Monday, November 10, 2014

2014 race record

For 2014, I competed in 13 different events, missing two events due to my late June street bike accident.  The 13 events were at 13 different venues, two of which I hadn't been to before: Phillip Island and the New Jersey Motorsports Park Lightning Circuit, and it had been almost 12 years since I had been to Shannonville.  I entered 54 races and started 50 of them, all of the non starts being mechanical issues from as minor as a wire pulled off the coil to as major as a dropped valve.  I did this on 18 different bikes belonging to 15 different people, the most I've ever raced in one season.  I got 22 wins, 6ea 2nds, 13ea 3rds, and 1ea. 4th, 5th , and 6th.  I had 6 DNFs, three of which were crashes plus one practice crash.  This is a little more than average, but fortunately, none of them stopped me from racing the same day.  In addition to this, I did the Lap of Honor parade at the Isle of Man, a Tiddler Tour, a Moto Giro, and a Pewter Run.  Another busy, successful year (with a little bump in the road in the middle).

Grattan

Ewe Sat Because of the problem with the cracked frame it was decided that it would be better to not ride the Seeley G-50 at Grattan.  So, I went to the track with no ride, but after dragging my pitiful self around with a hang dog look on Fri., Trish Damon offered me a ride on her CB175 Honda.
I would race it in the 250 GP class, while Trish would race it in the CB 160 race and 200 GP.  Then, after briefly considering an offer of a CB 750 Honda, Don Drake asked if I'd like to race his 350 Ducati.

Trish's Honda was quite stock and not super quick, but worked fine.
250GP ran with 500 Sportsman, Pre 40, and Formula 125.  Francis Ganance's freshly rebuilt 250 was running very well and he was riding very well, and he finished 5th overall behind four 500 Sportsman  bikes.  Trish's bike was no match for Lorraine Crussell's 175 Honda, and Lorraine was also riding superbly and I finished almost a minute behind her, 13th overall and third in class.

Don Drake's 350 Ducati is a short stroke, i.e. a 450 top end on a 250 lower end, and the more I rode it, the more I realized it wanted to rev and I kept lowering the gearing.  Come the race, Francis Ganance was bumping up with his 250 Ducati.  He got a better start than me and I got balked a bit by the Vintage Superbike Middleweights, who out dragged us to turn # 1.  Not wanting to lose touch with Francis, I tried to dive under Alex Cook's 850 Guzzi in the turn # 10 'bus stop'.  I thought I was by him, but we were on completely different lines and we collided.  I went down and, while Alex didn't, I knocked the seat off his bike, and he couldn't continue.  I banged my big toe and pinky, but was otherwise OK.  Don and his crew kicked the Ducati straight and Alex was able to remount his seat, so we were both ready for Sunday.

Trish's 175 was not, however.  It wouldn't start and she and her crew couldn't figure it out.  But, she found me a different 175 to race Sunday.  Now, I would race in the 250 class the 175 Honda that Anders Carlson was racing in 200GP. 
 This bike was quite different than Trish's.  It shifted in the opposite direction as it just had a reversed shift lever while Trish's bike had a linkage.  This was more awkward shifting and the riding position was awkward for me, too, but the bike was faster than Trish's.

But again, not as fast as Lorraine's and Lorraine briefly got ahead of Francis on the first lap.  They both steadily pulled away from me with Francis finishing 5th overall again and me this time less than half a minute behind Lorraine in 10th overall.
Having geared Don's Ducati down again, I thought I might be able to make it a race with Francis in the 350 GP, but it would require using the draft of his very quick 250, and on the first lap, I missed some shifts and lost touch with him.  I finished less than 3.5 seconds behind him, he in 5th, me in 6th overall.
all in all, not a bad weekend for having arrived with no ride.
Steve Pieratt picked up this beautifully crafted twin engine Bonneville on his way to Grattan.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fall Ritual


Last Sunday was the Roper family tradition of the putting in the basement of motorcycles for the winter.  This was about 4 weeks early this year because of my recent ankle replacement surgery and my brother's impending hip replacement surgery.  This will be the first time for his right hip; he's on his 6th left hip replacement, having been among the youngest people to have it done in 1972 when they were just doing it on old people ready to die.
Amy's 650 BMW was first to go down
Doug pushes my Airone...  Amy Roper photo
...while I supervise.  Amy Roper photo


