LCR Suzuki GSX1000 Formula 1 Sidecar - long story

grandpaul

Author, "Old Bikes"
DTT SUPPORTER
DTT BOTM WINNER
Sometimes, “what goes around, comes around”, as the kids like to say. Well, for me, it all came around and I was able to head out west and race Willow Springs with AHRMA. Besides racing my ’69 Triumph Bonneville 650 in the Novice Historic Production Heavyweight class, I had the added bonus of hanging on for dear life to the two simple handholds of a Formula 1 racing sidecar rig.

Friends I’ve known for many years (and others I’d never met) on various forums including the Brit Iron Rebels, TriumphRat, AccessNorton, ZRX Owners, New Triumph Bonneville, TriumphTalk and Triples Worldwide online discussion forums all pitched in and sponsored my adventure. There’s no way to thank these folks enough for spending money on someone else’s fun; I’m the first one who knows how tough times are right now in this economy, so there’s also no way to say how much I appreciate it.

As usual, the pre-trip fiasco included the requisite last-minute thrashing on the bikes and down-to-the-wire detailing before loading up. It went one step further with pulling one screw and one nail from the truck’s front tire before getting on the highway; much better than having to swap out the spare on the side of the road at night in the middle of the desert!

With the trailer all loaded up to the gills, my wife, our 4 year-old daughter and I headed north on I-35 to San Antonio, then hung a left onto I-10 for the duration. After a 650-mile first day haul, we pulled in to our son’s driveway in El Paso 13 hours later and crashed for the night; let me tell you that first leg was a doozie. We rose with the chickens and did the 450-mile leg to Phoenix feeling much better at the end than we did the previous day; my friend, Mark, graciously offered us his bed and he crashed on the couch beside his wheel truing rig and pile of Triton parts soon to become a spiffy café racer. Up at the crack of dawn, we did a scant 350-mile third day leg into L.A. to deliver a client’s bike.

Took the rest of the afternoon to go over the bike with my client; he and both his sons had it out for test rides, then we loaded up all the spare Norton parts we had agreed to as partial payment of the balance for the project. After loading up the parts, we grabbed a bite to eat while his sons loaded up their bikes for their Keith Code track day at the Streets of Willow Springs. The next 110 miles were a real blast at 70+ MPH on the L.A. freeway system nose-to-tail, following the guys in their pickup full of bikes with cars diving in and out from between us. I tried to leave a bit of braking space between us, only to have cars jump in and cruise along for a few miles with barely a few feet between us. Very invigorating; I was never in danger of falling asleep at the wheel.

We pulled up to the Town House motel in Lancaster just before 10 PM and got in a good night’s sleep before getting the 6 AM wake-up call and making the quick 15 mile jaunt out to the track. Never having been there before, it was amazing to behold the track from a distance; a serpentine strip of asphalt set on a hillside at the base of some beautiful mountains with an amazing blue sky setting the backdrop.

SATURDAY PRACTICE

Having been “out of it” for a while, the whole routine came flooding back to me: pull in to the paddock and scope out a good pit stall (right next to all the sidecar guys), drop the tail of the trailer and get out the scissor jacks and tire chocks, unhitch, pull all the buckets and boxes out of the way, unload the bikes, set up the starter rollers, and head over to the tower with my paperwork. I immediately found my driver, Rick Murray, tooling on his Formula 1 Suzuki 1000 sidecar rig; I made my acquaintance and chatted for a few minutes, then got my paperwork done. Gassed up the bike and proceeded to tech where they gave it a brief once-over, stuck my tech sticker on the number plate and stamped it; done.



The first order of business was getting in the first round of practice on my Bonnie. The track is kind of an upside-down outline of the Italian “boot”; pit out puts you at the end of the front straight looking at a short turn 1 left-hander that is the top of the “ankle”, then a short chute over to a long, sweeping right-hand turn 2 which is the “toe”, starting to climb up the hillside on a short chute into a hard left-hand turn 3 forming the “arch” of the boot, then quickly switching back to a right-hand turn 4 which is a double-apex forming the “heel” at the highest point on the track; next you fly down a steep switchback chute into a hard left turn 5 with a quick climb through a right-hand turn 6 over a blind crest out onto the backside of the boot through a long turn 7 which has very little radius but transitions at high speed into the right-hand turn 8 that forms the top of the boot, a very high speed sweeper, which transitions immediately into a decreasing radius right-hand turn 9 that spits you out onto the front stretch, the “front” of the boot, with pit-in off to the left. I successfully negotiated about 4 laps of practice then realized I was hyperventilating and my forearms were already getting pumped up, so I pulled off into the hot tech and headed for the pit. All in all it felt pretty good, and I was glad the boys had warned me about over-cooking turn 3, although they made no mention of the much trickier turn 4!

