After a bit of a shuffle in the WERA schedule to keep the National Endurance races with a minimum of three races, the Vintage race crowd almost was without an August Tally race. But, after some rearranging of the schedule, having Saturday racers take a day off from work, a little mumbling and grumbling on the WERA BBS, we did get to race.
When I say we, I mean 11 racers on the grid for the GP500 and ten for the GP350. Now this made for some good racing. Pretty much everybody had somebody to compete with, even if they weren’t in the same race class.
We saw some first time racers to the 350 Honda twin grid that had raced faster and newer bikes in the past. They included names like Tony Mirando on his Conti Attack, radial tired, CB350 and James Stewart on an excellent SL350 that was built by Rick Cayce of South Carolina fame.
Jamie Brenton made it to the track, but only as part of Doug Bowie’s pit crew. Keith Bennett was there, but he was one of the few V1/V2 class racers at Tally that hot muggy Friday afternoon. James Walker was not in attendance and was sorely missed by us all. Chris Adams did not show as he had to work, but Greg Adams and his father did make it to the track for the first time scheduled to join us in both the GP500 and GP350 races.
Mike and Wendy were there early from the night before. John Cook, who had just completed a lower crank case replacement starting Wednesday evening, hopped in his truck Thursday night and grabbed a cheap motel just before the track to catch some much-needed sleep.
Nick Bowie, Doug’s young teenage son, made it out as a racer and joining us for the GP500 race on one of Doug’s mighty fine Ducatis.
From the north of the border contingent we had, Mike Wells and Wayne P. Moore of the Kentucky wrecking crew and Mr. David Hurst of Slide Effects fame on his DS7 two-stroke Yamaha. Just like old home week, racers were coming out of the wood work.
On our way to the track, I received a call from Buff Harsh. His van had broken down, just outside of Villa Rica, just about 10 miles behind us at the time of the call. His alternator was the best guess from some quick trouble shooting. Buff was just looking for a spot for his bike, some stuff, and himself. But we were not capable of carrying one more tool box, let alone a rider and his bike. We had to pass him on to other possibilities while continuing toward the track.
We pitted at the end of the paved infield (formerly part of the track before the latest modification) and set up shop. Pre-registration took one tenth the time it did just to walk to the tower. Keith took much longer, but decided to run only one race on his V1 machine.
The first practice session didn’t come quickly, but I still found myself only semi-prepared. I hadn’t checked the tire pressure and it had been two months since the Road Atlanta race. It wasn’t too much of a concern as I was taking the bike out for its first break-in run since the new rebuild. That’s right, almost seven complete seasons on a 350 Honda and this was to be my first run with a motor actually rebuilt for racing. Thank you Mr. Keith Bennett for the help and tutelage with the inner workings of the 350 bullet proof motor.
I was not disappointed when the yellow flag we were running under went to red. Seems a second rider went down, but this time was due to a locked up motor. Scott McCain’s screamin-demon formula two-stroke machine threw him off the track. We didn’t see Scott for the rest of the day, so I hope he and his bike are on the mend.
Front tire pressure was at 20 PSI and the rear was at 25 after cooling in the shade. So I added 10 and 5 and moved forward getting ready for the second practice session. I inspected the bike for any signs of oil and found none. This was important for a fresh rebuild. And, all was as expected.
The second practice session was much longer and progressed to me chasing Doug around the track for a couple of laps and he knew he was pushing me just enough to keep me on his tail. At the end of the second lap behind Doug, I thought it was getting to be too much like racing and “there are no points for practice”, as Keith always says.
So, when Doug decided to pull in early, so did I. When John made it back to the pits, he was asking about our first race, but between his helmet and my ear plugs, I started laughing because I though he was telling me that he got first place in practice. He all but threw something at me. We’re still breaking in John’s sense of humor, something that I figured his time in the Navy would have covered. But as a young vintage racer, he has plenty of time.