Amy Roper photo
The Airone goes down
I supervise the lowering of Doug's Benelli 260.  Amy Roper photo

Amy's CL/CB 350 Honda goes next
Then the Bridgestone 200
Finally the stairs go back in place
It's crowded downstairs as the disease progresses.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Daytona 2014

Less than a week after Barber, AHRMA had their final race of the season at Daytona.  From Barber, we drove to Opelika, Al., and the next day took a side excursion to Pasaquan, in Buena Vista, Ga., on our way to Savannah.  Check it out; it was well worth it.  In Savannah, my two biggest fans, Darleen and Terry Dremel, let me use their garage/shop to pull the head off my Sprint.  The exh. valve had clearly touched the piston and wasn't sealing.  I tried lapping it a bit, but it wasn't going to happen.  But,  I discovered that I had a spare, used exh. valve with me and, with minimal lapping, sealed well.  With the rocker adjuster all the way out, I just barely had valve lash and the pushrod really needed to be shortened, but no time for that now.
We got to Daytona Thurs. afternoon and got registered and teched.  I decided that I had gone way too rich at Barber and lowered the float and main jet.  Maybe it was a little better, but still lots of hesitation and missing.
As it's been for the last several years, the turn out for Daytona was very thin.  In the 350GP, there were only four entries, one of whom (Jack Parker) didn't show up.  In the race, Paul Germain pulled away until his bike broke (suspected broken piston) and I inherited the 'win' from Dick Hollingsworth on their new 350 Sprint, which they've built very mildly initially.
A couple of races later was the 250GP, and there were eight entries in that, four of whom actually started.  My bike died on the warm-up lap, which turned out to be just a wire that pulled off the coil.
Don Hollingsworth won the class by a big margin, and was 3rd O.A. behind a couple of Vintage Superbike Lightweights, on the same CRTT H-D Sprint that he used to win the 1968 Daytona Novice race.
The next day, I decided that my carburetion problem was an ignition problem.  The motor seem to run fine below 5K rpm and, if I really screamed it, would pull high rpms.  The problem was getting to those  high rpms.  So, I geared it down, and it seemed a little better.  Our practice ended at perhaps 10:30a and we had to wait to perhaps 3:30p for the CCS races to finish and the AHRMA races to start.  On the warm-up lap of my first race, the 350GP, the motor dropped a valve and made a mess.  I haven't pulled the head off yet, but the spark plug was hard coming out and smashed up and there was debris in the exhaust pipe.  If it had dropped the valve on the last lap of practice instead of the warm-up lap of the race, I could have packed up 5 hours earlier.  Life is cruel.
I thought this was a pretty neat in line radiator on Barrett Long's 125
So, a rather definitive end to my 2014 racing season.  An equally definitive end was having my right ankle replaced four days later.  This goes back to that fateful day in 1977 when I hit the diesel fuel on the off ramp from the Goldstar Memorial Bridge in Groton, Ct. while riding my Norton Commando and sliding feet first over the kerb and under the guardrail and braking my talus.  The ankle has gradually deteriorated since then and I decided last spring the time had come to replace it.  So, I scheduled it for right after the racing season and I should be fit near the start of the '15 season, though I may have to miss the first round, or so.  The operation seemed to go well and I'm at my brother house right now recovering, with good confidence for the future.
My CRTT with Don Hollingsworth snoozing in the backround
The Hollingsworth pit was a bee hive of activity.  Al & Dick snoozing
Don Hollingsworth's 250 on the left and Dick's 350 on the right
The evergreen Ken Nemoto brought his Guzzi from Tokyo again.  Neik Leeuwis from Holland was the other foreign competitor at Daytona.  Both talked of going to Barber next year.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Barber 2014

