I had looked forward to the marathon racing weekend for sometime and really looked forward to racing at the Barber Vintage Festival for the first time ever. To do so meant driving from Atlanta to Munford, Alabama Thursday night in order to practice with AHRMA on Friday. Upon successful completion of the practice day I was to drive back to Atlanta for a good night’s sleep before racing at Road Atlanta with WERA in the 350GP and 500GP races only to work my way back to Alabama to race on Sunday with AHRMA in the 350 Sportsman and 500 sportsman classes. And then there was Irma.
After a restless night under a bright full moon, I woke to a chilly start Friday morning. With the help of many of the AHRMA officials and lots of AHRMA racers as well. Registration was significantly less efficient than the WERA configuration so I completed AHRMA licensing and race registration just in time to join the racer’s meeting already in progress.
There were a few familiar faces who also race with WERA and even some I hadn’t seen in decades. Absorbing the information available, I picked up on a few differences between race organization’s procedures. Many blanks were filled in by David Hurst who was very helpful making sure I understood what was in store for the Barber Vintage Festival requirements, thank you, Sir! Learning that I was looking at five 15 minute practice sessions over the course of the day I returned to my pit and and prepped my bike.
Across pit row was Joe (the father) and Magnum Joe, his son who was going through the race school that day. They were both CB160 Le Mans start racers. Small bikes with a totally different racing style required. Both bikes looked like most the rest of the AHRMA racer’s bikes, mighty fine.
Having been at Lil Tally just a few weeks before, Black Bullet was already geared for the track at 15:35. A 5 gallon can of BP Amoco Ultimate to power BB and we were ready to run the track again. Practice group calls were difficult to hear so I kept an eye on another 350 Honda racer 15 pits away. Nothing special to report about the Tally track. Same as it ever was and still exactly the same as weeks before.
With 5 uneventful practice sessions under my belt with AHRMA, I went to pre-tech for Sunday’s races and was informed that hurricane Irma had the attention of AHRMA officials and things might not go a planned. I then collapsed the 10×20 canopy, filled the truck back up and headed to Atlanta with the ability to check back in the next day to see about Sunday’s plans.
Traffic was clear in the east bound direction as all those fleeing Irma were Alabama bound of or already off the roads. A good night’s sleep left me energized for the relatively short drive to Road Atlanta Raceway. Arriving just before 8 am, the lines were short to non-existent. Being preregistered, I was in and out with paperwork in hand in less than 2 minutes.
Due to the overlap of the WERA/AHRMA dual locations on the same weekend, the grids were light in both locations. Nobody else was attempting the Tally/Road Atlanta/Tally weekend like I was.
I shared John Cook’s canopy as I had planned to leave mine at Tally. The breeze was perfect to gusty. Nothing but sunshine in the skies, and the temperatures were predicted to approach 80 degrees. The day was beautiful for racing.
We were all surprised to see Sir Richard Oldakowski at the track but disappointed when he told us of his vehicular difficulties. The Mercedes Euro van wouldn’t start after he had filled his fuel can with 110 octane race fuel at the pump at Road Atlanta. I loaned Richard my truck and he went off to find a remedy. Rich came back after the practice sessions, racer’s meeting, and lunch time. Just as I was about to install the camera on the bike, Rich returned. Bad news was all he was faced with. Mercedes was closed on Saturday and Sunday and his daughter had to be back at work Monday morning. All said and done, all Rich was left with was having his van towed back to Farmville, Virginia. He offered me a handshake and he race fuel and left after finding the best offer for towing.
Bucky Sexton made it down from the northern states and Jerry Duke was there. That left me and David Rutherford in the 500GP and Doug Bowie in the 350GP races.
Since Rich left me with his 110 octane fuel, I totally drained my tank and half filled it with 110.
As our third and final call was announced, we headed to the pit out area and waited sign to take our warm up lap. Facing turn 1, we waited for the green flag. I had noticed the engine breaking up a bit as the warm up lap started and all throughout the lap. The 110 fuel came in question immediately. Not so much as bad fuel, but more the ability of my stock compression motor being able to perform properly with pure 110.
The flag ripped through the air and we took off. Immediately everybody was in front of me. I was trailing Bucky as the pack had thinned to a line of racers zigzagging through the bus stop and heading down hill through the esses. Bucky’s motor was popping and sputtering while my bike was performing as his sounded. I began to lose confidence in my possibilities to even keep up with Bucky as the race progressed. Already having consoled myself that a fuel swap was in order for the next race, I started to chuckle as Bucky was waving me past him. All I could think was “If I could, I would”.
As we approached turn one under speed for the first time, I simply held my throttle wide open and leaned as I passed him. The rest of the pack had pulled way ahead. After two more laps, I was already concentrating my efforts on the next race. Jerry, David, and Doug were having a great battle and I was not to be part of it.
Back at the pits after the 500GP was over, I drained the tank back into Rich’s race fuel can and half filled my tank with pump premium. Chugging some water and grabbing some shade, I prepped myself for the 350GP.
The warm up lap did give me some hope that I had determined correctly the problem I had experienced and I psyched myself for a competitive race. Doug, Jerry and I were all in a line while Bucky was behind us. The number boards went through the countdown and the green flag ripped through the air. Dick Gruhn was the only bike in his class starting if front of us. His much faster 2 stroke screamer took off and we all followed him.
Going into the bus stop we were all closely packed together. Down hill through the esses, we began to tighten up even more. Doug was behind us with Bucky. Jerry and I went through turn 6 side by side as I took him on the outside. I continued on the throttle and ended up drafting Dick through turn 7. This gave me a bit of an edge and allowed to pull away from Doug, Jerry and Bucky.
This felt a lot better than when the 110 was too much performance for my stocker 350. Now I had the track to myself. 10A and 10b went like clock work. I realized that I was performing for a prospective newbie 350 race as Scott Kulina and Jennifer were watching from the concrete stadium that gave a great view of turns 10a and 10b. Keeping my mind on the best line, latest braking, and earliest acceleration, I maintained my lead on Jerry, who was the next closest racer behind me. Turn 1, at wide open throttle was a shaky operation, but I needed to keep every ¼ second achieved by being most efficient through the turns that could be pushed the most.
The half way flag was the point where Jerry was closing on me. I looked back one last time before tur. n one and Jerry wasn’t there anymore. Turning my gaze on what was in front of me, I saw Jerry complete his pass and take turn one before me. My lead had just dissolved. I now had Jerry as my target and tailed him close. With each turn, Jerry was pulling away a little at a time. By the time we got the final lap flag Jerry had about 100 yards on me and I was surprised Doug hadn’t passed me yet. It wasn’t until after the back straight that Doug passed me and set his sights on Jerry. Before 10a, Doug took the lead and proved his technique of beating us just enough to keep us coming back for more.
My day did include two trips to the podium. I did get to thank the corner workers, Sirius Consolidated Incorporated, and Mr. Jerry Duke for stepping up his game and putting the Ducs in the front of the pack. However this also proved to be my first two 3rd places for the season. Perhaps freshening up my motor would be a good idea. Getting Red Storm’s motor repaired also seems to be a productive concept as well.
I am sorry to report that although the camera did appear to be recording, however, all the files from Tally and Road Atlanta are corrupted. Hopefully I’ll be able to get them repaired and edited in the future.
My next challenge is to ask AHRMA to make an exception and allow me to race at Barber Vintage Festival in lieu of refunding my race fees for Sunday racing that never happened.
Stay tuned for the next entry in this therapeutic journal.