Saturday, April 7, 2018

Carolina Motorsports Park 2018


At the previous race at Roebling Road, sound testing was conducted and my bike was one of many that were deemed too loud.  I had been through this with my other Sprint in California at Sonoma  Raceway and Karl Engellennner fitted a Cone Engineering muffler megaphone and we were impressed with how much it cut the noise.  And, while dyno testing showed it knock a tiny bit off of peak power, it gained a lot in midrange.  So, I got one of these for my ERTT and hoped it would do the same for this motor.  While I haven't had it on the dyno, it definitely cut the noise and seemed to pull from lower revs and be strong in the mid range.
The Cone Engineering muffler I fitted to my ERTT
1st practice I started to re-familiarize myself with the circuit when, on the 2 lap, the motor died coming out of turn #7.  I pulled off and found that the ground lead had pulled off my AGM battery with push terminals.  Luckily, this was at a place with quite a wide, downhill grass verge and I was able to push the lead back on and bump start the motor well off the track surface, then re-enter the track with a good sight line to oncoming traffic.  I got in another 3 1/2 laps with the bike working well and the gearing good..  I checked the plug and realized that it couldn't tell me much as it was well used, so I put in a new one.  While doing this, Scott Dell asked me if I wanted to take his Vincent Comet out for a spin.  He had broached the subject at Roebling Road four weeks earlier when I had admired his bike.  The only Vincent I had ever ridden was a twin on the road more than 30 years earlier.  I immediately took a liking to the Comet.  I had asked Scott what the redline was and he said 5-5500 rpm, but the tack was marked 5000 so that's what I used and it pulled well.  It had good brakes and steered well.  I didn't get much time to get into it as we got a red flag when somebody crashed and he and the bike were right in the impact zone.  This was one of an inordinate number of crashes and red flags we were to get over the weekend.  Fellow Comet racer David Tomkins followed me out on the track and later told me he got a lot out following my lines.  He finished ahead of Scott both days, winning the Class C foot shift class on Sunday.
My 2nd practice was red flagged on the out lap when my problem child, Stu Carter, high sided in turn #4 and was hit by John Jewett's Triumph Thruxton when he couldn't avoid him.  Stu was quite beat up; no broken bones but possible ligament damage in a knee and the other knee, heel, hip and hand very sore.  In no shape to race, Stu headed home that afternoon.  Another arch nemesis and good friend, Jack Parker, had crashed starting his 2nd lap of practice and his hand was very swollen and he also decided not to race.
The practice session resumed and my motor started to stumble as we entered turn #4 and I realize that I hadn't turned the fuel on.  I was able to turn it on before the motor died completely and was able to carry on and put in 4 laps.  As at Roebling Road and Barber last year, the new plug showed no color even though I was running as big a main jet as I had ever used.  I took the plug to the Hall brothers, Jake and Rob, of Hall Custom Vintage.  Rob thought he could see a little ring of color at the very bottom of the insulator, but though it was on the edge and advise me to go up at least a jet size.  I went from a 182 to a 185 and raised the needle a notch.
Rob Hall reads my plug while Jake gets ready to go out on their Bonneville. Julianne Johnson photo
The HCV Triumph Bonneville that the Hall bros. run in Classic 60s 650
This is the HCV Goldstar the brothers run in Classic 60s.  Several years ago, they converted it from plunger rear suspension to rigid to improve the handling!

My first race was my bump-up class 500 Premiere.  I was the only entrant in the class and on pole with 500GP gridded behind me in the first wave, Sportsman 750 and Formula 500 in the 2nd wave and Vintage Superbike Lightweight and Novice Production Heavyweight in the 3rd wave.  I got a good start and led overall for more than a lap, then Alex McLean came by on his 500 Manx Norton.  Next by was Nick Hargis on an XS650 based 750 Sportsman bike from the 2nd wave, who went on to pass Alex and finish 1st overall.  Nick's dad, Jeff, was next to come by also on a XS650 base Sportsman bike.  Finally, Danny Miller came by on his RD 400/TR3 Yamaha, but his bike seized on the last lap and he pulled off at the kink on the back straight.  So, I was 4th overall, with probably had about the 10th quickest fastest lap, but I was happy with that as I was probably on the smallest bike in the race.
My 2nd race was the 350GP, gridded behind Bears in the 1st wave with 500 Sportsman and Vintage Superbike Lightweight in the 2nd wave.  I muffed the start a bit and several 350GP bikes were ahead of me going into turn #1, but I passed them all, the last being Alex McLean on a short stroke, 6 speed, Drixton Aermacchi, by turn #7, and chased three Bears bikes.  The race was shortened from 8 to 6 laps due to previous delays from a bunch of red flags, including an air lift to the hospital for John Miller.  Dan May won the overall on his 750 BMW with Stan Keyes, 750 Norton 2nd, and Clay Land 3rd on a 750 Triumph.  I was 4th over all and 1st 350GP with the 4th fastest lap of the race.
Sunday was similar in results and with way too many crashes and red flags.  We just had one round of practice and my sparkplug still looked lean and I put in the biggest jet I own, a 190 as I don't have a 187.  Again, I got a good start in the 500 Premiere class and this time Alex McLean didn't come by.  In fact, apparently he pulled off after 2 laps.  And again, Nick Hargis came by first, then his dad Jeff and I was 3rd overall.
Before the 350GP race, Alex McLean crashed his Classic 60s Norton Manx and apparently the following rider's foot rest hit his helmet.  This knocked Alex out and he was airlifted to the hospital.
So, I had one less competitor in the 350GP and I chased the same three Bears bikes, though they finish in a completely different order with Stan Keyes winning, Clay Land 2n,and Dan May 3rd.  I finished some 11 seconds behind Dan.
I have no explanation of why there were so many crashes.  The track seemed fine to me.  People have suggested that it was the full moon and I have no better reason.  The word is that both riders who were airlifted are going to be alright.
While my lap times weren't as quick Sun. as Sat., which I put down to different wind direction and strength, they were still faster than I went last year at CMP.  That quite possibly is due to the muffler, though I also had a fresh rear tire, where as last year the tire was very worn.
John Rickard's 500 Norton Dominator which he got from Stan Friduss who raced it in the 1965 USGP at Daytona.  Notice the G-50 Matchless front brake.

