Paul’s Race Diary 2001


 

DATE

LOCATION

PLACE

CLASS

April 15

Seattle, WA

1st

500 Vintage

April 27

Sears Point, CA

3rd

350 GP

May 20

Portland, OR

4th

500 Vintage

May 27

Seattle, WA

4th

500 Vintage

June 17

Seattle, WA

2nd

500 Vintage

July 1

Portland, OR

4th

500 Vintage

July 22

Spokane, WA

2nd

500 Vintage

August 4

Seattle, WA

3rd

500 Vintage

Sept. 9

Mission, BC

4th

500 Vintage

Sept. 22

Portland, OR

DNF

500 Vintage

 

 

April 15 – Seattle, WA

Dean’s job had kept him so busy travelling, there was no way he was going to have his CB350 all together for the first race. I had worked on my new bike all week, and only started it for the first time in the darkness of Friday evening. We left for Saturday practice at 7am, and got to Seattle raceway mid-morning. Dean, of course, was there, in his leathers, and had already been out on the track. He wanted me to know that his new cam (longer duration), had made his bike even faster.

My bike had a new frame, and nothing much from the old frame fitted. It had a new tank, seat, fairing, pegs, shifter, brake, etc. My goal had been to get the weight down to 230 lbs, so I had a huge surprise when I weighed it in at 221 lbs! My titanium rear axle probably helped. I then weighed myself and discovered I’d gained at least 10 lbs over the winter! Must do something about that. I had apprehension about my leathers still fitting, but they did.

I only had 2 practice sessions to get up to race speed, but the new frame handled beautifully. For the technically minded, rake is 25 degrees with 90mm of trail, the engine is 1″ farther forward, swingarm is 1.9″ longer, but the wheelbase remains at 54.5″. The frame’s spine is 3″ OD with 3mm wall, and swingarm OD is 38mm, all 4130.

Sunday was another beautiful day, and 20 vintage bikes lined up on the grid. I got to corner 1 in 5th position, passed a 750 that went wide, chased Dean and the two 750′s, but they opened up a gap, so I settled for 4th. I couldn’t get my tach to work, so I really had no idea of my RPM. So, Dean first, me second, again.

Race 2.  Was different. I chased Dean the entire race. He would pull away on the straights, and I would close in the turns. For those of you familiar with Seattle raceway, there had been an incident at the Bus-stop (turn 10) on lap two. There was a debris flag, plus a yellow flag, and the cones were moved out.  We got used to seeing this every lap. Dean and I were lapping in the mid 1:53′s. On the last lap, last corner (the bus-stop), we came upon two backmarkers, and Dean hesitated for a moment. I went inside on turn 10, forcing him wide, and took the checkered. We beat all the 750′s except one.

We still don’t know who won overall. There is some confusion over the yellow flag at the bus-stop. If it was waving I shouldn’t have passed, but if it was stationery then my pass was OK. Whatever it was, the 2001 season is off to a great start!

PS: Dean protested my win, but to no avail . . . I got the points for 1st.

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April 27 – Sears Point, CA

Friday practice went well, with speeds slowly increasing and lap times decreasing. I was feeling fast, but until the race starts, you never know.

Last year I remembered two 250 Bultacos running away with the race. I was definitely on edge, and had a hard time relaxing.

Saturday, Race 1.  Didn’t sleep too well. Woke up at 3:30 am, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I’d think about the race, and my heart would start pounding. At the track, my late entry had me on the 4th row of the grid. The 350GP class had 16 entries. A good start got me to the top of the first corner in 5th, and another charge got me up to third. The same two Bultacos simply left me . . . I couldn’t even see them after lap 2. I was in 3rd, but it felt like I was leading. I’m so used to chasing someone (like Dean), I got un-nerved, and then I made the mistake of looking behind. I saw the two Aermacchis of Paul Gaudio and Craig Breckon, who had borrowed the ex-Mert Lawwill Aermacchi 350. Next lap Paul Gaudio was gone due to a mysterious engine ailment that no-one could figure out all weekend. However, Craig and another rider were gaining slowly. On the last lap he passed me in the esses, but blew a shift coming out of the last corner, so I got third after all, actually second I found out later, because #2 Bultaco pulled out due to a broken frame.

