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Pat's Track Debut

Discussion in 'Racing, Motorsports, and Track Days' at netrider.net.au started by PatB, Apr 16, 2008.

  1. A few weeks ago, I got an email from a mate asking if I’d like to have a go at the Collie TT (http://www.ihcvintagemotorcycles.asn.au/) on this:


    It’s a plunger framed BSA M21 (their 600 sidevalve chair puller) with an OHV 500cc engine from a B33, forks and front brake from an early Suzuki GT550, a Triumph clutch and an exhaust courtesy of the skip behind Midas Mufflers and a MIG welder. Quite a bitsa. It used to be said mate’s everyday commuter back in the UK, but has spent the last 7-8 years in bits in his shed until it was lashed together earlier this year for an event that didn’t, in the end, come to fruition.

    Did I want to go? Are bears Catholic?

    Entry forms were sent, a new lid was purchased as I doubted if any scrutineer in Australia would pass my somewhat battered old one and final machine fettling (a new-old spark plug and a clean of the carby) took place.

    And so, last Sunday, 5am saw us set out from Mate’s place in his elderly van (he runs an LC Yamaha in Historic racing so is well set up for track trips) to get to Collie in time for machine examination. We made good time and were at the circuit by 8.

    First priority was to get the kettle on, followed swiftly by a quick lesson in riding a big single with a right foot, one-up, three-down gearchange, manual ignition advance and nothing much in the way of brakes. The starting drill went something like fuel on, tickle carb until petrol drips into magneto :shock: , set ignition to about half advance, find compression and ease it through using the decompressor, drop decompressor and administer the classic “long, swinging kick†then do it all again when it doesn’t fire. Great. Very satisfying when it does go though. I was particularly impressed that the exhaust outlet was perfectly positioned to set your trousers on fire as you reach the end of the kickstart travel and the engine starts :grin: .

    Having mastered starting, a quick squid round the paddock revealed a number of interesting foibles. First gear had obviously balked at such an early start and stayed at home in bed. It made a brief appearance at about midday but was otherwise absent for the remainder of the proceedings. The remainder of the cogs appeared to select and deselect at random, interspersed with more neutrals than the Swiss government and aided and abetted by a clutch which appeared only loosely connected to the left hand lever. Finding neutral at a standstill was effectively impossible. The back brake was either off or locked solid and the front required an Arnie like squeeze to produce any significant retardation. Lovely. However, a few circuits of the paddock and I was getting used to it sufficiently that it wasn’t too dangerous. The immense torque of the B33 meant that second gear starts were quite feasible (or even third if the ‘box was playing silly buggers again) and there was plenty of engine braking as long as I didn’t hit a neutral on the way down the box.


    Not being a race meeting, machine and clothing requirements were fairly lax so I elected to ride in boots, jeans and my DriRider with shoulder and elbow armour.

    The order of the day was to be one lap at a time, two or three escorted by marshals to get a feel for the track, followed by two timed practice laps. Riders would then nominate a lap time to aim for on their three timed “competitive†laps. Points would be gained for every second above or below the nominated time, fewest points being the winner. Such a format rewards consistency rather than speed, although there is nothing to stop a rider nominating a “fast†time and attempting to achieve it (within reason).

    Collie is a pleasant little circuit, 1.6 km long and with a better variety of corners than Wanneroo. When the landscaping takes, it’ll be a very nice spot indeed.

    My first escorted lap went OK, given the vagaries of the gearbox and clutch. The bike’s handling felt really good and confidence inspiring. Compared to my usual great blue whale of a BMW, there was just no weight there and the whole plot felt like I could chuck it about at will. Ground clearance was a bit lacking, with my left boot touching down on a couple of the corners but it was completely undramatic, requiring just a bit of weight shift to hold a line.

    Lining up for another escorted lap, I managed to get caught in gear on the dummy grid. Frantic efforts to find neutral failed and I was faced with the choice of stopping an engine I wasn’t confident of restarting, or holding the clutch and hoping it didn’t overheat. I elected for the second option and felt Triumph’s finest transmission engineering become hotter and hotter as we waited for the off, until, just as we were signalled away, it grabbed and stalled the engine. Damn. A push back to our pit bay and a five minute break to cool off was in order.