I don't know anything about it, but I thought it was striking and assume from the 'RZ 421', trick heads and clutch and the beautiful expansion chamber that it must be potent
Pitted across from me was Mike Platt who had blown up his ZX7 so 'threw together' this S-2 350 Kawasaki triple in 6 weeks.
Aleksey Kravchuk's beautiful 1937 Mk VII KTT Velocette
The Hollingsworth's line up of lightweight H-Ds .  #73m is a 165cc that Jere Masters raced in 1965 in the Sportsman races at Daytona.  He took the riders school and raced it at CMP-- the same bike and rider 53 years later!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

AHRMA Roebling Road, 2018

The opening race of my 2018 season had a big turnout, helped no doubt by absolutely gorgeous weather.  Enjoying the sunny, 80 degree day with a light breeze were a number of people we hadn't seen in years, in addition to the regulars and new faces.
working on my H-D ERTT with my '69 TC200 Suzuki in the foreground.  Darleen Drehmel photo
I got to Roebling Fri. afternoon and quickly set up my pit, then rode my '68 TC 200 Suzuki to Pooler where I had been asked to speak at a gathering of the Low Country Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America.  It was a informal gathering of 10 or so at a restaurant and the interest seemed to be mostly of the Isle of Man.  It was good getting to know some of the local motorcyclist and several of them came out to the track over the weekend.
My friend Bill Himmelsbach had gone through my motor and thought it was in good shape and just required a valve job and new rings.  It seemed to run great in my first practice Sat., but the plug looked lean.  At the last race last year at Barber, the plug had looked lean and I kept jetting it up.  Bill agreed that it looked lean and said the underside of the piston looked like it had been hot.  When I installed the engine in the frame, I notice that the gasket between the intake manifold and head seemed pushed out.  I assumed that's why the plug looked lean and why I had to jet it up.  So I resealed the manifold and reverted to the leaner jetting.  But, now again it looked lean.  A couple of the two stroke riders told me that the air was quite dense and that they had to jet up.
Starting on the Works Mfg. starter rollers as Stu Carter plugs his ears.  Darleen Drehmel photo
So, I went from a 175 to 178 main jet and did my second practice.  At the riders meeting there was much talk of noise and they had been doing sound checks and my bike was one of many mentioned as well over the limit at 108 db, but it was far from the loudest as one bike was 122.5.  Again, there was no color on the plug and I went to a 180 for my first race, my bump-up class, 500 Premiere, in which I was the sole entry in the class.  Tim Joyce was there with Maurice Candy's 500 Manx Norton, but he decided to enter Formula 750 to try to find some competition (he won that class both days).
entering the track for race #8.  #372 & #304 are 350 Sportsman bike while #320, #55, & #1 are Bears bikes.  Darleen or Terry Drehmel photo
There had been a big delay in an earlier race when someone oiled the track when a oil fitting failed, so the subsequent races were shorted from 8 to 6 laps.  From the second wave, I passed a couple of Bears bike in the first wave and three 350 Sportsman bikes came by me so I was 8th overall.
Again the plug showed no color and I went to a 182 main jet for the 350GP race.  We were gridded behind the Motards in the first wave and the Vintage Superbike lightweights in the second wave.  I got a great start and led my class from flag to flag, but the jackals were not far away with Jack Parker on his DT1 Yamaha 0.169 seconds behind and Alex McLean on a Drixton Aermacchi 0.459 behind Jack, the two of them having a faster best lap than me.
I skipped Sunday's first practice in part to conserve my rear tire, which was quite worn.  There was a long delay in the first round of practices when a bike caught fire on the track and when the rider finally realized it, he bailed off and it burned.  I went out in the second round of practice and the plug STILL looked lean and I went to a 182 main jet.
I did have another entry in the 500 Premiere Class Sunday as Bob Birdsall decided that he didn't want to wait until the 350GP, the second to last race of the day, and changed his entry to 500 Premiere.  On the warmup lap, someone failed to make the last turn and rode into the woods.  It looked like it might be a medical problem as he didn't even start to turn for the corner and just rode straight off.  Apparently, he was dazed, but got into the ambulance under his own power.  But, this caused a delay and we were sent back to the pits and then called for another warmup lap.
Bob Birdsall wheeling at the start of Sunday's 500 Premiere race with Alex McLean's 500GP Norton Manx behind.  Darleen or Terry Drehmel photo
Birdsall wheelies again as he bangs 2nd gear.  The bike clearly has a lot of power, but wheelies don't move you forward and I'm already ahead of him.  The bike in the middle is Scott Turner's 350 Sportsman bike.  Darleen or Terry Drehmel photo
Here I'm exiting turn #4 with Scott Turner behind me.  Darleen or Terry Drehmel photo
Again, I passed a couple of first wave Bears riders, but this time no 350 Sportsman bikes came by but Alex McLean did on his 500GP Manx Norton and I was 6th overall.
The gorgeous weather was finally starting to turn with dark clouds rolling in and a big headwind down the straight picked up.
The Motards were moved to a different race and Vintage Superbike Lightweight was in the first wave and 350GP the second.  I didn't get as good a start and Jack Parker beat me off the line but I passed him before turn #1.  He came back by me near start/finish and then Don Hollingsworth came by us both on his 350 Sprint.  But Don ran off the track in turn#5 and I thought he was going to hit the bank.  Apparently, he didn't and got back on the track and worked his way back to 4th in class.  His brother Al told me this was cause by his throttle sticking with some grit in the slide.  The head wind was really killing my top end and I was definitely over geared and perhaps a bit tentative in the right hand corner because of my worn rear tire, but I thought I had a chance of passing Jack back.  But, all of a sudden we had a checkered flag at the end of four laps.  I'm told there was a sort of micro burst of wind that made the officials shorten the race and when I got back to my pit, I found my EZup was down as it had started to tip over and my pit neighbors had taken it down.  Alex McLean's sponsor, Rob McKeever told me that Alex had been blown off the track, but he again finished 3rd.  It never did rain and we were able to load up in the dry, thankfully.
It was a very good start to the season.
Here I try to tell my problem child, Stu Carter, the true path.  Darleen Drehmel photo
Rudy Schachinger equipe.  The Honda on the left was the record breaking loud bike to which he had added reverse cones on the megaphones after practice to tone it down.  The 1000 Laverda triple on the right has an Austrian made frame.
The fuel tank extends below the carb and therefore has a fuel pump run off of intake vacuum pulses.
Here I talk to Rudy about his latest project, a pre-war NSU.  Darleen Drehmel photo
Scott Dell working on his Vincent Comet with D. Tompkins working on his in the backround.  Tom Kerr, another Vincent owner, is on the right.
D. Tompkins Comet. Sorry about the shadow
The comet rear shock between the twin springs.
Jason Robert with his newly purchased Yamaha TD2B
It has all the right period mods with the Vesco fairing and front mudguard, Koni shocks, lengthen swingarm, and Krober ignition and tach. An early '70s time capsule. 
The Jim Towers/Ellen Yamplonsky pit with Jims 250 Ducati and their Norton outfit
J. Korn works on the slipping clutch of his A1 Kawasaki
Brad Phillips' ISDT replica BMW 750, a bike that he's been building for years, finally ready to dial in the suspension.  What a man!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Roberto Gallina