I had plenty of time to cool off and catch my breath while Rick schooled me on the fine art of hanging on for dear life while attempting to perform my ballast duties hanging off the back of his rig. The 150HP monocoque construction L.C.R. Suzuki GSXR1000 Formula 1 rig has the engine mounted aft of the driver, with the “sidecar” (actually a barely 3-foot-square platform beside the engine and behind the third wheel) on the left side. Just in the “nook” behind the driver and to the right of the third wheel are two pipe grab loops, and on the right side of the rear wheel are upper and lower hand-hold cut-outs in the carbon fiber bodywork.



The “monkey” (passenger) has the job of shifting his (or her) body weight over the rear wheel approaching the inside of the turn. On left-hand turns, I was instructed to simply slide my butt as far out as possible, tuck my head down as far as possible, hang on to the pipe loops and brace myself with my feet just inside the rear wheel area; this would keep my “ballast’ weight as far out and low as possible to the inside of the turn, keeping the third wheel in contact with the track. On right-hand turns, I was told to simply “rock” over on my knees, reach for the upper hand-hold over the rear wheel, quickly get my left foot up inside the third wheel well to brace myself, and lean as far over the rear tire as possible.

On longer right-handers, I should have then been reaching all the way over to the lower cut-out with my butt pretty much straight in the air over the back wheel, but never got comfortable enough, and/or couldn’t maneuver quickly enough to get into that extreme position. Besides acting as ballast, I was also doing “traction control” duties on race starts. That involved leaning over the rear wheel, bracing both feet against the small lip on the rear of the tray, and hanging on until we reach the braking markers for turn 1, then setting up into the proper position.

It all sounded like fun in the pits, but the butterflies in my stomach started flapping wildly as soon as Rick wicked it up to exit the pits for the first round of practice! That beast hooked up 150 horsepower through that low profile slick and almost spit me out the back as I clung to those handholds with all the strength I had. I managed to gain my composure just in time to start to THINK about sliding my weight out through turn 1 when we were already rocketing up the short chute into turn 2 with just enough time to reach for the hand-hold and get up on my knees as we swept through the turn and started climbing the Omega into turn 3. I managed to hang about ¼ of a butt-cheek off before it was time to scratch my way over the wheel and claw the upper hand-hold through turn 4, my arms already pumped full of blood due to the fact that I was several seconds behind on transferring my weight, and was therefore relegated to hanging on in order not to be tossed off at the next transition.

The next few turns were a bit of a blur, with rigs passing us, and Rick jockeying for position with barely an inch between us. Then came the front straight! No sooner had I tucked myself into the “pocket”, then Rick upshifted to fourth and I could feel the G forces trying to rip my hands off my wrists. Fifth gear was a similar jolt, then Sixth and we were flying down the straight at about 135 MPH. The one word that best describes this experience is: “VIOLENT”.



I was able to cling to the rig and not throw off Rick’s balance long enough to complete the second lap, with thoughts of “I wonder which turn is the slowest, where I can just let go and roll off the track?” already crossing my mind. Somewhere on the third lap, I figured out I had enough time in the very long turn 7 & 8 section that I could reach all the way up and just tap Rick on his lower back to indicate that he needed to back it down. He immediately raised his left hand and slowed the rig to the outside in turn 9, and we exited the track. Through hot tech and it was straight back to the pits with my arms feeling like lead, my mouth totally dry, and my head spinning like it was going to fly right off my sore shoulders.

Rick was very kind in his assessment of my first stint as a monkey, and graciously critiqued my performance with solid advice on “picking up the pace” of my transitions and watching for his “head nod” as a cue to start moving. He was very positive and encouraging as he offered that I was able to keep the third wheel in contact through the entire session, and never upset his balance or braking, so a very positive first ride. My assessment was more along the lines of “I wonder how on earth I managed to hang on?” I knew I was all screwed up pretty early on, and knew I had to force myself to overcome rapidly weakening arms to properly position myself to BRACE against the G forces with my legs instead of HOLDING myself from being tossed off, but I was obviously not in shape for that level of activity, and had simply do my best to hang on and stay tucked in as tightly as possible.