A couple of days after the Pewter Run, I was off to Barber with quite low expectations.  I just took one bike, my CRTT Sprint and that hadn't run very well at the USCRA NJMP event.  We arrived Thurs. afternoon, got our credentials, and went straight to the Hampton Inn right outside the track for a meeting of the Antique Motorcycle Foundation Leadership conference.  I had agreed to be on a panel which included Bob Coy, founder and leader of the USCRA, Richard Bacus, the editor of Motorcycle Classics magazine, and myself, moderated by Mark Mederski, curator at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Ia.  We talked about the future of the vintage motorcycle scene and how to get people involved.  There was a bit of hand wringing about 'these kids now-a-days', but I think the scene is fine and anyway, I don't care if it's an obscure niche that will never appeal to the masses.
The next day, I was approached with the offer of another ride: Dennis Latimer's CT1 Yamaha.
Dennis Latimer's CT1 Yamaha
Initially, Jason Roberts was going to race it but, at the last moment, he couldn't come and he suggested that I ride it.  Dennis actually had two near identical bikes and Ralph Hudson was racing the other one, though the gearbox failed on that one in practice and he wasn't able to race it. The bike's primary class is 200GP but, I thought if it was faster than my 250, I'd bump up to 250GP also.  This proved to be the case, despite my going up and down on the jetting trying to eliminate the server hesitation I was getting on the CRTT.  By the end of Fri. practice, my fastest lap on Latimers 175 cc CT1 was more than 2 3/4 seconds faster than on my 250cc Sprint.
This CT1 is a trick little bike.  The motor has a TR-3 cylinder, piston and exh. pipe and a homemade cylinder head and PVL ignition.
TR-3 cyl., piston, and pipe.  Home made head
The frame is also homemade and it uses modified RZ350 forks with Works shocks in the back.  The all-up weight is 200 lbs.
Dennis made his own frame
Works shocks and disc rear brake
modified RZ 350 forks
Don Hollingsworth tells me he knows Dennis Latimer from when he was in the Airforce in Oklahoma and that Dennis built a H-D Baja that would beat the Honda Elsinores.  He clearly knows his way around a two stroke.  And, he had plenty of back-up.  Dennis' nephew,  Rick Remy, had flown out from SoCal to Ok. two months earlier to help his uncle build the second bike and drive them to Barber.  Rick had helped me a couple of times with two strokes out west.
Here I'm chatting with Rick Remy while practicing on a iWalk-free in preparation of then impending ankle replacement.  Ellen Lorish photo
Also helping out was Bart Winters, who comes from quite a racing lineage.  Bart's Dad was Leroy Winters, a Hall of Famer, national enduro champ and 8 times ISDT rider.  His uncle is Bobby Winters, who was a top roadracer, winning the Daytona LW race in '66 on a factory Yamaha and racing factory BSAs and Kawasaki.  Bart's cousin is Marvin West who rode AMA dirt track and Superbike in the'70s and '80s and Marvin's son Cory who is a current EBR factory rider.
AHRMA rules prohibit more that one 'bump-up', so I rode my 250 Sprint in the 350GP race on Sat.  Paul Germain and Jack Parker took off in the front on their DT1 Yamahas and it didn't take long for Tim Mings to come by on his Honda CB77 based racer.  Tim and his bike were going better than I've ever seen them before.  I settled into a dice with my old friend Gary McCaw for 4th, he on a 350 Ducati.  After we swapped back and forth several times, I missed a shift a touched the exh. valve to the piston and bending a pushrod and came to a stop.
I was concerned about getting back to the pits in time, as I was in the next race, the 200GP.  There were a few bike pick-ups so, it turned out I had plenty of time.  Because I was a post entry, I had to start 35th in  a field of 35.  I thought it would be a hectic couple of laps passing people, but I didn't think I would be taking to lead on the first lap.  Coming out of the last corner on the first lap, Jack Parker ran wide and I got underneath him and assumed the lead and was never passed.  I finished almost 9 sec. ahead of Denny Poneleit's Honda.
It was quite a wait to the 250GP race and I took my CRTT apart.  I had a spare pushrod with me that was borderline too long and could just make it work if I backed the rocker adjuster all the way off.  I took the timing cover off to confirm that the tappets were alright.
But, it was back on the CT1 for the 250GP race.  We were gridded in the second wave behind the first wave Formula 250.  Fast as the CT1 was, I couldn't match the DT1s of Germain and Parker and I finished almost 1 1/3 behind Jack, the three of us having passed 7 of the 11 F-250 bikes.
I fired up my CRTT at the end of the day to confirm it would run, but it didn't seem to have a lot of compression.  However, Gary McCaw decided that he didn't want to race Sunday and offered me his 350 Ducati.  Gary and I go way back to sparing at Shannonville in the early '80s and Gary raced in the '84 Senior Historic TT.  I was curious to ride the bike I had diced with the day before.  It shifted in the opposite direction from my bike, but I figured I could deal with.
Gary McCaw's 350 Ducati 
There is no practice on race days at Barber, but I was able to do a 'scrub' lap on the warm-up lap of the 1st race.  Then, the warm-up lap of the 350GP race was the conclusion of my practice on the bike.  I only shifted the bike the wrong way once and that was at the finish of the warp-up lap of the race.  I thought the selector had failed, as I couldn't get it into 1st gear.  Then I realized that I had shifted up into 5th gear as I approached the grid.
The front row of Sunday's 350GP race.  I'm on Gary McCaw's 350 Ducati #7,  Paul Germain #61 DT1 Yam,  Jack Parker #18J DT1 Yam, and Francis Ganance #97 250 Ducati.  Ricky Pearson photo
 I did miss a couple of shifts on the first few laps as I was getting comfortable on the bike.  And, I did get comfortable.  The motor had a broad powerband, it steered very nicely and the Heidenau tires were good.  I started picking people off, including Jack Parker in 2nd, but I didn't think there was much chance of catching Paul Germain.  Then, two laps from the end, it started to rain.  I don't think I had ever raced at Barber in the wet and I certainly didn't want to slap down Gary's bike.  But, I knew that Paul doesn't like racing in the rain and, in fact, he told me the day before that if it rained he wouldn't race.  I closed right up on the last lap and three corners from the end, Paul had a front end slide, backed right out of it and I slipped by for the win.  And Tim Mings and Jack Parker weren't far behind and got by Germain in the last corner, Mings finishing about 1 1/3sec. behind me and 0.012 seconds ahead of Parker.
This was the run to the checkered flag out of the last corner in Sunday's 350GP race.  I'm #7 on Gary McCaw's 350 Ducati, #34 is Tim Mings on his CB77 based racer and behind him is Jack Parker #18J on his DT1 based bike.  Paul Germain had led the whole way until three corners before this when he had a big front end slide and backed right out of it.  Photo by Kathleen Mings
Three of the Sportsman 500 riders had come by us from the 2nd wave: Ari Henning on a Honda, Niek Leeuwis from Holland on the Hyser Cycles BSA Goldstar and Brad Phillips on a BMW.
Tim Ming's pit
Tim's CB77 based racer on the left, Tohatsu in the middle, and 150 Honda Benly on the right