Sunday, Race 2.  Had a lot of time to reconsider my riding and focus. I was determined not to ride poorly like yesterday. Still on the 4th row, I got another good start and got to the top of turn 1 in 4th. Craig Breckon had got the holeshot and was leading, with 2 Bultacos and me in hot pursuit. They got by on lap 1, and the four of us came out of the last corner as a mini freight train. Craig and I went over the start/finish line side by side and then I passed him on the outside of turn 1 heading up the hill . . . into 3rd! The 2 Bultacos and I went round lap after lap. I even passed #2 going up turn 1, but he re-passed immediately going into turn 2. On lap 5 we all had to get around a backmarker, and got spread out. #2 Bultaco slowed on the last 2 laps, but my extra speed that closed the gap was too late and the flag fell.

Compared to the huge crowd on Saturday, Sunday’s attendance was way down. The weather cooperated- cool in the mornings, and sun and wind most of the day. The 2 announcers had verbal diarrhea and drove a lot of people crazy. Notably absent were Team Obsolete. Arguably the highest profile, best financed, most historic team with very talented riders, the ongoing lawsuits and animosity between Rob Lanucci (Team Obsolete), and AHMRA prevent this event from getting REALLY big. Sears Point (Sonomafest) has no big draw. The announcers would have you believe otherwise, hype came pouring out of those loudspeakers to the point of ad naseum. That, plus racing bikes at full throttle for 3 days really gave my ears a ringing. Despite wearing earplugs all weekend, it still took my ears a full day to recover.  But I’ll be back next year.

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May 20 – Portland, OR

A very beautiful day for racing. Lots of sun, and the usual headwind on the long straight. Portland is a fast track, very flat, and it will reward you if you have a fast bike and know how to keep your corner speeds high.

A new front tire (Dunlop KR825), the skinniest inner tube I could find, plus milling and drilling my rear backing plate, and lighter rear springs had got the weight of my bike down to 218 lbs. It’s a 350 that thinks it’s a 750! This is all fine, but practice was on Friday, Endurance racing Saturday, and I didn’t show up until Sunday AM. I haven’t seen Portland since last year, haven’t ridden for 3 weeks, and have a fine plan on how to scrub in a new tire, and get up to speed in a few warm-up laps.  No problem.  In truth, I was slow, the track was cold, and my confidence was low.

Race 1.  The day had warmed considerably, and the knowledge of better traction helped my confidence. I like to go last for the warm-up lap, but I waited too long and wasn’t allowed out!  My plan, my plan — we all lined up the flag went and we were away!  First lap was a traffic jam, but that sorted out, and I soon learned to like my new Dunlop front tire. By lap five I’d closed on a CB350 in third place, but at turn 4, I suddenly had no power going to the rear wheel. My hand went up and I pulled over. I thought my chain had broken, but that was OK, and the two guys I’d just passed were now re-passing me, and then I realized with my new lean angle the shift lever had hit the ground and slipped into a false neutral so I engaged a gear and got going again. I ended up fourth, behind a Suzuki 500 Titan (first place), and two CB350′s. These bikes all outpower me on the straights.

Between races I lowered the fork tubes .25″, and added a bit of preload to the rear springs. I also imagined I could lean off like the guys in magazines. There was about 5 hours between races, so I had a lot of time.

Race 2.  Made sure I made it to the warmup lap, after learning about Portland’s 30 second rule (they’ll only wave that green flag for 30 seconds before closing the track).  There’s nothing quite like that big roar of Vintage Iron as they “rocket” away down the grid. I know the speeds don’t even come close to those of modern machinery, but it’s still very exciting. This time I could see the first three riders in 500, and I slowly closed as we threaded our way through a few 750′s. By lap 4 I was behind them, and watched a major battle as I tried to figure out how to pass. The Suzuki 500 (with 60 rear wheel HP) was blazing fast on the straights, but handled poorly with the front end pushing hard in the corners. The two 350′s were all over it in the turns. First one got by, then the other, and time was running out, it was last lap, my turn. I got by on the last corner to take a third, but it still didn’t get me on the podium. I went home with a 4th and a few points for the SOTP championship. Next Sunday – Seattle Raceway – another points race.

