13 weeks between Tally and Barber and one might think that means time to be totally prepared… However, with any spare time being spent on the Next Gen (actual race bike with reinforced frame, rebuilt race motor, vintage fiberglass fairing, tank, and seat…) race bike, everything seems to get behind. The evening before Barber was no exception.
I had everything that could go wrong fall apart while loading up for Keith’s house. I ended up filling and charging two batteries about the time I was supposed to be leaving for his place. Little things that were supposed to be done before I left my place kept showing up as “have to dos”…
So, it’s no wonder that as I am pulling up in front of Keith’s house, with a truck load of race stuff, that Corinne calls saying that she just broke off the key to the Altima in the trunk… When it rains, it pours.
After a not so valiant rescue, on my part, I returned to Keith’s feeling like a heel knowing I could have put a half an ounce more effort and could have been a super hero. Instead, I was the guy who all but threw my key out the window at my son and wife. My bad, no doubts. I apologize for the whole world to read, honey.
At Keith’s, I load my bike and most my stuff before letting Keith know I am back at his place. After load up, it’s strait to bench racing. Keith was still trying to analyze his technical difficulties that he experienced the weekend before at Tally with his AHRMA racing that qualified him to race at Barber for the AHRMA October Vintage Festival Days racing. I’ll be there to pit and record, but not to race. At least not this year.
Keith said he had a top end spit and sputter that caused him to short shift in order to stay out of the peak tach speeds. In spite of that, he pulled of two third places (You Go Guy!) that insured his presence on the grids at Barber in October. He too, had no spare time. Didn’t even get to run a meter to his coils, caps, condenser, etc… Either way, we were off to Barber after a few hours sleep.
Not knowing what time it was, at 5:12 AM my bladder woke me and as I got back into the guest bed, I heard Keith’s alarm go off. I staggered downstairs to the coffee maker and fumbled till I was sure it was perking. I don’t even know how to make coffee in our latest home coffee maker. My honey has spoiled me with my morning coffee for months. I’m afraid to learn how to use this one…
I had filled my tank and gas can before making it to Keith’s. He grabbed premium on the way. Neither of us went by my “Amoco Ultimate Only” rule and hadn’t noticed at the time. Hard pressed for time, basics have a tendency to fly out the window.
We drove through rain at the Georgia/Alabama border. At least Keith did. I was hugging a pillow from his guest bedroom and actually sleeping most the way there. I must have been exhausted. As we reached the Talladega SuperSpeedWay, I uprighted myself fairly rested. Barber was less than 30 minutes away.
Not a soul in line at the gate. So we were in and on our way, lickety split. The pits were not overly populated. The signs of a damaged economy were still haunting the racing circuit. For those who didn’t race on a shoe string budget like us “350 Honda Stocker Racers” the downturn in the economy really took its toll. We ended up on the lower lever with the best view of the most technical turn on the track. The last turn before the start/finish line was our back drop and best sound effect.
Registration: The registration line had it’s “perks”. For those of us who preregistered, there was a nice reward waiting at the desk. Big smiles and sore cheeks for all who caught a glance. I even found myself making recommendations to WERA personnel about increasing preregistration by maintaing the same “line up” at the registration desk. We’ll see how that works out in the future. Remember racers, you can preregister up to five days before the race with online registration!
Practice was a necessary refresher. It had been too long since the 2011 only race weekend at Barber. I did have to make mention to Keith that it wasn’t till the start finish line that I’d finally use fifth gear. Amazingly, my times were fairly competive in spite of my apparent gearing faux pas. Keith’s motor was still breaking up at top end motor speeds. So, we each tweaked a bit on out bikes.
The second practice session had me using fifth gear at multiple locations on the track. My speeds picked up noticeably. I was pushing the “zig zag” turns after the museum turn with great success. The more I described to John Cook how to take them, the better I handled them myself. Maroon Monsoon’s ailing “loaner motor” was hanging in there. A bit of a leak had been plaguing me. Each time I thought I had it resolved, it would start back up after a few more track sessions. So, after the rider’s meeting, I continued to work on the oil leak.