Tim was especially proud of his airconditioner.  He's a sick puppy.
Tim's toy hauler
It seriously rained on the cool-off lap and during bike pick-up, and the track was throughly wet when we formed up on the grid for the immediately following 200GP race, but the rain had stopped.  On the first lap in turn #5, Lorraine Crussell and Jeff Henise went down in front of us and someone behind us.  I was soon in the lead, but taking it quite steady while I tried to figure out where it was slippery.  On the second to last lap, I saw a waving yellow and debris flag while exiting the chicane on the back straight. and saw a bike down on the left just before the entrance to turn #12, a very odd place for someone to fall.  I backed right out of it, thinking that there might be oil or gas on the track.  Apparently, Chris Spargo, on his CS1(180 twin) powered TA-125 Yamaha, was right behind me and focused on me and didn't see the flag and went flying by.  I got back by him briefly, but he came back on the last lap and won the race, his last lap being almost 2 2/3 seconds faster than my best.  He told me that he got his bike handling much better than the day before.
There was some drama before the start of the 250GP as the CT1 didn't want to start after trying a couple of sparkplugs.  I took my transponder and went back to my pit and started my Sprint, when Rick showed up with the CT1 at the last minute.  But, it wasn't as sharp as it had been earlier and I finished a distant 3rd behind Germain and Parker with Frances Ganance less than 6 seconds behind me.  My fastest lap was almost 2 seconds slower that the day before.  The four of us still got by half the F-250s from the first wave.
So, having gone to Barber with low expectation, I ended up having quite a successful time with two 1sts, a 2nd and two thirds and one DNF (13th).
Plenty of people to catch up with at Barber, among them my old friend Rich Schlachter.  We both had our 1st race at Bridgehampton in '72.  He went on to become twice U.S. F-1 road race champion and was 10th in the 250cc World Championship in 1980 with two 4th places and a fastest lap.  Ellen Lorish photo

