SHELTON, WA – May 25, 2014
Ruby received some attention over the winter, and she seems happy about it. Her broken transmission received a new first gear, sourced from Ebay. Ruby also requested a couple of new race tires, because black rubber sounded good. Her new cylinder heads with angled intake ports meant a new intake manifold, and Ruby says that has helped her ability to breathe better. 🙂
This is what Ruby’s top end used to look like:
And now she looks like this: The intake manifold is much more “Y” shaped, and the carb now angles to the left side of the bike.
In typical fashion, Ruby was finished a day before leaving for the second race. The first race was held at The Ridge in April. Only Duncan showed up in our 750 class. He went out in the rain for the first race, and went home leading the Championship with 36 points. No competition.
Last year’s 750 Vintage Championship winner, John Nillsson (Honda 750), went out for a track day a couple of weeks before the first race. He blew up his motor and needed a new cylinder head. It didn’t happen soon enough, and that’s how he missed the first race.
Now it was May, and I hadn’t been on a race bike for 8 months. The Shelton, WA weather report said cloudy on Saturday for practice and rain for the races on Sunday. I mounted a front fender on Ruby. We are starting her 6th season, and she has never been raced in the rain. I was nervous.
Saturday was a beautiful day! The sun shone through the clouds, but the track was cold in the morning. New tires had to be scrubbed in. Ruby went faster in the second practice, but John’s practice time was very good, faster than Ruby had ever gone, so that was something to consider.
Also, Mick Hart has re-entered the 750 class on Sam’s 701 Honda, and we all know how fast he is. Also in the mix is Joseph on a 750 Triumph Metisse he acquired last year. Gary is building his short stroke Norton 750 too. These are the obvious players.
Back at the track, Ruby broke her tach mount in the second practice, and it’s hard to ride when it’s bouncing around only held by 3 wires. Joseph had problems with the clutch on his Triumph, Duncan’s left header pipe had a good sized crack, and John’s alternator stopped working. Always something. Here’s John’s Honda with the broken alternator:
Sunday, Race Day. When we woke up, it wasn’t raining. In fact, it got rather bright! So maybe . . .
Practice: Cold track, cold tires. Experimenting with tire pressure. I must coax Ruby through turn one faster. I know her motor is better, because it’s much easier to pull redline on the front straight.
Race One: The rain has just started, and it is falling very lightly. I’ve heard that could be slippery. Ruby’s starter battery gives out, so I borrow Duncan’s rollers. We do the warm-up lap, and I know my confidence is low. The race begins, and I’m thinking that I’m starting a new Framebuilding 101 course tomorrow morning, and I should be careful. John’s Honda quits when the battery dies, so technically Ruby is 4th. Mick wins, Duncan 2nd, and Joseph 3rd.
Race Two: Our race is the very last on the schedule, and there have been so many modern bike crashes that we are a solid hour behind schedule. The rain is really coming down now. Mick, Duncan, Joseph and I huddle under an easy-up and talk about how crazy we must be to want to go out in the rain. We’re all over 50. We know we could just go home and the results from Race One would stand. No one wants to go home and have the others score points. We get ready to go out.
We line up, the light goes out and we hit the gas. Ruby launches well and gets the holeshot! At the end of the straight, I hear a noise on my right, and there goes Mick. A few turns later, Tim O is next on his Honda 175, and then Duncan. My confidence grows and I start to enjoy myself, which was unexpected. Joseph had gone home, I found out later, so Ruby came home in third.
Thanks for reading my race report.
PS: here is Duncan’s Seeley Nourish. Nice Bike. Duncan is still our 750 Vintage points leader.
THE RIDGE, BC – June 28 & 29, 2014
There wasn’t a lot of work to do to get Ruby ready for this race weekend, but the weather wasn’t looking very promising. Lots of showers in the forecast.
We left Friday afternoon, and I was travelling with my girlfriend. It was her first time going to a motorcycle race.
Saturday, Practice day: It was cloudy and the showers would come and go. The rain let up a little so I went out for the first practice with a few others. I find it hard to go fast on a wet track.
Second Practice: It was definitely raining harder, and no one in our group went out. Here, Duncan and Mick try to stay dry while the heavens open up.
