Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2014 Quebec GP

5 September, I drove up to Autodrome St. Eustache just west  of Montreal to once again race the '72 TR3 Yamaha of Len Fitch.  Len brought his stable of three solos and a sidecar to sponsor a bunch of us.  Showers started in the afternoon, so the 1/8 mile drag races were canceled Fri. night.  As promised, we awoke Sat. morning to rain.  I don't recall ever riding the St. Eustache road race course in the wet and I spent the two practice session feeling out the traction.  It seemed quite rideable to me and I was surprised by the number of riders who elected not to ride in the Saturday heat races.  Sunday was forecast to be fine, but still, why pass up another chance to crash one's bike?
My first 8 lap heat was for the Period 2 Heavyweight/Middleweight Production race.  I motored past early leader Bill Quail on his SR 500 Yamaha on the back straight and led over all.  On the 3rd or 4th lap, I had quite a slide out of the last corner and that cooled my jets a good deal.  On the last lap, Brian Henderson came by on his CB 500 Honda.  I motored by him on the back straight, but Brian rode around the outside in the last corner and took the overall win with me 2nd O.A. and 1st P2 HW.  Brian rode really well, especially considering that he had started from the pit lane having arrived late for the warmup lap.
Brian Henderson's CB 500 Honda
By the time of my second heat, the 2nd to last race of the day, it had stopped raining a the track had largely dried, though there were still puddles around.  This was the GP race for factory built two stroke race bikes.  It's divided into Modern GP Lightweight (125) and Middleweight (250) and Vintage GP, up to 1989 Lightweight (125 watercooled & 250 aircooled), Middleweight (350), and Heavyweight (351 and above).  Eddy Burnett on his 2002 Honda RS 250 disappeared.  I motored by the modern 125 on the first lap but a couple of laps into it, Paul Gagnon on his '89 RS 125 Honda came by and that's how we finished, the first three winning their respective classes.
Sat. eve, Joe Bar Team, local Quebecois racers and friends, provided food, beer and musical entertainment while the stock car races went on on the oval, which the road race course uses part of.
Sunday was a beautiful day.  The TR3 wouldn't start for the first practice.  Apparently, the fuel tap leaks and the crankcases loaded up with gas over night.  By the time we got it cleared out and new spark plugs installed, we missed the practice session.  I made a point of being first out for the second round of practice and had a good session.
Pregrid for the P2 HW/MW Prod with Bill Quail #711 on my left and Brian Henderson #93 behind me.  Michel Martin Photo

In the P2 HW/MW Prod final, I got a great start and led flag to flag and turned the fastest lap of the race.
Leading in Turn #1 with #560 Peter Hurst Rickman Triumph and #95 Brad Monk XS 650/750 Yamaha following. Michel Martin Photo

The 10 lap GP final was the last race of the day.  Again, Eddy Burnett disappeared.  Chris Hurst, who didn't run the heat race, came by on his Nikko Baker framed TZ 350 Yamaha.  Then, Patrick Gagnon on his RS 125 came by pursuing Chris.  On the penultimate lap, Chris' TZ died and on the last lap, Eddy Burnett lapped me and Patrick, i.e. the whole field.  Eddy is a superb ride with a very fast bike.  His fastest lap was just over 7 seconds faster than my fastest, this with a lap time of under 50 seconds.  I'm not used to getting lapped in a race where I win my class.
Eddy Burnett changing the tires on his 2002 Rs 250 Honda.
Tucking in on Len Fitch's 1972 TR3 Yamaha.  Michel Martin Photo
I love this Michel Martin Photo of the last turn with the sparks coming off the washers that I 'Shoe-Goo' onto my boots.
Some bike one doesn't see too ofter at the races:
A Ural sidecar outfit
A Honda NS 400R three cylinder 2 stroke
A nice original 250 Bultaco Metrella

Another fun and successful weekend in Quebec.  My thanks to Len for letting me ride his well fettled, fast TR3.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bonneville Vintage GP

