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Damn, I’ve had a lot of bikes in my life. In order of appearance:
...The Dark Period...
I still have the TT1 and the DB1 and will likely hang onto them for a while.
But the bike that changed my life was the 900SS that I bought for myself as my 1st year sobriety reward – and shortly after I made the purchase I met Fran McDermott, saw his 750 desmo bevel vintage racer and decided that I needed to take a trip down Racer Road.
Both the process of transforming the machine and the experience of learning to race at the ‘podium’ level rewarded me with a whole batch of new friends, a commitment to a higher level of mechanical skills and a new level of confidence and humility. The bike and I spent the first 8 years of my new life together and it seemed that we both improved at the same rate. Christened ‘the loudbike’ by the tribe I ran with, the moniker has stuck to me and my bikes to this day. But after I rode Fran’s TT1 in the first of a series of vintage endurance races, the old bevel twin seemed a heavy and slow steering antique. So I bought a 750 F1 and began to transform it into a full-on racer and a year later; sold the loudbike to another racer. When he crashed it in Mosport’s turn 2, it flipped at least 5 times before bursting into flames and burning to a crisp.
I thought it didn’t affect me but by the end of that season, I had started to write about the bike and my connection to vintage Ducati hot-rods. The loudbike blog was born. The bike still affects me and I miss it horribly. Maybe it was that period of intense personal growth; maybe it’s tragic demise.
What’s left of the right-hand exhaust (shown flying through the air in the crash photo) hangs on the wall in my workshop; reminding me of one of the most intense and rewarding periods of my life.
For the uninitiated, the original Yellow Bike was a Ducati 750F1 racer that Gary Palmer raced to seven CCS Lightweight Superbike championships and over a ten year period, developed into the most potent F1 racer in North America (if not on the planet). 93hp on tap, radically altered fame geometry and engine/rider placement, light weight and very yellow, the machine was too good to pass up when he offered it for sale 3 years ago. I bought it without even knowing what the price was. I set out on a six month project to civilize it, give it a cosmetic makeover and for my old 851 F1. Gary was so inspired by the new Yellow Bike I that he began building Yellow Bike II before the paint was even dry on my project.
I let Bar Hodgson ride it the first time out (at Mosport) and he had to have it. I got to run it the rest of that season and the machine blew me (and everyone else) away when I took it out to Grattan Raceway and Barber in its new 840cc configuration. Big power, tons of torque and brilliant handling in a 309lb package..
Yellow Bike III was supposed to be my bike. A replacement for the one that went to Bar. I had the original frame from my first F1, a seat and tank from Gary Palmer’s original spares collection (authentically yellow) and a few other bits stashed away waiting for the right time. The frame had already been modified by Palmer and I figured when I was done with the TT1 and DB1 projects, I’d start accumulating all the bits required to complete the project and pick away at it for a few years.
Then Basil called.
He saw a couple of bikes I had for sale on vintagemotorcyclesforsale.ca and talk somehow evolved to TTs and F1s. A couple of calls and emails later, I agreed to build Yellow Bike III for him using the bits I’d already stashed away.
And 10 months later (just last week), the completed bike went into a box and off to Australia.
Palmer and I met at Grattan Raceway back in August to give the bike a good thrashing prior to shipment (it’s going to lead that kind of life anyway) and came away from the day delighted with the bike’s performance. Not that the day wasn’t filled with drama.. Sketchy weather meant that Palmer didn’t really get down until late morning and as soon as he started pushing the bike, wheel-spin out of the slower corners became an issue. The bike still finished the corners beautifully, but he just couldn’t get the power down. So it became a mad thrash of suspension and ride height adjustments as we gradually ran out of time. Nothing we tried worked – but that didn’t stop him from turning some very fast times and making things more than just a bit embarrassing for some fast guys on modern bikes. With 103rwhp and 67ftlbs of torque in a 300lb package that would go anywhere it was pointed, the bike set a new Yellow Bike standard.
Back in the shop, it was my friend Carlo in Italy who looked at the pics of the bike and the tire wear and pointed out that the chain was too tight; making the suspension bounce off the chain at full squat. The ultimate forehead slapper..
I had some work to do with front brake pad drag, an oil leak, the addition of a steering damper and a serious cleaning – and with everything else going on during September, I didn’t get the bike out for a photo shoot until the end of last month. Happy to be done, sad to see it go.