Our discussion wound down with consensus to back it down a notch on the driver’s part, and get into position ahead of time on the passenger’s part. I also took the opportunity to apply an indicator strip of red duct tape to the bodywork just above my right handhold so I would know where to grab, as it’s not visible over the wheel while transitioning. In retrospect, I almost immediately discarded all of the earlier training in the pits, and reverted to instinctive survival behavior; in this sport, that is dangerous behavior.

With my arms still virtually useless, I made my way back to tech and collected my rented transponder unit, mounted it to the bike, then glugged down about a half gallon of green tea. I did a bit of housekeeping and put away some of the boxes of parts, hung a “For Sale” sign on the monoshock Norton, and then grabbed my camera to get a shot of the grid sheets for the races later in the day. I met a couple of folks in the pit and on the way back and forth from tech, took a few pix of some cool bikes, then started to prepare for our race as the National Anthem wafted from the PA system. With my hand over my heart, I could feel that it was still racing from the adrenaline rush!

SATURDAY, RACE 1 -SIDECAR

After taking in the CB160 “Le Mans” style running start, I got myself back to the pits to get suited up for our sidecar race. We went over the notes quickly, popped the body on the rig, got our helmets & gloves on, and pushed out into pit lane. The engine fired up and off we went to pit out, dodging the CB160s that were dribbling in from hot tech. Rick caught me a bit off guard as he hammered it out onto the track, I was thinking to myself “this is just the parade lap!”. Parade lap MY BUTT. I think we ran that lap faster than all the laps we ran in practice!

I thought I did an adequate job as we turned through 9 and decelerated toward the grid; I managed to flex my grip a few times, slowed down my breathing, and nailed each transition with proper bracing. Sure, I’m ready…

I never noticed the grid marshal walking off, but felt the revs spinning up as I just caught the sideways “1” board being pulled into the flag stand and tightened my grip just in time to see the green flag fly. Blessed mother of acceleration! It was instantly obvious that Rick really HAD been going much slower for practice than he goes during the race. I barely found my left hand hold by the time we were drifting through turn 1, and thankfully was able to grab the right handhold and brace myself as we hit turn 2 with a mighty shudder as 150 horsepower transferred to the track. I could already sense that I needed to slow my breathing down or I’d hyperventilate and lose my composure before we ever completed a lap.

I forced myself to move as quickly and smoothly as possible, anticipate the transitions and braking points, immediately flex my grip as the Gs eased off, breathe slowly, and get into leg bracing position for every corner. With the exception of a tail-wag over a dip in the track between 4 and 5 at the same time as an upshift, causing a real bit of concern on my part, I made all the right moves pretty much at the right times. Lap 2 felt okay, but I could feel the speed coming up at every turn, and the feeling of acceleration from turn 7 to turn 9, and especially down the straight, was beyond description. On lap 3, I managed to tap Rick for a “back it down a notch” signal, and he did so; the rest of the lap, and laps 4 and 5 were a blur of frenzied activity punctuated by moments of sheer disbelief.

On lap 6, we were catching the guys ahead, but I again tapped Rick; I could feel myself falling behind on the transitions, as my arms and shoulders were becoming useless. Sadly, I believe I cost us a step on the podium with that tap-out, as we would have certainly made the pass if I had managed to suck it up and stick with it. The rest of the lap, while slower than the initial pace by a significant amount, was still well above our practice pace. So, we “settled” for a 3rd place finish; I couldn’t believe it, a podium finish my first time out!

Back in the pits, I realized that I was not bracing properly for the unbelievable G-loads from braking, and had bruised my left biceps from the tremendous forces against the upper lip of the oil cooler outlet where it was forcing the bottom of my shoulder pad to dig in. At least a half-dozen other parts of my body were abused as well, but the adrenaline was masking the pain. Only after I removed my leathers did I realize the injury was worse than I expected. I peeled off and returned to the hotel to collect the family for lunch, and get them out to the track for my Production Heavyweight race later that afternoon. I really didn’t have that much of an appetite, but found myself swilling green tea in an attempt to quench my thirst and relieve my parched mouth. It took 3 or 4 trips to the skid-o-can to “de-caffinate” before first call for my race.

