Perseverance: No Matter How Long it Takes

The story is a long one, but not as long as it has taken to finish this custom vintage motorcycle project. The devil is in the details, and it’s a long list:

Percy, the motorcycle I never gave up on.

Percy

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Correction about Attendance at Barber Vintage Festival

It appears that I had mistakenly assessed the traffic on the perimeter road at Barber. The parking arrangements, shuttle service, and off site parking made a significant difference at the 12th annual festival this year. It was such an improvement that I interpreted it as a reduction of my vintage friend’s attendance. We broke another record with the festivities this year.

So, I had a great time at the 2016 Barber Vintage Festival with 73,651 of my closest vintage motorcycle friends. Always looking forward to meet more.

Thank you Mr. George Barber for the nicest place to meet with a lot of the nicest people you meet on a Honda, or Norton, or any of the fine bikes made in years gone by.

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WERA GNF 2016 (Part II) GP350

From the end of the previous post: “…Tucking down behind the camera and making the smallest profile I could, I raced across the finish line. Less than 2 seconds after clearing the line, my motor just gave up all power… and my next race was just one race away.

I looked back to see Bucky fly by me only to realize I didn’t raise my hand or show a leg to acknowledge to other racers that I was having difficulties (my bad). With nobody else behind me I cut to the left side of the track, just past pit out. The corner worker came over to help direct me and push me towards the ambulance access road where Scott Hayes had is crash truck ready to load my bike. Just a few minutes later, Scott had me unloaded and was on to his next racer assist, thank you, Sir!

I put the bike on the stand, pulled my helmet, gloves and chest protector off and hit the bathroom. Upon my return, I found my bike had fallen off the stand and broken my front brake lever. First call for GP350, V1 and Formula 500 race! Up righting my bike and placing it more securely on the stand, I had also discovered that my technical difficulty was nothing more than having run out of fuel. I had more fuel and clutch lever that I could use as a brake lever. Second call for GP350, V1 and Formula 500 race! Filling the tank and replacing the lever, I donned my gear, started the camera only to find out the chip was full. A quick scavenge through my stuff I cam up with a chip and powered up the camera and  my bike and took it for a quick test ride on my way toward pit out. Third and final call for GP350, V1 and Formula 500 race!

With all appearing to be performing as it was supposed to, I joined the rest of the grid taking our warm up lap. Nothing felt wrong with Black Bullit so I was ready to go. We filled our grid positions as Ed Bargy, on his 70th birthday directed the number board from 3 to 2. Shifting our bikes into gear, we poised for the countdown sequence. The 2 was replaced by the 1 board, it was rotated sideways, then the green flag ripped through the air.

I had timed my bike revs to match the count sequence and smoothly let the clutch out and pulled ahead. This was followed by a clean shift to second gear, then third and fourth as I leaned into turn 1 noticing there was nobody in front of me. I proceeded to turn 2 waiting to be over taken but riding in a manner to prevent being overtaken. Down the mini gravity cavity, up the hill and through Charlotte’s Web and nobody passed me. The long straight that followed the web, I knew that someone was bound to pass me.

Doug Bowie was nursing a broken bone in his hand, but Bill Johnson and Bucky Sexton were bound to be battling it out for who was going to pass me first. As the window had closed to be safely passed before the museum hump, I lifted off the seat and landed from the hump jump and leaned into the right hander that followed. It was here that I realized that I hadn’t started the recorder, so I did.

Shifting and accelerating, I headed for the first set of zigzags. Once cleared, I looked back to see a serious gap to the riders  behind me. All I remember thinking was “I can make that gap larger!” The first lap completed and all the curves of the Barber race track behaving well for me, I continued pouring it on. This was the Grand National Finals GP350 race and I could change my standing with the doubled score of this race’s outcome.

I was nicely hitting the apexes late for each turn, just clipping the edge of the track. The second pass through the zigzags I climbed up the off camber hill and leaned right into the turn and it began. At about a 40 degree angle in the midst of the right hand sweeper I experienced a wobble in my steering. It was as if my little six season tired motor with now less than 26 horse power was experiencing an internal healing and refortification causing the front tire to become light and not sticking to the track… and I was down! Both I and the bike had cleared the curve and were in a short section of straight track, sliding forever.