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May 27 – Seattle, WA

I call Seattle Raceway my home track, even though it’s 3 hours away. I love the back section with the downhill hairpin, the esses, and the elevation changes. You don’t want to come off in turn 7; there’s only about 8 feet of runoff before you slam into the tires, and all the talk of an “air-fence” has yet to produce one. Seattle has had it’s golden days. I, for one, remember an AMA Superbike race there back in the eighties, and witnessed Freddie Spencer, Wes Cooley, and Eddie Lawson ripping up the track in spectacular fashion. However, Seattle isn’t very “international” anymore. It has become rundown, and management has lost virtually all the big races. But, as a club track, it seems to be thriving: witness 83 new novices for the start of the 2001 season.

I had planned to leave in Friday night, stay at a friend’s place in Seattle, and get there early for Saturday practice. Having stomach flu on Friday changed all that. I was still weak when I left early Saturday. It was a beautiful day, and quite a few Vintage bikes were out. Once again, my main competition was CB350′s, this time three of them: Dean Hubble, Jon Munns and Chris Page. I still wasn’t feeling great, but practice went well.  Practice didn’t go well for Pete, the new guy to Vintage racing. He crashed his Triumph 750 going downhill into turn 3, broke his pelvis, and had to be airlifted out in a helicopter. As he was lying in the grass beside the track, with one leg at an impossible angle, he said, “this is the second time I’ve done this. It doesn’t hurt now, but it’s going to hurt like hell later.”

Race 1.  A lot of 750′s showed up, and we all took off in a big roar. All the CB 350′s were ahead of me by turn 1. By lap 3, Dean was gone, and it was Jon, Chris and me. They would gap me on the straights, and I would close back up on the corners. On the last lap, Chris screwed up on turns 6/7 and I got by, but after the Bus-stop (turn 10), which I screwed up, he simply out-motored me to the flag. When we got our lap times, Dean had done some 1:49′s, which was simply amazing! He was already fast, and then took THREE SECONDS off his best time in that race.  I don’t know how he did it, and I’m not sure he quite knows either.

Race 2.  Basically a repeat of Race 1. Dean didn’t go quite as quick, but still finished 50ft ahead of Jon. I was slowly closing on Chris, who was also faster in this race. My times were 1:52 for all laps, so I took a second off my previous best, but could still only manage 4th. Just goes to show how much more competitive Vintage is getting. I need MORE HP, so will try another megaphone on the dyno.

At the rider’s meeting, we were told NOT to crash in practice, and NOT to crash in the race either. Apparently, not everyone was listening. Twenty-three riders crashed during the day, so there was a fair amount of carnage. Luckily, no Vintage riders went down.

At the track, there’s a bit of seperation between Vintage and Sportbike riders, sometimes referred to as “Squids”. We usually camp out under the big trees, on the grass, in the shade. On the other hand, the sportbike riders like to be on the asphalt, in the sun, with noisy generators in every second pit. For the first time yesterday, I heard our area referred to as the “Vintage Ghetto”. Well, if that’s so, it’s right outside of “Squid City”!

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June 17 – Seattle, WA

I’d been building a fence for two days, hadn’t worked on my bike, HAD missed practice, and wasn’t feeling particularly motivated. I left home Saturday after supper, and arrived at SIR around 11:30 pm, after being pulled over and given a warning for rolling through the only stop sign between the highway and the track. The drag racers had mostly gone home, so I found a spot under the trees, and parked the van. I’ve been told vintage racers park under the trees because with the advancement of years comes the need for more oxygen.

Up at 6 am to walk the track with my dog, Amber. This is somewhat of a ritual. To walk the track is to see it very differently. How smooth the asphalt is, or how NOT smooth it is. Cars can really rip up the inside of a corner. Elevation changes are so much more obvious, as is the camber of certain corners. I also found a hose-clamp, a spring, and a handful of nuts and bolts. None were drilled for safety wire.  As I walked, I thought about the upcoming race.

It was not a SOTP (Sounds of the Past) event, so there would be less Vintage bikes on the grid. I was still coming to terms with the fact that Dean, my Nemesis, was now three seconds a lap faster than me. I guess that’s one of the downs of having a transponder. Unless technology fails, you can always get your lap times. In the morning warm-up, my lap times were slow. Dean HAD practiced on Saturday, HAD scuffed in his new front tire, and was riding very well.  Thank you for passing me on the outside of turn two.  Thank you.

Meanwhile, Amber, the dog with four hollow legs, had discovered the neighbour’s leftover pizza, sitting in a frying pan on top of his campstove. The absent neighbour is probably still wondering who took his pizza. Amber, bad dog, again.

