Just six short days after the high speed turns of Roebling Road Raceway was WERA’s CycleJam 2017 at Road Atlanta. Bill Johnson and Bucky Sexton knew they couldn’t make it back into the south for CycleJam, so they were both missed by the gang. David Hurst and Charles Gault didn’t make the back to back second session either. Barry Hasenkopf, our newbie racer in the Atlanta area, didn’t make it to his new home track but hopefully will join us soon. For anyone else considering taking an old bike and bringing it to the track, I recommend the CB350k, CL350k, or SL350k twins from 1968 to 1973 (front disc replacement with drum brake required for the 73 model CB350G for GP350 racing) for some good old “let it rip” for all the bike can put out racing.
CycleJam was attended by the true diehards of vintage racing in the southeast. The Vintage 1 racers consisted of John Cook and James Walker. Anyone else joining the pack would have been guaranteed 3rd place, and could possibly 1st place the way these two performed on the track;) Between broken spokes and a serious tech session that had all of us diagnosing sounds while James rotated his rear wheel, in gear, with plugs pulled and bad starts that included giving John’s competition a one lap head start, a great time and stories were had by all.
In the GP500 world (our first race) were Mr. David Rutherford on his fine BSA 500cc single, Mr. Jerry Duke on his Ducati 350 single and me on my trusty steed, Black Bullitt, the 335cc Honda CL350. While Jerry and I were in our “bump-up” race, David was on his GP500 natural on his BSA. Smaller races with an understood likely outcome become a race at the back of the pack so as not to be the last one in the class across the finish line, but crossing the finish line is much more important than not finishing at all.
CycleJam was most likely to be attended by myself as a result of missing the first three possibile races for the 2017 race season and being only an hour away. Since the schedule had us racing during the 6th and 9th races of 17 events, I had scheduled to be back at work after dropping off the race bike and grabbing the next round of tools and supplies on the way back.
Practice was fairly uneventful. The long straights at the start/finish line and between turn 7 and 10a showed consistent fatigue in my motor. I need to make a new race motor with the Kibble White OEM type valve springs, a teflon slipper tensioner, and another set of Sirius Consolidated 1.0 overbore OEM type pistons and rings as soon as I get the chance. Until then, I’ll have to make up for it in the curves.
The weather was hot, but not as hot a most Road Atlanta races. The track was dry with cloud cover breaking every now and then. Having rain well since the previous use of the track meant we’d have a hot, dry, and fairly oil-free surface to grip onto.
I came up on the grid as David and Jerry were already on station. Riding past John Cook as the only V2 racer (both John and James were in their bump-up race) meant that James was riding in behind me. Small grids make for short grid marshaling, so the three board was replaced by the 2, then 1, then sideways, followed evenly by the green flag.
David & Jerry pulled away from me followed by James passing me on the left. I waited for John to fly by, but he never showed before the bus stop. James pulled in front and zigzagged through the switchback turns, Jerry reached then next followed by David. As I approached the bus stop it seems that the traffic ahead of me slowed down a bit to make it through. Since John hadn’t made his move yet, I followed behind and closed on David’s BSA 500. Jerry and David pulled away on the softer straights I then closed rapidly as they slowed for the sharper curves. After trailing Jerry through turns 6 & 7, as David took Jerry after the Road Atlanta horizon turn, the back straight allowed he and David to pull away from me for a long, long time. Weaving through turns 10a and 10b I didn’t gain much ground, climbing the hill toward turn 12 I began to drift back and through turn 12, the last before the start/finish line, I might have gained slightly on Jerry.
Approaching turn one appeared as if the race was going to leave me behind. Keeping all my momentum and leaning through turn one, I climbed the hill toward the bus stop with all that my motor would allow. By the time I reached the bus stop I had gained back a bit. Heading down through the esses, I gained on Jerry. Broaching the horizon turn I came out drafting Jerry. The straight section of track gave Jerry chance to pull away but turns 6 & 7 were waiting for me to make up some time. Coming out of 7 I drafted Jerry before he pulled away.
Again, the back straight didn’t look too promising but by turn 12 I was now a part of a four bike trail. James Walker was now a part of the pack. By the front straight, James was in the right lane and I was passing him. Chasing Jerry was my mission and I knew I’d get the rundown on his difficulties in the pits. Flying through turn 1, I gained on Jerry. I kept on gaining and passed him listening to some missing of his engine. Through the bus stop and down through the esses, I was gaining on David. As the back of the track straightened out, David pulled away easily. By the end of turn 7 I was much closer.
The long back straight of Road Atlanta racing on a 350 Honda stocker can seem like an eternity, especially while the leader of the race is pulling away from you. Through turn 9, John flew by with Jerry drafting him as we all headed into 10a & 10b. I waited longer on braking than Jerry did and followed John through the 10a and passed him through 10b. Climbing the hill and and racing under the bridge, John took me on the right heading down the hill and taking turn 12 before me. It would seem that John turned on his game switch and raced away. James flew past me followed by Jerry. I was back to the back of the pack, again.