The race bike then became a well choreographed platform for the camera which caught me in a back slide while it was rotating in an upward rotation (in relation to the bike) which then slowed and changed direction back to a downward rotation just in time to catch Bucky Sexton racing past.  Cue Doug Bowie as the bike and camera came to a halt pointing further down the track where the rest of the GP350 bikes were going to be passing shortly. Cue Jamie Brenton who followed shortly after Doug. Then, cue David Hurst from stage left to center as my race bike was lifted by the corner worker.

I immediately hopped on the bike inspecting the damage. Everything looked in good order. I inadvertently switched the ignition to off and try to kick start it. It was then that I noticed the throttle did not rotate. Looking closer I realized my Magura 1/4 turn throttle’s outer body had melded with the inner cable slider. My race was officially over and I had a blast. It was so much more incredible when I got home and saw the footage that Black Bullit had recorded.

Got a lot to do this off season and hopefully I’ll be lighter and the bike will be quicker. More soon.

Check out the video of what occurred in the excitement:

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2016 Racing Season Came to a Screeching Halt

Through out the “Summer of the 90s” in Atlanta things have been moving at a hectic pace. The few races available were only minor interruptions to the hustle and bustle chipping away at a very long To-Do list. And, if anyone had told me that I’d be happy about the crash that ended the season, I would not have  believed them.

On the road at 5:30 Friday morning, I was headed to the “finest campus” that we have the privilege to race at, Barber Motorsports Park. The bike was in the van with spares and supplies while the temperature was making it’s first nose dive after the most consistent temperatures of any summer before. Sunshine and 71 degrees, at it’s peak, is all we’d have to warm the track for the Friday Vintage races at the WERA Grand National Finals. It was not to be the hot track that summer normally has to offer.

Having just spent four days at Barber, just two weeks before, at the Barber Vintage Motorcycle Festival, the only thing that was different was the number of people inside the park. The Festival didn’t have near as many as the few years prior, but we still had a great time at Norton Hill. The WERA racers used all available pit regions, but the top tier was very thin. There was definitely space for plenty more to show up, if they had.

Practice sessions included only one pass for each class on the track. As the Vintage 1 – 4 practice session was in progress, I noticed some really squirrelly handing issues and remembered that I hadn’t checked my tire pressure, so after two laps, I was re-familiarized with one of my favorite tracks that I can play back by memory, turn for turn.

We were honored to have Ed Bargy as our race starter, on his 70th birthday. Mark Morrow played his horn with a rousing round of “Happy Birthday” for all to cheer. The racer’s meeting was a roundup of all the usual vintage suspects where we got to see those who pitted far away from the “hang out” where John Cook, Bucky Sexton, Bill Johnson and I pitted on the third level. Doug Bowie was racing with a broken had after it was run over at Road Atlanta, the month before. James Walker was the only other racer that John had to play with in the V1 class. Jamie Brenton and his son were down on the lower level representing the rest of the 350 Honda guys. Jerry Duke was there on his Ducati, and David Hurst wasn’t parked too far away with his Yamaha DS-7. David Clark is a fairly new guy who’s on the track with us on his Yamaha 400 two stroke. And of course, there’s David Rutherford not far from us on his BSA 500 single that has been experiencing “leaky head” issues.

Unlike most years where we are getting off the track just minutes before the awards ceremony was to begin, this year were races 1 & 3. Many of us had decided to take off and work our way homes after race 3 in hopes of wrapping up the day at a reasonable hour and I was one of them. As such, our social time had been cut short and the celebration was going to be something we read about later.

I’d like to make a special note that we had the pleasure to meet both Raven and Natalie. Raven is lady vintage motorcycle racer who lives in San Diego, California. She had sponsorship for this year’s racing and hopes to wrangle up support for next year. Natalie is with Roadracing World Magazine and she spent some quality time covering the magazine’s features, her brother’s exploits as a motorcycle racer for decades, and generally sharing some fun time cutting up with the old guys on old bikes gang.