Race One.  Saw the 250 class most heavily populated . . . Honda 160s have swelled the ranks considerably. Their riders take pride in the low budget required to get these small machines on the track. There were only three of us in 500. After the start, Dean was gone pretty quickly, turning a couple of 1:49s while chasing the two leading 750s. I was second, circulating anti-clockwise in an uninspired fashion.

Race One.  Is usually at 10:30 am, followed by Race Two at 3:30 PM. Lots of time for hanging out, checking the bike, or, if your Triumph has blown it’s transmission and your name is Bret, go home and swap gearboxes. Or how about Jerry, going home, loading the kids into the vehicle and taking them to a matinee? Both made it back for Race Two on those particular days.

Race Two.  Was better for me. The light went green, and we all launched, that is, except for Dean. His engine was revving, his clutch was out, but his transmission was in neutral! I can honestly say I was ahead of him until turn two. Dean chased Duncan on his Nourish 750, and I chased Dean on his CB350. They were slower in this race, and I was faster. I hung with them for a few laps, before they opened a gap on the straights. My motivation had returned, and it all felt good.

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July 1 – Portland, OR

On the Thursday before the race, I had my little race bike on the dyno. I had eight exhaust configurations to test, and one pipe had a silencer, for a total of nine. I had two styles of megaphones, and three different header lengths, plus my present pipe and last year’s megaphone. There was to be no jetting changes, only exhaust pipes. The longest header length was 27.6″, the same as my friends in New Zealand are using. Shortest was 20.5″. After nine runs, we concluded that the 20.5″ (with the bigger megaphone) was the best for top end at 36.1 rear wheel HP.  The pipe I had been using was second best overall; more midrange but one HP less. Worst was 34.3 HP.

Since I switched to PVL ignition at the start of this season, I haven’t had a tach. I had been using an electronic tach with the old battery/CDI unit which produced a square wave for the signal. The PVL unit produces a sine wave, which is incompatible with that tach, and I couldn’t find a tach that WAS compatible. So, no tach. Some tachs run off the high tension lead, such as a Scitsu, but they don’t have a great record with some riders. They’ve even been known to pick up a competitor’s engine rpm on the pre-grid! I was resisting a mechnical tach and cable; it seemed like a step backwards. I shifted by “ear”, and had experienced valve float on several occasions. The motor stops going faster, even slows, indicating it’s time to shift. I’m sure I short-shifted too. To solve this problem, I went to All-Bike Centre, armed with an electric drill and easy-out. The drill, in reverse at maximum rpm, would run a stock tach at 5000 rpm. I found a Kawasaki tach that ran at 6400 rpm, just slightly more. My 8000 rpm redline was now 10,200. I told my competitors that my new titanium valves had increased my redline to over ten grand!

My rear tire was pretty worn, especially after dyno runs, so I had installed a fresh one. It weighed over a pound more than my old one, a little hard to take when so much energy has been devoted to weight saving. The only consolation was a smaller wheel weight when I did the balancing!

Race day, warmup.  It was a beautiful summer day, just right. Our warmup was first, right after riders’ meeting. Despite hurrying, I missed the first lap, and only got to do three. Barely enough to get the rear tire scrubbed in. Dean was smart; he already had his leathers on at the riders’ meeting. My new tach worked great, so did my titanium valves! My new pipe was louder, so when I went by the decibel meter I was on the far side of the track at partial throttle. Even so, I barely passed the 105 dB limit.

Race One.  There were a couple of rows of modern bikes given the green before us. They were Suzuki GS 500s and Bandits, or something like that. We left right after them. Dean, Chris on his CB350, and Mike on his Titan 500, got away. I was held up behind a couple of Norton 750s. I got by the first, and then passed the second Norton in the last corner of every lap, only to be passed again on the straight.  Another fourth place, but it had been fun.

Race Two.  I was determined to get around the 750s to give chase, and I knew what I had to do. I passed on lap two by going around on the outside of turn two, which set me up for the inside of turn three. A few laps later I got by a Honda 750 in the same corner, and soon I was behind Dean, Chris, and Mike. They had been battling since the start. Chris had slightly more top end than Dean, and two GS 500s had been holding them all up. I had a great view of the action. Dean got by, then Chris. I passed Mike in turn nine, who then blasted by on the straight. Now it was last lap. Mike outmotored the two GS 500s, and now I was held up. The Honda 750 was still behind me, so there was a freight train of seven racing for the finish. Dean won, again, and I was fourth . . . again.