As the source of the leak was at the clutch pushrod seal, what little did leak, fell into the belly pan. Very little made it on the chain which could have used the oil anyway. Looking closely at the pushrod seal, I noticed it had worked its way from being recessed into the motor to extending beyond the face of the motor’s edge. I tapped the seal back into place with a spark plug socket and a rubber mallet. Using the cool trick that Stan Keyes (Team Cyco Cycle, Jacksonville, FL.) taught us, I cleaned the seal and motor surrounding the seal with brake parts cleaner and then sealed it with 3M Insulating Sealant. That stuff is great. Once properly installed, it will last forever. It may prove difficult to remove, so don’t try…
Jamie was still breaking in his newly rebuilt motor that was sporting Sirius Consolidated Incorporated’s OEM copy 1.0mm over bore pistons for his stocker 350 Honda. John Cook was on his second race weekend with the same setup. Keith was also only on his second weekend as the AHRMA race weekend prior was his break in period. We saw the first race school and first race of Mr. Mike Hutchison, Wendy Gee’s husband. Wendy’s bike was looking good and bringing her to battle with David Hurst on his Yamaha DS-7. Of course, Mr. Doug Bowie was running strong on his Ducati which was looking good as always. Even Mr. Steven Barber of Roanoke, Virginia (former GP500 national champion) joined us for his maiden voyage at Barber. He was wise enough to learn the track before the Grand National Finals.
Unfortunately we were without the benefits of Mr. James Walker. The publically released story (by Doug Bowie) was that James overslept and chose to not rush to the track. That has been disputed by James, but details were not made public. Based on what I saw in his garage this past weekend he was still very productive in the area of vintage motorcycles.
Last, but definitely not least, an honorable mention for Mr. Greg Adams (brother to Mr. Chris Adams) and his father made it to Barber MSP. Only racing the GP500, the “bump up” class for the 350 Hondas, Gregg came in right behind Keith giving a very impressive finish and a reason to keep an eye out for him in the future. His brother Chris was a definite “just in front of us” racer that always caused us to “up our game” when he was at the track. Brother Gregg will be a force to be reconed with…
As it turns out, the GP350 and GP500 had two of the biggest grid sets all day. The Heavy Weight Solo Experts did have 19 to our 9. But they also had 7 DNF, DNS, DQs as well.
Our first race was the GP500. Since James Walker was not there, Jamie and I were the two that burst into the front of the pack. Jamie had some serious pull-away power with his newly refreshed 335cc motor and of course his 45 pounds less weight on his “racer frame” than I. His start was out and out impressive. Excellently timed and executed, Jamie pulled into turn 1 out in front. It’s also important to note that Jamie had both his son, Jordan and wife Lynn cheering him on. They had witnessed the countless hours he spent rebuilding the blown motor that had him borrowing Wendy Gee’s bike at the GNF. Go Wendy!
Turn two/three had me playing catch up after his quick lead. Even into the left hand horse shoe turn, I was having to make up ground lost at the starting line. Just when I was beginning to feel better about my ability to catch Jamie, we both uprighted and pointed down the fairly long stretch toward the museum turn. Jamie just walked away from me. Early in the first lap, while passing through the museum and first zig zags, I had to muscle my way past an “orange shirt” two stroke racer that I almost rear ended earlier. He was between me and Jamie and spelled danger for both of us. Once I made the close call around him, I never saw him again.
Traditionally, Barber is a track where Keith not only gives me a run for my money, but he has successfully spanked me on that track on more than one occasion. As a matter of fact, Keith is the only one of us that can boast winning monie at that track when Mr. Jim Hinshaw and his company Fast From the Past have offered purses for the top three finishes in all vintage racing classes. Keith also didn’t finish the next race as he was forcefully dismounted by another racer who got a little zealous after just missing the purse that Keith won the race before. See previous Barber MSP reports for that summary.
After a lap of chasing Jamie, I decided to look back while Jamie was pulling away. Nobody for at least 200 yards. My race was in front of me and Jamie was not going to make this easy. A pattern had emerged after about the first two laps. Jamie would surge away from me in the strait lines and would be in my way by the end of any turn sets. Jamie also had a tendency to take turns sharper than necessary. At the museum turn, he would turn in tight as I would accelerate wide. It didn’t help me as when he would upright away at the point where I would otherwise be able to draft him in the straits, I was on the other side of the track accelerating, but not like him.