    After a bit of twiddling with the adjusters, I got in one more escorted lap which went a bit better than the first. I was now getting the gears I wanted when I wanted (pretty much) and the clutch had decided to behave itself.

    Timed practice came up and I lined up with the rest of my group of 8. Having learned my lesson about clutch use on the dummy grid, I played it safe and started the bike in the pits, then pushed it to the dummy grid in neutral, stamping (and I mean stamping) it into gear as we were signalled off, leaving only a few seconds of clutch use on the grid proper.

    Under the pressure of actually going for a time, I screwed up my gear selection and found myself leaving the line in third. The engine almost died and only frantic manipulation of throttle, clutch and gearbox caught it before an embarrassing stall. Then I got the ‘box sorted out again and was off in hot pursuit of the pack. Once rolling, the bike went brilliantly, absolutely flying through the downhill left-right combination and just letting me get fourth for a split second, before needing third again for the bottom left hander, then second for the next left before a flat-out blast up the back straight, with the open pipe barking as I advanced the ignition to let the big single rev, then right and left in third, followed by a sharp, bootscraping second-gear left and across the line. One minute 45.


    A few minutes rest followed, before my second timed practice. This time I got the gears right and was able to concentrate properly on smooth lines. I knew I was going faster because I found myself able to notch fourth sooner on all the straights and I ran out of ground clearance on more of the corners. I was still occasionally going the wrong way in the gearbox, but not nearly as much as previously. One 38. I’m getting the hang of this.

    Time to nominate a time and go for my timed laps. I decided that, with my improving starting technique and more practiced gearbox use, there was a couple of seconds fairly easy improvement to be had so I nominated One 36 as my time to aim for.

    Lining up for Lap 1, the bike felt really good and I got an absolutely storming start, even closing up on the fast guys on the front row. Then the cush-drive unscrewed itself from the crankshaft and I had no drive :evil: . Well, just enough to tour round at the back and get back to the pits. Two 15.

    Thinking that the clutch had died, Mate and I frantically tore off the primary chaincase (those of you too young to know what a primary chaincase is can consider yourselves fortunate) to see if we could effect a repair before my second run. The clutch proving to be sound (or as sound as a well abused Brit clutch will ever be), we only then noticed the cush-drive problem. A quick application of fast-cure Loctite and the judicious use of a hammer and drift to tighten it back up and we were in business again. We made it with seconds to spare. Mate tightened the last chaincase bolt and readjusted the clutch cable as I geared up ready for my second run.

    Once again I got a good start, but as I went up through the ‘box, the clutch lever hit the bars and I had no clutch. Not to worry, as clutchless changes should present no problem. However, it made it harder to feel for the gears and I once again found myself in the wrong cog on a regular basis. One 39.

    The lunch break intervened and allowed the opportunity to stick some oil back in the primary case and fiddle with the clutch adjustment once again, followed by a leisurely wander around the paddock eyeing the machinery. There was a good selection, from a wonderful 1928 JAP powered special, almost entirely coated in rust and oil, to a couple of late RD400s, and pretty much everything in between. Lovely.

    I lined up for my third and last run resigned to the likelihood of another mechanical failure and simply hoping that I could make it all the way round to avoid the ignominy of a ute-ride to end the day.

    Astonishingly, it all went right. The bike positively flew, all the lines came together and I even managed to overtake a couple of ostensibly faster machines. I was grinning so widely as I thumped back to the paddock that only my helmet strap stopped the top of my head from falling off. One 36! Yes, I hit my nominated time. Woohoooo! :cool:


    As a bonus, after the competitive runs, riders were allowed out on the track (one lap at a time of course) in small groups, for a bit of a play. I got in another three laps and, with the bike behaving itself and my own technique improving all the time, went perceptibly faster on each occasion :grin: .

    Then it was time to load up the van for the three hour drive back to Perth, to round off a long day.

    Monday I ached all over (funny stuff adrenalin) and seemed to have gained mysterious bruises wherever I’d been in contact with the bike. Slept well Sunday night though.