Roberto Gallina  was the guest of honor at Team Obsolete's annual holiday party.  Rob Iannucci first got involved with Roberto when he was negotiating to buy what was left of the MV race shop in 1986  and has kept involved with him ever since.  I did a little research on Roberto's history in preparation for his visit.
Roberto was born 4 January, 1940, so just turned 78 and is in great shape and is incredibly vigorous.  He was born in La Spezia in north west Italy, and still lives there.  He first raced in 1960 and in the early '60s raced Motobis and Moto Morinis.  By '67, he was racing Ducati singles regularly in Italian national races.  1970 was the first year he raced in the World Championships, riding a 350 Aermacchi and a 500 Paton, finishing 11th in the 500 class on the basis of a 3rd in Yugoslavia, 7th at Monza and 5th at Montjuich Park in Barcelona.  Roberto did no World Championship racing in '71 and, in '72, scored a single point in the 500 World Championship with a 10th in Yugoslavia.
1973 was his most successful year as a rider in the World Championship, finishing 8th on a Yamaha TZ250, with a 2nd to Dieter Braun (who went on to win the championship) in Sweden, a 3rd in Yugoslavia, and 6th at Circuit Paul Ricard in France and Salzburgring in Austria.  After Renzo Pasolini was killed along with Jarno Saarinen at Monza in May, Gallina raced the works Benelli four cylinder, but without much success.  In his final ride on the bike, the drain plug fell out and oiled his rear tire causing him to crash and break his collarbone.  He also competed in the 500 class on the Paton and did Endurance racing on a Laverda SFC.  In '74, he race a TZ500 and TZ750 Yamaha.  He still has the 750, the only race bike that he kept, which he enjoys parading now and again.  Roberto was twice an Italian National Champion.
In 1975, Roberto started Team Gallina and was a founding member of International Race Teams Association (IRTA).  Marco Lucchinelli and Virginio Ferrari were his riders in '76, Lucchinelli finish 4th in the 500 Championship and Ferrari 21st on a RG 500 Suzukis.  Lucchinelli left in '77 and Virginio Ferrari and Franco Bonera raced for Team Gallina finishing 12th and 7th in the championship respectively on the Nava Olio Fiat sponsored RG 500 Suzukis.  In '78, Gallina was offered a works Suzuki on the condition that he had to have an American rider and Gallina hired Steve Baker to ride along side Ferrari.  Baker finished 7th in the World Championship and Ferrari was 11th, winning the last race of the season at the old Nurburgring.  Ferrari's form continued into the next season and he finish 2nd on the Team Gallina Nava-Olio Fiat Suzuki in the World Championship to Kenny Roberts.
In 1980, Ferrari went to Cagiva and Gallina ran Marco Lucchinelli and Graziano Rossi (Valentino's Dad).  Lucchinelli ended up 3rd in the 500 World Championship with Rossi 5th.
In 1981 Lucchinelli won the 500 World Championship quite convincingly, winning 5 of 11 races with two other podiums.  I think Franco Uncini also rode for Team Gallina.
Honda hired Lucchinelli and the #1 plate away for 1982, but Uncini won the 500 World Championship for Team Gallina even more convincingly.  Although he also had 5 wins and two other podiums, this year out of 12 races, his competitors split up the remaining places more.  Loris Reggiani rode for Team Gallina also and again the next year, before going back to the 250 class.
In 1983 Team Gallina got HB cigarettes sponsorship, but Suzuki lost it competitive advantage as Suzuki went to a thinner section frame that didn't handle as well and Honda and Yamaha progressed more and Freddy Spencer burst on the scene.  On top of that, Uncini had a huge crash at Assen and Wayne Gardner couldn't avoid him and knocked his helmet off when he hit him.  Uncini was out the rest of the season.
He came back the next season, but struggled, only finishing 14th in the Championship.
Things were no better in 1985 and Uncini finish 15th in the Championship and retired from competition at the end of the season.  He went on to become the FIM's safety officer in MotoGP.  Sito Pons also rode for Team Gallina and finished 13th in the 500 World Championship.  Pons went on to win the 250 World championship in 1988 and 1989.
In 1986, Pier Francesco 'Frankie' Chili rode for Gallina in the 500 World Championship and had modest success, finishing 10th on the aging Suzuki.
Gallina switched to Honda for the 1987 500 World Championship and Chili finished 8th overall.
In 1988, Chili finished 9th in the 500 World Championship  and Gallina courted Bubba Shobert, but Shobert went with Yamaha.
1989 was Chili's most successful year in the 500 class, finishing 6th, largely on the basis of winning the Nations Gran Prix at Misano when most of the top riders boycotted the event.  Otherwise, his best finish was 5th.
In 1990 Chili finished 11th in the 500 World Championship.
In 1991 and 1992, Chili rode an Aprilla 250 in the G.P.s for Team Gallina, finishing 3rd in the Championship in 1992, winning at Hockenheim, Assen, and Donnigton Park.  This marked the end of Team Gallina's participation in the Gran Prix World Championship.
In 1990, Gallina started developing a motorcycle powered by the Suzuki DR Big single cylinder motor in his own chassis in both road and race trim.  This was shown at the '92 Tokyo Show and won Sound of Singles races in that year.  And 'Big' it was with a 105mm bore and 90mm stroke yielding 773cc.  Gallina also developed a 750cc Superbike based around a Suzuki GSXR lower end with his own top end and chassis.  The intention was to build 25 to go Superbike racing and was financed by a wealthy Japanese businessman, Hayashi.  But, when the real estate bubble burst in Japan, the plug was pulled on the project after only ten were built.
Gallina opened a retail bike shop and still does specialty work including maintaining a Team Obsolete MV 500 3 cylinder which he and his son Michele parade at vintage events in Italy.    When Roberto was at Team Obsolete this winter he was collecting parts for an XR750 Harley of a customer of his.
It's always a delight spending time with Roberto as he is very funny, interested and has great stories to tell.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