As we approached the left hand horse shoe turn near the half way mark of the race, I notice something shiny fly off Jamie’s bike. As I passed, I noticed it was his left footpeg. With only a little bit of searching, his foot found something to rest on. He was only showing slight inconvenience with his “new configuration”.
The following sets of turns were the two “zig zag” sets. With our 26-28 horse power motors accelerating from about a 30 MPH turn, the first set was very similar to the second set. Both would only be taken at optimum speeds if you prepped the second turn with how you approached the first. I could gain on Jamie through each set of turns enough to tail him through the last set, right next to where we were pitted.
At one point, I was able to take the lead from Jamie for almost a lap, but he took it back in a straight shot before the turns where he would prove to be in my way. We each had our own advantages. We both had the kind of race we like, close and exciting. While writing this report, I went to see my lap times and was dissappointed to find the Barber MSP results not list yet… Then I remember that of all the things that could have gone wrong and did, I forgot my transponder. Yes, Cheap Jack had to pay an extra $60 to rent a transponder on the best runs at Barber that I’ve ever experienced. Only to not have them recorded in my history on MyLaps.com.
As we neared the end of the first race, I gave Jamie every opportunity to hear the roar of my engine screaming right beside him in the turns and behind him on the straights. We approached the last set of turns and Jamie knew I was going to do my best to get in front again. The big, long, almost never ending right hand sweeper just before the last left that led to the finish line was where I gained on Jamie and showed him my front wheel. He then burst one last time before flipping over for the left turn where I was gaining and beginning to draft him through the last turn.
This time, unlike any other turn set during the race, I was line up with Jamie and in his tail winds. We were both upright and I was still gaining. Then, like synchonized swimmers, we gave our shift into fifth gear and he pulled away. I was half a second behind him at the finsh which was about 200 yards from where we last shifted.
I sent my traditional salutes and kisses to the corner workers during the cool down lap. After traversing through turn three, I kept my eyes pealed for a trophy that I wanted to acquire. Just six inches from the edge of the track was Jamie’s footpeg. I let him ride by it while I gave a quick “distressed rider/bike” wave and pulled to a stop. Slamming it down my leathers, I caught with Jamie and we share our traditional fist slam at 50 MPH. It was a good race. And, if nothing else good was to occur that day, my therapy box was checked and bold.
Lynn and Jordan were making there way back to our pit area as we rode up. Jordan really got into the trading places closeness of the race. I waved to Lynn to come my way. I reached into my leathers, pulled out the shiny object, and said “Jamie might want to mount it better this time?”
You can’t beat the camaraderie of vintage club racing. You’ll continually hear stories of how one racer pulls parts from his bucket of spares to make sure his competition gets on the track and has the fun that was paid for, in advance. Some might say that you just can’t buy that kind of experience. But I’d tend to argue with them saying “not only can you buy that stuff, but I can show you how to do so on a budget”.
Now I don’t want you to think that this submarine sailor was really going to have a chance competing with a marine weighing in at 50 pounds less than me, with a rebuilt race motor against my 40 year old still sealed from the factory motor… but when it was all said and done, Jamie’s best lap time was… 2:07.824 and mine was… 2:07.887. And, if you think that was close, just wait till you read the rest of the story.
Keith came in third place fending off advances from Gregg Adams while nursing that partially parralyzed motor with the unknown issue. After Gregg was Steven Barber followed even closer by John Cook who had more than a second better, best lap time than Steven. And, another really close finish set with David Hurst edging out Wendy Gee by a half second for their exciting race conclusion. This was a good time had by all in the WERA GP500 May race at Barber Motorsports Park, 2012.
GP500 lap time results at MyLaps.com
Back in the pits Keith and I were scratching our heads. We had upped the size of his main jets to 120 from the traditional 115 that ALL GP350 stockers run. 120s had traditionally burned too rich to function correctly, yet our insulators on the plugs were both ghost white. We had no idea how both of our bikes were running so lean. Our best prognosis had us both finishing the race just before our motors blew up during the cool down lap.
