Tally Prep through GP500 Race (GP350 to be written yet)
Posted on 2015/08/25 by videojackster
After many hours of learning the process of converting the CB550F 35mm triple tree for use on a 350 Honda twin, over the couple of weeks before the race, we got Keith’s GP350 race bike configured with the 35mm front suspension system, three days before the race. The night before the race I showed up packed and loaded up, ready for Keith’s bike and gear to be loaded into the back of the truck for the early morning ride to Tally. Keith was still doing the last few items on hid discrepancy list like figuring out why the clutch didn’t work & does the bike run.
After part 1 of the tech session, ensuring the bike ran, we took a beer break and contemplated the clutch. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the clutch lever which is suppose to angle away from the hand grip was parallel to it. Replacing the clutch lever gave full range of actuation of the clutch and we were ready to wrap up for the night. Team Old & Oily was ready to race at Talladega Gran Prix Raceway!
Early morning driving through Atlanta included being part of 5 lanes of the connector closing down to 1 lane. This delay was but one of a few that had us rolling in at exactly 8 am local Alabama time. For those who pre registered, the process went fast and allowed more time to unload the truck. For others…
The turn out was good, but we had a couple guys that could not make it. Mike Wells was experiencing continued issues with his retinal detachment (best of wishes hope to see you at Road Atlanta) and Bill Howard’s brother had electrical issues on his ignition system. Bill and Scott Wilson were among the early arrivers that spent Friday night. John Cook, Jamie Brenton, Doug Bowie, James Walker, David Hurst, Charles Gault, and John Rickard were among the GP Vintage racers. We even had a return rider after many years when Chad Pechi showed up riding I don’t know what was faired like a modern bike.
As we unloaded the truck, set up the canopy and started the battery charge shuffle, the clouds disappeared and left behind nothing but hot asphalt all around us. Canopies were in max capacity everywhere while we avoided the direct rays of the Alabama sun. The track had been rained on for days prior to our arrival and now it was clean and hot, just the way we like it! With time to completely hydrate our selves, we prepared for the first practice session and listened for the announcement of our time on the track.
Remembering that there are “no points for practice sessions” we ran out bikes through the paces and re familiarize ourselves with Tally’s twists, curves, and our all time favorite, the patches that made up “the” right hand turn on a predominantly left hand turn track. Visually, it can be a scary looking mess that, if you let it, will psychologically mess you up. There is one motorcycle wide path through that turn, on the outside edge, that is free of the inconsistency of the patches, and it has very little room for error. I did have to admit that it appeared as if my motor, just wasn’t quite what it should be. The engine had to be shifted at around 7,000 RPM to avoid the spit and sputter I was experiencing.
The session had most of us spread out away from each other. A nice, safe, buffered practice and orientation session without incident… until I pulled off the track. I was waved down by the pit in track official. Seems that at the end of my practice session, I blew a clutch pushrod seal and was spraying oil out the left side of my motor. As this is a somewhat common problem, I knew what it was before I visually verified it.
In the midst of trouble shooting, I noticed that my engine vent/catch cup had collapsed upon the frame at the point of the designed vent. Adding two more vent holes resolved this from causing future issues, but the process of removing all the oil from the motorcycle was an arduous one, even when assisted by my team mate, Mr. Keith Bennett who concentrated on the rear wheel. Removing the belly pan and it’s approximately 1/2 quart of oil that it caught followed by cleaning the underside and left side of the engine took most of the time between practice sessions. Just a few minutes after getting a clean bill of health from the tech inspector, we suited up for second call for practice group #6, Vintage 1 – 4.
Returning from the second practice session, I was happy to note that there was no sign of oil from the clutch push rod seal or anywhere else on the bike. The motor still would go above 8,000 RPM without terrible results. I was getting opinions from John Cook about how to remove the Dyna-S ignition rotor from the crankshaft in order to get an accurate timing reading on the cam and the ignition systems.
We continued to charge batteries and shuffle what we had for Keith to be able to have a nice strong batter for racing and were grateful that our races weren’t until #8 and #11. The rider’s meeting was a great chance to meet up with other races that were pitted elsewhere as we all had to come together for the meeting and it’s central location. John Rickard told us about his “megaphonitus” (mystery term for unidentified irregular power-band issues) on his GP500 bike.
