After 96 Tire & Collision had informed me they had replaced my CV axles (turns out the left was about to go as well), I hopped on “Carb Tester”, my street CB350 Honda and hit the highway. When I pulled up, all the guys heard the motorcycle and came out to check it out. Come to find out, one of the guys there had a Kawasaki 900 drag bike in the shop and I got to check it out as well. They took great care of me and I highly recommend their services.
With the Cycle Jam race being at Road Atlanta, I took the truck after a good night’s sleep at home. There was a crawling road block on I-85 which luckily stopped traffic before Hamilton Mill Road (my old stomping ground) so I took the back roads to the track.
Vintage racing at Cycle Jam was on Friday. This probably was part of the reason that the grids were so light, even for a local race as so many of the WERA vintage crowd is based out of the metro Atlanta area.
Ron Raven was out and supporting the sport by providing Charlie Young a Rotax powered two stroke bike for the HMGP class. Charlie came in from the Jacksonville, Florida area while getting back on the track for the first time in a long while. The GP racers present included: Jerry Duke, a gentleman I’ve yet to meet, from Florence, Alabama, was there on his Ducati, Bill Johnson made his way back from Baltimore, and Bucky Sexton was in from York, Pennsylvania, and Scott Wilson from Fayetteville, Georgia. Mr. Dave Fredrick from Royston, Georgia (almost South Carolina) was there on his 350 Yamaha to round out the GP grid.
As for the souped up 350 Honda crowd, there was Bill Howard, James Walker, from the metro Atlanta area and John Cook from Warner Robins, Georgia. In their bump up class of Vintage II, there was Mr. David Clark out of Killen, Alabama and Mr. Jon Kelly Nuss all the way from Louisville, Kentucky, both on Yamaha 400cc race bikes.
The infield was strewn with trucks, trailers, RVs, travel trailers and lots of pit bikes. The forecast was for 96 degrees and absolutely no clouds in sight. Rain was not to be a concern, unless you counted the rate at which we all perspired.
Old familiar faces and voices like Ed Bargy as the race coordinator and starter, Mr. Microphone, Jeff Wright as the WERA announcer and master of ceremony, Evelyn, Emily, and the rest of the WERA administrative staff, along with Dan and Scott (our racer hero and his return truck & trailer). Road Atlanta has always been our home town track with the hot track, great folks, and the appreciation of a cold beverage at the end of the day.
Our races, for the 350 guys were early and close together at #2 & #5 with, as usual as of late, the 600 Solo races being combined giving us one race between. The first race of the day was the Rider’s School Mock Race were the latest wave of newbies completed their basic training. This also left them the opportunity to register for one or two of their first two races that are provisional, based on completion without crashing.
Practice proved to be uneventful although plenty hot. Shade was at a premium and I had to jury rig my canopy which still had not received any repair after a wind blown tumble at Lil Tally years before. It was all but retired when Keith bought his first replacement after a decade, the original having been well amortized. I had made a mental note to make repairs before Barber, the next race in sequence. Every left exposed to the sun was cooking hot including the track.
Aging has is benefits, but also it’s detrimental moments. Thinking I didn’t need my reading glasses, I looked and saw a big 32 on the SD chip I grabbed to put into the camera. Little did I know I’d grabbed a 32 MB chip and not a 32 GB chip. So, my apologies for not having the GP500/V2 race recorded… and therefore not much of a write up either. This is the time for me to admit that I use the videos as reminders of what occurred on the track and do not memorize what happened. I will tell you that Road Atlanta is one of the tracks I consider my own and my favorites. With lots of miles on Road A, each of the stomach gurgling, sight distance limited, horizon revealing turns, hills, and chicanes, I still feel comfortable wide open throttle in the tough spots.
The GP500/V2 race started without any issues, and turn one was the usual thrill with the right hand lean and uphill climb toward the “bus stop” which thins the crowd down to one bike wide before opening up into one of the best GP experiences that racing has to offer. I must admit that early in the race, I had a front brake fade sensation and I left the track as my bike sunk deep into the pea gravel of turn 12. I DID NOT CRASH! I kept the bike upright and used my feet as skis, maintained my momentum, rode out of the gravel and continued the race. The rest of my race was uneventful and my times were on mark. The results included a surprising win by Bucky Sexton in front of Doug Bowie, followed by Bill Johnson and myself and Jerry Duke. DNSs included Jim Hinshaw and Scott Wilson for reasons of which I know not. Since my camera wasn’t present, I offer you a link to John Cook’s camera in the V1 class at the front of the pack at Road Atlanta, enjoy.