Then it dawned on me. The guy who swears by BP Amoco Ultimate premium gasoline had not used it this time. And, it could not be a coincidence that I was now seeing plug readings totally contrary to historical results. When I asked Keith, he could not remember where he got the fuel he was using that was the same fuel he used for AHRMA Tally where the problems began. I believe my, what at the time was only theoretical, logic had fended off our concerns for ultimate detonation of our motors before the end of the next race and we rehydrated with a couple bottles of water. Jamie remounted his footpeg. John readjusted his float settings. And, the crowd really enjoyed the play by play that today’s announcer was giving on every race. Jamie and I must have given him something to talk about. The other close racers set in our class also must have given a great show. I’d love to hear the audio playback of that one.
Just about the time John Cook was about to put his carbs back together, we heard “First call for Vintage Formula 500, V1, and GP350. First call for race number 10”. That was the last discernable thing I heard. I dawned my ear plugs and concentrated on what was about to occur. The sounds of the track faded like a 20 second fade to black/silence. Quiet surrounded me until my motor roared to life under me. Glancing at my grid position, I remended myself that my starting location was in front of the class because I had become competitively skilled. Now it was time to do like one of my many race mentors, Mr. Buff Harsh, and get totally tuned into the race that was yet to be.
Riding up and down the pit row area, I double checked everything about my bike and riding suit. Rechecking my grid, I put it to memory. Glancing at the other racers now joining me in the pre-race procession, I thanked God for the pleasures that life had to offer and that I took advantage of. Vintage racing had replaced my north Georgia motorcycle riding lately where I used to be one with nature and all that was there to be appreciated. This therapy is more concentrated. The risks are higher as are the rewards. Besides, there’s no podium in the mountains…
The gate master signalled us that it was time to proceed to the grid. A warm up lap around the track, with many chanting to themselves “don’t crash on the warm up lap…” and we were in our grid positions. The number went from 3 to 2. Then the 2 slowly came down if front of the number guy signifying that we were just seconds from a green flag. 1, sideways, and the green flag ripped through the air.
Jamie and I took the front of our class quickly. I stayed with him through turn one, two and we raced for the left hand horse shoe turn. I not only showed him a wheel, but I took the lead until we uprighted and he pulled away. Through the museum turn, he entered it well before I did, but was in my way as I emulated a sling shot through the turn and was centrifugally propelled to the outer part of the track. Our paths merged just before the first zig zag set and I drafted him and tried to pass through the second set. This left me off course for the zag as I went wide and showed another wheel.
This go round, I was persistently there for Jamie to see and hear. He still had some pull away power on me, but my turning speed was higher than his. We have very similar riding styles on very similar bikes, so it’s easy to get in sync with each other. Shifting within fractions of a second from each other. Only slight separations for this pass through the track, and Jamie must have felt my desire.
The next time through the museum turn, we were tight. The zig zag sets had us neck and neck. The dip that followed the second zig zag had Jamie off his game. He emerged from the dip going wide right in front of me, so I could assess what lead I might get out of it, should he leave the track. And he did.
Staying upright at about 70 miles an hour, riding through the short cropped grass with road racing tires, Jamie held things together and did not risk dumping his bike which would have required a re-tech inspection. That would have completely taken out his chance to battle with me. By the time I crossed the start finish line, I was able to take a safe glance back. Jamie was a little more than 100 yards behind me. Now was my “put up, or shut up” chance. After blaming Jamie for holding me up in the turns, I had enough of a lead that I could keep it, only if I was right.
I hunkered down and flew through the turns. Looking back, at the next start/finish line pass, Jamie was in almost the exact same place. I could do this, if I didn’t make any mistakes. The next lap’s glance had Jamie in the same place. With more than half the race completed and a trend created, I only had to maintain that which I had proven. Then I began to thing about my reputation for getting tire, as diagnosed by Doug Bowie. There was no room in my calculations for getting tired. I began to chant to myself… breathe, breathe, breathe… and I did. When I crossed the finish line for the last time, I swear Jamie was even further back then the earlier laps.
Not long after, fist slaps followed by a great tasting beer from Jamie. We shaved our lap times on that race. My best was 2:06.700 and Jamie was less than a tenth of a second slower at 2:06.799. We done had us some fun.
Sorry everybody, but one of the many things that didn’t go right before this race was getting cameras prepped.
I have a three race set splurge over 8 days coming up. should have lots of race footage then.
Stay tuned for more excitement sponsored by Sirius Consolidated, Incorporated and my hero, MR. Martin Mattes.