The 500 Vintage class was sub-divided into the “Super-twins” class. All 500cc bikes except for OHC and ring-dings! This gave me first place and a trophy. Highlight of the day was Paul Gaudio’s wife, Kadie, getting 3rd in Supertwins on her Ducati 350. Buon compleano!

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July 22 – Spokane, WA

I hadn’t been feeling good about my horsepower deficiency compared to the CB350s, so I decided to do something about it. I ordered an L1 cam to replace my N6 cam. There’s more lift on the intake valve, it stays open 17 degrees longer, plus there are 4 degrees more separation between intake and exhaust lobes. When I started the engine up on Thursday, it sounded very crisp.  And loud.  These were good sounds to my ears. I started to get a good feeling about the race. I knew the cam would narrow the powerband, so I used the small megaphone.

As usual, Spokane is quite a drive, consuming 3 tanks of gas for the round trip. The racetrack hasn’t moved, it’s still beside the penitentiary, next to the cement factory, with an automobile junkyard INSIDE the track. However, it now boasts a new feature – there’s a brand new Casino at the entrance.

Dean and I had previously confirmed we would both only do a half day practice on Saturday. Strange how we were both there early, ready for a FULL day of practice! There were 5 practice sessions scheduled. I can never go fast on the first, but my motor felt good, and the powerband was much wider than I had expected. For the second session, I put on the bigger megaphone. Now my bike was as fast as Dean’s CB350 on the straights, but wouldn’t pull well out of 2 corners, which really hurt my lap times. It had “megaphonitus”. It would pull well out of the first left-hand hairpin, but coming out of the second right-hand hairpin it would bog miserably. I decided it could be a lean mixture. I richened the carb, and went out for the third session. The bike ran so poorly, I came in after a lap and a half. Back to small pipe and original jetting. The engine ran much better for the fourth session, but seemed slow. I came in and discovered the front brake was dragging badly. That had to be fixed, which meant missing the last practice.  C’est la vie.

I walked the track in the evening while the drag racers were doing their thing out on the strip. One of the best things about Spokane is the track itself. The asphalt is in prime condition. That’s what happens when an asphalt paving company owns the track. A few years ago the track developed a hole or crack in the morning, and everyone was impressed when the company showed up that same day and did the necessary repair!  Compare that to other tracks where repairs happen years later, if at all. Spokane raceway could be a little wider, as it can be a hard track to pass on. Walking the two hairpins, I noticed paint markers for the turn-in points, also markers for the apexes of the corners. These became useful on raceday, so thanks to the sports car club with the spray bombs.

Sunday Raceday. The weather was cloudy, a bit cool. Only 4 riders in 500 Vintage. With 2 Honda 450s behind me, I watched Dean leave me behind on the straight. He was riding well, and chasing the 750s. I traded places with John Martin on his Norton for a couple of laps, and finished an uneventful 2nd. Ahead of John.

Race 2.  The wind had suddenly shifted direction, and now a huge rain cloud was headed for us. We could see the rain already falling in the distance. It was hard to judge just how far away it all was. We all took off in a big roar. Rich Levert crashed his Honda 500/4 on the first lap coming out of the first hairpin. We all continued, but when Dave Hussey (on his converted Penton dirtbike) did a wild tank- slapper and went over the bars on the final corner on lap 2, the race was red flagged for a restart. I dashed back to the pits for a quick refuel to make sure I could finish.

Race 2, Part II.  Dean with three 750s, all going for 3rd place overall. They DO NOT like it when a measly 350 is in their midst! Myself with John on his Norton a ways behind. I would pass him going into the right-hander at the end of the back straight, and then he would power by on the front straight. We played at this for 3 laps, but then he figured out that corner and I couldn’t get by any more. The rain started falling on the last 2 laps, but the track was still hot. I took another 2nd.  The rain came harder as we pulled in, and now the track was really getting wet.

Other Vintage race action included a sportbike knocking down a Honda 160 rider in the hairpins. This was totally unneccesary, for the “squid” could have “squirted” by a few seconds later. Hard luck award goes to Craig Echols who blew up his Ducati 750. A loose intake manifold became the prime suspect for a seized piston, but the home workshop later revealed the crankshaft had failed taking BOTH pistons with it . . . Ouch!  Rich Levert repaired his Honda 4 and came back to take a 3rd in the last race.

