I’m sorry to say there won’t be a write-up about Barber’s Vintage Festival where the AHRMA vintage racers were the stars of the show. We had a great Norton contingent show up and join the INOA as well as an even larger turnout at the Turn 6 event.
On to the WERA Grand National Finals where I was privileged to “pit monkey” for Mr. Keith Bennett who was in the running for national placement with a possible, but not likely, first place spot in the Vintage 1 class.
The evening before we were scheduled to be at the track, Keith called me with a serious amount of angst in his voice. I could easily read into his words that the GNF was off in his opinion. So, over the phone, I asked him about the troubles, what the possibilities were, and how we could still make a showing at the GNF. When it was all said and done, Keith told me about the broken stud, one of eight that hold the upper motor assembly together and how he would not risk racing his prize, Dean Middleton built, V1 race motor. Another option would have to be investigated.
The obvious alternative was Keith’s original 350 Honda race bike, the GP350/GP500 Honda “stocker” that would be allowed in the race class without protest, but that would not offer him the competitive advantage he needed to perform at peak levels. Both bikes were of the 1968 – 1973 Honda CL350/CB350 frame and engine design, but that is where the similarities ceased.
The GP350 class allows a CL/CB350 to be entered under the premise that the motor remains stock, allowing for a 1mm overbore of the cylinders from 325cc to a maximum of 335cc, the carburetors retained are the stock KeiHin constant velocity carburetors, and no materials are added or removed from the motor. This configuration is the class that I raced in, making it very affordable by not being allowed to “super build” the engine.
The Vintage 1 race class allowed the the CL/CB350 Hondas to be bored out from the original 325cc (CL/CB350 are model numbers and not direct indicators of the engine displacement) to a maximum of 362cc with high compression pistons, titanium valves/guides, high compression valve springs, intake ports may be smoothed and ported for maximum intake flow of the fuel and air mixture, as well as some other unrestricted advancements allowed like using the Mikuni VM carburetor, direct slide, series of carburetors.
Having ruled out the his V1 bike, Keith was left with his GP350 bike that had recently proven to run well during an AHRMA practice at the Barber Vintage Festival. However, he had also determined that the front brake was binding on that bike. So, I loaded up my wheel bearing puller kit, all the wheel bearings I had, all the CB77 front wheel parts and complete wheels I had. I also needed to turn around shortly after leaving my subdivision because Keith called me to notify me that he had no charged batteries to race with. I brought two and anything else I could anticipate including a round of parts that I had brought, but not used at the Vintage Festival to revive Keith’s street CL350.
It wasn’t the first time we were wrenching on either his race bike or mine the evening prior to leaving before 6AM for the three plus hour ride to Leeds, Alabama. And, as on most occasions, the success of the wrenching determined whether we were headed to Barber Motorsports Park, the finest campus we race at.
Upon close inspection, I determined that not only were the peen marks for placing the brake clamps onto the brake cams were not lined up, but they were missing from brake clamps that the connecting rod screwed into. It was Keith that figured out that he must have placed them back on the cams backwards. Removal and flipping of the clamps revealed the peen marks were in fact on the opposite side. Proper alignment of all marks proved to significantly improve the behavior of the front brakes. Upon installing the wheel back into the front forks and mating the brakes with the brake cable, we made adjustments that would allow both the front wheel to turn freely when released and would clamp the front wheel to a stop when the brake lever was squeezed.
Lockwiring, and bleeding from the stray lock wire strands, completed the brake system repair. That was followed by the changing of the oil, which had not been done since the last rebuild of the motor. Scary amounts of metallic particles flowed through the drain port and into the oil catch pan. Discussions ended with the belief that all the new parts needed to be worn into place and this was the reason for the metallic oil that was being drained out. It was also agreed that checking the next round of oil for this metallic quantity would be a prudent action.
A quick test ride up and down Keith’s street allowed him to determine that he had a “horse to ride” in tomorrow’s races and we were ready for some bench racing before a few hours sleep and the ride to Barber’s.
The bench racing was a joyous victory celebration for saving another race weekend from the jaws of mechanical defeat. The celebration also lasted longer that it should have and we felt the effects the following morning. I drove to Barber in Keith’s big extended cab, full length, long wheel base 3/4 ton truck. I always like to chauffeur when his truck is the option. It’s a fine machine to drive and it keeps him on my good ear side.
