Wednesday, August 16, 2017

VRRA's Summer Classic

My third race weekend on the trot was the VRRA's Summer Classic at Calabogie M/S Park south west of Ottawa.  I first raced at Calabogie last Sept. and thought it was fabulous.  3.16 miles long with 20 turns, and it seems that all of them are blind, off camber and decreasing radius.  It's a very challenging track.  They held a two hour endurance race on Fri. and Francis McDermott had gotten in touch and asked if I wanted to do this race with him on his TT-1 Ducati.
While this violated my policy of racing older and slower bikes as I slide into my golden years, I thought it would be an excellent way to learn the subtleties of the track, and nostalgic as I spent a good deal of time on TT-1 & 2 Ducatis back in the day.  But, this bike was quite a bit up spec. from anything that I ever rode.  The lower end of the motor was actually  from a Monster, so was 6 speed and dry clutch, but it had the air cooled top end and measured 840cc.  It has 43mm Showa forks and 320mm rotors with 17" wheels and Pirelli slicks.
The race included P-3, which runs up to '82, and P-4, which runs up to '89. Francis' bike is considered P-3 Middleweight which runs in the Endurance Middleweight class with P-3 HW, and P-4 F2 and F3, the smaller of the P-4 classes.
I got in a couple of practice sessions before the race and found the bike easy to ride, though I was definitely sneaking up on it.  While I tend to be a single cylinder guy, if you're going to have two, the 90 degree layout is the way to go.  This motor was marvelous--torquey and with a broad power band and smooth. Even though we didn't use tire warmer, the tires seem to grip well immediately.  The bike steered very nicely.  My main problem was with the brakes.  I'm used to grabbing a handful with the vintage drum brakes, and I couldn't seem to retrain myself to use one finger.  Therefore I had trouble being smooth on the brakes, especially blipping the throttle on downshifts.
Fran's brother Gerry and Don Morse were the main pit crew with a dirt riding buddy of Fran's, Scott Ramsey helping during the actual race.  We never got a really accurate fuel consumption test and neither Fran or I were sure we were up to a full hour stint, so we went with two half hour sessions each.  Fran started and after about 12 laps, I took over.  Being able to do lap after lap on such a long and challenging course is a joy and very instructive.  Gradually, I found I was using a taller gear in various corners.  Accelerating out of the tight decreasing radius turn #8 up over a rise and the right kink of #9A, I started to slide and wondered if the rear tire was going away, but eventually decided that, no, it was just the bike getting light over the rise and the rear tire spinning up a bit under hard acceleration, something I'm not used to on the puny vintage stuff I'm usually riding.
Bill Murphy photo
I had no trouble doing my12 or so laps and might have been able to do a full hour but, as it turned out, fuel consumption would have be iffy.  There was a little drama after Fran was called in from his second stint.  As I was putting on my glassses after putting on my helmet, I noticed the right lens was loose and about to fall out.  The screw had come out of the ear piece.  Scott had to run and get safety wire and pliers and Don got the glasses wired up just as Fran pulled into the pits.  I had a shorter second run as the race ended up being reduce by about 10 minutes as we had run over the 5p deadline.  We ended up 6th of the 11 Middleweights and 8th over all with two Heavyweights ahead of us.  Good fun and very useful for learning the course.
Bill Murphy photo
In the few days between the AHRMA NJMP race and leaving for Calabogie, I did some rudimentary body work, mounted a new windscreen, mounted a muffler and straightened and welded the broken handlebar, but didn't get a chance to install it.  So Friday, between practice sessions, I pulled the top yoke off and installed the original clip-on and changed the gearing.
a new windscreen, repaired fairing, and left clip-on
Sat. there was just one round of practice and I got 4 laps in on my ERTT.  After getting somewhat used to the speed of the 840 Ducati, things were almost in slow motion on the Sprint and it felt like I had time to get it right.
I had to add a silencer for Calabogie which has a strict noise limit