World Championship GP racing

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Eli asked me if I had been to a European Grand Prix.  I immediately thought of a couple, but it got me to thinking about all to which I had been.
20 July, 1986 was the first, the French GP at Circuit Paul Ricard.  There was a classic support race there in conjunction with the GP which I was fortunate enough to win on the Team Obsolete Matchless G-50.  But, before the classic, I watched the 500 GP with John Surtees (who I had beat in the previous day's heat race).  He was helping/coaching/supporting Paul Lewis, an Australian racer know as the Angry Ant because of his aggressiveness and diminutive size.  My memory (and no one is more aware of the slipperiness and inaccuracy of memory than me, so feel free to correct me if you think I got it wrong) is that local hero Raymond Roche jumped into the lead but pretty quickly slapped it down, undoubtedly riding over his head in front of the home crowd.  Eddie Lawson won, I believe one week after breaking his collar bone at Laguna Seca.  Randy Mamola, on the Team Roberts Yamaha was 2nd, and another local hero, Christian Sarron, was 3rd.  Mike Baldwin, Mamola's teammate on the Roberts team was 4th.  Mike and I had raced together in the mid '70s in AAMRR and WERA before he went on to greater things.  He coached me a bit at Paul Ricard, where the classics raced on a slightly shorter version of the circuit than the GP.  The Angry Ant finished 10th.
27 June, 1987 Dutch TT at Assen.  Again, there was a classic race in conjunction with the GP, but here it was a curtain raiser run on the Thurs. before the GP.  I was entered on the Team Obsolete G-50 Matchless, but it broke in qualifying .  We installed an AJS 7R motor in the chassis and switched to the 350 class.  I got a terrible start from the absolute back of the grid, but won my class and turned the fastest lap of the combined classes.  I remember talking to Fred Merkel there.  We had spent a little time together at Dr. Dave Kieffer's Gem City Bone and Joint  orthopedic clinic.  This is the year after he won his third US Superbike Championship, but a year before the first World Superbike Championship, and I don't remember what he was doing at Assen.  He could have been riding in the European Championship race that ran on the Thurs. before the Classic, or he could have been scouting for a ride.  I probably shouldn't even include this in my list of World Championship GPs attended as we didn't stay to watch the race Sat.  Instead we flew to Rome and got a ride to Misano where Gianni Perrone and I paraded a couple of Team Obsolete's newly acquired MV racers at a classic meeting.
10 April, 1987 USGP at Laguna Seca.  This was the 1st USGP in 23 years and they were to continue there through 1994, except for 1992 when there was no USGP.  I'm a little fuzzy of which of these I attended but know I attended this one as I well remember Jimmy Felice winning what I believe was the first GP he rode in, the 250 GP.  His knowledge of the track trumped the European's experience.  The track had be lengthen to meet the FIM minimum by adding a left, right, right, left (turns 2-5) to what had been a relatively straight run from #2 to what is now #5.  Lawson on the Yamaha, beat Gardner and MacKenzie on Hondas in the 500 race.
8 April, 1990 USGP at Laguna Seca.  Eddie Lawson crashed in practice when the brake pads came out of his front caliper and was hurt badly enough to miss six GPs.  Kosinski and Rainey won the 250 and 500 GPs respectively again, maintaining the record of American winners in the GPs held at Laguna.  Doohan and Chili completed the 500 podium with Schwantz crashing out while dicing with Rainey.
21 April, 1991 USGP at Laguna Seca.  Rainey won again for the third time in a row but finally there was a foreign winner at Laguna with Luca Cadalora 1st in the 250 race ahead of Zeelenberg and Reggiani.  I remember that Chili had been demoted to the 250 class, but didn't finish on a Honda.
22 June, 1995 Dutch TT Assen.   Again, I was racing a Team Obsolete bike in the Classic support race to the GP, but this time, I did see the GP.  I was leading the 350 Classic on a MV-3 when a points wire broke and I limped in 3rd on two cylinders.  Mick Doohan was in the 2nd year of his 5 year domination of the 500 class and won this year at Assen with his team mate Criville 2nd and Puig 3rd for a Honda sweep of the podium.  Max Biaggi was also in the 2nd year of his 4 year domination of the 250 class and beat Taddy Okada with local hero Zeelenberg third.  two Germans were on the 125 podium with Dirk Raudies beating Peter Ottl, and Saito 3rd.  Suzuki put on a huge retirement party for Kevin Schwartz with an impressive fireworks display.
7 July, 1996 German GP at Nurburgring.  Steve McLaughlin was the promotor and got Team Obsolete to bring a bunch of bikes over to do parade laps.  I got to ride a 500 MV-3 behind Ago who rode a T/O MV 500-4.  Nurburgring was the site of Ago's last win on a MV 20 years before, but on the long course, not the short 2.822 mile circuit that we were running on.  We did a bus tour of the 14+ mile long course with Jim Redman commentating.  Jim said that he thought this circuit was more difficult to learn than the 37.73 mile IOM Mountain course because it all looked the same with the course cutting through forest where as the IOM had distinct sections and towns that help to keep track of where one was.  Luca Cadalora beat the then dominant Mick Doohan and Doohan claimed that he didn't see the last lap board.  Local hero Waldman won the 250 race
26 June, 1999 Dutch TT at Assen.  Again, I was racing a Team Obsolete bike in the Classic support race to the GP, this time in the T/O promoted Trans Atlantic Match Race.  We had two races and in the first on the 24th, I rode a 500 MV three cylinder that was misbehaving a bit to 3rd, 500 and 7th OA.  I crashed the MV in practice for our 2nd race and ended up riding a Dutch ABSAF BSA Goldstar and DNFed with a mechanical.  Taddy Okada won the 500 from Roberts, Jr. and Gibernau.  Rossi was 2nd to Capirossi in the 250 and another Japanese won the 125 race:Azuma.