Chassis: 1987 Ducati 750F1 frame; reduced steering head angle, removed rear and lower sub-frames, additional bracing
Link to the dyno day post on loudbike
Link to the dyno run on YouTube
Link to a hi-rez photoset on Flickr
The motor build thread on the Ducati TT&F1 Forum
Basil’s going to enjoy ripping around Phillip Island on it while I start (once again) pulling all the bits together to build my own (again)..
And would you believe it? In the panic trying to sort out the wheel-spin issue at Grattan, I never got to ride the damned thing..
Annual TT & F1 Symposium was wrapped around a LRRS race weekend and
would honor the memory of the late Jimmy Adamo with a display of two of
his TTs, the final incarnation of the mighty bevel racer and the Cagiva
GP bike as well as a commemorative race in the twins class. The Penguin
Race School offered an opportunity for me to get out on the DB1 and
learn the NHMS course on Friday.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was just happy to be able to be there, given the crazy summer season I’ve had. Packing my track gear was almost an afterthought and frankly, I was just looking forward to some time off to chill with the crowd for three days. No laptop, no cel phone – just a guy with a couple of old Pantah-based track bikes.
And that’s pretty much how it worked out.
Lou Saif, Mike Weber, Ralf Stechow and the crew had done all the heavy lifting this year; Mike having scored a couple of garages (including #26) and Seth Wollins sprung for a big tent along the entire length of the outside wall. Ralph brought Jimmy's Cagiva GP bike that he completed last year and just finished the restoration of the final incarnation of the Leoni/Adamo bevel racer in time for the event. Lou barely got the two Leoni/Adamo TTs complete enough to roll into the trailer. Bill Swensen brought the rolling chassis that will eventually become Jimmy’s 851. Enzo Assainte brought an amazing collection of Adamo/Leoni memorabilia and a collection of period videos that would run throughout the event.
Lou Saif’s factory Ducati TT1
Mark Curtin’s Romanelli TT2
Mark Curtin’s ex-Dr. Keifer Harris TT
Seth Wollins’ ex-Dr. Keifer Harris TT
Seth Wollins’ Lou Saif NCR TT1 Replica
Mike Weber’s Harris TT1
Mike Weber’s Ducati TT1 Replica (barely completed in time)
Mike Vogt’s Ducati 900-based TT1 Special (all the way from Oregon)
Scott Kearny’s Ducati TT2 replica
Jenya’s Ex-Bruce Meyers Ducati TT2
George Vincensi’s Ducati Bevel Twin Racer
Ron Spordone’s Ducati Bevel Twin Racers
Steve D’Angelo’s (stunning) Moretti-framed Ducati 350 Racer
Brian O’Shea’s ex-Cooley Suzuki
Brian O’Shea’s ex-Shobert VFR
A gorgeous F1A and a pair of
Dennis Sandrock' s 1991 Ducati 851
Enzo Assainte's 1994 888spo
…and my Ducati TT1 Replica and Bimota DB1 Special
And the P89 racers were pitted adjacent to the Adamo area:
Richie Paxson’s Ducati 750F1 (he’s been racing it since ‘88)
Chris Jenson’s Ducati 750 F1 (ditto)
Bill Swenson’s Harris TT2 (a multi-championship winning bike)
Bill Swenson’s Ducati 750 F1 (raced by Robbie Nigl)
Mike Dube’s Meyers prepped Ducati TT2
Arriving at this even is always great; hugs, laughs and lining up the the bikes while visiting with the group I only see once or twice a year. it's really a homecoming. We spend the year on the phone, trading emails and gathering on the TT & F1 Forum to build these machines, but when we get together I'm always suprised by how little time we actually spend talking about them.
So, I registered for the Advanced Class with Penguin and took a gamble on running the DB1 with the open exhaust Friday AM. While Eric Wood does a phenomenal job with the Advanced curriculum, it was geared more toward riders who know where the track goes and I was hopelessly lost. I simply needed laps, not a discussion on body position or the best line through a given corner. Don't get me wrong, Eric does an outstanding iand I learned some cool stuff.. This was really apparent during one of the track walks.. We were in the bowl – which is at the bottom of a hill and exits through a nice sweep over a blind crest. As I stood with the class at the bottom of the hill and what I wanted at that moment was to know what was over the top of the crest. So eventually I walked up to see that it led to a nice, tight, blind down-hill left. And so it went. Waiting on the hot-pit in my 3rd session, the DB1 suddenly started running funny – just like a switch was thrown. In the back of my mind I thought “a carb came loose” as I limped the bike back to our tent and pulled off the bodywork. Sure enough.. It's a bumpy track.