For Keith, the trip was a short one. The “jobs program”, the ongoing road construction of I-20 in the Anniston area woke Keith from an almost two hour nap. We grabbed some breakfast and a bathroom break and eventually were back on the road. Keith HAD preregistered for the GNF, so our lackadaisical arrival was of no consequence. Dropping Keith off at the registration desk and heading to our pit area, I unloaded the gear, backed into the hill at the edge of the parking lot and dismounted the bikes. Keith was making his way to our pit location as his race bike was coming off the truck, and he immediately took it to tech inspection. By the time he returned, the truck was parked and the pit set up. With more than 20 minutes to spare, we began to socialize with the gang…
Almost at the furthest pit from the rest of the race world, there was only one further than ours. Mr. Buff Harsh was on the corner with Continental banners flying proud. Buff has been working with makers of the Conti RoadAttack series of tires working especially close to create the vintage series sets now available for track and street. He records the tire in a close up configuration on what he calls the “Conti-Cam”. Using the POV.HD camera/recorder system, he records HD video of the tires during the races/practices. Making this available to Continental tire designers is just part of the feedback Buff has been supplying in the track testing phase of Conti’s new tire line… available through Buff at Todd Henning Racing, click the Conti Tires tab for more information.
On the other side of us was Mr. Wayne Moore sporting both his V1 bike and a beautiful GP350 Honda 350 as well. Further down was Mr. John Cook, who had recently put his PVL batteryless ignition system in his bike freeing up even more weight as John is built more like a jockey than most of us older racers. John was wrapping up his third complete season on his 350 stocker and beginning to show signs of his experience from so much “time in the saddle”.
Mr. Tony Mirando was back on the track after his great “Tumble at Tally” and his bike was not only put back together after some serious parts breakage, but it look mighty fine! Mr. Doug Bowie was in his “Ducati at the track” configuration and ready to take yet another of his who knows how many contiguous claims to the GP350 national championship. Mr. Charlie Young, like myself, was playing the part of racing spectator/participant being an active member in the pits, helping out wherever needed by any racer.
The weather was cool and dry. Being late October, the sun was in it’s shorter cycle for the northern hemisphere. Still in daylight savings time, the sun’s late arrival in the morning made for a cold track. It also was predicted to be around just long enough to finish the long day of racing, but not expected to be around for the awards ceremony that followed immediately after the completion of the race day.
Practice sessions had many a rider taking spills on the cold track. Experienced and paranoid riders didn’t push the limits in the early hours of the morning. They knew that NOBODY gets trophies for practice. And crashing in practice could spell the end of their racing day at the Grand National Finals, which would not be a good thing. Modern bikes and vintage were both falling at a regular pace. Most made it back to the pits, repaired their bikes, and made it back out for racing.
Race 1: 500GP, V2, 250GP
Performing the role of cameraman as well as pit monkey, I set up Keith’s bike with the GoPro HD camera and grabbed my Nikon still camera with HD capability and headed to the last turn on the track. Click on the link above to watch the 500GP, V2, 250GP race video.
Doug Bowie, the long standing 350GP champion who was also a shoo-in for the 500GP this year as well, had some close contenders in the 500GP class. Wayne Moore and Tony Mirando were battling it out with Doug until at some point in the race where Tony was back about 50 yards and maintained that distance for the remainder of the race, while Wayne kept on Doug’s tail the entire race at the front of the 500GP battle. The WERA announcer did a great job of describing the race as it occurred and I’d really like to get my hands on a recording of that race.
Between races, Keith came back into the pits feeling his little GP bike was performing as good as it ever had. Chasing the two stroke that would pull away from Keith in the straits, Keith would manage to catch up with two stroke in the more technical turns. This was a big ego boost for Keith. When he saw that he was running 1:55 lap times, a new record on his GP bike, he was glad he was able to race, even though his race bike was out matched in the V2 race. As can be the case at Barber’s very few racers had close proximity to fellow race class members, but there was a set of exceptions worth mentioning.
Race 3: Formula 500, V1, 350GP
With only one modern bike race between 500GP and the 350GP, the vintage racers didn’t have much time to spend between cooling down and getting ready for the next race. With the camera started again, Keith went off with the rest of the pack to push the limits on his GP bike and not end up in the back of the pack for lack of his Vintage 1 powerplant. Watch this race on the link above for some real excitement when John Cook takes the lead and holds it for as long as he can. Using his jockey weight against Keith’s experience and riding skills, this is a great video to watch. There is also a crash that happens right in front of the camera if you want to see what happens when cold tires don’t quite stick to the luke warm pavement. I’m sure Mr. Mark Badger was sore the next day, but will be back at the next race session in February at Talladega G. P. Raceway.
After Race 3, it was time to load up and grab a beer. The 350 Honda racers were done for the day before 2PM. Social hour and race spectating began. I had a great conversation with Mr. Frank George and his good buddy side kick (please forgive my “old timer’s disease, I don’t remember his name) about different Honda motorcycle from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I do hope to hear from him again soon. The awards ceremony was so cold that I took the keys and sat in the truck while the rest of the guys socialized. I left Chicagoland for a reason.
A good time was had by all that made it. I hope you enjoy watching the race videos that we get to record.