13 July, 2003 British GP, Donnington Park.  Over in England to ride the the 1952 AJS three valve 7R3, that Team Obsolete had restored and delivered to the National Motorcycle Museum, at the Bsump rally at Caldwell Park on Sat., Rob Iannucci and I went down to Donnington Park to watch our first MotoGP 990 four stroke race.  We watched near Craner Curves and saw the bikes accelerating down hill out of Redgates.  Rossi finished 1st in front of Biaggi and Gibernau.  I was a bit surprised that there was a track invasion after the race finish in polite, orderly England, but we joined the crowd and walked back to the podium where everyone was adoring Rossi.  Sometime after the champagne was sprayed, it was announced that Rossi was being docked 10 seconds for passing under a waving yellow flag and therefore Biaggi was the winner with Rossi 3rd.  Rossi was again docked 10 seconds for passing under the waving yellow at the second last race of the season at Phillip Island, Australia, but this time he was notified during the race and he cranked up the pace and finished some 15 seconds in front of everyone, so still won the  race by 5.212 seconds.  The 250 finish was Nieto, Poggialli, Ant West, and the 125 was Barbera, Dovizioso, Perugini.  That was the last foreign GP that I've been to.
10 July, 2005 USGP at Laguna Seca.  After an eleven year absence, the GP was back at Laguna and again, local knowledge counted.  Nicky Hayden won with Colin Edwards 2nd and Rossi 3rd.  Many of the foreigners complained about the rough surface.  There was no 250 or 125 GP, only an AMA support program.
23 July, 2006 USGP at Laguna Seca.  I went back the next year and it was incredibly hot, over 100 degrees.  My memory is that it was Michelin that was particularly caught out by the heat.  Hayden won again with his teammate Pedrosa 2nd and Melandri 3rd, a Honda sweep.  4th was Kenny Roberts, Jr., on his dad's bike.  Hayden goes on to win the Championship.  This was Casey Stoner's first year in MotoGP and he crashed his Honda in the race.  When Ducati hired him at the end of the year, I remember thinking that that was a big mistake, that Stoner was a crasher, he'll never get anywhere.
22 July, 2007  USGP at Laguna Seca.  Stoner wins on the Ducati.  So much for my prognostications.  Vermeulen was 2nd on the Suzuki and Melandri 3rd again.  Stoner goes on to win the Championship.
22 July, 2008 USGP at Laguna Seca.  Rossi finally wins at Laguna.  This was the year that he made the famous pass through the dirt in the Corkscrew.  Stoner 2nd and Vermeulen 3rd.  Rossi goes on to win the Championship.
5 July, 2009 USGP at Laguna Seca.   Occasionally, Dani Pedrosa just nails it, and this was one of those times.  My memory is that Lorenzo crashed in qualifying or Sunday morning warmup and started the race beat up.  Nevertheless, he was the fastest qualifier and finished 3rd behind his teammate Rossi.  But Pedrosa dominated the race.  This was the 8th GP that I had been to at Laguna, in part because it's a great venue to spectate and in part because I have a great childhood friend who live nearby in Pacific Grove and who I could stay with.  But, spectating there had become increasingly difficult with VIP stands going up in some of the best viewing areas, and Laguna didn't have a 250 and 125 race.  So, ....
20 August, 2009 Indianapolis GP.  The year before they had started MotoGP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  I was somewhat skeptical about the circuit but thought I'd give it a try.  I was very pleasantly surprised.  It's far from the most interesting circuit in the world and that track food was not as good as Laguna, but it was so much easier to get to, to get in and out of, and to view.  One could walk around the majority of the circuit and the general admission grandstands were excellent.  And, it was way cheaper.  I drove there with a friend and a couple of street bikes in the van and stayed at a ridiculously inexpensive motel in the outer suburbs just beyond the ring road and commuted to the track by M/C.  Sat. night we watched Kenny Robert do a demonstration lap on the TZ750 dirt tracker on the Indian State Fairgrounds Mil.  Jorge Lorenzo won the MotoGP race, with Alex De Angelis 2nd in perhaps his best MotoGP finish and and Nicky Hayden 3rd.  Simoncelli won the 250 in front of Aoyama and Bautista.  In the 125, Pol Espargo won with Brad Smith 2nd and Simone Corsi 3rd.
29 August, 2010 Indianapolis.  My experience the previous year had me skip Laguna and return to Indy.  Lorenzo won again, this time in front of Stoner on the Ducati and Rossi on the Yamaha.  This was the first year of Moto 2 replacing 250 GP and Toni Elias won on his way to the Championship.  Simon was 2nd and Redding 3rd.  There were still 2 strokes with the 125 GP, and Nicolas Terol won in front of Cortese and Pol Espargo.  Marc Marquez was 10th for some reason, after qualifying on pole and turning the fastest lap of the race.  He probably ran off the track, but he wasn't on my radar then, though he went on to win the 125 Championship that year.  I talked to Gary Nixon for the last time while I was cruising through the pits.  I said "Nice day for a ride" and he said that he wished he was out there racing.  He told me that he had a 250 Ninja that he tore around on back home.  He said "Everybody must know I'm #1 because they go like this to me" holding up his middle finger.
20 August, 2011 Indianapolis.  Gary Nixon died two weeks before the GP and there was tribute to him.  Nicky Hayden had been asked to to do a parade lap on a Triumph Triple that Nixon had raced and was keen to do it, but apparently Honda vetoed this.  So, Steve Parrish rode the bike doing the traditional backwards lap of the circuit.  Stoner won the MotoGP race, now back on a Honda, with his  teammate Pedrosa 2nd and Ben Spies 3rd.  Marquez won the Moto2 race from Pol Espargo and Tito Rabat.  Terol again won the 125 GP on his way to winning the final 125 Championship, with Moto 3 replacing it the next year.  Vinales was 2nd and Cortese 3rd.
9 August, 2015 Indianapolis.  After missing the GP for three years because of conflicts with my racing, I was back.  It rained before the start of the Moto3 race and it was declared a wet race.  Everyone was on wet tires except Livo Loi, who changed to slicks after the siting lap, gambling that it was going to dry, but on the grid for the warmup lap.  John McPhee changed to slicks after the warmup lap and had to start from the pit lane along with Migno and Oettl.  Loi quickly got in the lead  as all the rest of the riders came into the pits to change to slicks.  He got a massive lead and it seemed like his crew was begging him to slow down, but he kept increasing his lead and won by almost 39 seconds after a best previous finish of 12th that year.  McPhee finished 2nd well ahead of Oettl.  It stayed dry the rest of the day and Rins beat Marco and Morbidelli in the Moto2 and Marquez won the MotoGP from the Moviestar Yamaha teammate Lorenzo and Rossi.
And that was the last GP that I've been to.  Maybe I'll go to COTA at Austin, Tx next year.