I had three races in a row later in the day.  Race #8 was my 'bump-up' race of 500 Premiere; race #9 was the Class C foot shift race for the Velo, and race #10 the 350GP.  The six entries in the 500 Premiere Class were gridded in front of the 500GP class in the first wave, with Sportsman 750, Heavyweight novice Production and Sound of Singles 3 in the second wave.  In addition to Walt and myself, were two Minovation Seeley G-50s fetteled by NYC Norton with class point leader Helmi Niederer on one and his friend and mentor Lee Acree on the other.  Lee was a top AMA pro in the late '90s and '00s and is an instructor at the Kevin Schwantz School, which is where he and Helmi met.  This was Lee's first race on a vintage bike.  Ron Melton was on a 500 Manx Norton and Jeff Elings was on a light weight G-50 Matchless.  Ron got the holeshot from the front row with Lee getting to Turn #1 from the second row in front of me.  Lee made a pass on Ron before the end of the first lap and I started dogging Ron.  Ron's bike seemed to be all over the place and, on the third lap, we made contact as I went around him on the outside.  Once I got by him, I'm told that Ron dropped back quickly, clearly dealing with a problem.  Lee pulled steadily ahead and I finished a distant 2nd.  Walt had stopped on the side of the track with a broken shift linkage.  At the end of the cool off lap, I had trouble down shifting, and I mentioned this to Mike as I asked him to check the tire pressures and we moved the transponder to the Velo. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

2014 Classic TT addendum

Perhaps the most interesting and certainly the most beautiful race bike I saw the the Classic TT was the Eldee 250cc Velo.

'Eldee' stands for Les Diener, who built a 250cc, twin overhead cam Velocette in Australia in the '50s.
After racing for years, Les quit and sold the bike.  With the birth of Classic racing and with Diener's retirement, he decided to recreate that racer.  I happened to meet Les and see the bike when I was on my way from Adelaide to a race at Winton in Victoria in 1985.  We (Graham Besson and Bill Horsman and I) stopped by McNamara Park in Mt. Gambier where another Classic event was taking place.  Now, some New Zealanders have made a replica of the bike and brought it to the Isle of Man for Bill Swallow to race in the 350 Classic TT, which had a prize for the first 250.
Twin cams driven by a train of gears
Bill told me the bike was slow and somewhat heavy for a 250, but I think the fairing and fuel tank are beautiful

Unfortunately, it stripped and mag gear in the race and didn't finish.  You can read the whole story of the bike here:

When the Monday's racing and parade was postponed to Tuesday, we hit a few museums. We saw this Maico roadbike outside the Mannin Museum in Peel.

 We then went to Murray's Motorcycle Museum, which used to be on Mt. Snafell at the Bungalow but move to Santon a few years ago.  While much of the collection was sold off for the move, there are still plenty of interesting bikes and tons of photos and memorabilia.  They had examples of four of the bike I own: a 250 and 350 Aermacchi and an earlier version of the Moto Guzzi Airone with hydraulic rear shocks

 and a Moto Guzzi Dondolino, this one with full lighting equipment and silencer and 19" wheels.  Mine has 21", front and rear.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Classic TT 2014

I'm on my way back from the Isle of Man ClassicTT.  Team Obsolete shipped the 1959 Matchless G-50 1709 that we used to win the 1984 Senior Historic TT back to the IOM to participate in the Classic Racer Magazine Lap of Honour.  I went over a week before my ride to watch some practice and racing and hang out with friends.  There was a considerable American contingent, some newcomers, some with experience; some who I knew, some I didn't.  Ron Halem from San Jose, Ca., brought his 500 BSA Goldstar.  The bike had raced at the IOM at least four times before and this year was being rider by Paul Owen, an experienced and enthusiastic Brit.  Wade Boyd had raced at the IOM many times on both solo and sidecar and had a Classic F-1 Suzuki.  Bill Blythe is an old friend from Ct., who raced the Mountain Circuit for the first time last year after coming to the Island a couple of times previously to learn the circuit.  He was racing a Kawasaki ER-6 in the modern Supertwins/lightweight Manx Grand Prix.  Andrew Mauk, from Milwaukee, was riding his friend Keith's CB 450 Honda in the 500 Classic TT.
And, Jon Munds, from Portland, Or., was racing his 239cc CB 175 Honda in the 350 Classic TT.  Jon had Jared, Courtney and Tim helping him, all of whom I had met previously in Portland.  There was no separate 250 race this year, but there was a prize for the first 250.  
Andrew grenaded Keith's 450 pretty spectacularly early in the practice week when it broke a rod and punched a hole through the front and back of the motor. 