I skipped the rest of the classroom sessions so I could hang out with the TT gang and focused on breaking the track into manageable chunks so I could have some fun. I like it – in the way you like swimming in rapids if the weather’s hot enough and there isn’t a nice, calm lake around. And as a bonus, the DB1 with the open pipe only received compliments on the sound. A few clicks on the rear shock and an adjustment in my body position had the bumpy surface in check and the DB1 was a riot to ride fast. I’m really warming up to that bike.
What’s interesting about all this is that what NHMS lacks in terms of track surface, it more than makes up for with excellent facilities and great people. With rumors circulating about our days on the big track at Mosport being numbered, the 6 hour trip to go hang out with the always welcoming Northeast gang and ride a decent track starts to look pretty attractive. I’ll be back.
for an event focused on light, loud, fast and gorgeous Pantahs this
Symposium was incredibly people-focused. With the Jimmy Adamo Memorial
ceremony - Adamo Replica helmets presented to Jaime and Dainelle, the
Lifetime achievement awards to Pat Slinn & Reno Leoni, Pat's
birthday cake, the Jimmy Adamo Memorial Race and the trophies for top
Amature and Expert P89 racers, the bikes took a backseat to the people
around them. Carlo Leoncini came over from Italy with his wife Antonella
took Bill Swensen’s Harris TT out in practice.
Lots of great memories: Watching Jane, Richie, Chris, Bill, Mike, and Robbie do battle on the twins..
Stumbling into a group of racers huddled around another racer who launched into a full-blown TV caliber weather forecast (he was indeed the local TV weatherman), Mike Vogt talking me through his Fiat Abarth scrap book, meeting Enzo Assainte in person after years of email, getting to know '70s superbike collector Brian O'Shea (he brought Wes Cooley's Suzuki and Bubba Shobert's VFR), hanging with Pat, Reno, Carlo & Antonella and the entire Northeast gang that I only see once or twice a year, meeting Jimmy's daughters. We were up talking ‘till Weber kicked us out every night at 12:30 (he was sleeping outside the display every night in his van).
A herculean effort by Mike W & Lou with lots of help from Ralf, Jane and a host of others. And a great way to honor the memory ofa great racer
We always wonder how we’ll top the next year – and Lou always says “never again”.
But we always come back.
It’s hard to believe that five years have passed since Lou Saif held the first Ducati TT & F1 Symposium; an informal gathering of Ducati TT and F1 aficionados and machines at his shop in Queens, NY. While the event has grown to attract an International audience, it maintains the grass-roots flavor that has made it so popular and continues its celebration of Ducati’s 2V belt-drive racers from the 80’s.
2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic passing of one of America’s great racers - Jimmy Adamo. Although he also raced Ducati bevel twins, early examples of the 4V racers and Cagiva’s 500GP bike, Jimmy rode the wheels off a number of TT1 and TT2-based machines during his career.
The 5th Annual Ducati TT & F1 Symposium will be dedicated to the late Jimmy Adamo and Team Leoni - and we’re fortunate to have an incredible assortment of his old rides. As of this date, the last of Jimmy’s mighty bevel racers will be there as well as the Mille-based racer that was trie d out during the ‘88 season. The TT2 based 750 is in the process of a restoration as is Jimmy’s final 750 TT1. The Cagiva 500 will be the along with his 851 racer and a fine collection of memorabilia.
Jimmy’s long-time tuner, Reno Leoni will be making the trip over from Italy to join us in celebrating the memory of this great racer and for the third year in a row, TT ace Tony Rutter’s tuner Pat Slinn will be making the trip over from the UK.
We’re back at New Hampshire Motor Speedway http://www.nhms.com this year; which gives us the opportunity to mix racing with the static display and parades –like last year, a number of the Symposium members will be running TTs and F1s in the LRRS Period 89 class. The Symposium will be set-up in the South Garage, Infield Paddock.
It looks like we’ll have an impressive showing of machines from as far afield as the west coast USA including a number of factory TT1 and TT2s, the ex- Dr. Dave Kiefer Harris TTs, the ex-Dale Quarterley Bimota DB1R and many Pantah-based machines that were used in anger back in the day. Top it off with a number of special guests from all over the world - and you’ve got what may well be the most exciting Symposium yet.