Monday, November 20, 2017

McPint

I just finished reading 'Built for Speed, My Autobiography' by John McGuinness.  John is the most successful living racer at the Isle of Man TT, having won 23 TT races, second only to the late Joey Dunlop, who won 26.  While the book is written 'with John Hogan',  McGuinness' voice comes through loud and clear.  He's a guy with no filter.  Beyond the profanity and bawdy idioms, McGuinness doesn't sanitize his opinions of other racers, teams, institutions, and individuals in his personal life.  Which is not to say that the book is particularly negative.  He is effusive in his praise of  much of his family, racers, and sponsors.  And, while he has a realistic and matter of fact presentation of his obvious talent, he is just as realistic about his failings.  His talent that rivals racing ability is his sense of humor.  He's incredibly funny.
John had a somewhat hard scrabble childhood.  While saying that he grew up in poverty would probably be an exaggeration, upper lower class is probably accurate.  His father was a motorcyclist, had a motorcycle repair shop, and did some club racing and that certainly influenced Johns career.  He grew up living 3 miles from the ferry to the Isle of Man and to this day has probably never lived further than 10 miles from the ferry.  His father first took him there when he was 10 years old in 1982 and he was hooked and decided then that he was going to race there.  He talks of skipping school and riding his bicycle to the ferry and, while the ticket taker was dealing with the driver of a van, he'd be hiding on the other side and pedal onboard out of sight.  But, it was long after he had done schoolboy motocross, then club short circuit road racing, then professional road racing, that he finally did race at the IOM in 1996 when he was 24 years old and had been road racing six years.  He's clear that he thinks it's important to have a level of experience and maturity to have success, and survive, TT racing.  He worked as a bricklayer then, when the recession hit (which he blames on Maggie Thatcher), he went fishing and musseling with his future father-in-law.
He speaks repeatedly about his great friend David Jefferies. They both had their TT debut the same year.  In addition to being great friend, John though David was the best TT racer at the time.  John was one of the first to come across DJ's fatal accident at the TT, one of many he has seen.
John has huge respect for Joey Dunlop and seems to carry some guilt for impetuously cutting him up a bit in one of their earliest races together.  Despite that, Joey let John into his life and he was honored that he stayed at Joey's house and they were teammates at one point.
McGuinness says that if he were putting a team together to race at the TT, his first choice would be Michael Dunlop, Ian Hutchinson next and himself third.
Family is a huge part of his life.  His parents split when he was in high school.  They always argued a lot and his dad would be drinking, fighting and chasing women.  He says that his Mum went off the rails when they split.   He has a brother who he says alway had something missing and has always been looking to get high.  So, not the ideal household and he lived with his father's mother, Nana, who he adored.  He started going out with a girl, Becky,  who lived across the street from his Nana when he was 16 and she 13 and eventually her parents took him in.  They are still together now with two children and he clearly adores them.  It seems that they give him the stability that he didn't have as a kid.  Becky writes a great forward to the book and Guy Martin writes an odd and funny forward also.
I think the book captures the tension between the allure and challenge of the TT and the risk.  On the one hand, he puts the sight of his good friend getting killed there out of his mind, but on the other he's always aware of the risk.  It seems that if everything isn't just right, he doesn't push it.  But, when everything is right, he's as good as anyone.   The book was written and came out just before John's serious crash early this year at the North West 200 road race in Northern Ireland when the bike's electronics went crazy and it was uncontrollable.  A similar thing happen to John's teammate, Guy Martin, in practice at the TT this year and he was very lucky to escape serious injury.  The bike was withdrawn from the races.  John fractured a vertebra and had a compound fracture to his tibia and fibula.  He lost bone and I believe is still in an external fixator that he has to crank up daily to get the bone to gap the space.  This begs the question 'will he ever race again?'  He talks on both sides of this issue: he'd like to go out on top but he's not bothered if he never wins another TT.  It's an issue most athletes face: when is the right time to retire.  And, he talks of the possibility of just doing the electric bike race at the TT, which is only one lap and considerably slower speeds.  He's 45 years old now.
It's a great book and one gets the sense that it's totally honest; no P.R. B.S.  It extremely funny, but not just fluff, and deals with the subject of what's really important in one's life and what motivates oneself.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

