SEATTLE – June 16-17, 2012
This was Ruby Racers’ first outing in 2012. She had a nose job this spring, a larger front brake rotor, new flywheels and rods, and Timeserts installed in the barrels for the head studs. So, quite a bit of work.
Got to Seattle Friday evening, and the drag racers were in full force; lots of noise.
Saturday AM slept in ’til 7:30, not my usual style. Cloudy, but dry. First practice I only made it to Turn 2 before the oil started coming out of the oil tank breather; I had overfilled the tank. Second practice I could hear the rear head gasket; not completely blown like before, but leaking. I never got anywhere near up to speed on the track. Confidence pretty low.
Spent the afternoon tearing the rear head off, and replacing the head gasket. Now I have learned that with copper gaskets you have to retorque the head after a heat cycle. Thanks to Mick Hart and Rita for hassling me endlessly to get the job done. That’s what friends are for.
That evening it rained, so the drag racers never got to run. Pity. sure was nice and quiet.
Sunday AM. Race Day. Nervous and unsure. Ruby hadn’t raced for 9 months. Went out for the warmup, still not up to speed, probably 80%. Confidence up a bit. My plan was to follow Duncan on his Seeley/Nourish; if he could go that fast into a corner, so could I. There were 4 of us in 750 Vintage. Weather cooperated, turning to sun, cloud and wind.
Race 1. Duncan got a very good start, much better than I expected, but I slotted into second. I knew Gary (Norton) was very close behind me; I could hear him. On lap 3, Duncan went wide on turn 9 and I took the lead for about 2 seconds before I overshot the Bus Stop and had to jump the curb. Apparently the announcer said, “and we have a new leader . . .” but my name never got mentioned because it was way too brief! I rejoined the track, but it was too late; I was 3rd.
Race 2: Duncan very fast starting again, but now John had figured out his Honda 4, and was right on Duncans’ tail, so I was 3rd. The Big Wide Honda was holding me up on the back section; I finally got by in turn 8 but Duncan had opened up a gap. I gave chase, also knowing that Gary was on my tail. When I finally looked back on lap 4 there was no one there; Gary had a mechanical. My rear head gasket had once again started to squeak, so I cruised home in second. For 2nd overall.
Previously, Ruby had only ever finished ONE race in 3 seasons. Everything else was either a DNS or a DNF. I am persistent!
Now Ruby had finished both races in one day, and earned a spot on the podium with a fastest lap of 1:47:717 min.
Ruby is a bit of a handful to ride. She does move around a fair bit as the lap times come down. Never shakes her head, but the front end does get light. Stable in corners.
Thanks for reading my Race Report!
Ruby heading to the podium!
Exiting turn 4 at Seattle. Duncan leads, followed by Ruby, and Gary on his Norton.
Ruby at the Ridge – July 14-15, 2012
Ruby had engine damage from her last outing at Seattle. The ever-expanding head gaskets had caused the Nikasil coating to lift, and excessive heat hadn’t helped the rear piston. This was discovered Monday afternoon before the Ridge Race. And the rear rod was still eating into the left flywheel thrust washer. Teardown # 010.
Leon Srhoy was showing up from Aussie Land on Thursday for a motorcycle holiday. He was planning on coming down to The Ridge as pit crew, and now there was a big question if Ruby would really be ready to race at all? Leon is the owner of Excelsior #003, so I didn’t want to disappoint.
Aside from engine duties, I am also building a fiberglass air duct to get cooler air to the rear cylinder (see photos below).
Thursday AM. Balancing and assembling flywheels. Looks like a bomb went off in the Excelsior Factory Race Dept: engine parts everywhere. Leon shows up at 10:30 am, and we work to get the motor built.
Friday AM. We get up at 5 am and continue to get the motor together. Waiting for Jay at Mongoose to finish the Nikasil . . . finally at lunch time the cylinder is ready. I cross the Golden Ears Bridge on my VTR and bring it back. Ruby is re-assembled, and we fire her up at 7:30 pm. She starts very easily, and sounds good. We load her into the trailer, leave at 8:30 pm.
At the US border, they invited us inside so that Leon could have his picture taken, fingerprints too, and then they charged him $6 USD! Now our schedule was really falling behind.