For me, and many other spectators, the major mind-blower was watching Dano race his Ducati 900 Supersport. A few years ago, coming home from Wanatchee, he crashed his Ducati 748 into a guard rail, and lost the use of his left arm.  He now keeps his arm INSIDE his leathers. His right hand operates the throttle and front brake, while his thumb works the rear brake lever, which is a shortened, converted hydraulic clutch lever. His right foot works the clutch, which is a converted hydraulic rear brake lever. On Friday practice he blew up the motor by dropping a valve, so Beaudry Ducati (Seattle) sold him a used cylinder, piston, and head for $50!  Basically the cost of shipping.  I watched him race on Sunday, his first race ever. He was smooth, somewhere mid-pack, and not holding anyone up. In my eyes, he’s a hero.

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August 4 – Seattle, WA

My 1979 Moto Guzzi 1000 was back on the road in early July, and I’d put over 500 miles on it.  Shifting was completely opposite to the Aermacchi, and I hoped it wouldn’t be a problem. I also hoped it would take out the “rustiness” I felt returning to the track after a few weeks of not riding on asphalt.

Another flu bug knocked me down on Friday morning, and I only got out of bed to talk to “Ralph”. By 8 pm that evening I was able to drink a mug of chicken broth, so I loaded the van at 8:30 pm. It had been raining for 3 days. The forecast called for rain all weekend. I was so sure we’d be racing in the rain that I loaded raingear, umbrella, extra clothes, extra socks, a towel, even latex gloves to wear under riding gloves so I wouldn’t get the dreaded “black hand syndrome”.  This is caused by the incredible amount of dye they are able to persuade leather to retain.

It was very hard to sleep that night. Cars racing up and down our country street, BTO cranked from the neighbours house, trains in the distance, strange animal noises we couldn’t identify, and then the cats all jumped on the bed and went nuts until we threw them out and closed the door. Still no sleep, but the alarm didn’t care and went off anyway. Left the house at 5:30 am. It was dark and raining. You may think I’m crazy, but this was a points race for the SOTP series and not to be missed.

Arrived at Seattle International Raceway at 8 am, and the sun was out! It was warm! Babes in bikinis everywhere! As I went south, the weather just got better and better. I was even feeling better. Still no solid food, though. First practice was good. Very little rustiness. Even remembering a different shifting pattern was not a problem. Confirmation that the Bigg Moto Guzzi was good for me.

Walking the pits, I noticed Harold had the head off his 500 Goldstar. Now THAT was a BIGG piston!  I even measured it . . . 84mm!  That’s a full 10mm bigger than mine.  Right then and there I had piston envy in a big way. I just knew I could beat those CB350s with a piston like that .

Race time.  Fourteen 500s were listed on the grid chart. There was a Triumph twin, Goldstar, AJSs, a Scott, and more. We even had our own race: the 750s would race later. The timing light went green, and we were off. Dean led (as usual), followed by Chris Page on another CB350, then me. At the end of lap 1, I tried to pass Chris going into the “bus-stop”, turn 10. He accelerated harder, overshot the corner, and took a detour through the gravel. I could still see Dean ahead on the straight, and now I’m 2nd. My front brake is almost worn out, and when I go downhill into turn 3, I get big fade and overshoot the corner, going through the cones and then back on the track. The worst possible line. Now Chris is behind me. I accelerate too hard out of turn 4, and the rear does a big slide that costs me even more time. Chris passes on the backstraight and I follow through the esses, 8, 9, and then pass him on the inside going into the bus-stop. I’m told it looks good to pass there, but it cost me my drive onto the front straight, where Chris motored by easily. The race is then red-flagged as 2 Honda 160 riders have gone down in turn 3. First race is over.

Race 2.  Only five 500s show up. What happened to all those British bikes? There’s only my Aermacchi and 4 Hondas. We all start again, this time Chris is faster, closer to Dean. I race around in 3rd, all on my own, kinda lonely. We do all 6 laps, and pit. I’ve been up for hours, so I have a little nap in my van. At one point I can hear motors being started around the van, but then it all goes quiet again. I wake up to find I’ve slept for 2 hours, and completely missed the 750 race!  What I’d missed was Dean racing with the 750s, sliding both wheels going into turn 5 (!), getting a 4th place, and taking another second off his lap-time with a 1:48. Amazing.