My first race was the P1 Open and P1 350 qualifying heat.  On the warmup lap, I saw one of the silencers falloff the expansion chamber on the bike that Chris Hurst was racing.  This is a sort of tribute bike that Allan Lylloff built, and is sort of a replica of the Yamaha that Mike Duff rode at Daytona in 1967.  He started with a frame that he believes is RD 56 and installed a hot rodded YR1 350 motor.
Alan Lyloff's RD56/YR-1
 I quickly got in the lead of the 350s and got by a couple of Open bikes, but at the end of the 1st lap, Andy Dornellas came by on his CB350 Honda on the brakes into turn #18.  I got him back on the front straight and this pattern repeated itself on the next lap.  Chris Hurst came by on the Yamaha and the lack of one silencer didn't seem to be hurting it much.
I believe this is a Robinson front brake on the Lyloff Yamaha
Paul Brubaker was leading overall on Rodger McHardy 500 Norton twin, and Chris and  I went back and forth with Doug Forbes on his 750 BMW.  Then, Peter Hurst, Chris' older brother came by on his 750 Norton Atlas based racer.  Evidently, when he went to the pre-grid, it was pointed out to him that he had forgotten his transponder and by the time that he got to his pit and returned to the pre-grid, we had left and he had to start from the pit lane after we all had started the race.  Chris dropped back with what he thought was running out of fuel.  Peter went on to win the overall, with Paul 2nd and Doug 3rd.  Andy fell off in turn #19 on the last last making a big effort to get back by me, so I was 1st in class, 4th overall.  Andy banged up his ankle and, while he raced his RS 125 Honda (and did well) the next day, he didn't repair his P1 bike and didn't start that final the next day.
my rudimentary bodywork didn't include repainting the fairing
My next race was my 'bump-up' class, P2 lightweight, with P1 200 and Pre-50 gridded behind us.  Tim Voyer led early, but I reeled him in and we got into a real dogfight.  The bikes were quite evenly matched and we each passed the other on straights.  On the last lap, in the last corner, Tim high sided trying to to get a good drive to draft me to the finish line.  His bike wasn't too bad, but his hand was very swollen and he didn't race the next day.
Saturday evening was a dinner open to all and, after chatting with Andy, a couple sat down next to me and the woman and I started chatting.  It took me a while to realize that I was talking with Kathleen Coburn.  I was a big fan of Kathleen and her traveling partner and fellow racer, Toni Sharpless, when they were racing in the AMA Superbike series in the 80's.  They both had great style and pluck.  Kathleen was road racing for the first time in 25 years and doing it on the first bike that she had road raced, a '82 RD350LC Yamaha.
Kathleen Coburn's original road racer, an '82 RD 350 LC
But, it wasn't like she hadn't ridden a bike in 25 years.  She, her husband Jon and their two daughters are avid dirt bike riders and ride all the time on their farm and go down to West Virginia and ride for a month.  Jon was clearly tempted by road racing and Kathleen was encouraging him to do a track day.  I watched Kathleen race Sunday and she seemed to be gridded with bigger bikes, but she told me that she was determined to be 'like a horse fly', annoying those bigger bikes in the corners.  And, she did just that, looking great, really tucked in.
Sunday I just did two laps of practice to check that everything was still alright.  In the P1 Open/P1-350 race, my two main competitor in class didn't start, Andy with his CB350 banged up and Chris figuring out that the stuttering he interpreted as running out of gas was actually the gearbox jumping out of gear.  So, I led the class from the start and slowly reeled in Doug Forbes on his BMW and was able to make the pass stick, finishing 1st in class, 3rd overall behind Peter Hurst on his Atlas and Paul Brubaker on Rodger McHardy's 500 Dominator.
Again, in the P2 LW, my main competitor didn't start, Tim Voyer nursing a very swollen wrist and hand.  I led from flag to flag and had the pleasure of a completely unobstructed track to try to make that perfect lap.
So ended three back to back to back weekends, racing in three different organizations with different rules and procedures, traveling 2350 miles, starting 12 races with my Sprint and winning my class in 12 races (four overall 1sts, three O.A 2nds, three O.A 3rds, and two O.A. 4ths), suffering one crash, and having a great time at all three events.
Kat Collins and Tim Joyce with the outfit
A chain drive BMW boxer
Drive detail
rocker cover bling

a Yamaha 550 Vision; not your typical race bike

Monday, July 31, 2017


The weekend after AMA VMD was the AHRMA race at New Jersey Motorsport Park's Thunderbolt circuit.  I arrived Fri. evening shortly after a horrendous thunderstorm that rivaled a tornado.  Shredded EZups were collapsed every where and even bikes lying on their side in the mud.  There was some question as to what track conditions would be the next day.  Sat. was dry, but there were at least three places where water was still on the track.  I was quite concerned about this as I had a Continental ClassicAttack tire on the front and I had been told my many that this tire was no good in the wet.  I went and watched the rider school mock race, which had been held over from Fri. because of the weather.  There were two bands of water in turns #3 and #4, but I could see that one could go quite straight through them and none of the students seemed to have any problem there.
So, I went out in the group 2 practice and tip toed around.  In turn #10, there was a tar patch that looked very slick and I made sure I stayed inboard of it.  But, I focused so intently on the slick tar patch that I failed to notice how wet the track was around it and on the 3rd lap, I slapped it down.  I was unhurt, but the bike got torn up a bit.
The ERTT after I crashed it and before starting to work on it.
The windscreen was broken off and with it a bit of the fairing and the left handlebar was broken.