Finally got to The Ridge Motorsports Park at 2:15 am, which is the latest ever for me. Very tired.
Race Day. This is the Big Vintage Weekend for WMRRA, and there are Eight 750s on the grid. Bit of tension in the air.
1st Practice: the track is still damp from the rain and lightning in the night. There is a light mist falling and it’s hard to see well. Never ridden Ruby on this track before. Very different from the little 175 Honda. Ruby’s gearbox is giving me false neutrals, and I feel very slow.
2nd practice: the track is dry; I can see, and now the gearbox (on its’ own) is shifting very well and I pick up the pace. Cresting the rise for turn 3, I look at the dirt ahead and ride right off the track, stalling the motor. Truly a first! I put that down to 4 hours of sleep. So, I sit there, and watch everyone else practice their lines and learn the track..
Race One. Eight 750s lined up on a dry track. The red light goes out and we launch forward in a huge roar. I’m in 6th as we head up to turn 3, where John (Honda 4) runs off the track at the same spot I did earlier in practice. But Ruby is not happy. Her motor has a knock, and I’m short shifting and not opening the throttle all the way. I hang on to 5th until smoke comes out of the breather on the last lap, and then I DNF again.
Ruby was done for the weekend. Time to head home for Teardown # 011.
Back at the infamous Excelsior Factory Race Dept, Leon and I took the motor apart to find nothing unexpected. Can only assume the ignition timing changed somehow.
Lesson learned: ALWAYS check the ignition timing after engine assembly, and ALWAYS take the timing light to the track.
Thanks for reading my Race Report!
This is the start of the air duct to cool the rear head. Steel and bondo.
Here the mold has been painted and waxed many times.
The finished air duct. Not much to look at. It presses over the fairing Fish Mouth, and 2 springs hold it up there. The outside is a bit rough but the inside is very smooth.
Thursday AM. Engine parts are all over the Excelsior Factory Race Dept. The OHC bevel drive is all modular in construction.
Bottom end parts. In the foreground is the damaged piston and barrel. Behind, new JE piston and female Carrillo rod.
Working on Ruby Racer at The Ridge. Dry but fogged in. It’s almost always windy, so bring some layers.
Back in the X Factory Race Dept. Leon taking the motor apart.
Ruby Racer – Seattle – August 11-12, 2012
Leon had returned from his 4000 mile road trip north aboard his newly rebuilt ’73 Kawasaki Z1 just in time to help me put Ruby’s engine back in the frame. I had been busy in the Excelsior Factory Race Shop while he was gone, and now Ruby has oil direct from the pump to the crankpin. Major Breakthrough! Plus a valve job by sealing specialist Lance Hayward.
The Friday before leaving was much more relaxed; we were organized and optimistic. What could go wrong? We left for the border shortly after 3pm, and although the US officer looked at Leon and his passport very closely, we didn’t get invited inside this time. Made it down to Pacific Raceway at 8pm to discover the drag racers had almost completely taken over the Vintage pits. There is no love loss between motorcycle (Vintage) road racers and the drag racers. At 9pm a drag car hit the concrete wall at 162 mph, and that was the end of drag racing for that night. The driver walked away.
Saturday AM, practice. We (Vintage) were scheduled to have two practice sessions, but that changed when a novice rider fell off in the very first practice, hit his head and couldn’t remember his name, birthdate, etc. He was taken to nearby Harborview Hospital, so we all had to wait while the ambulance crews “re-loaded”. The drag racers were scheduled to start at 4pm, and no one from WMRRA wanted to be responsible for holding them back. So, we got one practice session only. I rode Ruby, and the updated lubrication system was pumping a lot of oil into the crankpin with no oil pressure showing on the gauge. This meant the oil squirters weren’t working! But Ruby seemed fine and ran well. I didn’t push her too hard.
Sunday, Race Day. Woke up at 4:45am, adrenalin going already. It was going to be another HOT day. We were in a badass heat wave. Only three of us in 750 Vintage: Duncan on his Seeley/Nourish, Jon on his Honda 750/4, and Ruby Racer. Practice was at 9:40 am, so I started out following Jon. He got off to a slow start, but I just followed. Then Duncan roared by, so Jon latched onto his tail, and I followed. We did about 4 laps in a tight pack, and I thought “Great! This is going to be a race!”