SATURDAY, RACE 1 – PRODUCTION HEAVYWEIGHT

The Bonnie was all gassed up and set to go, it fired off instantly on the Doc Z rollers, and away I went down the maze of Willow Springs’ pit lane. I was early to pit out, and I guess I was in the way of the wave 1 riders as they all flew past me on the parade lap; the bike felt good, but my arms were still sore from the sidecar race and I had barely managed to catch my breath and get my heart rate near normal.

So there I am, alone on my grid row. I look back and finally another red-numbered rider approached with a couple of first-wave riders who meandered past me into position; the red-numbered 101 yellow Ducati slotted in the #1 hole, all the way across the track from me. Still no other red numbers… I kept looking back till finally another red-numbered rider slowly wheeled off, way down the straight, and right off the track to the left. One track marshal walked off and the other stayed there, holding up the “Wave 2” board. The green flew for the first wave and my heart started pounding; I put my left hand down, pulled in the clutch and dropped it into gear. The “2” board went away, the “1” board came out then quickly went sideways, and in one move the board pulled away and the green flag flew!

As usual, the Bonnie got a fantastic launch, just skimming the front wheel for 50 feet as the revs came back up and I shifted into second gear; I left a couple of the leading wave 2 riders behind, and didn’t notice the Ducati at all. I dropped it into turn 1 then flipped over into turn 2, hammering it up the hill into turn 3; I remembered to back it down a notch as I apexed, and sure enough, I crept right out to the edge of the track. I cleanly made the transition over the Omega and downhill to turn 5, then got on it hard and upshifted to fourth and just leaned it over and hung on all the way around to turn 9 with just a bit of a weight shift to negotiate the back section. Only one other rider went around me on the first lap, from the 2 or 3 that I passed at the start.

Coming out of turn 9 onto the front straight, I could hear a bike (or bikes) approaching, but the Bonnie skirted the ragged edge at pit-in and I walked away from them down the straight. I got through the Omega and then settled in for the back section when I started getting lapped by the first wave leaders; it was like I was on a bicycle, they were really flying past. Everyone was minding their manners, and we ticked off a couple of laps with no drama as one after another rider lapped me.

Then, on lap 5, in turn 2, the Ducati slipped past me and edged away up the hill into turn 3. I managed to keep in contact with him, but his bevel-drive 750 was no match for my pushrod 650, and the gap grew. Shortly after passing the flag stand with the white flag showing, the Bonnie started to falter; a slight miss in turn 1 became a blubbering hesitation in turn 2, but seemed to brighten up as I climbed the hill to turn 3. Just as I eased off to get set up for braking I felt I had no engine braking; I though I must have missed the shift so I stomped it down once and stated to lose my braking line altogether. I tightened up and gave it a handful of throttle, but it only responded with a sadly slowing blubber as I straightened it up and drove off the track toward the flag stand. I tried another downshift, and it felt like it wanted to re-fire, but instead it just stopped.

Completely dejected, I opened the gas cap to make sure I hadn’t suffered a gas cap vent blockage; I knew I had enough gas, the visual inspection confirmed it. I checked the fuse – it was fine. So, I shifted the tranny into second, pointed it downhill and attempted a bump-start; no-go. By that time, the crash truck arrived and they quickly loaded me up for the long haul back to the pits.

Slowly, the realization came to me that although I didn’t take the checkers under power, I indeed scored my first “podium” finish – Second place! It was bittersweet with the heartbreak of bike failure, not knowing whether I’d even get to race on Sunday, but I was immensely pleased knowing I’d finally won something tangible for all of my efforts, a four-inch by six-inch hunk of particle board with a little plastic plaque on it.

Stay tuned for “Day 2”…
 

grandpaul

Author, "Old Bikes"
DTT SUPPORTER
DTT BOTM WINNER
SUNDAY, RACE 2 – SIDECARS

Got a much better start (or so I thought) on the day by waking up a bit later and hitching a ride out to the track with my client and his sons heading to the track day on the “streets” section of the track. Set up my pit at a leisurely pace and surveyed the situation.

The failure on the bike was quickly traced to the loose gas tank mounting allowing the tank to rub through the connector insulation on one of the ignition coil leads, killing the engine. Piece of cake; I taped over the electrical connections with a couple of layers of duct tape and re-safety wired the gas tank snugly in position, clear of the coil connection points on both sides, and re-tech’ed the Bonnie Saturday before leaving the track.

