Road America

It’s going to be a long weekend. Wednesday morning I picked up a small truck from Zip car at a lot in Brooklyn. I headed over to my shop to pick up a wheel chock and some tie downs, over to REV’IT! in Red Hook to pick up some race gloves, then over to Spannerland to load the bike. Kenny had already headed out a few hours before me with his van loaded with the other race bikes also competing. Our plan was to meet up in South Bend,Indiana. We would crash there for the night, pick up a new race suit in Milwaukee, and then be at the track late Thursday afternoon. A solid 18 hours behind the wheel.

I wheeled into South Bend just past midnight. It had been a long hot day with temperatures in the 90’s. I put a cover over the bike and found Kenny in his room. I might have lasted another 15min before passing out.

In the morning we woke up first thing. After a quick bite and a Walmart run we were on the road. The high heat of the previous day had turned into a cool wet drizzle… which then turned into torrential rain along our 6 hour route to Milwaukee where we needed to pick up a set of leathers. I had left the cover on my bike. Needless to say the cover didn’t make it, tattered by the wind, and my bare metal bike soon acquired a fine patina of rust. Its too bad Zip car doesn’t have vans!

We had shipped Kenny’s new REV’IT! race suit to Spyder Leather Works a few weeks before. The owner, Alexa Krueger, carefully stitched up the suit with Kenny’s name and all his sponsors. Buy the time we arrived at the Spyder leathers the rain had stopped. We popped in for a quick fitting and Alexa showed us around her shop. All the leathers hanging around read like a who’s who of motorcycle racing. I wish we could have stayed longer, but we still had a ways to go… so we left Milwaukee within the hour.

Keeping to schedule, we pulled up to Road America late Thursday afternoon. We were first in to the pits and setup base camp right along the main straight. The temperature was maybe 60 degrees at best. It did not feel like summer at all. Toad, yet another member of Spannerland, pulled in later in the evening. He was going to race a G50. We also saved some space for Tim Joyce who was going to arrive the next day. After getting setup we headed into Elkhart Lake for dinner at the famed Siebkens Lodge… Its a classic old place with lots of racing history. I liked the place so much I took a room there and left my tent in the truck.

Friday started out OK. The track was wet as the paddock started to wake up in the morning, but it dried out quickly and stayed that way for almost the full day. We had the bike ready to go for the first practice session. After a few laps the toe on the shifter fell off… not a big deal. Brought the bike in and fixed the shifter, heat wrapped the pipe, as well as a few other adjustments. Back on the track the next session the bike was doing well… although at one point Kenny lost drive, but after checking the bike over we could not find an issue. Must have been a missed shift.

The next day we did a bit more tuning on the carbs. We changed the jetting twice and while poking around we noticed that the machining of the inside bore of the carbs is not the same! It took a while setting the screws to get the bike into a reasonable state… not perfect, but not bad given the circumstances.

The racing started at noon, and the 750 class was not till the end of the day. Kenny took 3rd in the 500 Premier with the Manx (No. 17). When it came time for the Formula 750 class he suited up and we got the bike on to the rollers. It fired right up, but then it started to back fire. Kenny killed it, looked the bike over, and then fired it up again… it was getting worse. We ripped the top of the carbs off to make sure the jetting was correct, and checked the battery at a frantic pace… but it was too late for last call to the grid. We were done. All of this on camera.

We did not have any experience with the new electronic ignition we were prototyping. All the rev’ing while adjusting the carbs did generate extra heat and vibration, but its hard to say what the real cause was without a lot more work. The ignition problem would repeat itself the next day when Kenny had the same issue with his own Seeley… after the warm up lap he was on the grid for 2 minutes before the start when bike started to backfire.

With nothing left to do I packed up the Seeley Norton on to the truck. The sun was starting to set and I had an 18 hour drive in front of me.

I was really hoping to be done with the whole TV shoot. The novelty had worn off some and we all had other priorities to look after. However, to help out the story we’re going to Mid-Ohio in a month’s time so the TV crew could get more footage of Kenny on the track. The goal is really to make it down to Barber with a well sorted bike much later in the year.


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