Schedule: October Friday, October 4 through Sunday October 6, 2013
Friday, October 4th: 5th Annual TT & F1 Symposium Opens Open Practice – Penguin Riding School
Saturday, October 5th LRRS P89 Race
Sunday, October 6th LRRS Super Twins Race
Accommodations: Concord New Hampshire is located 15 minutes from the track has an array of hotels at different cost levels. Camping at the track opens Thursday night. We have a special rate at the Red Roof Inn Loudon - 2 Staniels Rd., Loudon, NH 03307 (603) 225-8399.
All Ducati and Ducati-powered vintage racers welcome!
More info and updates at www.ducatittandf1.com.
Past TT & F1 Symposiums:
Although its been renamed Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, we'll always know it as Mosport. The 2nd fastest race track in the world.
Ten turns, dramatic elevation changes (166’ over the 2.459 mile circuit), and a wide-open noise policy. I love it, but after crashing in turn 8 and braking my back and elbow four years ago, I’ve been riding the track in a state of fear.
2013 promised a new experience for us with extensive mods to the track surface and facilities – most importantly; a resurfacing of the concrete patches that line the inside of most corners. The Ducati Owners Club of Canada event would be the first outing on the Bimota DB1 racer and my second time on the track with the Ducat 750 TT1; both bikes set up with loudbike stainless open NCR replica exhaust systems.
And yeah; I packed in the rain.
The rain continued off and on through the entire four days. Sometimes a light drizzle that was just enough to wet the track surface and other times the heavens would open up and we’d see a deluge that would last for 30 minutes or more. But a strong breeze and warm temps gave us enough dry track to make the whole exercise worthwhile.
One of the two bikes was going to be offered up for sale to make room for a recent acquisition and the plan was to use the event to make the decision as which of the machines would stay on as my main ride. Honestly, I thought it would be an easy choice – but as I drove home Monday evening, I simply couldn’t pick a clear winner. The TT1 is about as good a ride as a TT1 can be; faultless handling, great motor and good ergonomics meant that until Monday it was the machine that returned the fastest times around the circuit. And I love it. It’s a really well-sorted, old-school TT1 with an esthetic that works for me and there just aren’t that many out there that can be hustled around a race track as effectively as this one.
I expected the DB1 to be a bit of an animal.. 93HP, peaky Monjuich cams and a short wheelbase had me thinking that it would be exhilarating, but the less rider-friendly of the two. But that wasn’t the case. The extra displacement (790cc) gave the bike plenty of useable torque and the ergos were better suited to my ageing and somewhat battered body. The short wheelbase and big horsepower kept the front end dancing all the way up Mosport’s long, uphill back straight, but the bike remained composed and completely neutral. And the sound..
The DB1 came to me in December 2011 as a rather sketchy ex-track bike that had been set-up for street duty. The bike was well beyond economical restoration - which suited me just fine. Essentially, the machine was stripped to the frame and the bodywork sent off to AirTech so they could make a mold. I got the first pull off the mold and I requested a very thin lay-up (except for the structural area between the four mounting points) with a blanked-off tail and nose. The original bodywork made its way over to Mark Savory at Moto Creations so he could whip-up a carbon version.
I loved the 70's hot-rod look of the PM spun aluminum wheels and scored a set along with a few motors and parts for my TT1 project. The rear wheel came with the brake rotor you see on the bike - drilled with gusto (without a pattern) by the previous owner. It made me laugh, so it stayed on the wheel. I fabricated a new hanger for the tiny Brembo rear caliper, ditched the huge battery box and related all the electronics out of the airflow through the bodywork. The foot peg hangers were milled out, mounts carved out to relocate the oil cooler and a carbon fiber plate used in lieu of the old dash. Robbie Nigl of PeachPit did an excellent job of interpreting my Photoshop work and applying a unique and striking paint job.
Fitting a replacement shock for the DB1s is a challenge and I had a custom unit worked up by Stadium out of Quebec, Canada. Carbs were a challenge as well - the bike came to me with 36mm Dellortos, so the original rear manifold (especially made for the 41mm Malossis) was long gone. While I found a solution with the elegant adjustable manifolds made by Jako in Germany, I wasn't able to fit Mikuni TM Pro-Series 41s, so I got my hands on a later (80's) set of Malossi 41s.