 Luckily, the motor didn't lock up and their oil pan seemed to collect all the oil and most of the debris, though Jon got hit by some shrapnel while following.  Keith had wisely brought a spare motor.  
Jon Munns had clutch slip problems in practice and had to replace the plates.
The Team Obsolete G-50 arrived in it's crate Friday and we attracted quite a crowd uncrating it.
The first race of the fortnight was the 500 Classic TT on Sat.  We watched from Gorse Lea, a very fast bend just before Ballacraine, with Paul Barrett, the fellow who first arranged a ride for me at the TT and taught me the way around in 1982, and who now lives on the Isle of Man.  John McGuinness led early, but his front master cylinder failed.  Ryan Farquhar led until his Paton broke.  Michael Rutter led for awhile until his G-50 stopped.  Ian Lougher eventually won on a Paton, despite incurring a 30 sec. penalty for speeding in the pit lane.  Ian had finished 2nd to me in the '84 Senior Historic TT which was only his second race on the TT course.  He went on to win ten TTs.  I ran into him in the paddock earlier in the week and, having never chatted with him before, we traded Ray Cowels stories, a legendary Welsh tuner and Ian's sponsor in that Historic TT.  2nd to Ian in the 500 Classic TT was Dan Cooper on a four valve Molnar Manx and third was Kiwi Bruce Ansty on Ken McIntosh's Manx.  Bruce won the the Hailwood trophy for the first single cylinder finisher as the Molnar four valve Manxes run by special dispensation in the multi cyl. class.  Maria Costello finished 5th on a Paton and was over the moon with that result.  There continues to be much debate about what is a legitimate Classic bike and what is an accurate replica and what is a modern bike mascarading as a Classic.  The replica MVs were the focus of much attention.  Andy Mauk broke a chain on the first lap and Paul Owens blew a head gasket on Ron Halem's Goldstar on the 3 rd lap.
Sunday was the Jurby Festival at an old WWII airfield in the north of the Island where a short circuit has been laid out.  There's club racing there during the season but, for the Jurby Festival, it's just lapping in different groups.  In the Lap of Honour group, there was a Sete Gibernau Desmodiceci Ducati, a RC 45 and RC 30 Hondas, YZR 500 Yamahas, a RR 250 Aermacchi in a biota chassis, an MV 3, a Benelli four, a Paton, several TZ 250 and 350 Yamahas.  As last year on the AJS 3 valve 7R, I was on the oldest bike in the group.  I did a couple of laps and the clutch started slipping, so I return to the pits and we cranked in more free play in the cable.  I went back out, but it was still slipping, so I came in and we, Rob Iannucci, Seth Rosko and I, took the clutch apart, cleaned the plates with solvent and roughed them up with sand paper.  This cured the clutch slip for the second session but, when I started the 2nd lap, I had a big slide and almost crashed in turn #1.  A rider came by pointing frantically at my bike and I looked down to see the union on the fuel line at the float bowl had come off and was dumping fuel on the rear tire.  I pulled off the track immediately and shut off the fuel.  I started pushing the bike back to the pits through the grass thinking the session would end before I got back, but then there was a red flag.  My first thought was that someone had crashed on my gas, but it turn out to be totally unrelated, with the Paton crashing on the other side of the circuit.  This gave me time to get the bike back to the pits and tighten up the fuel line union and I was able to go out when they re-started the session and confirm that the clutch was good now.  This was all very useful, as it's much better to find this stuff out on an open short circuit than on the TT course.
Sunday evening was the TT Heroes Dinner with former World Superbike Champion and IOM resident Neil Hodgson the M.C.  Neil acknowledged all the TT winners present individually.  We sat at a table with three Scotish TT winners: Bill Simpson and his son Ian (one of five father/son duos to win TTs) and Brian Morrison.  Hodgson conducted a 'chat show' with John McGuinness, Graeme Crosby, Carl Forgarty, an Rob McElnea, all riders who had raced at the TT with and against Joey Dunlop, the most successful TT racer ever.  They all seemed to agree that Joey didn't let many into his inner circle and that he was a bit of an enigma, but had great respect and affection for him.