Not letting my throttle rest, I caught up to and rode shoulder to shoulder with Jerry through turn 1. He pulled away up the hill and I used the bus stop to catch up. I did my darnedest to gain him in the downhill race through the esses, but Jerry had become more familiar with them. His exit however had him riding the rumple strips till back on the track. Well past the halfway mark and I could still see most of the racer in front of me.
Through 6 & 7 with very little gain on Jerry, I was beginning to think he got the hang of the track. In front of Jerry I could see two bikes making turn 8 shoulder to shoulder. This time, on the back straight, I seemed to stick with Jerry. Going into 10a I noticed Jerry drifting wide. His recover through 10b left him wide. The two maneuvers had scrubbed off some much needed speed and I dove into the inside of his turn and throttled full.
Jerry and I rode under the bridge together as he pulled ahead toward turn 12. We were fighting for it and Jerry went into 12 too hot. He’s seen leaving the camera range as he enters the grass. He did NOT end up in the pea gravel! He calmly brought the bike back under control in the grass and rode back on the track without losing control. Glancing back before turn 1 I saw Jerry tucked down and aiming for me.
It wasn’t until I got through turn 7 again that I saw David. It was getting fairly late in the race, so he was my next target. David had been clearing turn 12 as I crested the hill under the bridge. Still pushing to close even more I flew through 12 and tucked in tight for the long boring front straight. The white flag was waving from the finish line bridge and I figured where I was was where I was going to be at the finish. After my last traversion through turn 12 that I needed to save myself for the next race. Jerry was behind me, but I didn’t have to work hard to keep most of that lead for one lap. Some conservative racing to the finish line of the GP500 race got me there before Jerry and left me saluting and blowing kisses to the corner workers, thanking them for their service that allows me to have such fun.
Back to the pits for hydration and insight to John & James’ woes on the track before returning for the GP350 race.
Doug Bowie made it to CycleJam and had 3 of his Ducati race bikes with him. His big bike was not in play, but I can’t remember why. Doug, Jerry and I would be battling it out for the GP350 at Road Atlanta. John Cook and James walker would be on the track with us in the Vintage 1 class. All of us would be following the Formula 500 class.
As we landed in our grid positions, there was no sign of James Walker in front of us in his Vintage 1 grid position. John Cook was camera center glancing back for James. As the green flag approached, we made ready for our best starts. John’s spread eagle start looked a bit like a kite with two tails. Doug surged in front of the GP crowd flying past John who was in the Vintage 1 class. By the time we approached turn 1, we were shoulder to shoulder with Doug on the inside line, John center, and me on the outside turning right toward the bus stop. Doug lunged for the lead through the bus stop with me following and John hot on my tail.
Coming out of the bus stop, my favorite part of Road Atlanta, There was a pack of four racers blocking my path. Jerry was holding up the rushing racer after getting to the bus stop first. Doug trialed him. It seems that Jerry was held up by Mark Williams, f the Formula 500 class who was about to be played in a high speed game of chess. Powering through the downhill path of the esses, I trailed the pack to the horizon turn, turn number 5, where Doug and I flew by Jerry on either side while chasing Mark. I drafted in behind Doug as we approached turn 6. Having mentioned to John after the first practice session that I kept pace with Mark Williams during practice went through my head as Doug took the inside track and I proceeded to take Mark on the outside track during this right hand turn. Doug got stuffed at the apex and I pulled past Mark in a lean like only the Contis would allow.
This left us with turn 7 behind us and the long back half of the track where everybody gets to pull away. With nobody in front of me, first Doug eased past me, then Mark flew past both of us and we all progress towards 10a. Before that, Jerry eased by me on my left, in time for the left hand turn. Jerry took 10a first and I took 10b while Mark and Doug climbed the hill and under the bridge. Making the last set of turns, led us out to the front straight. Expecting Jerry to pass me never came to fruition. That left me leaning hard and fast through turn 1 only to pass Mark on the outside. With Doug in my sights, I closed through the bus stop and gave chase downhill through the esses again. Gravity was in my favor and I gained significantly in time to ride up along side Doug for the horizon turn, #5. I tailed Doug up to turn 7 and he pulled away in the back straight. John overtook me before the zig and zag of turn 10a and I took him back through 10b, just three seconds later. By the time I’d made it to turn 12, Doug was pulling away.
Halfway to turn 1, John flew past me closely as if he’d taken advantage of my draft for a short burst. By turn one, I was using John’s wake for my own drafting and we climbed toward the bus stop together. The last turn of the bus stop had me tailgating John and a couple seconds later he was noticeably pulling away. By turn 5, I was along side John and he burst away in the short straight before turn 6. Coming out of turn 7, John filled the camera lens. Then as if he’d warmed up, he pulled away to chase Doug.
The second half of the GP350 race had me successfully staying off Jerry as I chased after Doug. I did see Doug cross the finish line and followed seconds behind.
John Cook sent me this link to the V1/GP350 race from his perspective. Seems he was in a lot of the right places at the right time to play cameraman for the GP350 racers, having made a good start this time…
Good times had by all. More fun in the next exciting episode. Hope you’ll be on the track with us.