Imagine if you have to, Talladega, Alabama in the middle of August. A nice soft breeze of mid 90s temperatures was just enough to keep the sweat from feeling like a hot shower. The sting of the salty sweat in your eyes, while you try to suit up into your leathers, helmet, chest protector, gloves, and boots, is just one example of how much someone must be in love with vintage motorcycle racing.
To endure the sweltering heat, while chugging down as much water and sports drinks as you can just to avoid dehydration, is but one of the adversities one embraces to race in the southeast. Some even go so far as to flip head over heels to show their exuberance.
Keith and I had a passenger in the truck on the way to Talladega for this trip. My son Dean was with us since his big sister and mother were out of town at the funeral for her step father. Leaving him alone was a marginally unwise thing to do at his age, and I’m glad he toughed it out. Sitting in the back seat of an extended cab truck with tubs of racing stuff piled up next to you couldn’t have been too enjoyable. With IPod in hand, head phones in place, he made himself comfortable and held in there like a real trooper.
We cut it close for our arrival and registered without any lines at all. Tech inspection went fast and our pit setup went quick with Dean’s help. The day was an ongoing search for shade. With only one canopy, Dean found himself sticking close to the truck, shade side. There was only minimal preparation required at the track as we spent the night before the race changing Keith’s rear tire, then choosing an alternate rear wheel after it was discovered that two of his spokes were busted. His coral of 350 Hondas turned up a really nice CL350 rear wheel from his son’s former street ride.
The first practice session came quickly as we has a delayed start. My bike felt great and performed to my expectations. Keith was battling a left cylinder smoking issue that led to him finding an oil fouled plug. He found enough new plugs in his tool box to swap out before each race. The second session I found myself easing back and concentrating on a new engine braking technique. When I got it right, it proved to be very useful. When I got it wrong, it proved to be detrimental. The jury is still out on this one.
I did get a chance to talk with Charles Gault between practice sessions. I mentioned that his performance was becoming a topic of conversation for Keith and I. The three of us have comparable finish times. But as Charles (#399) has speed in the straits, he lacks the ability to maintain the speed in the curves. I mentioned that to get more camera time, it’s best to be in front of the camera, rather than behind. During the second practice session, I noted a vast improvement… or my engine braking technique was fading my performance???
Charlie Young reported that Steve Upchurch gave a crowd pleasing “Superman” stunt without dismounting. “Trying to pass me on his XS650. Same place as xxxxx’s crash, entering Turn 2…….his back end went “whoop whoop” right in front of me, and his feet went above the bars, superman style!…Totally off the seat, a hair from highside…..and he frikkin saved it! It was impressive!….I let him get his panties un-wadded, and went under him in the RH, and waived….his eyes were like moonpies!….I was laughing so hard I almost went off the track!“
The first race was going to be promising for videos as I had six cameras at the track. I set up Keith’s, Charlie’s and my bikes with GoPro standard definition non-wide cameras. I also set up Wendy’s, John’s and Jamie’s bikes with some key fob cameras. These were inexpensive and proved to be unreliable. I also need to create a better mount for these lightweight cameras to get better results. Stay tuned. The GP500 had a very nice complement of eight racers in our grid. I believe the same was true for the GP350 later in the day.
We had a few visitors and a few visiting racers. Mike Wells and Wayne Moore were there along with Bill Duguid to round out the Kentucky wrecking crew. Wayne was on Bill Duguid’s former 350 stocker and ran it proud. Later as the heat began to have its effect on the older racing crowd more racers took to premature dismounts. By the time the day was over, at least four of the racers in our grid joined the dismounting list. That list is still being compiled and will not be released before all have been properly accounted for. To avoid giving away any surprise to the ending, I’m going to let the videos tell the rest of the story for Tally, August 20th, 2011. Enjoy.