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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Barber MSP on Independence Day Weekend, What a Ride!

The day before the 2015 Independence Day race, I had just discovered the issue with my cam chain having be assembled mistimed from my crankshaft by one tooth. 85% power was no way to take on the pack at my favorite track of all. So I had to spend that weekend pulling my motor and synchronizing my cam chain/sprockets. This year was another story!

The laid plans of being at the track before sundown fizzled in a very productive surge of projects that just kept falling into place, so I kept on being productive. Since my plan was to sleep in the van, I had no worries. No rain scheduled for day, comfortable evening temps, and plenty of room in the pits, I headed out just in time to drive with the sun in my eyes all the way until it sank over the horizon. When I pulled in, before I got to our usual spot, I came across Bill Johnson & Bucky Sexton. There was plenty of room around them, so I parked, accepted a cold beer, and began to chat, leaving my stuff to be addressed later. It was just good to be at Barber, the nicest campus we go to and race at. Add good folks, cold beer and a comfy chair, and I was home for the night.

Bucky literally shook the van Saturday morning, as I had asked, for my wake up call. On this trip, I brought my street 350 as a pit bike. Having brought the minivan with the race bike on the hitch rail, I was pushing the weight capacity to the max. (Note to self… fix one of the smaller bikes for pit usage!) It was to be another 95 plus degree day with no clouds, for the most part. A slight constant breeze did help keep things cool, but the track was hot!

This was to be my bikes ideal performance run as I shamefully have to admit that my carbs we in dire need of new internal parts. When I flipped the bare bottom right carb over, the needle seat fell out with the loose jets. The rubber o-ring was no longer providing a seal and that would have explained my inability to reach and maintain redline, as I was not controlling the amount of fuel & air mixture going into my cylinders. Happy to have that resolved, I was ready to create great times on the finest track in the world. However, there was still one issue that I knew about and forgot about that gave me a reminder and sent me to the pavement, in Charlotte’s Web, for the first time in years.

The clutch pushrod oil seal, one issue that the 350 Honda is notorious for, gave way and sprayed my rear wheel with oil, just as had happened to Keith Bennett, in the same turn, at the Grand National Finals a year and a half before. The bike went out from under me in a low side that sent me sliding through all of the turn, and then some of the infield, before I came to a complete stop, grabbed my bike, and pushed it to the area behind the guard rail. I had been probably four years without a crash and it was the first time on my Sirius Consolidate Incorporated colored second set of leathers which now shows I got my A$$ stomped and the seam gave way to prove it.

I gladly missed the second practice session as we were the third race of the day and I had yet to re-tech my bike, necessary after every crash to reenter the track. The temporary fix was easy enough as the problem with my spring pressure retainer combined with 3m weatherstrip adhesive works, but over time (many race weekends) drifts out and gives way. Most of my work was cleaning the oil of the rear wheel/tire and the aft port side of the bike. If you thought chain-fly was bad without a chain guard, this issue turns the rear wheel into an oil sprinkler as long as you’re up and moving.

Tech Note: In discussions with Bill Howard, whose brother had created a CNC solution to the issue, we’ve concluded that we’ll work within the 350 racers and come to an agreement amongst ourselves to use some sort of physical restraint on this seal and THEN inform WERA that we have self-imposed that which we recommend all 350s be subject to and should probably be included in WERA rules, then to be sent to AHRMA? I have since used a 1-1/2″ angle iron solution and will buy a Mr. Howard part as well. Over the 10 plus years I’ve been racing, this was my third time (charm) hitting the pavement with oil on the rear tire.

I wish to thank Mr. Mark Marrow for his rendition of the National Anthem on his trumpet/coronet. What a great way to start a day of racing… even though I habitually say “Play Ball” when completed, each time. As the WERA race school’s mock race was beginning, I headed down to tech for approval to race. Cleared by the tech inspector, I returned to the pit, chugged some water, and wet down my t-shirt to cool off. It was then first call for the Formula 500, V1, & 350 GP race, just in time.

Bill Johnson was running on a new 520 chain and Bucky was listing all the parts that he’d had on his bike forever. While I had the new Keyster K-1561 HK carb kit to tell about. It’s the ULTIMATE 350 Honda carb kit for the stock KeiHin carbs. It includes everything that controls, meters, and prevents the leaks of fuel in the carbs. It even includes the preformed pentagon float bowl gasket to make the carb rebuild effortless. I was quite impressed, having dealt with many variations and parts included ranges of carb kits. For less than $44 at Sirius Consolidated Incorporated, it’s a bargain. the K-1561HK is also the center piece for the Master Carb Rebuilt Set (even though the KH1200F is still shown in the photo). This is the deal of the century and just over $200 it makes almost any pair of carb bodies better than NOS!    Attention racers!!!