The motor got a complete refresh, lightened basket, primaries and flywheel and a Meyers Performance 790cc kit. J Precision ran the same CNC program used on our converted Alazurra heads and a Montjuich cam was used (call me crazy). I topped it off with loudbike stainless NCR TT1 and 85DB competition exhaust systems; repackaged for the DB1.
While it took me longer to really get up to speed on the thing, the bottom line is that I likely cut my fastest times on the Bimota. Save the road tests from back in the day, there’s not a lot that can be read about what these bikes are really like when pushed hard; certainly nothing out there with modern slicks on 17” wheels. The later version Marzocchi M1Rs worked amazingly well and the custom-built Stadium shock worked brilliantly. The bike is extremely agile while remaining surprisingly composed. It’s no surprise that the DB1Rs did so well during the brief period that they were raced, but with a high purchase price, limited production and the hassle of removing the bodywork to do even the most basic adjustment – it’s also no surprise that there were few being campaigned.
I think it took me longer to really push it hard ‘cause I kept expecting it to spit me off, but on Monday, I had my knee on the ground in every corner and each consecutive lap brought the revelation that there was way more potential in the package than I was using. And the 790 kit is a winner – 93hp is a lot for a light little machine like the DB1 and although you’ve got to be just north of 6,000RPM to get at it, 63ftlbs of torque makes the bike leap out of corners. If the DB1 is the bike I keep, then an access port for the front barb tickler is a must – as is a pig tail for a fast battery charge (I keep leaving the damned ignition on). So, it’s a tough decision – one that will have to wait until the DOCC Calabogie event on August 5th and 6th.
…Nice to have a choice though..
Hi-rez pics on my Flickr page
There's nothing like a day on the ol' rollin' road to cap-off a couple of projects - and I've been going to a dyno just about 45 minutes south of Ottawa at Richmond Motorsports lately. While it’s always hard work and kinda stressful stuff, I truly enjoy the process and it's a great way to get the bikes nicely dialed-in before putting on all the shiny stuff and heading to the track. They've got a Mustang dyno that's a bit of a different set-up than I'm used to, but a treat in that it’s open, cool and pretty user-friendly.
This time out I took the Bimota DB1SR racer and the Ducati 750 F1 (840cc Yellow Bike III) and was hoping to see maybe 90hp out of the former and 92ish from the latter. Rob Marshall came along with his 90's 900SS vintage racer do do a little fiddling with the Ignitech ignition, so it was nice to have another set of hands for the day. I had to do a full break-in on the YBIII, so I had lots of time to look at the air/fuel during partial throttle openings and make some adjustments as I went through the heat cycles.. I had set the Mikuni 41 Pro-Series carbs up like the Yellow Bike I and found myself adding a ton of fuel to the baseline settings after every cycle. And when I finally did my first horsepower pull, I was still lean on the main with a 270 and saw an incredible 101hp. I actually thought there might be something wrong with our dyno set-up, so we went through everything again, dropped in a 280 main (I'm not even sure why I had one that big in my kit..) - And got 103hp on the next pull. Air/fuel was just about perfect and torque was a whopping 67ftlbs, so I called it a day on that machine.
Really nice motor Gary put together; Essentially an 800 bottom end with a 750 F1 gearbox and dry clutch conversion, lightened and balanced crank, Carillos, Meyers 840 kit, J Precision converted Alazurra heads with 27/42mm valves, ST2 cams and lightened flywheel, basket, and primaries. And Gary did a ton of work to the pistons to get the profiles to match the combustion chambers. I can't imagine what this one will be like to ride - and can't wait to find out..
We put Rob's bike up next 'cause frankly - I was still wondering about the numbers we got on the YBIII. But it made exactly what it should have, so I went off to the parking lot for a smoke and thought about 103hp in a sub-300 pound package..
The DB1's powered by a 750F1 Montjuich motor with lightened primaries, clutch basket and flywheel, J Precision heads with standard Montjuich valve size, Malossi 41.5mm carbs and Monty cams timed at 102.5 degrees. When it was time for the DB1 to hit the roller, we were already pretty bagged - but like the F1, I just threw a bunch of fuel at it and hit the right A/F ratio pretty quickly. 93hp on the screen on the first pull with 63ftlbs! With pretty solid A/F numbers across the board, we packed it in and paid the bill – and I continued to shake my head in wonder as we leaded the bikes in our respective trailers.