That evening the weather cleared up, and five of us walked the track. Tim-O, our Club Pres, was with us. He did a very good job explaining the racing lines to me. They made a lot of sense. The Ridge is a very technical track, much more so than Seattle. To go fast at The Ridge, you need to have good lines and be consistent. I had a lot to learn in the Sunday practice.
Sunday, Race day: Before I got up, I was lying in bed, thinking about my new racing lines, and the adrenalin was just pumping. Outside, it looked like it could be a nice day. After a couple of hours, the wind started blowing, but the sun was out. We had the obligatory rider’s meeting, and soon after our group went out for practice at 9:30 am. In the 750 Vintage class, there were 5 of us: Duncan (Seeley Nourish), Jon (BSA Rocket Three), John and Mick on their Honda fours, and me on Ruby (Excelsior). The wild card was Mark on his Honda 350, keeping up with us on that little bike. He really liked his new Continental vintage race tires; he said they gave him a lot of confidence.
Race One Line-up: Here we are, lined up for the start, Mick is on the far right, out of view.
Race One: We had done our warm up lap; the track was dry and the sun was out. Perfect. We lined up on the grid, the red light went out, and we were off in a thunderous roar. Ruby launched well, and we got the holeshot. Turn one is a very fast left kink, and that’s where I heard Mick’s Honda as he passed me on the outside. Now Ruby was second. We were racing through the infield now, and leaning over for the Carousel, a 180 degree left hander followed by turn six which is blind, going over a small rise. Now I down shifted Ruby from 4th to 3rd for the right hander that is turn seven.
When I woke up, the medics were standing over me, asking questions like, “What is your name?” ” What year is it?” “Who’s the President?” I said I was Canadian, and didn’t know. Then I remembered it was Obama. They took off my helmet, and started checking for broken bones. I told them my hands were very sore, and I was thirsty. My back and legs seemed fine, but my left hand was now swelling. I had no memory of falling off. They said I was unconscious for 10-12 seconds, but I think it was longer.
They put me in an ambulance, and soon after my girlfriend showed up. It was her first time at the track, and now this. It’s what you don’t want to happen. We went to Mason General hospital, about 10 minutes away, and they were very good, no waiting around. I had a CT scan, because I had landed on my head (and back), but I was OK. My hand was x-rayed, and there was a broken bone that will probably have to be pinned. My body was very sore. Here I am getting my damaged hand taken care of. My brand new Arai helmet is in the back ground; it lasted less than one hour.
Back at The Ridge. I talked to the guys, and pieced together what had happened. I remembered getting a false neutral going into turn seven. That doesn’t happen with Ruby very often. In the moment, there’s just not a lot of time to think. I’m behind Mick, leaned over at maybe 50mph, with a freight train of racers right behind me. I thought I didn’t shift far enough, but Ruby had over-shifted, and one more dab of the shift lever put me in second gear. When I let the clutch out, Ruby’s rear wheel did a big slide, caught, and I did my first ever high side. They said I was five feet in the air after I launched. John and Mark were right behind me, and both ran off the track and into the grass to avoid running me over. Thank you guys!
The trailer was all loaded when we got back. Vintage racers really are good at helping each other out. I still haven’t seen Ruby, but they tell me the paint work doesn’t even have a scratch! Some of the carbon fibre has road rash, but she is remarkably intact. 🙂
Race One was restarted, and the finishing order was Mick (Honda), John (Honda), Duncan (Seeley Nourish) and Jon (BSA Rocket Three). Mark (Honda 350) was flying, and briefly raced his way into second place, but fell on lap 3.
Race Two saw a wet track. John (Honda) was chasing Mick (Honda), and fell off braking too hard for the hairpin. Jon (BSA Rocket Three) rode well in the wet to take second. Duncan (Seeley Nourish) came in third. John found out later he broke his clavicle.
Final results were Mick (Honda), Jon (BSA Rocket Three) and Duncan (Seeley Nourish).
It will take a little time for me to heal, but Ruby will be back.
Thanks for reading my race report!
THE RIDGE, BC – July 26, 2014
I was still sore and healing from my little get-off a month ago, so I invited my good friend, Mick Hart, to ride Ruby for this round. Hardly any time passed before he said YES! Coincidentally, it was his and Rita’s 40th wedding anniversary this very weekend, and the gift for the 40th year was . . . Ruby!