I realized after Saturday’s second practice in the sidecar that my glasses were an unnecessary problem, flopping about inside my helmet and injuring the bridge of my nose from the G loads, so I decided to leave them in the trailer. I also realized that we’d be best off doing only one short practice of 3 or 4 laps, to which Rick agreed; he only wanted to make sure the revised taller gearing felt better (it was his original choice). I was a bit tentative knowing we’d be going even faster with the gearing change, but he explained it was more for the shift points and speeds in specific gears & sections than for the higher top speed (although that did come into play).



I had already hung up the ZRXOA banner that was left for me in the pits (thanx, Pete), and set out copies of my book on display for sale, next to the monoshock Norton. I was just cleaning up the boxes of bits and Commando frame when a couple of guys walked up to the Norton and started snapping pix; one of them had a big video camera rig and another had all kinds of gizmos and wires strapped to his tool belt. I offered my stock “$20 a picture” line and this fairly large dude walks up and introduces himself as Mike Seate of Café Racer magazine. He then starts asking all kinds of questions about the Norton, and he’s writing down notes as he moves me toward the Bonnie and starts asking me a bunch more questions.

One thing led to another and they got me to re-arrange my pit and do an on-camera interview for an upcoming new series on Discovery HD about café racers! I should be one of the first bits shown in an early episode sometime in October. The TV guy said he’d be in contact with me for more details and information about the show and the series. Who knows, maybe I’ll be famous.

We got in a really good, but brief, 4-lap practice session and I was amazed at how much better everything felt, just by moving sooner and relaxing and letting my legs and knees wedge and brace me in position, with my hands doing more stabilizing than gripping. I was still breathing too fast and getting a serious cotton mouth, but made a mental note to slow it down. I had also removed the shoulder pad from my leathers just before suiting up, and that helped a little bit; a pad in that area of the “pocket” would be a big help! The top speed on the straight was definitely higher, but I was better prepared; leaving my glasses in the pits was a big help, as was tucking in lower behind the oil cooler outlet. I tried to sneak a peek once and nearly got my head ripped off. I’m telling you, that thing is a wild, violent ride.



So, back in the pits, Rick’s wife is walking up to me with her cell phone held out – it was Sally; the new key that we had made for the truck worked great in the DOOR, but not so great in the IGNITION! It would be cutting it close, but I asked around till I was able to hook up with Roger, the AHRMA official that got me the sidecar ride; he loaned me his rental car to scoot over to the hotel with my set of keys, then boogie back to the track and just get into my leathers as they were making the last call to hit the track!

Again, as soon as we lit out on the parade lap, I realized Rick had been “holding back” in practice and was opening it up for the race. I knew it would be a wild ride, and the only way to get through it in one piece was to stick to the training, make my transitions early, brace well, relax and breathe. I set up for the start with a good position over the rear wheel, still not comfortable with the lower grab, opting for the upper hold, and bracing myself with both feet against the rear pan lip.

I thought I knew what to expect, but again Rick surprised me with a launch that planted my eyeballs half way into my brain; he tucked in behind two other rigs and we chased them into turn 1. I got hung out a bit further than I had in Saturday’s race, and made timely transitions up through the Omega, still right in touch with the other racers. When we got out into turn 7 and he upshifted to fifth, I realized that relaxing my grip wasn’t a good idea after all! When he upshifted to sixth, I started re-thinking the whole “what’s the slowest corner on the track?” thing again…

The difference in engine and braking speed when downshifting to set up for turn 9 was a real eye-opener with the taller gearing; it was almost like a whole different rig. If we had run this gearing on Saturday, there is no way I would have been able to hang on. I sucked it up and made my transition into the pocket for the haul down the front straight and again, it was a totally unbelievable blast of sheer violence as the horsepower beat into the track in a rush of speed that had me wondering if I could handle the additional loads for the upcoming braking and setup for turn 1.

The 3-wheel disc brakes on the Formula 1 rig, applied through hot slicks, are simply unbelievable; removing the shoulder pad from my leathers may not have been the best idea after all. I was making my transition for the left-hander while fighting the G forces from the brakes, but managed to wrestle myself into position and hang it out, then over as we rocketed up the hill into the Omega. I took a few deep, measured breaths and flexed my grip as we exited turn 6, then hung on through 7 and started to consider reaching for the lower hand-hold for 8 and 9, but decided against it as the speed just seemed to keep beating on my aching arms and shoulders; my legs and hips were feeling the additional loads already and it was all I could do to keep making my transitions preparing for the blast down the straight. I quickly stretched out and gave Rick a poke as he was downshifting just ahead of turn 9, right before I set myself up for the hard right-hander.