Race One: We took off, but it was much hotter than in practice. It was Duncan, Ruby, then Jon for one lap, but then Ruby wouldn’t run over 5 grand, so Jon came by and we finished in that order. Back in the pits, I measured the track temperature at 135 degrees F.
Leon figured it was the plugs, and no one thought that the Champions I have been running were a great idea. Racers took turns telling me their Champion Spark Plug Horror Stories. They also told me Graphite HT Suppressor Lead Horror Stories, which I had also been using! Poor Ruby — it’s a wonder she even ran at all. Well, Leon found a crack in one plug, so we changed that with another used Champion spark plug. Talk about well prepared. Spare NGK plugs were on the “to do” list, but Leon and I were too busy, apparently.
Race Two: Same as Race One, except Ruby never even went well for one lap. But, we did finish 3rd, pulling 5 grand in 5th down the straight on partial throttle, which calculates to 117 mph.
Came home, and on Monday night Leon and I tore Ruby down for the 12th time. Ruby only gets assembled for races at this stage of her development, so I was interested to see how long disassembly took. Here are the times:
Take the motor out of the frame . . . 40 minutes (2 of us).
Strip the motor . . . 30 minutes (me).
No challenge to NHRA drag racing teardowns at this moment, as you can see!
Here’s the start of Race One In Turn 2. Duncan leads with Ruby in second. Is Ruby really thinking of passing on the outside?
It was Leon’s idea. Get oil into the flywheel, even though there was less than a 3/16″ space between the end of the flywheel shaft and the oil pump drive. Top is the stock oil pump. On the bottom is Ruby’s oil pump.
That little tube feeds the oil straight into the pinion shaft. There is .004″ clearance (total) between the tube and shaft ID.
With the bevel drive module installed, you can see how little space there is. The oil pump drive has been wasted down for extra clearance.
Thanks for looking, and thanks for reading my Race Report.
Ruby’s next race is Sept 1 and 2nd at The Ridge. She already has new plugs!
Race Report at the Ridge – September 1-2, 2012
Ruby was torn apart again (teardown #012) after Seattle. I removed the pressure relief valve from the lubrication system (we’ll see if that was a good idea) and restricted the flow to the crankpin. The hole size I chose was .052″. I also installed new NGK plugs and HT leads that I hoped would cure the misfire above 5 grand.
This was the last race of the season at The Ridge Motorsports Park. We’re still using porta-potties at the track, and there is no running water. There have been virtually no track improvements since it opened last May. This is likely due to the lawsuit between the two track owners. Let’s hope it gets resolved sooner rather than later, and that the 2013 season will go ahead as planned. 🙂 To show you how popular the Ridge is, over 200 riders showed up for this weekend’s race. It was packed.
Saturday, practice day. After our regular rider’s meeting at 8 am, we returned to our pits. Then, at 9 am, we were called back for an emergency rider’s meeting. Never had that happened before. We were told that the motorized track sweeper had steel bristles, quite a few of these had come out on the track and they had the potential to cause a flat tire. Riders were split into two groups, and we started walking the track in search of these steel bristles. We also found that several corners of the track were quite rough from the race car tires; where asphalt met asphalt, it wasn’t always smooth. There were gaps and hollows, unlike the same track that we first raced on in May.
It was cold in the morning and Ruby didn’t want to fire up easily, so I used Duncan’s rollers. When she did fire up, the oil pressure shot up over 100 psi! I guess there’s a reason for the oil pressure relief valve. It did settle down to 40 psi when the oil warmed up, so that seemed OK. The fog hadn’t burned off for the first practice and the track was still cold, so I took it easy. The misfire above 5 grand had not gone away. The sun came out for the second practice, and it was fun ripping around the track. I used partial throttle and short shifted at 5 grand, and that seemed to work fine most places, except for the straight.
That afternoon I decided to recheck ignition timing, and it was 15 degrees too far advanced, so I reset it. I had ordered a new ignition system, but it wouldn’t arrive until next week. I was hopeful the reset timing would help.
