The first three races I’d hope to race came and went this season. However, Roebling Road got me back on track. WERA’s vintage racing began in the southeast Saturday, which was smack dab in the middle of Memorial Day weekend. Traffic was as expected on the way to the track, including the 40 minute traffic stop in I-75 around 6pm in Macon, GA.
The 93 degree forecast had everyone prepared for a hot, stagnant, sweltering day in the pits. When in fact, we were all blessed with a nice 15 mph breeze which kept the sweating concentrated to “leathers time”. The skies were clear while the track was clean and hot.
From the time of my last race/crash of 2016 to this weekend, Black Bullitt had been through some serious upgrades making it more like a race bike than the street bike I’d been racing for a decade. New swing arm bushings with complete cleaning and re-working, first time conversion to alloy wheels front and rear along with leaving behind the 50 year old factory laced and trued OEM wheels, hubs & spokes constituted the bulk of the refinements.
Conversion from the larger heavier CB350 rear wheel hub to an SL350 rear hub laced with Buchanan spokes to an XL350 rear, rim as well as, modifying a CL175 rear brake plate allowing for brake rod use versus a brake cable modification, was the most “outside the box” modification I made. The SL350’s hub center WAS about a 1mm larger diameter than the CL175’s brake plate cavity designed for the CL175 wheel hub. Both the CL175 brake plate and the SL350 brake hub required material removal to accommodate the configuration. Having received many pats on the back for rear brake lockup recoveries and wanting to reduce the overall weight and spinning mass of Black Bullitt motivated the modification.
The greatest modification to the bike was probably the replacement of the bias belted technology tires with the Continental Road Attack radial tires. Many a discussion, both technology and “banter-based” took place between GNF 2016 and Roebling Road May, 2017. The results associated with the rubber hitting the road/track were… amazing.
As stated, everything wheel related had been rebuilt from the axle to the track, so maximum benefit would be experienced. The Contis proved to be everything I’d hope for. With the high speeds of RRR and Black Bullitt running through some of the turns at 95% maximum speed, the Contis stuck to the track giving the confidence necessary to push the limits full time. I do have pics of my tires that showed the most shedding I’d ever seen from a set of Road Attacks CR tires, perhaps due to the maximum temps on the track at RRR.
The first practice session was nothing more than a tire scrubbing that was not at all impressive having to return to the pits in the crash truck for having forgot to add enough fuel to the tank. The second practice session included a faster pace and the beginning of confidence of the Road Attacks. Keeping hydrated as much as possible, we attended the racer’s meeting, copied down our grid positions, and went back to the pits for the long wait till race #8, our first for the day.
Bucky Sexton was dealing with some technical issues which left him wrenching on carburetors where he found a milky ball of water in the bottom of one carb. His concern was that he felt the issue was electrical. John Cook seemed to have pinched a tube and required a tech session at “Stick Boy Racing” tire trailer where Derek Bennett took great care of John. All those that had spare tubes tossed them John’s way to help him back on the track.
Bill Johnson returned to the track having transformed from being a GP racer to having beefed up to a V1/V2 bike configuration as well as bringing an track configured EX500. His weekend was a matter of upping his game to a world of faster racing.
Our first race was the GP500 where we actually had one GP500 bike jockeyed by Mr. David Rutherford. He’s one of the truly competitive GP500 AHRMA racers that occasionally joins on the WERA gridded tracks on his BSA 500 single. Since Bill Johnson had upped his game to the V2 class, he was gridded in front of us with the faster bikes. Bucky Sexton, Jerry Duke, Mike Wells, David Rutherford, David Hurst and myself were all that made it to the GP500 grid this Memorial Day weekend.
Ed Bargy was the Race Starter for the weekend and it was good to run into him Friday night for some chat time. With Jerry having made the run to Michigan and having weathered the frost slick weather, which forecast was the last straw keeping me from going, he was gridded in the center position, first row, for our class. He was surrounded by Bucky and Mike. That left me in the ideal position, behind them, as cameraman. David Rutherford was gridded behind me, for some reason. This did make for a more impressive surge into the scene after the start.
Ed’s start was as smooth and consistent as always and the pack raced down the long straight track towards turn one. Shortly after the start, David burst in front of the camera from stage left and kept going down the track closing on the pack as I slowly eased past Mike while we approached turn one. My tired motor, years since the last rebuild, did not act impressively for the Roebling long straight between turn last and turn one. The pack pulled away from Mike and I and began to make their first lean of the race before we could clearly see turn 1. Not letting off on the throttle and trusting my new radial tires, I kept my speed up and leaned as other slowed in the turn.
I gained and closed on the pack to find Charles Gault as my first target. Trailing him through turn 2 and passing in turn 3, the first left hand turn of Roebling. I then set my sights for Jerry. After a right turn behind Jerry I overtook him on the outside of the next left turn sweeper. This left a serious gap between me and Bucky. Approaching the last turn of the track, I shifted into fifth (and final) gear and leaned. Achieving about 95% of Black Bullitt’s maximum speed for the day in the apex of the turn, I uprighted behind Bucky for the beginning of the long straight trek to turn 1.