The lack of spectators for Saturday’s Vintage Only racing was disappointing. Despite being advertised on 2 radio stations, Seattle’s Seafest with the Blue Angels and Hydroplane racing was probably too big a draw. Not to mention a complete weekend of Grand Am racing in nearby Portland. Having so many bikes drop out doesn’t help for spectating either. The only Vintage class showing real signs of growth is the 250 class. Honda 160s don’t cost a lot, and these guys leave them mostly stock to keep everyone competitive. Rumor has it you can put 2 Honda 160s in a Race Van, and they’ll breed!  Paul Gaudio easily won the 250 class on his 250 Ducati, but I guess it wasn’t satisfying enough, because right after that he bought a Honda 160 off one of the guys and started making plans for next year. Honda 160 riders “airbrake”, or sit-up for the corners, and almost always leave the track with big smiles on their faces.

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September 9 – Mission, BC

Mission Raceway has historically been used for drag racing on its strip, and car racing on its short and twisty course. The many concrete barriers had made it unsuitable for safe motorcycle racing. Recent concrete work had widened the one really unsafe corner, and the addition of more track with two 180-degree corners was a bonus too. Spectators sitting in the grandstands could now see corners 1 through 6!

The Westwood Motorcycle Club has been without a track since 1990, when the urban onslaught turned the challenging mountain course into expensive houses and an exclusive golf course. Since then, the Club has helped put on a few races at a local airport with some measure of success, but Mission Raceway was to be the first race put on solely by them since 1990. It was termed a “make or break” situation.

The weather cooperated by being absolutely perfect. The pits were full of vehicles, modern bikes, vintages bikes, with quite a few from neighboring Seattle. Initially, there was a bit of grumbling about the tightness of the track, especially from those with the bigger, slower-steering bikes. Some corners had been chewed up from the cars too, but it was a fun track, and complaints lessened as the day went on.

Former AMA 600 Champion Steve Crevier showed up too, to lend his support to this event. A local dealer had loaned him a box stock Honda CBR600 to race, and when the rear tire “went off”, someone else helped out by buying him a tire!

The Vintage races were to be a 4-lap qualifier, followed by two 8-lap heats. This was “fun” racing — no trophies or cash — and all vintage bikes in 1 class. Because I hadn’t pre-entered, and because of a computer screw up, I was dead last on my grid postion with 14 bikes ahead of me. We all raced to the first corner, which wasn’t so far away down the short straight, and went 3 wide around the slow 180-degree corner. It was exciting! I got by a couple of 750s and a Honda 500/4 to finish 4th, which meant a front row start for the following heat races.

The heat races were pretty similar; I had to pass a couple of 750s to move up. Both races were won by Mick Hart on a Honda 500/4. Mick has raced extensively in the UK, and at one time was a factory Laverda rider. Dean got a 2nd and a 3rd on his CB350, and Rich Levert was up there too on his 500/4.  I ended up with 2 more 4ths.

Meantime, Steve Crevier was having fantastic battles with local ace Steve Dyck. The place to be was in the grandstands, which was full of spectators. The stands came alive as they tried to outbrake each other into turn 1. Then a pass into turn 2 would cause massive applause! Steve Dyck had the horsepower on his superbike, but Steve Crevier had the tenacity and experience. It was a great battle, lap after lap, until they almost took each other out going into turn 1, with Steve Crevier emerging the victor.

The Westwood Club plans more races at Mission in 2002, and with the success of this weekend, that’s good news for all involved.

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September 22 – Portland, OR

As I left home on Friday morning, it was raining and I could see my breath. A couple of hours later I was driving through Seattle on dry roads, and the clouds had brightened. Three more hours passed and every window in the Toyota van was wide open. The clouds had disappeared and it was hot! Portland really does have some great weather.

This was the last big Vintage race of the year. Points would decide the final outcome of the SOTP Series. Probably not much would change, but you never know. In the 500 class, I was sitting in 3rd place behind Chris Page and Dean Hubble. For me to advance, Chris would have to blow up, and I would have to have an outstanding result. It didn’t seem likely — Chris was fast, and his CB350 had been very reliable. I, on the other hand, was worried about my engine. It was at the end of its second season with the same crank, valves, etc. How much more could I expect? I elected not to do practice and save my motor.

A 4-hour endurance race used up the morning, and it was HOT by the time we went out for our warm-up laps at 2 pm. I was riding well, but down on power. My little Aermacchi sounded different, and I thought it might be a bent valve, but couldn’t remember missing a shift and over-revving. There was nothing else to do.