Sunday, Race Day. There were five of us in 750 Vintage: Duncan (Seeley-Nourish), Gary (Norton), John (Honda 4), Jon (BSA triple) and yours truly on Ruby (Excelsior). The reset timing didn’t seem to change anything in practice; I still couldn’t take Ruby above 5 grand, but she was handling better on the straights and didn’t wiggle. And no missed shifts, except one in Saturday’s practice. With the misfire above 5 grand, I didn’t think my chances were too good. But . . . Anything Can Happen in Racing, and it did.
Race One. The red light went out, and we launched forward with a big roar. John jumped ahead right away on his Honda 4, and I was second. Surprise! But then Gary shot past on his Norton. Where was Duncan, our Championship points leader? John, Gary and I bunched up going into the Carousel (turn 6), and then Gary went wide and pulled off in corner 8a, so I inherited second. I was becoming more optimistic with each corner. John was going well, but Ruby’s misfire continued so second was mighty fine, slightly ahead of Jon on his BSA triple. Gary watched the race from turn 8b with his Norton leaning against the fence.
Back in the pits, we learned that Duncan had bent 2 valves on his 8 valve Nourish motor, and he couldn’t explain why it was one intake and one exhaust valve on the right side. What happened to Gary was even more bizarre: a broken front spoke had taken out his front braided hydraulic brake line. What are the chances of that?
Race Two. John (Honda 4) got a good start again, and Jon and I were very even behind him going into turn 1, but I didn’t back off and moved into second place. I found I could short shift and still do well in the infield. When John braked for the Carousel, I went by and took the lead. And that felt pretty good! I held the lead all the way to the straight, where that Honda 4 blasted by at the end right before turn 1. I chased and pulled the same pass going into the Carousel. After that, John tried too hard and went into the dirt exiting turn 11, so now I had a gap. I went down the straight and didn’t get passed. But John had recovered and got back on the track, and I knew he was gaining. Going down the straight on lap 4, I opened the throttle full, and almost at the end Ruby’s motor suddenly lost power so I shut the throttle and John rocketed by. But then I had power again. What was this, fuel starvation? A new problem? It was now last lap, and John had opened a gap. As I crossed the finish line, I looked down and saw 0 psi on Ruby’s oil pressure gauge! If I had looked down during the race and seen 0 psi, I probably would have pulled off the track and become another DNF. I have no idea how long I had raced with no oil pressure. But I was second, and I must check that gauge more often.
I was hoping I could come out of this weekend and NOT have to do another teardown, but with no oil pressure, it has to happen. It’s also time to re-shim the bevel gear chest, because it’s finally getting noisy. This will be the first time in almost four seasons (at the track) that I need to re-shim. Not bad, eh?
Race One: Heading down the Ridge, at the Ridge, with Jon on his BSA triple chasing me. You can see how the asphalt surface has deteriorated from the race cars. If I ever won the lottery big-time, I would build a “motorcycles only” racetrack.
Ruby Racer waiting patiently between races. The sun has finally burnt off the fog, and this is our view from the Vintage pits.
It really was a lot of fun blasting around those 16 corners at the Ridge. The weather was perfect!
Next race, the final race of the 2012 season, is in Seattle on September 22 and 23.
Thanks for reading my story.
Ruby Racer – Seattle – September 22-23, 2012
This was the last race of the season for Ruby, and she had a brief fantasy about getting her maiden win. As you know, anything can happen in Racing. Our never-ending Summer of Sunshine was extending on past the weekend, so everything was looking good. The lack of oil pressure from the previous race was an easy fix (see photo below). I re-shimmed Ruby’s bevel chest and modified the oil tube feed into the flywheels. Nothing too complicated, but I was teaching in the daytime, so all work on Ruby happened in the evenings. It became a race just to get to the race, and it went something like this:
Monday evening: re-shim the bevel chest and modify the oil pump feed.
Tuesday evening: finish the motor assembly and install it in the frame.
Wednesday evening: finish assembly of Ruby Racer and start motor. Ruby refuses to start. This is not good, and it is getting dark outside. I figure out that the flywheels are turning and the valves are not opening! This is what can happen when the Excelsior Factory Mechanic (me) is working late at night and forgets to put a critical key in a keyway. With a friend helping, I remove the entire bevel drive assembly (never done that before), install the key, and get it all back together. Ruby starts. My fear of not making the race slowly fades away.