2017 Race Record

In 2017, I raced in 13 events at 12 different venues.  I entered 46 races and started 44 of them on nine different bikes owned by five different people, including myself.  I had four DNFs, one of which was a crash, and two practice crashes, for a total of three which seems to be my average.  I had 29 firsts, 6 seconds, 7 thirds and one each fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.  I won AHRMA's 350GP and 500 Premiere Championship.  In AHRMA's 350GP class, I had 13 wins, 2 seconds, a third and DNS in the 17 races that I entered.  In the 500 Premiere class, I 'won' both days at Roebling Road when I was the only entrant.  At Sonoma, Andrew Mauk won both days against token opposition while I was in the same races, but in a different class, starting behind, but finishing well ahead on Andrew both days.  At Gingerman, Andrew was 1st both days and I was 3rd and 2nd.  At Road America, Andrew was 2nd and 1st, while I was 5th and 3rd.  Andrew didn't go to New Jersey M/S Park, but I won both days against somewhat more credible opposition than he had at Sonoma.  At Utah M/S Campus, I beat Andrew both days, Sat. by 0.010 seconds, Sun. by 0.217 seconds, two excellent races.  At Barber, Andrew won decisively and I was third.  But, Andrew was denied the chance to beat me again as Sunday's racing was canceled.  If we had raced on Sunday, if Andrew won he would have won the championship.  If he finished 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, I would have had to win to win the championship and if he finished 5th (i.e. finished the first lap, as there were only 5 starters) I would have had to finish 1st or 2nd to win the championship.  Points and championships are arbitrary and therefore don't mean much, but the satisfaction I had racing with Andrew, win or lose, means a lot.

Barber Vintage Festival

For the finale of this year's racing season, the Barber Vintage Festival, which I read somewhere claimed to be the second largest motorsports event in the country, I entered 200GP on the Dennis Latimer tuned CT1 Yamaha, and 350GP and 500 Premiere on my H-D Sprint ERTT.