There was mud and grass everywhere.When I got it back in the pits John Stevens dove in and was a huge help kicking the bike back into shape.  We cleaned it a bit before we got the fairing and fuel tank off and found dirt in the carburetor.   The first order of business was finding a replacement handlebar and Mark Morrow came to the rescue on that front.  But this required pulling off the top yoke to slip the one piece 'clip-on' over the fork tube.  I dug through my spares and found a different perch and clutch lever as the perch is integral on the broken handlebar.
The replacement clip-on was much longer, but didn't pose a problem
 We carefully took the carb off, and there was no dirt down stream of the carb, so we took the carb apart and cleaned everything.  The rear brake pedal was pushed in and we had to carefully bend it back out without cracking it.  A little tape on the broken off bit of fairing, and I was ready to take the bike to have it re-teched.
ready to get re-teched
 I did a 'scrub lap' in the race before my first to check that everything was alright and it seemed good.
My first race was the bump-up class 500 Premiere, which was gridded first in front of 500GP and BEARS in the first wave and Sportsman 500 and Formula 500 in the second wave.  My arch nemesis and good friend Helmi Neiderer on his Seeley G-50, prepared by NYC Norton, got the hole shot, but a couple of the bears bikes came by before we even got to turn one.  Brad Phillips and Dan May on their BMWs and Stan Keys on his Norton Commando were pulling away as I was dicing with Helmi. Then Dan Mays bike seized and left a long rubber trail on the track.  I saw a big cloud of smoke  ahead, but then realized that it was steam from the hot motor flopping over into the wet grass outside turn #8.  Then Alex McLean came by on the 500 Manx Norton.  I got ahead of Helmi and chased Alex and finished just over half a second behind him in 4th over all, 1st in class.
My second race was the 350GP which was gridded first in front of Sportsman 350, Vintage Superbike lightweight, and Novice Production Heavyweight.  I was first off the line but Rich Midgely quickly came by on his CB 350 Honda and steadily pulled away.  And that's the way it ended with Midge about just over 7 seconds ahead of me, so I was 2nd overall and 1st in class.
Sat. evening, I spotted a bunch of vintage twins cylinder bike outside the condos at NJMP and I knew that they must be the Retro Tours group.  Sure enough, I saw Joel Samick in the on site restaurant and told him that I'd stop by after dinner.  I had a good smooze with the group, which were mostly return customers.  They had a good ride from Kennett Square, Pa., to the track and were headed to Delaware the next day.
Sunday, I had one good practice and then lined up on pole for the 500 Premiere, 500GP, BEARS, Sportsman 500, and Formula 500 race.  Again, Brad Phillips and Stan Keys on their BEARS bike came by before turn #1, but no Dan May because of his bike failure Sat.  Helmi and I went back a forth a bit and then Rob Hall came by on his 650 Triumph Bonneville.  Rob and I went at it and left Helmi.  Our bikes were evenly matched overall, though each had an advantage in different places, and we passed each other many times while closing on Stan Keys.  On the last lap, with me ahead of Rob, Stan had a slide out of turn #9 and ran off the track and I got by him and Rob had to check up when Stan came back on the track, so I finished 2nd overall, 1st in class.  Great fun.
In the 350GP, Sportsman 350, VSL, Novice Prod. H.W. race, Rich Midgely didn't start as he had crashed on a flat tire in a previous race.  Ake Smith, on his CB350 Honda, passed me going into turn #1 from the start, but I got him back in turn #4 and was never headed again, winning overall.
Four class wins and a first, 2 seconds and a 4th overall finish was a satisfying come back from crashing first thing.
One of the highlights of the weekend was seeing Art Kowitz' Kawasaki Bighorn road racer from the early '70s.  I have a soft spot for Bighorns as that was the first bike I road raced.  Art said he built the bike before he knew what he couldn't/shouldn't do and therefore came up with some innovative solutions.  The bike was raced by Ted Henter as a Junior with some success before Art raced it himself as a Novice.  He quickly advanced to Junior and won his first race as a Junior, which advanced him to Expert.  So, the Bighorn was sold.  The new owner put a headlight and kickstarter on the bike and took the fairing off and rode it on the street a few times, then put it away in a storage locker for 45 or so years.  He recently contacted Art out of the blue and said that Art should have it.  Art picked it up just a few days before coming to NJMP  and displayed it how he found it.

