmets and gloves and sweat profusely all the way to the pit out area. It was a hot day and time for a hot race. The line up had Mr. James Walker, myself, and Mr. Jamie Brenton on the front row of the GP500 class. We were in row 9 behind the two-stroke/two smoke bikes. This always makes for a great effect, if the wind behaves, when we break through their cloud created at the start of the race. Mr. Keith Bennett and Mr. John Cook staggered behinds us. They were followed by Ms. Wendy Gee, Mr. David Hurst, and Mr. Mark Badger. The latter two are the only two smokes in our group… so far.
The sky was clear, the track was sticky hot and the green flag ripped through the air. I had the front and center position for the best video of the two smoke starting action. My race partner had an equally great start as I did. But our 200 plus bodies on the 30hp motors did not offer the performance that the more equally match Walker (109) and Brenton (725) bike/rider combinations had to offer. They literally used me as a lane divider until they cleared me and headed toward turn one.
Keith and I were side by side, but not accelerating like James and Jamie who cut a path through the back of the two-stroke pack and kept on going.
Keith and I made it to the back of the two smoke crowd at the apex of turn one. This is an interesting phenomenon that shows up as a repeated pattern in most cases. We get passed in the straight stretches of track and then we pass or get jammed up in the turns.
Approaching turn one, you will see a very minor “jump cut” in the video as we lean into it. The biggest change to the human eye is that the camera name font at the bottom of the screen changes from JackCam to KeithCam. Keith and I are so close at this point that the camera angle is almost identical. As we go deep into the turn, I go a little wider and faster and take the scene in KeithCam while pushing past the two smoke rider with the white leathers. As we exit turn one, Keith and I take the outside path for turn two. Around him we both go. Keith is in the right place at the right time to show his cameraman prowess.
James and Jamie have taken a clear lead already and as is typical of Roebling, we begin to drift apart a bit. This is the point where you get to pass anyone that is holding you up, or pull away from anyone slowing down.
Before the end of the first lap, I began to close on Jamie. There’s no sign of James now. He’s probably pushing the faster Formula Two stroke racers to up their game. At the completion of the first lap, I am locked at the same speed as Jamie at about 50 yards behind him. This is the long straight ride to turn one. If you have any top speed issues, like I had at my last trip to Roebling, this is where they will show up. If you weigh more or create more wind resistance, this is where those issues will show up.
As I am leaning into turn one for the beginning of the second lap, Keith is being passed by his two smoke nemesis, only to have the two smoke in his way in turn one just seconds later. The frustrating part of this fact is that the two smoke is not in our race class. His location doesn’t affect the final standing in the GP500 race class. They only slow you down or hold you back. And with the last few races Keith missed, the confidence he lost going hot into a turn at Tally only to have his front brake disappear due to the loss of his brake pinch bolts in the middle of the race, and other factors, Keith did not have what it took to stay in front of his rolling obstacle.
The whole of the second lap had me closing on Jamie almost enough to draft him through the main stretch at the start finish line. I kept on the throttle a bit more than Jamie into turn one, closed significantly and passed him on the way out of the turn. Since Jamie wasn’t sporting a camera (John Cook left the replacement housing on his desk at home and Jamie did not remind him as asked) so the times when I got in front of Jamie, Keith was showing some great camera work slightly behind us a turn or two back on the track.
Then is was Jamie’s turn to jump in front of the camera which meant he passed me just after the last turn at the beginning of the straight away. And he was getting away. Just as he had at the start, he was using his light weight pull away power. I did get the chance to jump in behind him and catch his draft. This almost brought us up to equilibrium approaching turn one again. I held the throttle longer and released almost immediately after seeing Jamie’s tell-tale blue smoke (the vintage racer’s brake light) and followed suit while still closing. Having traded places twice already and realizing that Jamie didn’t have a camera to show me passing him, I decided to wait until the ideal moment to pass him one last time. Or, at least that was the plan half way through the race.
Closing on Jamie at the last turn meant being able to draft him down the stretch. This makes os much of a difference that I ended up passing Jamie one time that I really didn’t want to. Back to KeithCam.
Keith wah all over the two smoker and had to be getting sick of the fumes. Tight through the corners and getting a little “breathing room” on the longer stretches, Keith had a race and it gave him reason to push the limits much more so than if he was on his own. During another two-stroke pull away session, Jamie passed me again. Back to JackCam.
Now Jamie and I are starting our next trip down the back stretch and I am in the lead. This is Jamie’s turn to draft me and come catapulting past me before turn one. We have two laps left to go and we are battling for a second place position. Jamie’s lead takes me back to where I wanted to stay for a bit longer, drafting Jamie. So, this time I tried to stay a bit smoother behind him and just track him for a while. After only a few turns, I could hear that Jamie was beginning to have some sort of motor issue. As a matter of fact, it sounded a lot like what I experienced the last time I was at Roebling weeks before. We made it through turn one locked and pushed out way out again.
Then Jamie’s issue cleared up and he pulled away making a break for it. My heart sank as this has been Jamie’s M.O. He’d wait till late in the game and do his magic pull away. We made our way through the first left turn on the track and never eased off. We swept to the right and stayed on the throttle, but I was closing. Before we started the lean to the left, I stayed on the throttle and noticed that Jamie’s acceleration had slowed. As I passed him, I could hear the familiar sputter of one cylinder. Not knowing how Jamie’s condition would cut in and out, I had to make my final move and stay on the gas. I took Jamie as we leaned into the tight left turn and pushed hard. Back to KeithCam.
It’s important to reiterate that Jamie is the reigning GP500 champion. He beat me by one point at the Grand National Finals last year. I respectfully refer to him as Champ. Our standing this year is even closer than it was last year. Like our romps on the track, we have each traded places battling it out for second place in all the six divisions that we race in. We have been pushing so hard, it seems that we are close on the tails of James and Doug. As a matter of fact, what was originally going to be me and me alone going to VIR for SuperJam as the only GP racer from the southeast has now become a six racer convoy. So, this little fun run racing circuit is going to take the excitement down to the GNF again, so stay tuned…
Keith had taken a break, realizing he had nothing to gain pushing it hard against someone in another class. I never looked back and knew Jamie was back there. All my concentration was like the finish line ahead of me. Pushing hard as I dared, I kept the throttle twisted. I could have looked back. There was no camera on Jamie’s bike to show me making such a silly move. I simply pushed on knowing he was back there and that I could not afford to ease up.
When it was all said and done, when I had crossed the finish line, I looked back and there he was, hot on my tail. The race times had him at .2 seconds behind me. I pulled it off.
We, Jamie, James, and I helped pull James’ carbs off and swap them to Jamie’s bike. James was done racing for the day and Jamie had the opportunity to try James’ tried and true carbs. Either the problem would go away, or it was somewhere else in the motor.
Unfortunately for Jamie, it appears that he had not tightened the left carburetor clamp completely. You’ll see Jamie going around the track getting the points he could to minimize the gap between us. The left carburetor was noticed hanging next to the port where it is supposed to mount.
I took second again with my partner Mr. Keith Bennett taking third.
I had good therapy that day. Watch the videos and stay tuned for more.