Dave Ecker's CT1 Yamaha, built and tuned by Dennis Latimer
Unfortunately it seized in Friday practice and didn't race.  Dennis promises a DT1 based 250 for next year
I got to Barber Thursday afternoon and got set up, pitting between Dennis and crew and Juan Bulto and crew and got the bikes through scrutineering.
My TC200 Suzuki and ERTT racer
That evening, I went to Rusty's BBQ in Leeds with Canadians Doug MacRae and Herb Becker and introduced them to fried okra.
Friday, I went out on the CT1 first.  It seemed close though was a little reluctant to rev at the top.  We looked at the plug and, if anything, it looked rich, but we decided to leave it.  My ERTT also seemed close in the first session.
In the second round of practice, on the 3rd lap while approaching 11K rpm in 5th gear the motor slowed a bit, I clutched it and the it stopped abruptly.  It had indeed seized.  One theory is leaking crank seal.  The cylinder wasn't bad, but the piston was and they had no spare.  The bike was parked and I scratched from the 200GP class.
I put a new sparkplug in the ERTT to get a reading on jetting.  But, I stalled the motor going out pit out and couldn't push start it after a couple of attempts and had to walk it back to the starter rollers.  I finally got out on the track and almost immediately the red flag was thrown, so I got no plug chop.  It was already clear the rain was coming before the weekend was out and the question was when.  Paul Germain told me that his weather sources indicated that it would be raining by 1p Sat.  So I decided to change my front tire during Saturday's lunch break.  I had a Continental ClassicAttack front tire, which I had proved to myself didn't work in the wet when I crashed on a damp track at New Jersey M/S Park in July.  I asked Juan Bulto if he had ever raced on the Conti tire in the wet and he said he hadn't and that people in Spain agreed that they were no good in wet conditions.  Al and Dave Hollingsworth helped me change the tire to a new Avon AM26.  As I was finishing up re-installing the wheel, a fellow in a shirt with a Continental logo came up and I explained what I was doing and why.  He suggested that the 90/90 X 18 tire that I had been using wasn't a race compound as I had thought, but rather a 'high performance' street tire.  He said that the smallest tire available in the race compound was 100/90 X 18.  He got Buff Harsh of Todd Henning Racing, a Conti dealer, to stop by and Buff confirmed what I had been told.  Buff suggested that while the first versions of the race tire maybe weren't so good in the wet, the new ones were OK.  But, 100/90 X 18 is too big for my WM 2 rim, so I'm sticking with the Avon.
After I changed the front tire and put in a bigger main jet.
I went out in the 3rd practice session and scrubbed in the new tire and got a plug chop which indicated the jetting was lean and I went up a jet size. In the final practice session, the motor started running poorly as I went out on the track and died as I was approaching turn #5.  I realize at the last moment that I had forgotten to turn on the fuel.  Luckily, there is a  a connector road between Turn #5  and the back straight after the turn #10 chicane and I was able to bump start the motor with the help of a corner worker on our second try and re-enter the track.  I passed Jon Munns on his 350 Sportsman Honda, he passed me back, and I chased him for a while.  This was just what I needed to step up the pace and get my head right.  Again, the plug looked lean and consulting Peter Politiek, Sn., I went up another jet size.
Changing the main jet.  Matthew Jones photo
Sunday dawned cloudy but dry.  The scheduled had been altered with the Pro Sound of Thunder money race moved from Sun. to Sat. and people were speculating that racing might be canceled Sun. as Hurricane Nate was heading for the Gulf coast.  The 350GP race was the second of the day and I started on the pole as I was leading the points (and, in fact, had cinched the championship some time before).  350 Sportsman was gridded behind us in the second wave and Novice Production Heavyweight in the third wave.  I nailed the start and led into turn #1.  A bit after halfway through the first lap, the red flag came out as there had been a start line crash in the 2nd or 3rd wave.  After what seemed like an interminable delay, we went out for a 2nd warm-up lap.
After the red flag on the pre-grid waiting for the re-start.  George Roulson photo
I again got a good start, but Jack Parker on his DT-1 Yamaha got a better one and led in turn #1 and went right to the curb in turn #2 to block and chance of me getting underneath him.  This only postponed the inevitable as I out braked him into turn #5 and pulled away.  Later, Jack's exhaust pipe broke and he faded back.  Peter Politiek, Jr., riding Ed Sensenig's 350 Ducati, passed Paul Germain for second but then the piston came apart and he didn't finish.  In turn #11 on the last lap, Taylor Miller came by from the 350 Sportsman class with Rich Midgely chasing him.  Taylor apparently has little race experience and was riding John Miller's CB350 Honda, while John took a break from racing after a recent crash and head injury.  Germain ended up 2nd almost 13 seconds behind with Alex McLean, in his first race on a newly acquired short stroke Drixton Aermacchi, was a further nearly 18 seconds behind Paul's DT1 Yamaha.  Alex told me that he was still learning about the Aermacchi and there was more to be had, so he could be a real challenge next year.  Finally, the jetting looked good and I left it for the 500 Premiere race.  
I came to Barber leading the 500 Premiere Championship, having scored all my points on a 350 Sprint.  This says less about my brilliance as a rider than the poor participation in the class.  Participation in the older classes in general seems to be falling as rider/owners get older, and in the 500 classes in particular as they are 'Balkanized' with 500 Premiere, 500GP, Formula 500, 500 Sportsman, and Classic 60s.  The classes need to be consolidated, with 500GP particularly silly, as it is almost identical to 500 Premiere.  Anyway, only Andrew Mauk or I could win the Championship and I thought my chances were an extreme longshot as, even though I led the points, AHRMA only counts the best ten finishes and I already had ten while Andrew only had eight.  Therefore, I would have to better my one 5th place and 3rd place to gain any points while any point that Andrew scored would add to his total.  And, my chance of beating him (or Wes Orloff, for that matter) was remote.  But, one never knows and I was going to make him work for it.  We were in the second wave behind the Bears and ahead of the third wave Formula 500s.  Andrew was on a mission and led from the start with Wes 2nd and me 3rd.  I expected that Ron Melton and Helmi Niederer would challenge me, but it never happened.  We started catching some Bears bikes and then Tyler Waller came by on his Honda and Dean Singleton on his Yamaha from the F-500 class.  So, Andrew won the class and I was third and then it was announce that Sunday's racing was canceled.  Andrew asked Race Director Cindy Cowell if double points would be awarded for Saturday results as was done at Talladega when Sunday racing was canceled.  She replied "Absolutely not".  Therefore, Andrew thought that I had won the Championship, while  I thought that he had.  But, when I sat down and did the math, Andrew was right: I ended up with 8935 points and he with 8505.  Andrew told me that he came to Barber thinking that only an 'act of god' would keep him from winning the Championship, but that's what happened.  Andrew and the bike's owner/tuner, Keith Leighty, were extremely gracious with the results and I hope I made it clear to them that I love racing with them and that points and championships are extremely arbitrary and therefore don't mean much.
Keith Leighty's trailer/workshop almost packed and ready to go home to El Paso.
Some rain did come after the 500 Premiere race and several people did fall down, including John Ellis, a guy who almost never crashes, but he was on Continental tires.  The rain stopped and the final races were run in dry conditions and I was able to get packed up and eat some fish tacos with Andrew Keith, Wes and friends before it started raining again and I headed out to visit friends in Savannah.  
Pitted opposite me was this 1938 R-17 BMW, I'm told one of the rarest.

The bike seemed totally original and unrestored except for the exhaust pipes and mufflers

Stu Carter's recently acquired Bultaco TSS replica

An RD400 based racer under construction


An H-1 Kawasaki drag bike with after market (homemade?) cylinder heads
Wes Goodpasters 650 Norton which he used to win the the Classic 60s 650 class and finish 4th in Bears
A fellow asked me if he could take some photos, to which I said sure.  He's a pro: Matthew Jones  photo

Matthew Jone photo.  I've added a link to his web site on my links list