Although Keith was on his GP350 bike, he was entered to race in the V1/V2 races as he has a second place standing in both classes and his V1 powered race bike is down and in need of a new crankshaft, connecting rods, and piston wrist pins before he can reassemble and run the last few races properly powered for the class. Hopefully, he’ll have everything ready for Road Atlanta on Friday, September 11th. Otherwise, he may have to play with the power-bikes on his GP “stocker” 350 Honda.
We watched a good bit of the races while waiting for our turn at bat. There were a few modern bike crashes and the associated red flags and race delays. We watched some ominous clouds roll in (as seen in the videos) and we even had some threatening rain (sprinkles) that was enough to qualify our “no race weekends without rain this year” mantra. When you look at the video from John Cook’s bike, you can see the rain on his windshield.
As we suited up and listened for our track calls, I went through our cameras recently purchased on eBay as the 720p version of the SJ4000 competitor to the GoPro HD cameras. For $24 these seemed like a good idea. However, it seems that when you playback the video in full resolution, it appears as if the camera captures standard definition and expands it to 720p HD. The video is grainy, soft focused, and aliased to the point that all diagonal lines are obvious stair steps. Better video next time, so stay tuned.
The GP500 race came first, just like all the other races I attended this year. The grids were not heavily packed, but I’d say nicely grouped and closely comparable power and rider skilled for some really close and fun racing. We stared near the front for our “bump up” race as we were in the 500 class on 350 machines. The more powerful V2 bikes were gridded in front of us this meant we were going to be our own real excitement chasing them.
John Cook’s video came out great and is a good one to watch for the big picture version of the start of the race. However, is view just isn’t the “in your face” shot of Jamie Brenton pulling a bit of an unorthodox maneuver from the outside of the track to the inside of the track and then back to the outside of the track, smack dab in the middle of turn one at the start of the race. When he came in front of me, my camera could only see his mid spine and race bike’s tail piece, he was so close I had to hit the brakes. But, as James Walker noted “No contact made, penalty declined.”
This didn’t appear to fluster me, perhaps to the contrary. By turn two, I was on Keith’s tail and trying to catch Jamie. By the right hander, turn 3, I passed Keith and was closing on Jamie. Bill Howard had worked his way between us and now all I saw was the back of Bill’s bike/leathers while taking advantage of his draft. Jamie led Bill and I in a tightly packed parade through the last zigzag turn before the start/finish line and all the way through turn 1. Little did I know that Keith was still on my tail and John was chasing him. Only later in the video did we find out that Scott Wilson was trailing John as well. We had a nice tightly packed closely contested race on our hands.
We all go through turn one at max speed drafting each other and don’t separate until the braking range of turn 2. I fly past Bill and have Jamie in my sights while we race for the unforgiving right-hander. Taking the inside of the psychologically challenging turn on the track, I take Jamie on the inside and the lead of the 350 Honda pack as well.
Bill follows my lead and make a bee-line for the tail of my bike while Jamie preps wide for the big left hand sweeper. Bill dips in under Jamie as John Cook gets around Keith whose beginning to hold John up. Doing everything I can to get tme most out of my motor, I’m prepared for the better tuned bikes to come by me in the long back straight before the very tricky zig zag. At the very end of the straight, Bill shows me a wheel on the inside of the turn as we both approach it. I dive in early, right on his tail, and take him back in the turn (great footage around 3:00 on my camera) and keep up the pace. I barely keep the lead of the pace for one complete lap until Bill pulls on me, what I did to him at the exact same zig zag location.
From that point on, I did my best to stick with Bill like glue and be the bike he saw time and time again, when he looked back. Lap after lap after lap, I clung to Bill like ugly on an ape, until Jamie showed me more than just a wheel. He too tried to take my just at the left turn into the zigzag and I took him right back as I did with Bill in the same position laps before. (7:00 minutes in the videos) Knowing that Jamie was upping his game and making his move, I knew I couldn’t run ahead of him, but I could do my best to keep up with him. Jamie took me on the big left sweeper before the back straight. Eventually, John Cook who was playing the ideal camera man would work his way into the mix as he was on the same catchup pace that Jamie was running.
Using his lighter weight, nicely faired motorcycle and all the improvements John had made to his motorcycle, he gradually outran me on the back straight, just before the zig zag and he kept that lead through the turn and gradually pulled away from me on his quest to catch Jamie. Taking advantage of a racer that was being lapped by both he and Jamie, John took the inside or the patched up right hander and got in front of Jamie, of so it would have appeared. Jamie did not slow down going around David Hurst. He must have actually gone through the turn faster, as he was on the outside of the track. Jamie emerged in front of John at the end of the right hand psychological thriller turn without incident.