Upon completion of the second practice session, I noticed that the passenger foot mount, used for rear sets like mine, had a serious sheen to it. This is part of the 350 Honda that normally is the first to rust and go to a flat finish. I traced the oil forward to my new motor. I found drip trails that let to the bottom of the motor. Following the trails up to their source, I found that two of the three screws covering the oil filter cover were loose. Easy fix and again, the new motor was leakless.
We were going to be racing in the first and fourth race/practice group. As such, we still had to attend the rider’s meeting directly after the second and final practice session. By the time we got back, I had time to wipe of any last bits of oil off the bike and it was time to suit up. I had not even thought of the cameras until Doug asked me how to operate his, just after mounting my helmet for “second call for GP500”. No time for cameras on this race. They’d have to wait till the next, fourth race set.
We had some serious difficulties hearing the calls for the races because the speakers that far out were out of commission. I, with my newly rebuilt motor was fairly anxious so I closed my helmet and planned to ride up and down the pit out row until signaled to take the track. One lap and we were sent to the track. David Hurst had to make an about-face after taking to the track because he was running behind. Riding counter course and through the pack of racers, he made his way to his starting position.
GP500, V2, and GP250 Race
The signals were easy to follow, but my clutch grabbed quickly and I almost stalled, but recovered. Starting from the front row and the outside position I was perfectly poised to take my normal curve through turn one. The compression in the motor had me fully recovered within seconds. Leaning and accelerating through turn one, I made a continuously progressive path toward turn two, at the leader of the pack. Still keeping my engine RPMs limited to the 9,000 mark, I shifted as necessary and maintained all the speed I thought safe for turn two.
Still in the front of the pack, my acceleration noise began to vary with the sound of other engines. Doug Bowie burst out in front of me in time for me to lean, as he did, going into the ugly right hand turn number three. Coming out of three, Buff Harsh took me before turn four and we synchronously leaned left for the 270 degree left hand sweeping turn that opens up into the back straight. There, Wayne Moore past me at such an impressive pace that I had to assume he was on his V1/V2 bike, since he had both at the track.
Another player on the field was Charles Gault. Seems he made a quicker recovery than the recipient of his laid-down bike, Mr. James Walker. James is still healing and his bike is still out of commission. Remembering what happened to James, I was motivated to stay ahead of Charles. Behind Charles, it was a good 300 to 500 yards between me and the next contestants in the GP500 class. As I saw Wayne drift out of sight, my tach stay under 9,000 RPM, and the front wave of the rest of the GP crowd almost stationary behind me. I simply maintained my pace, all the while remembering something that John had said just prior to the race… “Every time I race this track, Jack crashes.” I tried to avoid that, this time.
Then about half way through the race, I experienced the phenomenon knowns at “clutch-pop”. The 350 Honda clutch actuator, when operated outside its normal range, will pop out of a functional range and stay that way until taken apart and adjusted. This phenomenon is not really much of an issue once accelerating away from the start finish line, but at the starting line could either stall out the motor or burn up the clutch trying to hold the bike back, with the brakes on, and the engine revving to keep from stalling. All I had to do was find the pressure point best for shifting the transmission and I also had to burst rev the engine to match the speed of the engine with the next function of the transmission. No hay problema!
I stayed almost 10 seconds in front of Charles Gault, who was not in my class, at the finish. He was closely followed by Tony Mirando and James Stewart less than three seconds behind Charles. David Hurst deserves a serious mention as he held off John Cook, and left clearance at the finish line, just when John thought David was a conquered landmark.
The next honorable mention goes to Mike Hutcheson who not only just started on the track this year, but who has also been plagued with some yet to be identified technical difficulties that prevent optimum performance from his machine. Mike and Mike Wells appear to have had the best battle on the track as both crossed the finish line within less than 8 tenths of a second of each other. Go Mikes!
And Wendy was a mere five seconds behind them at the finish. Looks like everybody had somebody to up their game. Now this is my kinda therapy!