350MasterKit

Third and final call for Formula 500, V1, & 350 GP was our cue to be riding to pit out and to take our warm up lap. Looking closely as I went through Charlotte’s Web, I saw no signs of oil and was happy to hear of no issue had by other racers. Completing the warm up lap and parking in my grid spot, I noticed Bill Johnson had an issue as he was in the wrong location. Seems he remembered, but didn’t write down, his location for the second race and gridded there by mistake. He wisely pulled over of the track and waited till cleared by officials to join us AFTER the start of the race.

I had John Cook in front of me a few rows ahead in the V1 set, so I set my sights on chasing him through the pack. As the flag signaled GO, we revved forward. I ripped past Charles Gault who appeared to have stalled at the start. Doug passed me before turn two and I played his wingman through the curve. It was nice to see my tachometer finally want to play in the redline area. So much so, that I now had to pay attention so as not to blow up my motor.

One of my vintage motorcycle race heroes was on the track and in front of me for a while. Steve-O Staser, #911, was nursing a back issue and it was seriously affecting his performance. He was in the Formula 500 class which is a much faster set of bikes, but in this case he became an obstacle for the GP racers to work around. At his first hesitation to take the second chicane set, I stayed on the throttle and went into hot to get by and make my stand to stay in front of Steve-O. As Steve-O knows, he was used as a block by racers to put distance between those in front of him and those behind. As we finished our first lap, I had the honor of trailing John Cook on his souped up V1 bike and wondered how long before John would pull away. By the time we cleared the museum curve and I hand cleared the hump, I notice that John was already leaving me way behind.

As the Barber track has a tendency cause, racers will fan out with space between them and unless you have someone very comparable in speed, the track is your race and not any one competitor. I looked back after the third museum turn and saw nobody. I started thinking about the next race and maintained a maintenance pace, rather than a full out, risky, race pace. Not wanting to unnecessarily take out two race possibilities in one more crash that day, I took my line serious and made turns safe and sure. Unfortunately… I didn’t check back to see who was making up for a bum start… like Mr. Bill Johnson.

After the fourth museum curve, Bill eased his way passed me as I was back in full tilt boogey to get my position back. However, that was not the way that Bill saw things. He was riding like he knew he was in front of the camera. Stylishly leaning and wind braking with his legs, sweeping the curves as they were meant to be enjoyed. I did manage to get close enough to draft him through the last turn set heading in toward the white flag, indicating one lap to go…

It seems that Bill had no intention of getting in front of me, only to have me pass him. Where I had excelled to draft him earlier was nothing compared to other parts of the track that he had mastered. Bill took, and earned, second place from me and I was proud to have been there to record his efforts. WERA Formula 500, V1, & 350 GP race Independence Day Weekend, 2016

I almost forgot to mention that this was the race that Ron Raven had offered a purse for the top five finishers for all three classes combined. He had calculations for handicaps for the Vintage 1 and GP35o classes to level the playing field. A great time was had by all. Doug Bowie was the only GP350 racer to score some cash in 5th place.

The GP500 was a regular race without cash awards and it was much later in the day. Keeping cool and visiting with fellow racers was the best way to pass the time. Soaking down the t-shirt kept me cool with evaporation. Hiding in the shade sure beat soaking in the sun’s rays. By the time the end of the race day was nearing, the track was hot, deep into the pavement. During the long span between races, I picked Bill Johnson’s brain about the evolution of his bike. My bike, “Black Bullitt”, with the same NOS (10 years later) Red Wing shocks that came on the bike when I got, original steel wheels (a spinning mass/weight variable), new lighter radial tires, 35mm shocks (without emulators), battery powered (and weighted) electronic ignition system (and not a battery-less PVL magneto system) still has a few more refinements to go through before being fully completed. I was aware of everything but the emulators that are available for the front fork suspension system. Perhaps I’ll follow behind Bill Howard who is headed down that modification path soon???

The GP350 refinements conversation ended as we heard “first call for GP500 & V2” from Jeff “Mr. Microphone” over the announcement system. Giving my t-shirt one last splash of cool water, I suited up into my leathers at the same time Bucky and Bill did. Even under the canopy in the shade, the leathers suit-up operation becomes a race in itself. By the time I got to adding my helmet and gloves, I was ready to start the bike and ride away just to have a breeze going by my dripping wet sweaty face, so I did just that. Once near the pit out area, I continued to keep the bike moving and my face shield open for air circulation.