Mon. was to be the the 350 Classic TT, the Lap of Honour, and the the Formula 1 and Formula 2 Classic TT races, but they were postponed until Tues. because of bad weather and lack of visibility on the mountain. At first it was announced that the Lap of Honour would be scrapped entirely due to a limited amount of time there was to close the roads, but then it was decided to shorten the two races to 3 laps (from 4) and run the Parade.  So, after some lunch in Peel with the Portland crew, we spent the day at museums.  First was the Mannin Museum which tells the history of the Island from it's first know human habitation 2000 years ago to the present.  Next was the tiny Peel Transport Museum which features, among other things, the Peel P-50 and Trident microcars, powered by a 50cc motor and built in the '60s. Finally, we went to Murray's Motorcyle Museum.  It's packed with road bikes and racers and tons of photos and other memorabilia.  It had examples of four bikes that I own: a 250 and 350 Aermacchi, a Moto Guzzi Airone, and a Moto Guzzi Dondolino, which had road trim of full lighting and silencer and 19" rims (mine has 21" front and rear).
The decision to postpone the races and parade turned out to be the right one as Tues. was sunny and warm, if a bit windy.  The 350 Classic was won by Lee Johnston from N. Ireland on a replica MV three cyl. by quite a margin.  Second was Alan Oversby on a Honda with Roy Richards third on a Dick Linton 350 Aermacchi.  Jon Munns wasn't sure he could go three laps on one tank of fuel and, having broken a spoke in practice, wanted to check the spokes in the race, so he pitted after the first lap.  The stop took long enough that the leaders overtook him and he wasn't allowed to start his third lap, but was still considered a finisher.  Maria Costello finished 26th overall and 2nd 250 on a T-20 Suzuki.
I was scheduled to started the Parade #7 behind John McGuinness, Chas Mortimer, Brian Reid, and Mick Grant.  #5, Steve Plater, was on a 500 Honda four bobber with Firestone tires and I passed him on the way down Bray Hill.  I had assured Rob Iannucci that I wasn't worried about the 14 year old tires on the bike, but maybe we should have put new tires on as I had a little slide at Quarter Bridge. So, I took it dead steady through Bradden Bridge and Graeme Crosby  came by me on the straight towards Union Mills.  Graeme was on a 1300cc?Suzuki XR69, so had plenty of power, but was going very conservatively through the bends.  I tucked in right behind him and got a tow up to Glen Vine and then, appropriately, through Crosby.  He shut off early at the Highlander and I went by him into Greeba Castle.  He came back by be on the straight between Gorse Lea and Ballacraine.  Around Doran's Bend, Con Law came by the both of us on a RS 500 3 cyl. Honda.  Not long after that, Brian Morrison came by on a Kawasaki ZXR 750 and I followed the three of them through Glen Helen.  Morrison and Law gradually pulled away and I followed Croz all the way onto the Sulby Straight.  Again, he braked really early for Sulby Bridge and I went by him.  Somewhere in there Steve Linsdell came by on his 500 Royal Enfield, which his son Olie was entered on in the 500 Classic race.  Also somewhere in there, Gary Carswell came by on a Kawasaki ZXR 750.  When I crashed the Team Obsolete Benelli 350 four in the '93 Junior Classic MGP, I ended up in Nobles Hospital with Gary as my roommate.  Gary had crashed his bike testing at Jurby and we listened to the race he should have been a top runner in on the radio together in the Hospital.  Gary went on to win a MGP and race in many TTs and is now a traveling marshall. Croz came back by me after Glentramman.  Again, a little slide in Parliment Square.  I wondered if the clutch would hold up slipping it out of Ramsey Hairpin, but it worked fine.  The G-50 had race gearing on it, which was perhaps a little tall for a parade as I only used 6th gear a little bit, but it pulled fine in 5th up the Mountain Mile.  Coming down the mountain, Croz really checked up for the 33rd and I passed him again as we approached Keppel Gate.  He stuffed it underneath me at Creg-na-ba.  This was the first time I had done Brandish since they opened it up and I checked up way early.  On through Hillberry, Cronk-ny-Mona, Signpost, steady through Governor's Bridge, and finishing up on Glencrutchery Rd.  The bike ran perfectly and the conditions were near perfect; heaven.
I didn't get to watch the following F-1 and F-2 Classic as we had to drain the oil and gas and crate the bike and all the tools and spares and my riding gear up.  But, Bruce Ansty dominated on a '92? YZR 500 Yamaha GP bike.  Many thought it couldn't last or would be unrideable, but he broke the lap record on his way to the win.  Ian Lougher won the F-2 class on a TZ 250 Yamaha for his second Classic TT win.
Dinner with David Cretney, Minister of Tourism and Leisure and former MGP competitor, Mike Nicks, founding editor of Classic Bike and Classic Racer magazines, and Mike Braid, owner of a fabulous collection of solos and side cars and long time friend and aide to Team Obsolete, capped off a great Classic TT.
 A Greeves 32 Sport seen on the Douglas Prom.

