Over twenty five years ago I almost finished the build on my first race bike. It was a BSA A50 Royal Star that after an engine rebuild I started to hop up. It was a good runner even without the long sought cyclone head (that never arrived). Well things transpire and that bike was used for tuition money.
Last year my good friend Matt went and got his race license through AHRMA. Being there, watching, and occasionally helping him got me back wanting to race myself. Less than a year later I am scrambling to get a Triumph TR5T ready to race for the AHRMA event at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) on July 10th.
Things were progressing slowly through the spring and really did not get to where they needed to be by the end of June, when I had originally planned the bike to be running for a few test runs.
The week before I had enlisted my friend George (known to many as English George) to head up the safety wiring department and transit of the bike to the race. At this point we forward to the Monday the week of the race and there is some emergency ordering of clutch plates and a couple of gaskets, but getting things done by Thursday when I need to head down seems attainable.
The Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday pass and progress is amazing, this thing is going to happen. UPS at the shop usually arrives by one, but still no clutch plates. Thursday progresses as I give up on new clutch plates and finish welding the exhaust pipes. George is running late after packing and then calls around 4 or 5 saying he just got rear-ended heading to the shop. At this point is is probably worth noting that George is already in a neck-brace. Luckily he is fine and his transit is unscathed.
We load up the still not running bike and George starts on his way as I head home to pack. An half hour later I am on the road as the clouds roll in and the heavens open up on us with tornado warnings for the area we need to drive through. Somehow, I end up beating George to the track by 20 minutes.
That night I got things wired up, but we still had to mount pipes and finish up some safety wiring. Due to that we did not have the bike running in time for class. Luckily Matt offered up his CB175 for my use when needed. and I was on my way for the day and I was able to get my race license.
The next day had me finishing up everything and missing my practice sessions, but I was ready for the first race on an untested bike (excluding a few runs around the paddock).
The warm up lap on the first race felt good and riding a bike that felt more like what I was used to was reassuring. The first lap was good, and to be expected, the rest of my heat left me behind. With them in the near distance I hit the carousel and the bike chugged a bit as I opened up the throttle for the chicane and the front straight. At this point I was realizing my jetting wasn’t adequate for lower revs and decided the next time round I needed to keep the revs higher.
In lap one the 500GP and Formula 500 heats started passing me and now a couple of turns into lap two my heat was gaining on me. With the carousel coming up I put on the throttle pushing myself to keep a better line and lean more into the corners. I was still getting passed, but it was taking them some time. Half way through the carousel I started to open the throttle to keep up. As I do I can hear the engine start to bog down as the exhaust starts screaming from the right. A quick look down and my right pipe is hanging off of safety wire and a p-clamp. Left hand up and into the pits for me.
At this point I was not totally dejected about todays performance, but I was starting to feel dread about not being able to get on the track the next day. In the process of blowing my right pipe off I lost a valuable home made spigot for the exhaust. I searched around the swap meet and checked the tech area if anything was found on the track, but no luck. On my search I talked to John Melniczuk, he thought he may have something in his shop six miles away and he would check later that night.
A couple of phone calls with John and some measurements taken, and he is throwing one from a 650 onto a lathe for my. This leads us to how amazing a community of people that gets created on track days, It is hard to understand and must be witnessed to be believed.
In the morning John shows up with a spigot that fits perfectly and I refit the pipes and secure them better. I almost miss practice, but get out there after some re-jetting of the carb. Little things on the bike get tweaked like the position of the shifter and some slack taken out of the cables.
The last race of the weekend is at hand, the test lap feels good. We line up at the grid and are off with the second wave. The race goes well, I am still not leaning as far as I should, I realize second is much to low and third a stretch for some turns, have a blast the whole time, and amazing don’t come in last (but, I am not sure the person behind me losing his carb and not finishing counts).
The bike needs some finagling and the rider, well, I need to get some more track time.