Mick is a very talented rider. He has the ability to hop on someone else’s bike and go fast right away. He had wanted to ride Ruby for a few years, so now was a perfect opportunity; I had been Ruby’s only rider so far. On the upside, Mick would give some very good feedback. On the downside, I would learn how slow I really am!
This was the annual Vintage Race Day, and 19 Vintage riders had signed up. It was the biggest Vintage grid in about 3 years, and the weather was perfect . . . sunny and hot.
Practice One: Mick got 2 laps in on Ruby and didn’t come around anymore. The crash truck showed up in the pits shortly after practice, and we soon discovered that the 5 year old primary belt had shredded. The spare belt was installed and the tension adjusted.
Practice Two: Everything went well this time. Mick had his knee down, and came in with a big grin on his face. It was the first time I had seen and heard Ruby out on the track. The motor sounded lazy, like it wasn’t really working hard at all. But, the speed was definitely there.
The Race: Four riders in the 750 class. Joseph (Triumph 750), Jon (BSA Rocket Three), Duncan (Seeley / Nourish), and Mick on Ruby (Excelsior). Duncan got the holeshot, and Mick was second. In the Carousel (turn 6) Duncan hesitated, and hard charging Mark on his Honda 350 seized the opportunity to take the lead. Quite impressive to be leading all the 750’s! Mick was patient, and he used Ruby’s power to take the lead on the straight.
Joseph’s Triumph only lasted a few corners before the flywheel blew apart, leaving a gaping hole in the crankcase. You can see all the bits that were gathered up, now resting peacefully in the broken belly pan below.
The race continued, with Mick holding the lead. Mark (Honda 350) was a little ways back, hanging onto second, then Duncan and Jon. On the last lap, Duncan came upon a back marker and chose to pass on the outside. The back marker moved out too, and Duncan had to brake hard, ran off the track and stalled his motor, effectively ending his race. Jon took 2nd place on his Rocket 3.
Mick was first on the podium, so now Ruby has 2 wins to her credit. In Mick’s own words: “I was excited and nervous at the same time because I didn’t want to hurt the bike in any way! Ruby handles like she is on rails: no front wheel patter around the Carousel, nothing. Her steering has a perfectly neutral feel which I really liked. The brakes are very powerful and progressive and work very well for the weight of the machine. Ruby pulls from very low RPM but has a flat spot at 4 grand, probably jetting related. Ruby is one of the best handling machines I have ridden. The only time she got out of shape was when I induced it … like whacking the throttle open coming out of the hairpin and pulling the front wheel up in the air … what a thrill!
Thanks, again, to Paul for building such a superb classic motorcycle and giving me the opportunity to race it.”
Mick Hart 775
To Finish First, First you must Finish!!
Yes, Mick was faster than me, but only by 3.2 seconds per lap, and I can live with that 🙂
Next round: August 23 / 24 at Seattle.
Thanks for reading my Race Report.
Seattle – August 23-24, 2014
This was my first time back on Ruby after my little spill. I felt that I had healed enough to get back in the saddle once more. Seattle is like my home track, and the weekend weather promised to be hot and gorgeous. I also had my brand new Arai helmet.
Ruby had run very well for Mick a month ago at The Ridge, so there wasn’t much to do. Yes, she did have a flat spot at 4 grand, but the carb slide I had ordered from Liverpool, England, hadn’t arrived yet, so there was no sense heading to the dyno for carb tuning yet.
Saturday practice: We fired Ruby up, whereupon I discovered a lack of oil pressure. I really should have fired her up back at the Excelsior Factory Race shop, so that was my fault. I went out in practice anyway and tried to figure out what was wrong. It wasn’t Mick’s fault, he just didn’t notice the lack of pressure while going for the win. There was some pressure, but only 10 psi. She usually has 40 psi when she’s hot. Back in the pits, I took the bevel chest apart, and soon figured out what the problem was.
The oil feed to the crankshaft had snapped. I never went out for the second practice session. Gary Ryder, one of my good friends at the track, only lives 10 minutes away, and he generously gave me the use of his shop. Borrowing his lathe, drill press and oxy-acetylene set that afternoon, Ruby got her oil feed tube fixed and modified so that hopefully it will be more reliable in the future.
This was Round Five in the series, and getting towards the end of the season. Only 9 Vintage riders showed up. In Vintage 750, there were only 3 of us. Andrew Gray had come up from LA with his potent Guzzi. There was also Duncan on his Seeley / Nourish, and yours truly on Ruby (Excelsior).