First race.  Was 250 Vintage, but there was some confusion and a PA system that didn’t do its job, for perhaps half the 250 riders were sitting around in their leathers, waiting for the call, while the other half were out doing battle! This race was later declared to be null and void, and another 250 race scheduled after the last 750 race.

We were up next, and because some of the 250s bumped up to 500, we had a grid of 26 bikes! We lined up on the straightaway, the minute board turned sideways, the green flag went up, and clutches were engaged quickly. I watched two CB350s, a Suzuki 500 and a 500 Goldstar disappear. My little engine was hurting, but I was in 5th position. On the 4th lap Paul Gaudio easily passed me on the straight on his Mystery Aermacchi. His carb now facing rearward seemed to work just fine, and I chased him for half a lap before his hand went up … his bike had stopped for a (unidentified) different reason! I was back in 5th. Now Doug Brown passed me on his Ducati 350. He would leave me on the straights and I would have to work hard in the corners. At this point my tach stopped working. Last lap and he hadn’t gapped me. Down the back straight, I close going into 7 and 8, and get the inside line on turn 9. But it’s no use, because I don’t have the power, and Doug out-motored me the short distance to the checkered flag.

Race 2.  I always talk to the Gods before the start, and ask for a safe race. Now I was also praying my motor would last for 7 more laps. We take off again, and the same 4 bikes disappear. More bikes are coming past me now, and my engine is having a hard time pulling out of corners. Oliver Brown passes me on his Honda 450 twin, then promptly oils the track as his connecting rod punches a big hole through the front of his cases. Red flags come out at every corner. This is lap 3, not yet halfway, so the race will be restarted and run the entire 7 laps again. Not what I wanted!

Race 2.  Even more people are passing me, then Paul Gaudio comes by on his little Ducati 250! I chase and twist the throttle harder. On lap 4 we come out of turn 9 onto the front straight, I accelerate in 3rd and suddenly there’s a big THUNNK! and I’m coasting in silence at about 80 mph.  I realize I haven’t even pulled the clutch in and I think my chain has fallen off, so I look down and it’s still there.  I pull off in the hot pit, there’s oil where I stopped, but I haven’t oiled the track; I only have holes in the front and top of my cases, not the bottom.  We (my bike and I) get a ride back to the pits in the “crash” truck.

I’m not upset, the little engine had given me lots of warning. If I was smarter and wiser, I would have heeded the warnings and parked the bike. The stubborn side of me wanted to finish the race, and I might have, if Oliver hadn’t caused the red flagging of the previous race and the 4 extra laps. I know now the life of a bigend and rod (slightly less than 2 years). I also know that loss of power can be a red flag for the tuner. This is racing, and I have to accept the ups and the downs.

Beer flowed freely at the awards ceremony, and many door prizes were handed out. Some won boxer shorts or pillow cases with motorcycles on them. Other prizes included some kind of Honda-Lube, Videos on Vintage, motorcycle Xmas ornaments!, and a great set of chrome T-wrenches, graciously accepted by yours truly. Paul Gaudio took first overall in 250. Part of his secret is the concoction of gear oil and engine restorer used as fork oil to achieve a miniscule of dampening! His wife, Kadie, took 3rd in 500 Super-twins category on her Ducati 350. Dean won both 500 races, setting an impressive record of winning every 500 race in the SOTP series that he entered. Steve Pugsley won the 750 class on his immaculate Honda 750/4. Craig Echols took 1st in 750 Super-twins on his Ducati.

My engine is now apart, and I can survey the damage. The crankpin broke in half at the oil holes, and from how the PVL ignition looks it must have run like that for many laps! The magnetic rotor was being ground away by the surrounding coils, and the plastic shielding those coils was being melted from the heat. Even so, the PVL kept on firing! Finally the rod broke in half, smashing the piston, both cases, cylinder barrel, and bending one pushrod. I figured the transmission was smashed too, but it was remarkably intact. The rod had hit and damaged 3rd gear, throwing the transmission into a false neutral and bending the outer shifter fork. That’s why I was coasting in silence with the clutch out.

As I sit at my computer, I realize the outcome could have been much different. A locked transmission, a hole in the bottom of the case, oil on my rear tire, a concrete wall only feet away. The Gods have smiled at me once again, and I thank them.

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