I centered on Bucky only to have to veer right to avoid him as Bucky’s technical issue had reared it’s ugly head before the completion of the first lap. I tucked down and in for the long agonizingly slow run for turn 1. I had plenty of time to think about when I was going to rebuild the motor or build another leaving this one as a “trusty” backup.
Surprisingly, nobody came up behind me before the turn… nor for the rest of the race. David Rutherford was already turns ahead of me being chased by John Cook on his V1 bike and I wouldn’t see either of them until we were back in the pits. I spent the rest of the race making up for my tired motor in every turn while truly scuffing the tires for the next race. Nothing but baron Roebling Road Raceway track for the rest of the GP500 race video.
The break that followed the GP500 before the GP350 race was just one Solo race of the modern bikes. A short burst of PowerAde and powered fan along with some water over the face and down and inside the leathers and I was energized for the next and final race of the day, or so I thought. I did make one prediction during the break. Noticing that Jim Hinshaw was running in the Formula 500 class during our next race, I stated my goal was to NOT be lapped by Jim on his plenty powerful 500cc two stroke triple Kawasaki.
As we were pitted by the back fence, calls from the control tower were not easy to discern. We missed 2nd call and headed to the track in a fury. Not seeing (or even looking) for the number sign, I saw a racer turning back to the grid and not taking a warm up lap. So I too followed him back stream to my grid position. Not knowing why he did such, I assumed it was time to do so. Then I saw John Cook and Bucky head down the track for a warm up lap. Having not come to a stop in my grid, I chased them around the track for a warm up run. Getting to the grid with a full crowd I figured I may have been in the wrong. I had started my camera before the grid, just in case we took off quickly.
Pulling up alongside David Hurst, I was ready for the start. Noticing Jerry ahead of me, backing up into his proper grid position, I verified the camera was recording. Grid officials were still checking and positioning racers so I was comforted that I was not the final hold up before the race.
As Ed ripped the green flag through the air the pack took off. Mike and I made our not so impressive push down the straight as the pack pulled away from us with David trailing behind us. I slowly left Mike behind me in time for turn 1. Just as the race before, slowing traffic in turn 1 allowed me to gain on the pack. Again, Charles was the bike in the back of the pack. This time however, he held me off for the first lap and again I took him on the outside of turn 3 in the second lap, this time.
Now behind Bucky who was trailing Jerry, I noticed Bucky was apprehensive about overtaking Jerry. This is only Jerry’s second year of racing and he has yet to get to a point of smooth & predictable. I did show Bucky a wheel in the second left turn just to let him know I was with him. Jerry, Bucky, and I made a drafting train heading for the last turn of the track which lead to my dread, the long straight run.
Bucky had signs of issues again so I was prepared to jump aside when his speed dropped off. That left me behind Jerry who was pulling away in the straight. Charles Gault passed me on the left just after the start/finish line. I slowly and predictably drifted left down the long, slow motion effect, run for turn 1.
I took Charles on the inside as he was braking for turn 1 with Jerry right in front of me. Showing Jerry a wheel in turn 2, he hit the gas to keep me at bay. Knowing Charles was behind me, with a steady smooth move, I drifted to Jerry’s right side for the left hand turn. When Jerry slowed for the first left turn of the track, I didn’t. Jerry drifted wide as I was passing him on the outside. I continued to surge so he could see my front wheel as I passed him close and outside.
Getting in front of Jerry left a blank track ahead of me. The faster classes were gone much further down the huge track. At the end of the second lap I drifted left in preparation for turn 1. Just before the end of the straight, Charles burst in front of me, held the lead for a couple seconds, then graciously chopped the throttle and left turn 1 for me clear to race through, unencumbered.
Charles and I are not in the same race class. He is a Formula 500 racer while I’m racing GP350. Our position at the finish line has no effect on each other’s placement at the podium. However, the way my bike was configured and at the faster tracks like Roebling Road Raceway, we are playmates on the same playground. Knowing the rules of any and all playgrounds, we play well together.
This was the last time Charles could get close enough to even show me a wheel, but I didn’t leave him in the dust. The rest of my race was a matter of maintaining pace to avoid being lapped by Jim. I believe Charles was close enough behind me to see when Jim and Mark Morrow flew past me… just 100, then 200 feet after the finish line. This left me still in my race.
In the last lap, I saw David Hurst on the horizon. With one more reason to up my game, I pushed to lap David. Closing on him, all the way down to the last turn, I leaned in and got some good footage of David and his bike, got a small draft effect behind him, and took the slingshot toward the finish line. With David’s two stroke power against my tired motor, I needed all I could get to stay him off all the way to the finish line. Tucked in and down, tweaking the throttle to get maximum efficiency since WOT was slightly breaking up, I counted the seconds remaining to the finish line. At the end of the GP350 race, as I approached the line I noticed the flagman already flying the checkered. It was less than 3 seconds after the finish line that David flew by me.
Just six days until the next race at Road Atlanta for CycleJam, I’ll leave things at this point. Lots to do before I get there. Stay tuned.