Back in the pits, I had to dissemble the clutch push rod cover and check out all the parts. In the process, I inadvertently lost the ball bearing that is housed in the “clutch-pop” actuator. I also noticed that the clutch push rod (an SL350 rod I cut down to length) was in fact, a two-part rod. The inner rod was advancing inside the outer rod. This is probably the cause of my problem. So, missing the ball bearing that would only have caused the problem to recur, I replaced it with an 8mm diameter nut. Buttoned up just in time for the next race. Sorry, no time for cameras this time either but… John Cook saved the day, so stay tuned.
V1, GP350, Formula 500 Race
This time around, Charles Gault would start in front of me and… this was to be a two wave race. With the number of racers starting on the grid, the safe call was made to split our starts. As is customary in this situation, the racers in the second wave will tend to give peace signs to the other racers in the second wave. It’s actually a remind that we are in the second wave, which means… DO NOT START WITH THE FIRST WAVE!
The V1 and Formula 500 racers took their green flag while all of us waited patiently. When the race starter saw that all of the first wave made it through turn one, he turned back to us and our count down began.
Another green flag and another almost stall on my bike. This time, I was right next to John Cook. He got a good start and was temporarily ahead of me and he did a great job of gradually working his way to the outer bank of the turn. His path was smooth and predictable. We went through most of turn one side by side, but I just kept accelerating while he had a momentary hesitation. I was in front of the second wave and pushing for the pack in front of me.
I don’t remember when the inevitable occurred, but Doug did make it from his modest start and enjoyed zipping between the mass of racers to pass me before I got to the back of the first wave pack. He actually did a great job of shaking them up for me. By the time I reached them, the second wave had fallen back a bit and I experienced a false sense of security. However, I did realize that I was not trying hard to follow the pack of three two-stroke riders in the back of the first wave. Therefore, it would not be long before the racers behind me would be on my tail.
Around the third pass through turn one, I was able to match their acceleration out of the last turn set and pace with them heading for turn one. There, I simply maintained top gear, leaned into the turn a little more than usual, telling myself that my tires were warmed up enough, and putting the crash exactly a year earlier in that same turn as I flew past all three of them and raced for turn two.
One of them “showed me a wheel” but he was on the inside of the turn, so I leaned into turn two and pushed hard on the way out. Taking the ugly right hand turn three, I squelched the thoughts of the crash I had there in the rain in February and pushed on forward. Now, the compettiion behind me had to work to keep up and not all in that pack of three had what it took. As a matter of fact, Charles Gault was the only one able to hang with me for any length of time at all, and he made it with me all the way to the end of the race. Not bad at all for a guy that just got back on the track after the crash in Savannah in June. Kudos Charles!
I did have one close call about 7 laps into the race where I went wide and was headed towards the corn field. I figured Charles was going to take me there. But, as soon as I recovered and down shifted, I looked back. Seems that I may have had Charles fixated on me because he seemed to be recovering from the same stumble.
I was maintaining a serious offset between me and the next GP racers while having a good time with Charles. After the white flag, I continued to hear John Cook in my head with his voice echoing “When I race Tally, Jack crashes.” So into the back straight for the last time and I look back to see Charles making one last break for the last turn set and I ease off. As far as I was concerned, he’d earned it and it cost me nothing to watch him cross the finish line in front of me.
Special notes include: James Stewart battling with the two-stroke Mark Williams on his formula 500 machine. John Cook for taking David Hurst a bit more seriously and taking him by less than a second at the finish line. Nick Bowie for maintaining a pace that prevented him from being lapped a second time, unlike all those that followed him.
On a disappointed note, Greg Adams had to DNS on what I believe was his first day scheduled to run two races. Hope it wasn’t the Pamco electronic ignition, but Mike Hutcheson is chasing an issue and has one too. Updates to follow.
Everybody had a good time. We enjoyed the addition of two more racers to “double-digit” racing club, and had a beer or two to top off the therapy session.
Thank you Martin. My timer is good for about a month or so. Will be working on the next race motor in the meantime and the Super Doper race bike to compete with Doug’s Supper Duper race bike. But that is a joke between us racers. All in good fun.
The introduction of my new race bike was down to the wire. With no time to attach cameras, I have been saved by Mr. John Cook who did get to record both races. The editing should be very easy on you nerves.
Until next time…