Andrew had only finished his bike a few weeks ago, and it wasn’t really eligible for 750 Vintage. He rode another Guzzi at Seattle 4 years ago, and that’s how we got to be friends. Ruby wasn’t running very well at that time, so now perhaps we could have some fun? Andrew signed up and promptly disqualified himself, which was the correct thing to do. Reason: 1981 model year (too new), 1130cc, 86 rear wheel HP, 375 pounds, and mag wheels. He was also running the new 18″ Continental radial race tires, which are legal. Sure looked and sounded cool, though. 🙂
The big news at Seattle was that, finally, turn 8 and 9 had been re-paved. Turn 8 had a big dip that really worked the suspension, and turn 9 had the original well-worn asphalt from the 60’s, plus a couple of big cracks to avoid as you entered the turn. Turn 8 was now beautifully smooth, and turn 9 even had some camber to it. This was our first motorcycle race since re-paving.
Sunday Practice: We went out and Ruby had lots of oil pressure, which was very encouraging. I could see Andrew a few hundred yards ahead of me, and he wasn’t pulling away. Ruby was running well, and it was great being back at Seattle; our only race weekend there for the 2014 season. I checked the practice times: Ruby was at 1:56, Andrew at 1:55, and Duncan at 1:53. But, Mark on his 350 Honda had blasted around at 1:51. He really likes to cause a bit of havoc with the 750’s, and he would later, but not in the way he intended. Clearly, the 750’s had some work to do.
Race One: We lined up, the red light went out, and Ruby got the holeshot. I wasn’t going to look behind, but I could hear and feel someone on my tail. We were definitely going faster than in practice. Andrew came by on the straight as we headed for the last lap, and that’s how we finished. Ruby got down to a 1:50 lap, but Andrew’s last lap was even better at 1:48.
Photo below courtesy Jason Tanaka: Race One / Ruby leads through the Bus-Stop, followed by Andrew, Duncan, and Mark on his Honda 350.
Race Two: Same again, the red light went out and Ruby got the holeshot. We headed down into turn 4, and that’s where Mark (Honda 350) went in way too hot and hit the back of Andrew’s Guzzi. It took Andrew a moment to realize what had happened, until he saw Mark rolling in the dirt. This gave me a 5 second lead, but I didn’t realize it because I never looked back. Andrew chased, and finally passed Ruby and me on the back straight on lap 4. I was on his tail until the bus stop (turn 9) but Ruby got a false neutral going from 3rd to 2nd, and I double-shifted (brain fade) and Andrew was gone. There was no one behind me, as Duncan had pulled in after his left foot peg fell off, and his engine started to misfire. So, in the final results, Ruby first, Duncan second. Best lap for Andrew was a 1:46, and Ruby had countered with a 1:47.
Here’s the video from Andrew’s camera. Not the best camera angle, sorry. At 1:07 Andrew gets hit my Mark entering turn 4.
To help put this all into perspective, and to show you how slow we really are, consider this:
Our Number One WMRRA plate holder, Ryan “Chromie” Sutton, riding a Suzuki 1000 in the Formula Ultra Class, absolutely shattered the existing lap record by several seconds, bringing it down to 1:23:191 seconds! A very talented rider, and the new asphalt in turns 8 and 9 surely helped too.
Photo below courtesy Jason Tanaka: Andrew stalks Ruby heading onto the front straight.
Last round for the 2014 season: September 27/28 at The Ridge.
Thanks for reading my race report.
The Ridge – Final Round, Sept. 27-28, 2014
This was our final round for 2014 at The Ridge, and the weather was looking good 🙂 A lot of racers realized this, and the pits were quite full.
Ruby had received a little maintenance, and I put a little fatter needle in her carb, hoping to cure the flat spot. I also took the bevel chest apart and checked my race track oil pump fix, and it all looked good. This was my first time heading back to The Ridge after my crash. I had been healing well until I went trials riding a week before the race. My front wheel slipped sideways so fast I didn’t even have time to put my hand out, and 3 more ribs got banged up, on the same side as before. Then I went to the dentist and he froze me well to fix my 3 cavities, and as I left his office he reminded me not to bite my cheek. I was very careful, but eating soup and toast 3 hours later I managed to bite both my cheek and lip anyway. Consequently, I was feeling rather beat up, but I would race Ruby anyway. It’s a guy thing, right?
