With the closing of Nashville waning in our memories, we look toward the “Big Show”, the Superbowl of club motorcycle racing.
Road Atlanta is always a pleasure to visit. The spectator views are plentiful and the excitement level climbs with awareness of your surroundings. When it’s time for the GNF, even more so…
My heart beat heavy going without my race partner. His tendons were freshly healing and not to be disturbed. Keith did show up just in time for a good old fashion trouble shooting. If for no other reason than because it’s so close, I choose to bring as many running race bikes as are available. That day I was glad I had. The Maroon Monsoon that had run so scary fast (as in I was waiting for the motor to blow up, as did the last one that ran that good under me), was not making it over 5,000 RPM without sputtering.
The really difficult part was that the only thing I had done to bike between Nashville and then, was to clean it. Maroon Monsoon deserved to show up at the GNF looking good.
Jim’s SL350 motor was running good and was a possible contender, although I can’t say I felt confident on the vintage motard. I was allowed a lightweight practice group sticker so I took all four runs. I left very little time for anything but troubleshooting and bike refining. Jim’s motor was a lot more functional with the new clutch pushrod seal. It actually ran really proud.
With Keith’s help, I found the condensor wire disconnection (when attempting to replace the condenser), hooked it back up and was ready just in the nick of time.
Racer’s meeting was an anxious pause between troubleshooting sessions.
Maroon Monsoon it would be. Silver Bucket was proud to be the backup bike and was hoping for action.
Trying to be all things to all people, I rapidly strapped the 808 China-cams to the fenders where applicable and forgot to turn on my GoPro (StdDefNonWide) camera. The nerves were on edge and I chanted my now occasional warmup song: “So here you are again getting back on a race motorcycle, at your age, and in your condition, just for a thrill…. Well then, have some fun!”
In the world where racers bumping into each other without risking a cut, a scratch, or a spill, the inside track, front row while facing turn one, is the place to be. On a bike, on the outside of the track there are less testicular ions required as the turn is not as sharp. So, I’m not really able to see the bank and curve of turn one from my perspective, while the other side of the track has a visual on the path.
The new (as of last year) WERA southeast starter team moved into position as we rounded the last turn, number 12. The same last turn number 12 that last year at this race I only made 9 1/2 successful traversings through… but I digress.
Different racers have different approaches for the green flag. The engine revving just before the race, on perfectly tuned machines, appears nothing more than the new millennium version of chest pounding, sabre clashing, and yelling up of courage that warriors need before entering battle. As the one that has to fix it if it brakes, I like to show off my nice quiet idle of 800 RPMs.
All bikes accounted for, field officials clear the track and give the thumbs up, and focus is on only one spot ahead… the 2 board flips to a 1, then one hesitation later it flips to a horizontal line, then green!
Using everything at my disposal means putting my 200 pounds to work. My starts are power pushes. With my legs behind my footpegs, the balls of my feet rub and rotate for best traction. When I release my clutch, I push myself forward, so the motor doesn’t have to. It might not prove to give me a head start, but I seem to do okay starting. As a matter of fact, the banner photo I have been using for more than a year now was taken while cresting before the “esses” (Ss) in the early part of lap one at Road Atlanta. You may have noticed the number of faster class bikes that pass me in the first lap or two. A good start does have some value.
The green flag had the same effect as usual. The sensation from within is best summed up “Give it your all and remember to breathe”.
It is one of the most sphincter contracting sensations to see a wall of motorcycles appear to converge into a small area while leaning as far as they dare at speeds that are still accelerating. But as the hill separates the power from the CB350 stockers, the other class riders determine which ticket through the esses was theirs. There is very little difference between modern superbike speeds and vintage stocker speeds when going through the esses. It’s a physical limitation issue. The approach is uphill and self-revealing as the horizon reveals itself to you. The pass through the esses is right, left, right, left, right down hill into a lower frequency version of the esses and accelerating down to valley and followed by another climb, lean to the left at about 75% speed. The race had begun, the pace was set, and I remembered to breathe.
Halfway through the first lap, I remembered my video camera. Talked myself through the step by step procedure that I explain to all the other GoPro users, and was perfectly positioned to look into the viewfinder to see the flashing red light.
As James passed me fairly early in the race (wipe the sweat from my brow) I was also passed and left behind by rider on a Royal Enfield 500cc machine. It wasn’t till I read this Wiki article that I realized that model was available in Electronic Fuel Injection???
No other GP500 racers were even close to me, there was nothing to show from my camera. Just a few faster class motorcycles taking their time passing me in the back straits. As the return rate on the Chinacams ended up being a waste of time, my one camera wasn’t good for much but maybe a training video. My thrill factor was high enough to worry about the motor blowing from lean burning or something that results from running a motor for all it was worth.
The finish line was kinda lonely as we had all given our best with what he had to run and over time, we all fanned out away from each other. Third place at the GNF always feels good.
The second race was very similar, except it was Doug Bowie that had been my nemesis all season long in the GP350. He’d also been a great coach over the years. Quirky to be around and always keeping you on your toes, Doug is the same guy winning races on the same bikes more than 40 years later. Speed and endurance both describe him.
This time round the track, there was no 500cc bike fresh off the show room floor. That meant I had somebody to chase and Doug was the logical volunteer. As we cleared out the pack, I stayed about 200 yards behind Doug. Lap after lap, I’d push hard and make Doug work for it (for all I could push Doug). With a couple of laps to go, I noticed an issue developing. My throttle rubber was sliding down the handlebars towards the track!
I found myself doing some serious stomach exercises from trying to push the throttle cover back on the throttle handle. It didn’t move very fast. I had to apply a constant pressure because it seemed to be more natural to slide down. As I saw the white flag that notes one lap to go, I decided I had given my best and wanted to finish without crashing.
I simply milked my lead while trying in vain to move that throttle cover. Second place always feels good at the GNF.
My favorite part of this year was taken all the way to the GNF. Bucky Sexton is one fast racer. I’ve tried twice to catch him at VIR. This year, VIR had the aftertaste of humility. But, on my track (Road Atlanta) I got to stay ahead of him both times. Looks like we’ll be having some fun at VIR next year. Untill then, Bucky.
Now, to end the year on a high note. Sirius Consolidated Incorporated has delivered, just in time for Christmas stocking stuffing, CB350 1.00mm over (forth over) piston kits for $89
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so I think I’ll wish everybody a bountiful holiday.