Thursday evening: pack the van and trailer. Order pizza because the fridge is MT.
Friday AM: drive everything to UFV to teach the last day of Framebuilding 101. Class ends at 4pm, and shortly after I head for the border to go racing.
Saturday, Practice Day. It is cloudy, and it did rain a little last night. For our first practice, it starts to rain very, very lightly; probably the worst thing after sunshine for days. We go out and circulate very slowly, mainly to test. I have installed a new coil, but the coil has not solved the problem because Ruby is still not happy over 5 grand.
For our second practice, it is now raining a little more. No Vintage riders go out. The announcer says, “We have one bike on the track at this time. C’mon guys, let’s get out there. You’ll never learn to race in the rain if you don’t.” Nobody moves.
Saturday evening I instal a new ignition module. I have changed everything else, so it must be the module, right?
Sunday, Race Day. This is the last day of racing for the 2012 season, and the WMRRA Number One Plate is up for grabs. It is a battle between the 14 year old kid, John Gessner, and the Wily Veteran, Mark DeGross, John’s father. Troy has made some posters (see below) and I get both title contenders to sign mine. John is coming into this weekend 6 points ahead of Mark. Not everyone wants the kid to win, and it is a controversial standing. John is holding the lead by racing his Honda RS125 in 3 different classes, but he’s never ridden a “big bike”. Some people feel strongly that you should only hold the #1 plate if you ride Superbike, or Formula Ultra. It got even weirder when one tire sponsor offered free entry to riders to “pad” the classes for more points for Mark, and the other tire sponsor countered for John. Then both sponsors realized how much it was going to cost them, so they both opted out of that one. At the end of the day, Mark DeGross becomes Number One Plate Holder for 2013.
There were 5 of us for 750 Vintage: Duncan (Seeley / Nourish), Gary (Norton), John (Honda 4), Joseph (BMW), and Ruby (Excelsior). A great mix of fine machinery! And what a sound! The sun was out, and it promised to be a fine day. We went out for practice. John (Honda 4) soon clipped the curb in turn 7, and that bounced him across the track and into the dirt. John was up and seemed OK, but his bike’s front end was bent and a couple carbs had come off, so then there was 4 of us . . . Ruby didn’t want to run well above 5 grand STILL, so the new ignition module wasn’t the problem either.
Race One: At the start. This is where the “butterflies” go away, and you settle into the business of racing. The red light goes out, Duncan gets the holeshot and Ruby moves into second. We go into turn 2 and Duncan goes wide at the exit, so I grab the lead. Ruby isn’t running great, but nobody passes through the corners, and soon we head down the straight. As I pass the start finish line, Ruby dies, like a switch that has been flicked off. I close the throttle, and Duncan and Gary both pass in a BIG hurry. Ruby comes back to life, and we chase. Half a lap later, Gary is pulling off the track. His right handlebar has come loose. I’m in second nursing a sick Ruby. I maintain that position, and that’s how the race ends.
Ruby chasing Gary before his handlebar came loose.
Back in the pits, the plugs are white, indicating a great deal of leanness. I raise the needle one notch, take out the 3 fuel screens between the gas tank and main jet, run a larger fuel line and drill out the air hole in the fuel cap. Nothing blocking the needle / seat either.
Race Two. I shift from first to second and get a big fat neutral. That’s a new one. Shift once more, and get third. I feel like I’m going slower and slower. However, Gary soon DNF’s on his Norton again, this time from a lack of spark. And Joseph has passed me on his BMW. Then two 350’s came by as well, but I was still 3rd and Ruby never quit. She finished her season. Thank you, Ruby.
Here is the oil pump drive that failed at the Ridge. You can see how the little ears have broken off. The waisted section makes room for the tube that feeds oil into the pinion shaft that feeds into the flywheels and crankpin.
I know you’re wondering if Ruby has any plans for the off-season, and the answer is YES! She wants a better frame and a downdraft carb, for starters. And that fuel starvation problem really needs to be looked at too!
If you like these stories, and would like to support Ruby’s Road Racing habit in any way, please call Paul.
Thanks for reading my Race Reports. Until next season . . .