That's an H1R front brake and an A1R rear brake and swing arm, 35mm Certain fork and Koni shocks

One problem with road racing a Bighorn motor was being able to gear it tall enough, as it was designed as an enduro bike.  The clutch pushrod in front of the gearbox sprocket limited how big a sprocket one could put on.  Art eliminated the clutch pushrod and adapted A1 Kawasaki clutch release, which lifts the pressure plate from the opposite side.  The box you see with the clutch cable going to it behind the carb is this mechanism.
Art hadn't decided yet what he would do with the bike--restore it or leave it as is--a time capsule

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Mid-Ohio VMD

After the Roper TT, I went to Mid-Ohio for the AMA's Vintage Motorcycle Days, for the first time in four years.  For '14, '15, & '16 it conflicted with AHRMA NJMP, but the organizations finally got it worked out and the events were on consecutive weekends this year.  Mid-Ohio is a great track--in the dry.  When it rains, it becomes an ice rink, and in Friday practice it rained toward the end of the day and several people when down, including a couple of my garage mates, Harry Vanderlinden on his 550 GPZ Kawasaki and Francis Ganache on his 250 Ducati.  Stu Carter, with his new Kramer and his star cross 200 Honda and Eric Bozell (Eboz) with a GSXR 1000 Suzuki also were in the garage.  I arrived after Fri. practice was over.
Our garage with Stu's Kramer, my ERTT, Francis' 250 Ducati and Eboz' GSXR in the background
Sat. morning was cool and overcast and everyone agreed that the track was quite slippery, but rideable.  My first practice went well and I was even able to pass Todd Narduzzi on his 450 Honda but, in the second practice my motor started to run poorly with some misfire.  I looked over the ignition and cleaned the points, but didn't find anything obvious.
My first race was the 'bump-up' class, 500GP.  We were gridded in the front ahead of V-2, 250GP and Class C.  Todd Narduzzi pulled steadily away and I had a tussle with a CB350 but eventually pulled clear, when an RD 350 from V-2 came by and we went back and forth.  I made a slightly desperate move in the 2nd to last corner and almost lost the front end and the RD prevailed, so I was 2nd in class and 3rd overall.  But, the motor had run worse still.
Robbie Graber's RD 350 which finished 1st V-2, 2nd overall Sat.
I decided to check if I had water in the float bowl and, as soon as I touched the carburetor, I felt it move.  My intake manifold hose was split.  I had another hose with me, but that was split too, from the last time I changed it on 25 March, 2011.  So, I spooged some Seal-All into the split and wrapped the hose with vinyl tape and hoped that would get me through the weekend.
My split intake manifold hose
The next race was Formula 500, V-2, and 350GP.  The motor now ran great and I quickly got up to the F500 bikes and first got by Martin Morrison on his 500 Honda 4, then I caught Mark Morrow on his RD 400 based bike.  This surprised me as Mark goes very well, but later he told me that it was his first time at Mid-Ohio, and there's a lot to learn there.  I closed on the leader, Scott Mackenzie on his 500 Honda 4, here from Canada, turned the fastest lap of the race (more than 2 seconds faster than I had gone in the first race) and finished less than 3/4 of a second behind Scott, for 1st in class, 2nd overall.
Martin Morrison's 500 4 Honda
I decided to gear the bike taller for Sunday and took a tooth off the back.  I did a few easy laps in the one practice Sun. and liked the taller gearing.
For the 500GP race, I quickly got into 2nd and was chasing Todd Narduzzi again and it was looking tough.  Todd turned a fastest lap a little quicker than Sat. and I went slower than I had in the 350GP race.  But, finishing the 4th lap, Todd threw his hand in the air and pulled off.  I cruised to the overall win.  It turns out that Todd had something let go in his transmission--no lock up or bad noise, just no drive.
In the F500, V1, 350GP race I got up to 3rd, but Mark Morrow had figured out the track by this time and I couldn't hang with him.  And, Scott Mackenzie upped the pace considerably with a fastest lap more than 2.5 seconds faster than he had gone Sat.  Again, I went slower than I had Sat., though faster than in the 500 race.  So, I was first in class and 3rd overall.  Maybe the taller gearing hadn't been a good idea, though it felt better.
I was good getting back to Mid-O.  Good competition, a good bunch in our garage and the swap meet bigger than ever.
The moon rising over the swap meet
Stu Carter's new Kramer powered by a 650 KTM single
Stu's starcrossed 200 Honda with suffered ignition failure again and still hasn't finished a race.
In one of the infield displays was this beautiful Scott Flying Squirrel.
And then, a well patinated ES-2 Norton
Being a Horex aficionado, I was very interested in this 125 Rebel, a model I had never heard of