In a surge of retaliation, John took the tightest possible turn through the big sweeper and passed Jamie without scrubbing off speed, and headed toward the zig zag on the last lap of the race. I was close enough on John’s tail that I drafted him past Jamie and trailed for the finish line in John’s wake. As John began to pull away a little, I noted Jamie’s shadow on my left. I followed Jamie through the zig zag so close on his tail that I had to ride up alongside him through the turn. As he powered past me, I dropped into his wind wake and followed him across the finish line for the completion of one serious dose of therapy. Now that was some fun!
Continuing the Saturday racing experience, after only one combined solo race, we took the track again for the GP350 race with most of the same players of the GP500.
With the V1 and Formula 500 classes gridded ahead of us, the GP350 class was back around the 10th row. I had a better than usual start even without the presence of a wheelie like at Road Atlanta. I weaved between Jamie Brenton and then Doug Bowie, then ended up alongside John Cook and behind Bill Howard coming out of turn 1. Bill was the man to catch and I had him in my sights. As we approached turn two, I had to wait till the last second before braking and keep an eye on Bill. As we emerged at the apex having passed Keith Bennett, Jim Henshaw, and Charles Gault, Bill was right in front of me filling my camera field of view and I was all he saw when he looked around to see what was behind him.
Bill had the lead in the GP350 class and I had him in my sights. Closing on him in the big left hand sweeper, I began to pick up the effect of his draft. However, after the straight opened up, so did Bill’s power band and he pulled away from me. Bill only weighs one less pound than I do, so there must be a little more that I can be doing to my motor.
Approaching the zigzag before the start/finish line, I was maintaining my speed, but Bill appeared to be slowing down. By the time I hit the zigzag, Bill had all but stopped, or so it appeared to me, and I had to do a little off road riding to avoid riding up his back end. By the time I got back on the track, Bill had picked up his pace and pulled ahead of me toward the start finish line. Climbing up in speed, I focused on Bill and revved, shifted and revved my way through turn 1.
Bill had created at least a three second gap between us and if nothing else, was out of my way at the zigzag so I stayed on the track and didn’t slow down. By turn 2 of the third lap, Doug pulled smoothly under me on the inside and had cleared before the end of the turn. Wanting to watch him pass Bill, I did what I could to track Doug through the right hander. By the time I came out of the big left sweeper, Doug and Bill were leaning into the zigzag way ahead of me. They continued to drift further and further away as each turn passed.
Just before the half way mark of the race, Charles Gault passed me on the back straight and kept that lead through the zigzag even with my best shot to pull back in front. I now had someone to chase through the curves, and I did give Charles a tailgating through the patched right hander and after that, he continued to pull away.
A little while later, Dich Gruin lapped me while approaching the right hander and I was robbed of one of my ten laps. Halfway down the track Jamie pulled by me in time to show me how turn 1 should be taken. He hung around a while to get some close up camera time so I tried to take him back in turn two, to no avail. I did my darndest to get back in front of him and made a few valiant attempts on the turns that followed… and then there was the back straight where he pulled away with his power to weight that was better than mine. And so did John Cook, boom! I tracked the two of them for the last lap heading to the finish line. It was easy to tell that John had Jamie’s rhythm down to a science.
We headed down the last stretch with the two of them as the stars in front of my camera with the two of them very close but Jamie maintaining his lead through to the end. James Walker decided to pass us after turn one. Later I found out that John had told James to not lap us. Seems James was trying.
Great racing again with back to back therapy sessions that all who had participated had enjoyed to the maximum.
Special thanks to my race sponsor Martin Mattes of Sirius Consolidated Incorporated the Keyster carb kit capital of the world! Jamie Brenton for welding Keith’s CB550 triple tree for the 35mm conversion. Charlie Young for letting me know we had race guys with welding unit on our side of town. Tony Mirando for having a CB550 available for sale. And of course of the guys (since Wendy left us, no gals to thank) that join us on the track to keep the WERA GP350 and GP500 grid alive.
Next race is Road Atlanta on Friday, September 11th. Get your bike together and come out and join us for some great fun.