I couldn’t merge all my dyno sheets in the Mustang system, so I ran the numbers into Excel so I could whip up a graph that compared the old 851 F1 with the Yellow Bike I, the TT1 and the DB1. Interesting stuff..
Kudos go out to everyone involved in these two machines: Gary Palmer, for the outrageous 840 motor, J Precision for the converted heads on both machines - and Mike Weber, Gary Palmer and Bruce Meyers for their support and guidance as I assembled the DB1’s 790cc motor.
If they work on as well on the track, they’re both gonna be a riot to play with.
And the forecast for the weekend looked pretty grim to boot - but frankly, I was just happy to get away for a few days and hang out with the lads at Calabogie Motorsports Park. It was the first Ducati Owners Club of Canada event of the year and my first opportunity to run the Ducati TT1 in anger.
So, after a first session to remember how to ride a bike and where the damned track went, things fell into a pretty nice rhythm and in the second session I had enough comfort to pay attention to how the whole package felt at speed. The bike was everything a TT1 should be - in fact; almost underwhelming because the bike just simply worked. The brakes could be better and Calabogie’s tighter turns were telling me that a few more teeth on the rear sprocket were in order – but overall, great machine.
But, a couple of years away from the track meant that for the first time in maybe 15 years, I couldn’t catch my riding buddy Fran McDermott on his TT. Some credit has to go to Fran; the old fart’s been racking up the laps and finally got around to dragging his knees last year. Bottom line is that he’s faster than me now and I can’t help but feeling pissed-off.
And with a Bruce Meyers-built 840cc motor heading his way, by the time I finally do get up to speed, I’ll be out-gunned and looking for more beans again. It never ends. We’ll likely be at it until we can’t ride bikes on the track – and then perhaps we’ll be trading paint on those geriatric electric things.
But it was a treat to ride a well-sorted machine that I’d built from the frame-up with a lot of help from Lou Saif, Gary Palmer, Mike Weber and Bruce Meyers.
I had the opportunity to finally meet Gilles LaChance – a Quebec City based F1 owner who had bought and exhaust from me and carried on a great on-going email and phone relationship related to his unique F1.
The first official owner (Luc Brouillette of Ste-Catherine de la Jacques-Cartier) of this gorgeous F1A bought it directly from Frank Romanelli, and the F1 was modified with many Montjuich components and raced during a very short time period during the summer 1986 (although non professionally) before being sold to be used on the street.
The original race prep included:
Verlicchi swing arm, Marvic magnesium / alloy 16” wheels, Montjuich camshafts, 41mm and 36 mm valves, Malossi 41mm Dellorto carbs with velocity stacks, and Verlicchi riservato competizione megaphone. As well, the machine has the floating Brembo rotors, Goldline front calipers, dry clutch conversion and race bodywork.
The machine had been registered it for road use in 1987 and 1989 and Gilles bought it during autumn 1999. Since then, he’s been bringing it back to its new life as a track bike and it works beautifully.
You just don’t see original racers like this that often – let alone on the track.
Mosport’s up next – maybe a rematch with Fran on the Bimota DB! Racer.
We know what the weather will be like when I pack the trailer..
Pushing the starter button for the first time always stresses me out. It shouldn’t, but for some reason it still does and likely always will. But after 5 seconds, the stress is replaced with a quiet satisfaction and then the joy of what generally marks then new life of a bike that I may or may not keep – but one that will transport me through a new riding season. The DB1SR lit right up and although far too lean with Fran’s set-up for jetting, all was well with the motor and the sound with the Montjuich cams put a grin on my face as I warmed it up.
With everything that’s been going on in my life lately, this has been a seriously long build with long pauses that made it difficult to jump back into the process and get into a rhythm going. But, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and although I can only get a few hours to work on it each weekend, it’s down to the small stuff (knock on wood) now. I hope to be on the dyno with it by the end of the month and then it’s off to Calabogie in late May with the two bikes.
This foray into the old-school, small-block Pantah-based motors is proving to be a fun process although I’m gonna miss the stump-pulling torque that came with the big engines, it was making me into a lazy rider on the track. Then again, ask me how I feel about this after a season of running with Fran on a level playing field..