He accelerated a bit more slowly and we launched off down the front stretch, this time I didn’t do anything but tuck in and hang on, waiting for the braking to signal my next move. I had sneaked a peek behind as were in the Omega and flying down the back sections, and noticed another rig was gaining on us; sure enough, he attempted to out-brake up into turn 1, but Rick was “on it” and kept him at bay till we exited. We were both hard on acceleration coming out of the turn and the other rig just got in front of us as we all settled in to blast up the chute when their engine blew up in a big blue cloud right in front of us! Rick maneuvered around them, and in an instant, we were back on it and into turn 2. I kept looking behind every chance I got and couldn’t see any other rigs in sight, so I gave Rick another poke to let me catch my breath.

We spent the next couple of laps gaining on the rig in front of us, getting close enough to start positioning for a pass. As we swept out of the Omega into the back section, the other guys must have heard or seen us coming because they wicked it up; as soon as Rick realized they were getting away, he poured on the coal as well, and I just clung on to the upper handhold and held tight till we transitioned to the exit and then tucked in for the front straight.

That lap must have been the fastest blast down the front straight of any lap prior to it all weekend; I could feel the Gs pulling me off the back of the tray, my hands were tiring quickly, and my head was shaking like a bobble-head doll on the dashboard of a dune buggy. As I slid my butt out for turn 1, my aching legs started to protest and I could feel my forearms cramping up from the death-grip on the pipe handles; when I transitioned over for turn 2, I gave Rick another couple of pokes. I was all used up, and I still had my solo race to run that afternoon; I’m sure Rick was disappointed with me wimping out right as we were about to finally make a competitive pass, but I just couldn’t handle 2 more laps at that pace!

With no other racers in sight behind us, we settled in and basically kept pace for the remainder of the race. I hung on for one more violent blast up the front straight to the finish line, then a cool-down lap at a pace faster than any practice session we had run that weekend. I’m just sorry I wasn’t “up to speed” on transitioning quickly and properly to be more competitive, it would have been nice to bring home a trophy! (As it turned out, we were scored fourth in both races; I thought we took third place in Saturday’s race). Back in the pits, Rick was very up-beat and encouraging, but I’m sure he would have been smiling a bit wider holding a hunk of particle board in the photo poses…

For the first time all weekend, I actually had a chance to catch my breath! I pulled off my sweaty leathers and cooled off with a tall glass of iced green tea while chatting with various passers-by who were stopping to admire the Bonnie race bike and monoshock Norton in my pit. One of the people stopping by happened to be Mike Vaughn, the former CEO of Triumph USA, a long-time online acquaintance on the Delphi New Triumph Bonneville forum; he was on a pristine Kawasaki 900 Z1 four. We chatted for a little while, I introduced him to Sally & Rick, then he was off to get a good seat for the next race.

Another high point of the weekend was when I looked across pit lane and noticed the row of Rob North Triumph & BSA triples that had a crowd gathered around them all weekend; it turned out that Rob North was in the pit, handling tuning duties for the weekend. Since I still had time before my race, I walked over and introduced myself to one of the gentlemen standing around and asked if he was Rob North, his answer was non-committal; after some chuckling, grinning and finger-pointing, it was determined that Mr. North was, in fact, the guy seated to my left. I then took the opportunity to introduce myself and tell him that I really appreciated his work, especially the Daytona-winning Tridents. He was very modest and unassuming, a real pleasure to meet.

With plenty of time to think about it, I realized my stomach hadn’t been fueled since the previous evening, so we headed for the track café and sampled their very sloppy onion-ring BBQ burgers; yummy. After enjoying the meal, we went next door to the “goodie store” and took advantage of the track photographer’s photo computer terminals to check out our race photos; all they had available was Saturday’s photos, but they were more than enough for Rick and Roger to be able to clearly illustrate the wrong way (my way) and the right way (everyone else’s) for the monkeys to position themselves over the rear wheel in right-hand turns. I could see the progression from the early laps to the late laps as I wore myself out and reverted to hanging on and tucking in, forcing my arms to take the abuse. Lesson learned!