But, not interested enough to buy it; I've already dug the Horex hole deep enough for now.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Roper Tiddler Tour

I'm way behind on the blog as I've been to four back-to-back events, starting with the Roper Tiddler Tour, the social event of the season.  We had a record turnout of 48 riders.  Brother Doug laid out a superb route with 88 miles to the east in the morning, through Hadlyme, Lyme, Old Lyme, Salem, and East Haddam.  Tim Courts rode with me in the morning on his 250 Ducati ex-race bike.
Tim Court's 250 Ducati ex-racer with Tim in the middle, Rich Hosley on his right and Gordon Pulis on his left
Cockpit details of Tim Ducati. Note steering damper knob
I knew almost all the roads, so we jammed hard, Tim trusting that I knew were the road was going.  It had rained the night before. so there was some concern that the 5 miles of dirt road might be muddy, but it was perfect, with no dust.  In Old Lyme I went off the route to get gas, while Tim followed the route. But, he missed a turn and by the time he realized it and turned around, I had finished gassing up and, as I got back on the route, I see Tim coming from the wrong way and he slotted in right behind me as though it was planned.
Mike Peavey was riding his Moto Guzzi Airone Sport that he had recently put back together after a main bearing had come adrift, allowing the crank to move side to side.
Mike Peavey with his beautiful, but ill fated, Airone Sport
He had take a couple of short test rides and it seemed fine but, in the morning, it seized and Amy had to go pick him (and a couple of others) up with the trailer.  So, after lunch, I let Mike ride my Airone Sport and I rode my Horex.  This gave Mike a chance to compare the performance of the two bikes almost back-to-back and he pronounce my bike way faster than his.  I'm claiming to have the fastest Airone in the East, though Bill Burke is still trying to claim that his (which hasn't run in three or four years) is still faster.
The afternoon route was to the West and around 48 miles and also great roads.  After we got back, we tore into Mike's Airone and found that the crank pinion nut had come off allowing the crank to move to the left and the flywheel to foul the footrest.  The good news was that the main bearing had not moved and the hope was that replacing the pinion nut and tightening and loctiting it this time would  make the motor better than new.
A big party ensued and a few stayed over Sat. night.  We took a short ride Sun. morn and in the afternoon Gordon Pulis left for the New London/Orient Point ferry on his way home.  But, his 175 Honda stopped on the way in Waterford.  Doug and I went to pick him up and, when we got back to Haddam, quickly found that the cam wasn't turning while the crank was.  We dropped the motor and found that the master link had come off the cam chain because the tensioner was really worn.  I called Henry Sypher to see if he had any parts.  He was driving back from the USCRA race in Canaan, New Hampshire and said that, as a matter of fact, he happened to have a 175 Honda motor apart on the bench and had a serviceable cam chain and tensioner.  Doug drove Gordon up to Henry's as I was leaving to ride home, and got the bike back together then next day and caught the ferry 24 hours after he intended.  Not a bad recovery from a major failure on the road.
Mike Tomany and son Aaron's Puch twingles
Jamie Goodson's Allstate Puch
Dakota Martin and Roxanne rode this DS7 Yamaha two up with brio, despite it's oversized front tire
Nigel Griffen's 125 Ducati
Bob Young's(?) R27 BMW
Jeff Zelek's '67 YR-1 350 Yamaha

Craig Pedimonti's  '66 YDS-3 Yamaha.  About a third of the bike on the TT were two strokes

Edwina Stevenson arrives on her RD200 Yamaha 
This Ducati had been to the Giro D'Italia.  
Dave Miller rode this 125 Moto Morini Corsaro (Pirate)
Mitch Frazier with a trailer load.  He carried Janice Lazo, a complete novice, in the sidecar and she had a ball.  Jean rode the Honda
Dave Nichols' G-2 Matchless.  It came back on the trailer with a dead battery
The bike was built by Ad Coppens
A B-25 BSA