Like the TT1, the DB1 has been a challenging build with lots of time spent whittling bits of aluminum, wrestling with packaging and fussing over detail - but with far more time spent cursing the designer. I have high expectations for both machines though and expect them to be a hoot to ride. I wish there were more venues on the schedule that would allow me to run them with the open pipes – both machines have that great loping cadence that I love to bits and don’t hear often enough.. I obviously have a fetish for exhaust sound and unfortunately, the opportunity to run ‘em as they did ‘back in the day’ is fast coming to a close.. Mosport once a year, ditto with the 10-hour trek to Grattan or 14 hours to VIR. And now that I know what I know, the performance of the open systems is actually inferior to a well-designed silenced system. I’m beginning to realize that in my lifetime, there may only be a few venues in North America where we can run ‘em loud. Get it while the getting’s good.
So, it’s back into the shop this morning – fool around with jetting ‘till I get it into the ball park. Make some noise today.
Consider the stunning billet aluminum fluid reservoirs that double as fork caps – making track-side fluid adjustments on the M1Rs a major task. Want to adjust the steering damper? Remove the bodywork, paisan. All of it.
If you need to adjust your chain tension or swap final drive gearing, the trick-looking concentric rear axle adjusters will modify the hide height – which you’ll have to adjust via two rod-ends that have to be removed to be reset. Got a mechanical or electrical issue to attend to? Remove all the bodywork again. Swapping the carbs to Malossis with ticklers meant that I had to drill a hole in the left side panel so I can stick my little finger through to tickle the rear carb.
In order to allow engine heat to move out through the rear of the bike, designers had to leave a tunnel of sorts open under the seat portion of the main body – and with the structure supported by four shouldered bolts, the street bodywork would bow and crack with anyone weighing more than about 160 pounds in the saddle. To preserve my prototype lightweight race version made by AirTECH I had to fabricate a vertical support post to take some of the weight and stress.
But I love it. I suspect that the handling will be excellent and weighing-in about the same as the TT1, the Montjuich motor with a 790 kit and serious cylinder head work should propel it around the track at a pretty good clip.
I’m finally on the back-end of the project; with cam timing, plumbing and hydraulics left to complete.. With two Ducati bevel twin restorations and Yellow Bike III filling the shop, I moved it into my office (with the TT1) and snapped the pics just prior to running the bodywork down to Robbie Nigl (Peachpit Painting) for color and shine. They’ll make a fine pair of book-ends; the TT1 and the DB1 – two featherweight racers with 86HP small-block engines.
These machines mark a return to racing after a 7 year hiatus. I plan three rounds of the P89 Series at NHMS – and who knows? ..Maybe Team Clutch Slip and the False Neutrals will make a return to the VRRA Endurance race..
Yes - but it was right down to the wire..
The TT1 motor being my first crack at building an 'old school' race engine, I didn't want to hit the track without setting the air/fuel and doing a few pulls on a dyno. Ottawa's not a great place for tuning resources with only one DynoJet set-up within 2 hours of my place and just to keep things consistently difficult; it wasn't available. That had me making calls and surfing local forums until I came up with LenTech / Richmond Motorsports in Richmond, Ontario (about 45 minutes from my place) - a performance automotive shop with a Mustang dyno modified for bikes. The owner's a bike fan, the dyno pretty sophisticated and although expensive (you have to pay for the tech), it was the only game in town. So I booked for the Wednesday morning before the TT F1 Symposium and figured if I got through the dyno session, then I'd be off to New Hampshire on Saturday.
If Chris had the bodywork finished..
That meant Tuesday evening I had to scramble to get some main jets bigger than the 250s that I was running in the 853 (just in case) and get the machine & gear set-up for the day's tuning.
So I cobbled together a temporary seat and rolled into Lentech early Wednesday
morning way more nervous than I've ever been with a new motor. Turned out
I had nothing to worry about regarding the staff or the equipment; other than having
to futz with an O2 sensor designed for a car exhaust, and wrestle with a
jetting set-up that would get us in the ball park - it was all pretty smooth
sailing. Disappointing at first though.. We kept throwing more fuel
at the engine, but it just wouldn't respond until I threw a 270 at it and
suddenly the thing pulled like crazy, came on the cam and showed 86HP.
Playing with the A/F via the needle returned excellent torque (albeit at over
6,500RPM), but the combination of Mike Weber's recipe and the J Precision
converted Alazurra heads returned numbers that just aren't seen that often from
a 750. And it didn't break or make any strange noises...
I installed the Weber TT1 exhaust system we made and was blown away by the instant positive effect it had on the power. Peak torque was now available at 5,500RPM and horsepower was pretty much unchanged. This put the 750 in the same league as the old 853 and banging on the door of the Yellow Bike. Amazing. Check out the YouTube video HERE.
