But I did head off westward with some trepidation knowing that I'd have to explore to source of what might be a serious oil leak in the not so dry clutch of Bar's new motor for Ducati 750 F1 based Yellow Bike #I. At last year's DOCC event, the old motor completely destroyed itself at the top of Mosport's back straight, so Gary Palmer had put together what was essentially a "blue-printed" 800 motor with a dry-clutch conversion, slightly modified stock pistons and the repaired (by J Precision) F1 heads from the old motor. The repaired heads now had the smaller valves, ST2 cams and CNC porting used on the converted heads - and the milder, 11:1 set-up dyno'd in at 85 WHP with ample torque from as low as 3,500 RPM.
However, in the 5 week period between the time that I picked-up the bike from Gary and early last week, Bar had reported that a couple of drops of oil had worked down to the bottom of the clutch cover and I feared the worst. The plan was to warm it up, drop the break-in oil, check the machine over and then dig into the clutch to see where the leak was coming from.. Gary's process for doing the wet clutch conversion is pretty slick (no pun intended), but there are 3 opportunities for potential oil contamination - and I'd had to deal with this back when I originally put the newly restored motor back into service about 5 years ago. Sure enough, when I got the clutch basket off, I discovered that I was going to have to load the back of the inner spacer, shaft splines and base of the clutch nut with 3-Bond to (hopefully) seal-up the odd collection of parts and seals that were keeping the clutch dry. We wouldn't know if I was successful 'till we fired the bike the next day at the track.
So, I rolled into our pit Friday evening to find Paul Murphy setting up his stuff in our area and putting finishing touches on his stunning Aprilia 125-framed KTM 640-powered creation that Cycle World contributor, Yamaha Champions Riding School and Sport Riding Techniques author Nick Ienatsch had flown up to test. 'Stunning' doesn't do Paul's bike justice. A talented millwright by trade, he made everything required to marry all the components together to form a well-balance and effective weapon that looked the business. I gave Paul the run of my canopy and left the Bimota DB1 in the trailer.
Nick turned out to be an energetic, down-to-earth character with a wicked sense of humor and some great ideas that he shared with us in his opening talk (Five Reasons We Crash) after the riders' meeting Saturday AM, but frankly - I was stressing over Bar's machine and anxious to see if I could pick-up where I left off last July. While my first session was kind of ragged, I could see potential for the weekend and after starting up the Yellow Bike and finding no evidence of an oil leak, I set out looking for speed and rhythm in the second session. Two things were apparent: The little DB1 and I were rockin' and the track had developed some pretty serious on-line bumps during the winter. In the 3rd session, I discovered that, for the first time in maybe 5 years, I had my good friend Fran McDermott in hand and after trading spots a couple of times, I was able to shake him off and put some distance between me and his TT1. Cool.
I finished the morning by setting off on Bar's Yellow Bike to see if I could puke oil all over the track or break the motor. Neither happened and I was pleasantly surprised that the new 85HP motor Gary built had great power and torque everywhere and was a blast to ride. The sun was shining, the DB1, Mosport and I were bonding and Bar had a solid ride in his future. Lunch was served and life was good.
But not for Paul. The little Aprilia was running lean despite a series of jetting changes and after lunch we were starting to look at the float level as the culprit. …Or maybe the FCR needed a little vacuum operated fuel pump (as used on my TT1 and on the Yellow Bike). Theories we knocked around, and between rides on a ZX and an Aprilia RSV, Nick suggested expanding the float bowl capacity with a meter long length of fuel line downstream of the fuel tap (great idea).
Towards the end of the afternoon. Bar noticed Nick eying the Yellow Bike and offered him a ride on the machine and, with an enthusiastic “Yes, please!” I went through the basics with him and we set off together in the next Green session. When we were flagged out, I put my head seriously down and tried to cut the smoothest, fastest laps I could and was surprised that Nick stayed behind me for 2 or 3 laps. When he did go by me, it was on the outside of turn 3 with a happy thumbs-up as he whistled by (..sigh..). He then simply ran away and hid.
I came in after 15 minutes (‘cause I’m an out-of-shape old guy after all) and was in the pit when he came back in - and after he popped the bike into the Baxley, let out a “Holy Shit!” loud enough that Bar could hear it inside the motor home. He liked it. Actually, he was totally unprepared for the handling Gary Palmer had developed over 10 years and 7 championships and simply amazed that it worked so well. As a bonus, Nick sat down with me and gave me some excellent feedback on my riding – stuff that would make me even faster the following day. Double-cool!