As things were just beginning to settle down, we had the inspiration of Mark Morrow’s horn proudly sounding out the National Anthem over the PA system, followed by the announcement for first call for the GP500 & Vintage 2 race. We were on deck and suiting up. Engines started in our area waking up others to the fact that the vintage bikes were taking the track. Racers on machines paraded around keeping their motors warm and their tires scuffed. We were motioned onto the track and the warm up lap began.

I (and my camera) were gridded behind and between Bucky and David on his BSA. The start was clean. The light pack of racers courteously worked our way toward turn one and neatly meshed into a fairly matched of machines blending our way around the first few turns. The transition into turn two was uneventful, but there was a blatant oops that can be seen for those who know what their looking at. It could have been a mess start to a race that would have to have been restarted.

As turn two faded away, a line had formed and we were headed toward Charlotte’s Web. Jerry and I played a quick game of chicken before the web and we swept through the turn beginning to heat up our tires. After the web, Jerry went full on throttle and his Ducati pulled away easily. At this point, most of the grid was in front of the camera as we headed toward the “museum hump”. Just in front of Jerry was David Clark. Hoping to get around Jerry and David, I lifted off the seat for the hump and leaned through the museum turn and followed the two of them. As we sped up and straitened out, Jerry found himself a bit to close to the edge of the track. I passed as he eased off. Following David through the first zig-zag I closed slightly. As we entered the second zig-zag, I was gaining as he was slowing for what is a great GP set of curves. As David went wide, I cut to the inside holding the throttle wide open and passed him at the portion of the track that we had watched throughout all of the Vintage Festival, weeks before.

Bucky had developed a bit of a lead and David’s BSA, even further ahead.  Bucky was next on my list. Bucky was close on David’s tail, so I had two targets to chase. Turn after turn I could swear I was getting closer. Then lap after lap, I was getting closer. The closer I got, the further David’s lead from Bucky grew. The closer Bucky was in reach, the more impressive each of his power pull-aways seemed. Within two laps of the end of the race, I was trailing Bucky and drafting him through the turns, then he’d pull away. As we got back to Norton Hill, I continued to get even closer. Then, my opportunity came when Bucky took his path so far to the edge of the track he was riding the rumple strips and slowing down rapidly, so I pulled ahead.

By this time, David’s BSA was in sight, but at a significant distance. Completing the last two turns before the main straight, I looked back to see that I had taken a nice lead on Bucky. Looking forward I saw the white flag. One lap to go. The best I could hope for was to play my cards right, dot my T’s and cross my eyes (;) to keep Bucky from taking my position. For one full lap, we all did what our bikes would allow and nobody changed position. Tucking down behind the camera and making the smallest profile I could, I raced across the finish line. Less than 2 seconds after clearing the line, my motor just gave up all power… and my next race was just one race away.

WERA Grand National Finals, GP500 Race

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Just a Quick News of the Day, Road Atlanta Videos

Road Atlanta had a reduction in attendance due to conflicted schedules with AHRMA at Lil Tally and the Classic Car & Motorcycle Faire in Norcross. Those who showed up had a great time!

There may not be a write up for this one, so enjoy the show.

In chronological order:

 

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A Few Pounds Lighter, and Missing a Couple Buddies

The forecast pretty much guaranteed rain at Talladega Gran Prix Raceway for Saturday vintage racers. We just didn’t know when it was going to change the game. Bucky mentioned that the concept of driving more than 600 miles to race in the rain didn’t make much sense to him. We were without Bill Johnson as well in the pits of Tally. Even John Cook (V1 racer as of this year) missed the race as a result of FORD truck technology. His spark plug popped out of the head, tanking the threads with it. Jamie had a very honorable reason for not making the race, someone he’d taken under his wing was getting married, a proud time for the family. Mike Wells had registered for the race, but did not show and the Miller brothers were not on scene either.

We did have Bill Howard, Scott Wilson, Dave Howard, Jerry Duke (on his Ducati), David Hurst, myself, and the venerable Doug Bowie in the GP350 class. As most of us bump up to GP500 and race the same bikes in that class, I’ll add David Rutherford on his BSA and that covers the only other entry from 350 to 500 GP class.