The racers parked in the shade near pit out began to move onto the track so we joined the flow of traffic. At only 20 MPH, the increased speed allowed the sweat to dry while cooling my face. Chanting the traditional “don’t crash on the warm up lap” I followed the crowd around the track and to my grid position. All the racers got into position in short order minimizing the delays and allowing Ed Bargy to begin the countdown as soon as the grid workers were clear of the track. Bikes revving, racers leaned as far forward as possible preparing for the release of their clutches, the green flag flew threw the air and the race was on!

A clean start for everybody almost immediately changed when John Cook’s bike experienced difficulties after a quick surge off the line. His left hand went up and feet to the ground, he would not be part of the pack going into turn 1. I had a great start and flew past Charles Gault (399) just after his starting point on the grid. This smile was almost immediately replaced with a grimace when the only racer in proximity, headed toward turn one was an “orange shirt”. A wave of relief came over me as he eased off the throttle and I kept on mine. This left me in the front of the GP wave coming out of turn one, a left hand leaning sweeper curve and flicking over to a really long sweeping right hander with almost 180 degrees that dips down into a gravity cavity. Keeping the inside line is a balancing act of leaning, throttle, and the design of the track.

Just before Charlotte’s Web, Doug passed me on the left, leaving me a chance to ease in behind him and draft him coming out of the curve. As the curve straitened out, Bucky passed me on the right. The question became, would Bucky’s jockey build or my knowledge of the track win out. He obviously had the pull away power to spare in his power to weight ratio, but was still apprehensive about the layout of the Barber track. This apprehension showed in the second chicane set of turn 11 & 12, heading toward the last turn set of the track. I was able to draft Bucky through turn 13, pass him in 14, then dip in front of him at 14a. We had a battle! Flicking the bike over to the left in 15, then tucking behind the camera for the front straight I maintained my momentum.

Doug was my target and chasing him was my best bet for keeping Bucky behind me. Making it through Charlotte’s Web without being passed, I concentrated on all I’d learned about the Barber track and all my bike had to offer. This lasted for another lap until the clutch issue arose. Going through Charlotte’s Web for the third time, something didn’t feel right in the shifting of my bike. Relying heavily on the smooth results of engine braking, Charlotte’s turn didn’t go so smoothly. It was as Bucky was passing me that I concluded I had no clutch! This didn’t end the race for me. I’ve finished a race on my Norton without a clutch cable before. As you can imagine, it’s not the optimum means of performance.

I chased Bucky through the length of the track and again, I was able to take him in the last turn set of the track, again. This didn’t last as long because Bucky took me near the start/finish line. We both when through turn one shoulder to shoulder, leaving me on the inside turn of turn two, barely in the lead. Matching my engine speed with the transmission to shift, I held him off until just before the museum turn set, 7a/7b and followed him over the hump, and through the turns. Going through the first chicane I straightened up to have Bill Johnson pass me. Shortly after that, Bill passed Bucky. The footage going through Charlotte’s Web is enjoyable to watch with Bill leading through the turn, Bucky following, then the camera leaning to follow them both. This was some close racing.

It appears that once Bill gets his tires warmed up, he just keeps turning up the speed. In the fifth lap, Bill pulls away from Bucky, who had gapped me a bit in the back chicanes so much that I had no chance to take him in the last turn set, this time. I did close enough to draft him in turn 14, but he pulled away in 15 after I checked my brakes getting uncomfortably close to him between the turns.

In the last lap, Bill was entering turn 2 as Bucky was leaving turn 1 and I was entering 1. I got to ride along side Bucky through turn 3, but he climbed out of the gravity cavity with less effort then my bike required pulling my heavier self. The rest of the last lap was a matter of Bucky pulling away in the long straights and me catching up in the curves. With about one second between Bucky and I, we swerved through turns 14 and 14a heading toward the finish line. Going into 14a Bucky ran into some slow traffic. David Hurst was in the back following Jerry Duke. Kudos to David Hurst who did hold me off at the finish line. After the finish line, Jerry Duke, in the orange shirt, did go from the left side of the track to the right where he pinched Bucky into the painted edge during the cool down lap. Watch out for the orange shirts!

The WERA GP500/V2 race was fun to watch all the way through with action all along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Road Hotlanta & Cycle Jam 2016

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.

 

 

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