Returning from the track after the first race, we made our way to our pits. I was pitted far away from the gang as I showed up after the traffic backup and detour. Trying to keep cool, hydrated, and not being able to hear the announcements nor being near anyone else in my class, I didn’t know that third call for the GP350 race had been called till I saw Bucky ride by on his way to the warm up lap. In a mad scramble, I suited up, strapped on, and pulled my bike from it’s stand and raced to the gate to get on the track. Road Atlanta doesn’t have an easy access to go directly to the grids, skipping the warm up lap. And, as I wasn’t the only straggler, both John Cook and I were to start from the hot pit lane.
This was to be quite an exciting experience as the access to the track included a dip, turn to the right while the walls of the lane continually closed around us. I did inform John that he, on the faster V1 bike, should stay out of my way. Looking way to our left, instead of ahead of us and looking at where we were going, John and I watch Ed Bargy and the number boards go through the count down. When the green flag ripped through the air, we were revved and racing toward the “funnel” that put us on the track to the right of the other races that would be centrifugally pushed to the left of a high speed right hand turn.
The GP350 Start, placed close to each other to begin with, became even closer when John pulled toward my line in front of me, and even looked back to see where I was, and we continued toward the “thrill funnel”. Surprise by our entrance to the race, other racers who started in the grid didn’t know what was going on as this is a rare occurrence. I merged in behind Bill Johnson who was already in the groove and smoothly followed him though the zigzag of the bus stop then down hill toward the back of the track. Throughout both practice sessions and the first race, I noticed that my motor was waning in it’s ability to achieve redline. Some gradual performance issue was taking it’s toll on my bike’s capability and some troubleshooting would be required.
Optimizing what I had included making the most of my experience with Road Atlanta, it’s curves, braking points, other nuances. Point to point optimum turn speeds gave me the ability to catch up with the pack in the curves while the straight sections where working against me. I could close the gaps in the fast tight turns and watch the distance increase in the long distance runs. As I passed the start finish line, I passed Doug who was having some issues. Chasing bill, I tucked down with elbows in tight and kept up my speed for turn one, the enjoyable high speed turn since the upgrade to 35mm forks. Bill went from a good distance ahead of me to being in my way for the second traversing through the bus stop. Then he pulled ahead through the down hill “essess” and up the hill over the limited sight distance horizon of the left hand turn #5 toward the back of the track. As we approached turn six, maintaining my speed, I was again on Bill’s tail through turns 6 & 7.
Approaching turn 10A, Doug made his way back in front of me and I it may look like I had a bit of fixation syndrome, but I actually felt what seemed like a brake fade issue. I almost spent some time in the pea gravel of 10A. A quick recovery and the best acceleration I could muster, I was climbing and then descending toward the 90 degree turn known as turn 12. The 10A hiccup had cost me a lot of momentum, but not having anyone in my way through turn one and the esses did allow me to make up some distance. Doug had already passed Bill and was setting his sites on Bucky who has really put some distance between us. By the end of turn 7, I was back with Bill. Late braking in 10A set me up to ride Bill’s tail through turn 12.
Being so close to Bill in turn 12, even though he pulled away in the front straight, I knew I could stay on the hammer in turn one and consider passing him before the bus stop at top speed… and it worked. I just barely had the momentum to show him a wheel after he had gone wide to set up for the bus stop and he eased off and followed me though them. I showed Bill how the bus stop was to be traversed and screamed down hill through the esses, and took turn 5 so fast that it pushed me outward and I rode the rumple strips. Again, without anyone in front of me, I could optimize the features I was taking advantage of through the turns to put as much distance between us before the long back straight. By this time, Doug was almost out of sight and nobody was in my way. Turns 6 & 7 went flawlessly, but that’s when I saw Bucky’s bike where he had gone off the track from a bad pass through #6. When I was on the back straight I knew that if I could stay in front of Bill, I could continue that way till the end. Not looking back and playing 10A and 10B text book style, my confidence rose and headed for turn 12 where I saw Doug clearing the turn as soon as I saw it.
The rest of the race was as if I had rented Road Atlanta all to myself and was going for my best time on the track. Watching my last pass through turn one (from 11:15 on the video), I’m quite happy with my performance through the turn, up the hill and my fastest pass through the bus stop ever, properly apexing each turn, touching the lines and accelerating all the way through and out. I pulled off a second place on my home track. Second only to Doug is no bad deal. And of course I was happy to tell everybody about my sponsor, Sirius Consolidated Incorporated, the Keyster Carb Kit Capital of the World, when I accepted my trophy!
WERA GP350 race at Cycle Jam 2016, Road Atlanta Enjoy the video.