A call to Chris from LenTech and his news that the bodywork would be done Saturday AM meant we were off to the Symposium.
It also meant that I'd be assembling the bike in the middle of the event..
And that's what happened. Weber set me up in the center of all the TT1s, Harris' and F1 racers and gave me a bench to share with F1 racer Chris Jensen and the bike got finished over the next 3 days. I arrived at NHMS late Saturday afternoon completely wired from the drive and all the stuff that preceded it - and immediately drove everyone nuts with my obsessive desire to start putting the thing together. Lou eventually talked me off the ledge, so I quit at about 8Pm and shared some pizza with the tribe - did a little socializing and eventually worked my way over to my hotel.
These Symposiums are different every year; loosely organized and with a different member of the group pulling it together each time. For the 4th Annual, Mike Weber had the ball and he did an excellent job of dovetailing us into a program of regional and vintage race events and finishing the experience off with a track day put on by Fishtail. We had two garages, plenty of room, and an almost equal mix of active race bikes, track day machines and static display bikes and a dynamic environment with a third of the machines going out periodically for practice or races - and in the middle of it all an old guy building a TT1. Legendary tuner Pat Slinn came over from the UK to join us as guest of honor, Ralf Stechow brought the newly restored Adamo / Leoni Cagiva 500 GP bike, Lou brought his newly acquired ex-Adamo TT1 and two Harris TTs, Warren dusted off the F1 he raced back in the day and all these cool machines were complemented by an incredible mix of TTs and F1s.
Lots of drama, good times, amazing machines and great people - but frankly, I
missed half of it 'cause it was a full day's work each day to try and get the
TT1 built and set-up for the Tuesday track day. But I found time to catch most
of the racing action and was so impressed by the field that I started to wonder
if it might make sense to go out and play with the boys next year. I also
found time to watch Ralf fire-up the Cagiva for the first time in 15 years. Check out the YouTube video..
At first I was kinda self conscious about working on the bike in front of everyone, but by midday Sunday I just got into a groove and enjoyed the experience.. I drafted Lou for the seat pad cutting, shaping and trimming. It's not like I haven't done a bunch myself; I just wanted to watch the master at work. And as I expected, he tackled the job with a grace and ease that I aspire to, but likely won't attain for years. It was when I had applied the contact cement to both the seat base and pad that I noticed we had an audience - and they all seemed to have their knuckles up to their teeth in anticipation; knowing I had only one shot at landing the two pieces in the right starting position. No pressure at all..
It was a wonderful blur with folks stopping by to chat and lend a hand (or tools), plenty of minor teething problems and a windscreen that wouldn't fit, but by Monday mid-morning the bike was rolled outside with its new clothes and taken for a run around the pits (my first ride of the year). Mike had arranged for a couple of parade laps during lunch and although the bike had run perfectly when I warmed it up, it didn't like anything under 4,000RPM when I fired it up and headed out for the parade. After a painfully slow first lap, we got a chance to stretch 'em out a bit and I came away from the experience with a sense that I could probably learn to like the track - and that I definitely liked the way the bike worked.
Back in the pits I started tearing off the bodywork so I could pull off the carbs and uncover the cause of the rough running (broken main jet, incorrect float levels and a dash of post painting stuff in the needle jets) and install the Weber system for the track day. I was half way through the process when Lou stopped by to tell me they were lining the bikes up for a group shot and that I shouldn't feel any pressure to put the bodywork back on and get out there.
And it was shortly after the group photo when I was taking a couple of pics of the bike that it finally made the transition from being a project to being an actual TT1 that I owned (and not a half-bad one at that).
Naturally, it rained for the track day on Tuesday.
Thanks to Marty for cooking burgers and dogs for all of us (I wouldn't have eaten otherwise), Jane for the fuel filter, Steve for the drill bit, Lou for the inspiration (and seat pad, brackets and fittings), Gary & Mike for the endless patience during all my calls for help while I built the top end, Patrice for the heads, Chris for the paint (in less than a week!), Rob for the oil lines & brake bits, Scott for most of the pics used in this post (I was obviously too busy..) and everyone for showing up and making the Symposium yet another priceless memory.
POSTSCRIPT: I finally finished the TT1 last weekend and took the opportunity to snap a few pics as I was moving it into my office for the winter..
..More pics on Flickr