Four of us had signed up for 750 Vintage: Mick (Honda), John “broken bones” Nillsson (Honda), Duncan (Seeley/Nourish), and Ruby (Excelsior). Mick and John had both returned from road racing at Miller, and John had a titanium plate holding his scapula together with 11 screws. Duncan was leading the 750 Championship with Mick a mere 4 points behind, and Ruby was a distant 3rd. If Mick beat Duncan, the 750 Championship was his.
Saturday, Practice One: We ventured out onto the cold track, and the pace was pretty slow. Ruby ran like crap with that different needle, and 2 laps was enough. I came back in and changed the needle back to what it was.
Practice Two: The track was warmer and we were going faster, but my confidence wasn’t great and my lap times reflected that. John was going reasonably well, and Duncan’s bike occasionally had a bit of a misfire. Meanwhile, Mick was practicing on his Honda RS 125. Who knew what would happen on Sunday? Not me.
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Sunday, it is 39 degrees at 7:30am, and the sun is just come up. There is a bit of low fog hanging around the track. It is a chilly morning.
Rider’s Meeting, 8am: We were told that the crash truck had been very busy on Saturday, and 3 riders needed to be transported to hospital. Would we please be careful? This was our last race day of the season. Can you really tell racers to slow down?
Practice: This is our only one. The track is still cold, and even though my helmet vents are open, my visor keeps fogging up. I have to hold it open with my left hand, and it’s hard to go fast like that. I pull Ruby off the track early, and return to my pit. I soon find out that most riders had similar fogging problems, so no one really got a good practice session. We agreed that the fogging had leveled the field somewhat. I took a little piece of rubber hose, and held it between the helmet and the visor with electrical tape to keep them open very slightly. Mick had missed practice because his Honda Four had refused to start. After a while, it was causing some concern. If it wouldn’t start, Duncan would win the 750 Championship by default. Mick and his mate, Jim, took the wiring all part, checked everything, and everything was OK. But no spark. Several hours later they re-assembled everything, and then it mysteriously had a spark. Mick would be racing after all.
Race One: Ruby sputtered a bit at high revs as we left the line, and we didn’t get the hole shot. We slotted in behind Mick and John. Mick was on a mission, and we all watched him disappear. He really is a talent. John pulled away from me and Ruby slowly, and I knew Duncan was probably close behind, but I didn’t know where. At the finish line he came roaring past on my right, but I was ahead by 15/1000 of a second. That was close! On the cool-down lap, Ruby started misfiring. What was that all about? Back in the pits, everything looked fine, but I replaced the battery, and put in new plugs. Did the regular maintenance: tappet adjustment, oiling of the roller rockers, intake valve stems, and the upper bevel gears. And don’t forget to fill the gas tank, and check the tire pressures.
Race Two: The sun was out, and it had really warmed up. We did our sighting lap, and got lined up in our grid positions. The five second board went up, and we engaged first gear and revved our motors. The red light went out, our clutch plates engaged and we all launched in a big roar. Mick made a superb start, but Ruby was in second. Here she leads John, Duncan, and Mark (Honda 350) Mick is already pulling away and disappearing.
I watched Mick slowly disappear, but Ruby held second. Every so often I saw a shadow beside me as I entered a corner, and I figured John was very close. He was, and another photo by Jason Tanaka shows how close we were.
John finally got by on lap 4, at the top of the Ridge Complex. I chased him down the straight and we got the last lap flag. Ruby got a false neutral in turn 5, and John pulled away. It’s the last lap of the very last race, and I was being very careful. It was not the time to fall down. I looked behind exiting the hairpin turn, and Duncan was nowhere to be seen. I am third, that’s what I thought. Little did I know that cagey Duncan was right behind me, and when I turned my head left to look, he moved over to the right. He was strategizing!
Suddenly, at the very last corner, Duncan pounced and took me by surprise. We drag raced to the finish line, but he was a bike length ahead of me, taking 3rd place by 7/100 of a second. On the cool-down lap, Ruby’s throttle stuck closed entering the Carousel. Her engine died, and I pulled off into the grass. Minutes later, I got rescued by the crash truck. Mick wins the 750 Vintage Championship, Duncan is second, and Ruby is third.
Thanks for reading my Ruby Racer Race Report.