I’d spent some time thinking about the information Bucky gave be about his choice of rear sprockets being a 35 tooth as I geared my bike for Tally. Just recently being able to see redline for the first time in a while, I didn’t want to blow my motor, but I did want maximum revs in top gear before dropping down into forth and leaning into turn 2 and the turn set known as turn 8. On the 350 Honda twin, you have an equal opportunity to reach max speed before braking, leaning, and riding through these curves. I saw the sense that Bucky realized with a 35 tooth rear and I would have gone happily with a 15 tooth front sprocket to match it. However, my 35 tooth sprocket will not be in the picture until I complete my transition to the XR 350 aluminum rear rim laced up on a CL175 rear sprocket and connected with the very nice Buchannan custom spoke set that are now ready for final torqueing. So, I raced Lil Tally with a 14 tooth front sprocket and a 34 tooth rear. It worked out as good as I could have hoped for.

Having arrived just in time to see the sun in the sky for it’s last few minutes, I went strait to setting up tent, canopy, and bike cover. I reached for my phone to find out where Bill Howard was RVed and he had just sent a text with the answer, even before I inquired. Great times talking racing with some of the greatest guys you’d ever want to meet. And I didn’t even know they made a 350 SuperSport wall clock! Bill’s got a nice comfortable rig for going to and staying at the track. Best of all, the air conditioning worked great.

The next morning everybody was up before me which was strange because John was going to give me a 6:30 wake up call when he drove in from Rome, Georgia. But loosing a spark plug out of his FORD truck seemed to have cost him a day at the track. For me, I was just a bit delayed getting Black Bullitt to the tech inspection in time for the first practice session. Not sure how the 14 tooth front gear would “tractor” around the track, I had a 15 tooth ready to go, just in case. However,  the first practice session was interesting as I didn’t have the pull expected. Really close inspection showed that the carb manifold screws had back out on the left side only. So, I snugged them up before the second session and went over everything before first call.

The second practice session revealed a bit of a surprise. I’d just barely touch the beginning of the redline area on the tack when it was time to brake, lean, turn. At race speeds, I’d have the width of the redline to use as needed.

The rider’s meeting let us know that the honorable Mr. Ed Bargy would be starting and officiating the race with Jeff (Mr. Microphone) announcing for the day. As has been the case lately, the Solo races were combined to include novices and experts together which shortened the day a bit. That left the GP racers with only one race between the GP500 and the GP350 at the end of the day’s schedule, originally lined up as race 8 and 11.

We had heat down to a science at Tally. Water, Power-ade, and flavored water were the drinks of choice and lots of them. Sun and broken clouds started the day and eventually faded into a totally cloud covered day. After the dust from practice had settled, a few bikes were no longer contenders. Dick Gruhn’s 2 stroke FastBikes super-screamer Yamaha 400 had major issues, so Dick took the 3 baby possums he brought with him to Tally back home before the racing started. Charles Gault lost spark out of his left plug that was proven not to be the left coil, after a coil swap. Looked like a PVL failure at the pick up? Steve-O’s Ascot started making some pretty scary noises, so he had to throw in the towel for the day. Mark Morrow’s 2 stroke Yamaha 400 also didn’t make it to the track which meant that half of the Formula 500 class was out of commission, while the GP350 and GP500 classes still had half a dozen racers at the grid.

The GP500 race was our first. David’s BSA 500 is exactly the kind of bike that the GP500 class was designed for. That made this one of the few occasions where we actually had a real GP500 class bike racing with us. On many occasions, the GP500 is merely a sequel, or prequel in this case, of the GP350 race. It was race 8 and no sign of rain yet. Going to pit out, we could see the last of the modern bikes exiting tech inspection for sponsorship signage as the track crossing was allowed for those leaving Lil Tally between races. Everything was right on schedule, no crashes on the warm up lap and everybody made it to their grid position. I was front center of the GP500 class with Doug on my left and Jerry on my right. I was the Honda 350 sandwiched between the two Ducs. Behind us was Scott Wilson, David Hurst, and David Rutherford soon to take the lead.