We sat in the grandstands and took in a couple of races, then I headed for the pit to get into my leathers and Sally jumped in the truck and headed up to the Omega turn area to get some photos and video. With not much time to spare, the track announcer was already calling first call for my race; going through the usual pre-race motions of checking the bike over, I decided to dump the last of the gas can into the tank, and give both brake adjusters a couple of twists for max effect. I had already double-checked the temporary fix for the electrical connection insulation under the tank, and the air pressure in the tires; the bike was ready.

I headed out with the rest of my class and we hustled around the track for our parade lap; As usual, I was early to the grid and had to sit there and wait as the rest of the field zipped past and gridded up in the wave and slots ahead of us. The track marshals quickly scampered off the track, the starter went through his motions, and then the Green flag flew!

While the Bonnie got it’s typical great launch, the two Tridents also had great take-offs and just walked away from me off the line. I managed to keep the Ducati at bay for a couple of turns, but the tired little 650 twin was no match for the triples & bevel-drive 750s. The bike really didn’t feel right, and was missing and blubbering pretty much the whole time after lap 3; I knew my speed was way down, but apparently I was maintaining minimum speed and never was flagged. I was determined to cross the finish line under the checkers, and I managed to do that, but the bike got progressively worse on the cool-down lap and died as I approached hot tech. I had to push the bike back to the pit, as I didn’t have enough strength left to attempt a bump-start. At this writing, I have yet to unload the trailer, much less troubleshoot what went amiss; I suspect the gas tank rubbed through the duct tape I taped over the coil connections with, resulting in the same thing that happened in Saturday’s race.



So, that’s the story. I had an unbelievably good time and I’m sure my heart hadn’t pumped that much adrenaline in as long as I can remember. I’m determined to get in better shape physically, and if the opportunity arises to hop in a sidecar again, I’ll be better prepared. As for the Bonnie, I’m thinking of swapping an aluminum cylinder & 750 pistons for a steel set (has to be original type construction), and maybe installing a set of offset rocker buttons, belt drive primary, and intake velocity stacks to get a little more oomph out of the beastie. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to be on the track again in 2010!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (every chance I get): JUST DO IT! If I can do it, anyone can; round up an old bike, make sure it will stay running decently, safety wire it, and get out to a racing school. It doesn’t take a lot of money to do it, if you have some mechanical skills and a couple of long weekends to get to some of the tracks where AHRMA runs. If you are in a position to do so, sponsor a racer or a racing class! The racers appreciate whatever support sponsors can bring to the table to make these opportunities available.

Again, I really have to thank Rick Murray at RGM for the opportunity to ride along with a former champion in a first-class rig, and to all my forum friends who sponsored me to race at Willow Springs. I almost can’t believe the generosity of people all over the world, many of whom I may never get to meet face-to-face. I really appreciate being able to race at such a fantastic track, and see the sights I’ve seen; to the few of you that I met at the track, thanx for looking me up!



Born Again Bikes classic & vintage motorcycle restorations www.bornagainbikes.com
Classic & Vintage Bikes Forum http://forums.delphiforums.com/oldbikes
American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association www.ahrma.org
RGM Engineering computer systems consultant www.rgmengineering.com
Sidecar Racers Association (SRA West) www.sra-west.us
Brit Iron Rebels Worldwide www.britironrebels.com
Triumph Rat (Riders Association of Triumph) Net www.triumphrat.net
Access Norton www.accessnorton.com
ZRX Owner’s Association www.zrxoa.org
New Triumph Bonneville Forum http://forums.delphiforums.com/new_bonneville
Triumph Talk www.triumphtalk.com
Kawasaki Triples Worldwide www.kawasakitriplesworldwide.com
 

grandpaul

Author, "Old Bikes"
DTT SUPPORTER
DTT BOTM WINNER
Due to late scoring corrections and the jumble of sidecar classes, I didn't know till the following week that we actually won both races in F1S class. Team Murray clinched the championship that year, so another REALLY high point!
 

beachcomber

TJ - Beachcomber
DTT SUPPORTER
grandpaul said:
Due to late scoring corrections and the jumble of sidecar classes, I didn't know till the following week that we actually won both races in F1S class. Team Murray clinched the championship that year, so another REALLY high point!
Congrats on that - very interesting read. Now then - if you have info on the 16" wheelers and Sitters / Kneelers !!!!!!!!!
 

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