While Nick and I were out on the track, Bar decided totest the Aprilia’s fuel flow and discovered that the tank had no vent. Looking at the trick little billet fuel cap, I noticed that there was an outer o-ring sealing the cap to the flange and an inner o-ring sealing the twist/lock mechanism to the cap and realized that pulling the inner ring would create a vent very similar to that used on the DB1 tank. Paul looked to be back in business and we finished the day optimistic on just about every level.
I went over the Yellow Bike and the DB1 before dinner and was delighted to find absolutely nothing requiring my attention. I was fast again, Bar was happy, Nick loved the Yellow Bike, Paul’s problem looked to be solved, dinner was served and life was good.
Nick’s presentation Saturday night was a revelation. So, what’s the Kool-Aid he’d have us drink? More than my aging brain could fully absorb, but the two big takeaways for me were this: Slowing the bike down with the throttle affords the rider little control. Slowing down and TURNING the bike with the front brake is the best way to make the right stuff happen. The guy said he was breaking in every turn at Mosport. Hell, I only really brake for T5. Body position WILL make you faster. Does it work? Sure does. After following me for a couple of laps Saturday, his observations were that I was smooth, that I hit my apexes consistently and that I had good corner speed. And that I was lazy.
The bumps in T3 and T1 were slowing me down, so I started applying the body position stuff late Saturday afternoon and it was making a big difference mid corner and surprisingly, on my exits. As for the braking, I began the process and saw the potential. But that was gonna be the hardest of the two to implement. It comes down to feedback.
The Yellow Bike communicates traction status to the rider in a loud, well-articulated voice. The Bimota on the other hand (particularly the front end) gives it to you in a soft mumble – like an Italian lover whispering sweet nothings in your ear. And in my opinion, the DB1’s a step up from the TT1, which in turn is a big improvement over my old 853 F1. But old guys like us have tuned our ears to the sweet murmurings of our Italian mistresses, so Nick’s braking principals can be applied.
And with this in mind, it’s no surprise that Nick didn’t go as fast on the DB1 as he did on the Yellow Bike F1. On 4 year old Pirelli slicks he was passed only one rider in the fastest Green group; 7 time Canadian Superbike champ Jordan Szoke.
On the DB1 – with more power and fresh rubber he was still awfully quick, but held back by a lack of clear front end feedback.
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. The reason Nick was riding the loudbikes was that Paul’s Aprilia was continuing to give him fits. With the fuel issue sorted out, Sunday’s session saw him coming back in with a coolant leak – which was traced to a couple of pin holes in the rad caused by solid rubber mounts. I sent him off to Canadian Tire for the only fix I could think of; Rislone Liquid aluminum rad sealant. And it worked, but when Paul went out just before the lunch break, something let go in the motor and the day was finished.
Which sucked for Paul; but I couldn’t help admire the way he kept his cool under pressure and continued to methodically work though the issues. Paul’s pronouncement left Nick wondering where the feature story was. He looked over at me a few minutes later and told me that the Yellow Bike was now the story and asked Alex to start shooting the two bikes and over the lunch break, I gave Nick the background on the Yellow Bike and Gary Palmer. As I was talking about why Gary did what he did to the F1 geometry, it occurred to me that a ride on the DB1 would provide some insight and a solid baseline for 1980s handling at its best.
So we managed to perhaps salvage the weekend; with a story about a Vintage Ducati 750F1 that handled like a modern sportbike and an entertaining trip down memory lane on a well-sorted, old school Bimota DB1 track bike.
For everyone but Paul, the weekend was outstanding. Bar got a bunch of quality laps on the Yellow Bike and a session on his Vincent, I learned a bunch from Nick and saw a return to my old form, Fran & I got a long overdue rematch and Nick seemed to enjoy the track, the club and the experience of riding a couple of loudbikes. The DOCC ran a clean event with only a couple of caution flags and the ambulance only rolled when Jen Waterland slipped and sprained her ankle during the riders meeting.
A special thanks to Paul Murphy for bringing Nick Ienatsch up to Mosport and to Nick for showing us all how much riding potential we were leaving on the table.
Plenty more hi-resolution pics (by Alex Bilo) on my Flickr Page