Things got tense when the “orange shirt” newbie in the class in front of us exercised a less than controlled wheelie and came down hard. Doug pressed towards me for more room and I raced ahead and away from incoming Doug. Eventually he took the tight inside path while I took the far outside to be the front of our class… at least for a few seconds. As Doug pulled ahead the roar of David’s 500cc thumper came by me and filled the gap between Doug and I. Doing my darndest to keep up with David through the curves, I knew he’s pull away from me and up with Doug for the real battle. The best I could do was capture the results on video, if I could. By the end of the first lap, I could see what was going on, but also had to acknowledge that the wide angle lens of the GoPro camera already made it look as if they were dots on the screen. I waited until the end of the second lap before looking back. There was nobody to be seen within a few hundred yards. With the gap that Doug and David had put between us and the gap behind me, maintain is all there was to do. Unlike races of the recent past where I was in the ideal location to play cameraman, I now had a lead over all the other 350 Honda stockers with none to show in the camera’s view. The next 8 laps would be as if I rented the track on my own… until James Walker led the V2 class and lapped me just before I started my 10 lap. 9 laps is all there would be for me, and those behind me.

WERA GP500, V2, Formula 500 Race at Lil Tally, August 20, 2016

As we made it back to our pits, we noticed that there was still no rain. More water and sports drinks, a few chill towels and heads soaked in ice water, and we were ready to go for the GP350 race. As David Rutherford was not in this race, David Howard, Bill’s brother, was on his Stock 350 Honda for the 350GP.

Jerry Duke (orange shirt) will prove to be a force to reckon with as he refines his skills. He had a great started and pulled his way to turn one quickly. Built like a jockey, he kept the class lead into turn 2. With Jerry going wide on turn 3, the only real right hand turn in the course, I took the opportunity to keep tight on the inside and take the lead. Fast into turn four, I thought I had Mark Williams to put behind me, then he hit the throttle. In the few seconds of the strait before the last set of turns, I had to wonder where Doug was by now. He showed up on the inside as we three leaned into the Tally chicane.

Doug now in the lead and chasing Mark, the last ride in the class ahead of us, we had just completed our first lap. Before we reached the right-hander again Doug had taken Mark and I passed him on the inside while sweeping right. That would have been pretty much it, if not for Doug’s “running circles around me” camera time. The infamous searching for problems on his bike as I passed him at the end of the third lap.

So, I had the lead again through turn one and then Doug took is close up shot stepping in front of me, then pulling away. After a lap of watching Doug’s lead get further out of my reach, I looked back as saw just as much of a gap behind me. Remember the warnings that Keith gave me about 14 tooth front sprockets having too much torque, I realized it was time to “coast” all the way around the track without being passed. Being lapped is another story. Jim Hinshaw flew by me on the outside of the last strait with lots of comfortable space between us. Halfway around the track, Dean Middleton, back for the first time in years, lapped me next. Before the race was over, brother Dave Howard had lost control of his bike and had us racing under a yellow flag by the end of the race.

The rest of the track time was just a matter of going through the motions and not screwing up.

WERA GP350 Race at Lil Tally, August 20, 2016

With the race shortened by one lap, we got back to the pits with about 60 seconds before the sky opened up and made packing up a wet soggy mess. In summary, I was happy to be behind David Rutherford in first place and Doug Bowie in second for the GP500 and only behind Doug in the GP350. That gave me two trips to the podium to thank my sponsor, Mr. Martin Mattes of Sirius Consolidated Incorporated for supporting me in my vintage racing endeavors, WERA for offering me a place to get my therapy, and the corner workers without whom we can not even get on the track.

Road Atlanta is next on Saturday September 10th, stay tuned for details.

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Inspiring Quote from A Real Vintageracer!

Just a couple days before the next race at “Lil Tally” and the email banter includes a discussion about a very cool frame to mount a GP race engine onto. As the discussion is joined by last years Champion of the Novice Historic Production Lightweight class with this awe inspiring coaxing:

There sure is a lot of engineering blah..blah..blah…here. What happened to sit down, shut up and twist the throttle. By the time we turn geometry, theory and a bunch of beer induced ideas into a race ready vintage racer, the sport will be gone, taken over by the millennials on e-bike and modern shit. Dust off those garage queens and let’s race man.  The true racer/rider can win on a flexible CB/CL/SL350 frame with metal sparks coming from the dragging foot pegs and low hanging exhaust.  

Let’s pull those old bikes out of the garage and race them!

 

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