    So, all in all, I had a bloody fantastic time. Yes, there were some mechanical difficulties, as you might expect from a machine that’s been sitting in boxes for years. No, it wasn’t proper racing. But, when all is said and done, I got to go as hard as I possibly could, on a classy little bike, on a proper race circuit for the first time ever. I’m absolutely rapt. :grin: :grin: :grin:

    Now I’m Googling for cheap leathers and eyeing the old K100 for its potential as a track day/racecraft course bike. The wife’s going to kill me :shock: .
  2. Mate that bike looks all kinds of badass. Great story, hope you get stuck into it more often!
  3. :rofl:

    Easily the most entertaining post this year!!!!
  4. Ah, you'd be referring to the hard steel ridge in the back of the saddle, specially placed there to cause those of us with, ahem, generous backsides maximum discomfort. Especially when the bolts holding the saddle springs in place depart halfway up the back straight :grin: .

    Seriously though, when fettled it'll be a very pleasant little beastie. The noise is particularly good, especially the way it fraps and bangs on the overrun.

    There's not much wrong that a Suzuki clutch and a poke about in the gear selectors won't fix. Oh, and a dry primary drive would sort out most of the copious oil leaks.

    If I can get to a couple of racecraft courses and gain my competition licence, I have some hope of being offered more rides in pukka historic racing events where I can thump round at the back to my heart's content.
  5. Top report, very enjoyable read :cool:

    From the website - the only requirement is a bike 25 years or older? Any make/model?

    That you used the "bitsa" bike makes it amazing :grin:
  6. Great read, thanks.
  7. Pretty much. There was everything there. Brit twins and singles of every description and age, Bantams, Z1s (real ones :grin: ), Honda 4s, Suzuki and Yam strokers, historic kneeler outfits powered by GT750 Waterbottle lumps, you name it.

    To avoid utter chaos, the organisers set it up so bikes ran in groups of 8, starting in two rows of four. Faster machinery to the front. It worked very well, and, due to the one-lap-at-a-time format, backmarkers like me didn't have to stress about being lapped and overtaken by the fast boys.

    An excellent event and a good, gentle introduction to the track.

    As far as the Bitsa goes, credit is all due to Mate, who developed it over ten years or so of daily use in the UK, and then let a bozo like me ride it (and repeatedly break it) after its resurrection. My gratitude knows no bounds.
  8. Pat,

    Glad to see you enjoyed the day.
    I am the President of The Indian Harley Historic Motorcycle Club & a coordinator of the event. Not to mention your Clerk of course, Steward Starter etc. for the day.
    It is good to see such a positive response to the event, not that I doubted we wouldn't get such a glowing report. All those I have since spoken to have raved about it. This gives me a boost to start organising the event for '09.
    I know your Offsider, apologies, I have forgotten his name, the LC chap. As you know he races with us in the HCMC Historics. although in a different class to my Period 2 pre war Ariel. I think you should come & join us.
    Meanwhile sort out your mechanical wows & if I don't wee you at the Historic meets, I'm sure you'll be at next years TT.

    I.H.C. President.
  9. I'm pleased you enjoyed the write-up. Had an email from Mate today asking about it so it seems to be generating some interest, which I'm very flattered about.

    Yes, the event was a brilliant experience and has whetted my appetite for more track time. I'll definitely turn up for '09 if it happens because events like this are worth supporting.

    As for proper racing, as noted in one of the above posts, I've got a redundant BMW K100 which would appear eligible (if not ideal) for Rule 20. Not an ideal race bike but it has the huge advantages that I don't have to pay for it again and, after 100,000 kms aboard it, I know it pretty well and am not intimidated by it.

    Further rides on the BSA would be nice, but as it's not mine, it would not be appropriate to expect it. Plus, I'm a bit cagey about potentially destroying someone else's machinery.

    However, first things first. The budget must be found for gear and tuition. Realistically, I won't be racing before next season at the earliest, but I'm now determined to do it one way or another.
  10. Pat,

    I need five post before I can sebd oics. Here is number one
  11. number 2
  12. number 3
  13. number 4
  14. And number 5
  15. Pat,

    Nex time you are at Wanneroo or Collie look for the "Back in Black" Team




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