A 350 Aermacchi that Joey Dunlop race in a Junior Classic MGP, displayed with many of his other bikes raced at the IOM.

The KR 750 Kawasaki that Mick Grant raced.

The Renault Trafic six speed diesel van we had use of on the Island.  Why can't we get these in the USA?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

All the gear, all the time

5 weeks ago, I was riding my Honda CBR 250R home from Brooklyn when, about 1/3mi. from my house, a car pull out from the curb directly into a U-turn in front of me.  I tried turning left, hoping they'd see me and stop and I could sneak around the front of them.  No such luck and I T-boned the car behind the left front wheel/driver's door area.  I'm a little fuzzy about my trajectory, but I ended up on the road with my neck and left thigh hurting.  An ambulance was there shortly and, after my helmet was removed and my one piece Aerostich Roadcrafter was cut off me, a neck collar was put on and I was put on a back board and taken to the emergency room of the local hospital.  A CAT scan showed a 'non-displaced fracture' of C-4 vertebrae.  I take this to mean a crack, as I had no neurological symptoms whatsoever.  The contusion and hematoma on my thigh was the main problem and, while that's much better, my knee continues to bother me.  It always could be worse and I'm glad I was wearing all the gear that I was, including boots, gloves and back protector.  I spent a day in the hospital and was fitted with a more comfortable neck brace/collar which, hopefully, I'll get rid of next Tues. when I see the neurosurgeon again.  He convinced me that it wouldn't be prudent to ride again for 6 weeks.
So, I went to the AHRMA race at New Jersey M/S Park on 12-13 July, but didn't race.  What I did do is covered in this posting on Larry Lawernce's website, The Rider Files.  Larry is a long time Motojournalist and writes the 'Archives' column in Cycle News along with much of their race coverage.  Larry had done a few pieces on abandoned race tracks, so I sent him my report on Vineland, which he posted recently:
Check out Larry's other abandon track articles:

Saturday, July 26, 2014


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.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


It's been a long time since I've posted, for a variety of reasons, some of which I'll get into later, but I'm going to try to do a quick overview.
Over the May 31/June 1 weekend, I drove up to Shannonville, Ontario, Canada for the first VRRA event of the year.  Len Fitch, who's 1972 TR-3 Yamaha I rode last Sept. at Ste. Eustache, asked me if I would like to ride it in all four VRRA events this year.  I can't make the Mosport round, as I'm committed to go to the IOM and do the Lap of Honour in the 'Classic TT'.  But, I committed to the other three events.

Len Fitch's stable
len's1972 TR3 Yamaha that I raced
I hadn't been to Shannonville in almost 12 years, so the first practice was spent re-familiarizing myself with the track.  It being flat and without any really blind turns, this didn't take long.  Only turn # 2 you can't really see the exit when you enter it and it is very bumpy.  Len had ordered new rear shocks after I had suggested the worn out Konis weren't optimal at Ste. Eustache, but they never arrive and at the last minute put on a set of stock RD350 shocks, so the bike shook it's head pretty hard in turn #2.  After the second practice, I decided the bike was geared too tall and Len geared it down.
I entered two classes and first up was Period 2 Heavyweight which was run concurrently with Middleweight Production in Saturday's 6 lap heat.  I got in the lead pretty quickly and won overall, though Brent Waller on his 550 Honda had a faster fastest lap.
Len dropped the needles for my second heat for the GP class.  This class is for any factory built two stroke race bike and is divided into Modern and Vintage, Vintage being up to 1989 or so.  The Modern are then divided in Lightweight (up to 125) and Middleweight (up to 250), and the Vintage divided into Heavyweight (750), Middleweight (500) and Lightweight (125).  There were no HW. Vint. entered, so the MW Vint. We're gridded behind the Modern bikes.  Two MW Modern bikes cleared off, and we had a good scrap with a couple of '89 TZ 250s and  a Honda RS125 (LWModern) that got by.  I ended up 6th overall and 3rd Vint., but we considered the moral victor, being the first aircooled, twin shock bike.

Sunday's ten lap finals went similarly with me leading from the pole in P2 HW and never being headed, though again, two bikes had a faster fastest lap, but clearly not enough of them.
In the GP race, the same two MW Moderns cleared off and I scrapped with a couple of the MWVint.  A MW modern, who I had beat in the Heat came by on the straight, but I braked way later and got back by.  This pattern went on for a few laps until he figured out he could brake much later  and he pulled away.  So, I again ende up 6th overall and 3rd Vint., this time keeping the Modern LW at bay.  And again, the moral victor with only bikes at least 15 years newer in front .
A modern RS250 Honda, overall winner of the GP race