Saturday, October 25, 2014

2014 Pewter Run

The first Sunday in Oct. was the USCRA Pewter Run, a road rally for bikes nominally pre 1950, this year in a new location: Northfield, Ma.  I say nominally because recently a 1950-60 class was added, which my '53 Airone ran in, though I always thought it qualified as 'like design', Airones being substantially the same from 1947, when they went to an aluminum head with enclosed valve gear, to 1957, the last year they were made.  The day before, I hiked around the woods on some land I own with my siblings in W. Wardsboro, Vt. in the pouring rain, then stayed with some friends in Dummerston, Vt.  They told me about a bike shop in Brattleboro, Vintage Steele, and I stopped there on my way to Northfield.  Josh Steele does some interesting customs, mostly with Japanese bikes of the '80s, but has a very wide spectrum of bikes.
A couple of Moto Guzzi Airones, my '53 in the backround and Mike Peavey's ? in the foreground.
When I showed him the Airone and Zigolo in my van, the fuel tank on the Zigolo rang a bell with him.  After rummaging through a vast number of photos on his phone, he finally found the picture of the Stornello hulk at his house.  One of his friends had informed Josh of the Pewter Run that morning, but he couldn't get away as he was too busy.
The route ran north on the west side of the Connecticut River into Vermont and I realized it ran very close to Steele's shop, so I made a slight diversion to let him know that he could just go a couple of blocks to see the bikes go by.  In Brattleboro, the route crossed the Ct. River and ran south on the east side through Northfield proper, then west back over the river and a short ways north to the start point.  We're supposed to average quite a slow speed (24mph?), but I didn't pay any attention to that and just enjoyed a pleasant ride at an interesting pace and parked up just outside the finish area and smoozed with people until it was my time to clock in.  When the time got close, I suited up and ran through the finish and, but absolute dumb luck, clocked in right on the second, thereby 'winning' my class.  Not that we weren't all winners having a great ride on a gorgeous fall day on some beautiful roads with like minded friends.
I brought my Zigolo along to show Mitch Frazier, who had done some work on it and returned it to me the week before at the Moto Giro.  He thought he had fixed it, but when I had ridden it a couple of days before, it wouldn't start after I turned it off.  I pulled it out of my van and it started immediately and ran fine as we took turns around a field and up and down the road.  But, when I shut it off, it wouldn't start again, despite the fact that it had spark.  After sitting through lunch and awards (maybe an hour and a quarter), it started up.  The mystery continues.
Mark Turkingtons 1914 BSA
Tony Lockwood's 1913 Moto Sacoche 2C7 V-twin.  Tony and his bike won the oldest combined age prize again: 177years I believe.
A '51 plunger frame Norton International
Rich Hosely's '54 featherbed frame Norton International with an Indian four and Matchless G-80 behind it.
a NSU single
A Brace of Brough Superiors, above a OHV SS100 and below Mark Gibson's sidevalve SV680
Carlos Escudero's '28 Indian Scout.
The line up
Capping off a near perfect day, I bought a '68 TC 200 Suzuki on my way home in Bayside, Queens.  I happened to see the bike on Ebay and had looked at it earlier in the week and ridden it around the block.  The odometer says it has 226 miles on it.  I ended up being high bidder, though I didn't make reserve.  The owner and I then split the difference.  I can't help myself.