Dirty Girl Motor Racing >> 2009 Season >> North Bay Runway Romp 2009

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North Bay Runway Romp 2009

The drive up to North Bay for the Runway Romp The drive up to North Bay is always a reflective experience for me. It's a beautiful drive, particularly after a summer of track-drives back and forth on the traffic-clogged 401 and the perpetually-under-construction QEW. The route would be pleasant in the summer, but in September, with the beginnings of autumn colours it's lovely, and when the sun comes out it's glorious.

I contemplate the ups and downs of a full season of racing, reviewing the beginning of the season planning parts, thinking through to the races round by round, considering how my results match with my goals for the season. The drive up and the racing weekend at North Bay have taken on a contemplative tone.

As you may be able to surmise from the line up of cars behind us, behind the shadow of our bikes on the trailer, we were one of the slower moving vehicles that the road is being widened to accommodate. Construction along the way shows great progress from last year, and the double-lane divided highway is nearly complete all the way to North Bay now. Next year we will be able to use the slow lane and let the impatient people, the non-trailer-towing people, go around us without waiting for a gap in oncoming traffic.

fall colours just starting to appear in early September The changing season coincides nicely with the end of the racing season, making this drive to the racetrack more bitter-sweet than earlier races. Autumn colours are always a sad sight for motorcyclists, signaling the beginning of the end of the riding season, although lovely while they last. I think racing added an urgency to my experience of early autumn, the last racing round of the season being my last chance to improve my results/position in the standings, and the last chance to collect the racing experiences and memories that will keep me warm and wrenching through the winter.

However poignant fall is, I still love to see the colours of the leaves, particularly the pink-orange colours in the sugar maples, and the delicate yellow of birch trees. As we drive north the season seems to advance by nearly a month, and when we drive back on Sunday after the race weekend, we seem to travel back in time, since the fall colours won't appear in Niagara for another few weeks.

our pit area along a runway at the airport Friday night we arrived at the track in good time, finding our friends Laura, 'Routemeister' Dave and Tim V. already there helping with set up. We managed to get through registration, our bikes and gear through tech, and our pits all set up before dark. Seeing the airplanes landing after dark added to the entertainment in the pits; an impressive sight.

By Saturday morning (when this photo was taken) our pit area is quite nicely organized with the most critical equipment and luxuries from home and garage.

You can also see (far right of photo) Laura's 'Pit Bunny Wanted - Must have own tail' Sign. We performed a small psychological experiment, asking respondents for the position 'do you have your own tail?' and collating their responses. Sadly, only about half were successful; the others clearly don't know where a bunny keeps it's tail. Those who gazed towards their own groin area in response to our inquiry should take a quick moment to review rabbit anatomy before applying as a pit-bunny.

Tim and his TZR250 Tim's TZR250 ran really well this year, although many of the modifications Tim had planned weren't in place for this season, his bike ran reliably. This is the only time all weekend he had to work on his bike, and I just happened to catch it on film. My famous two-Tim crew; Tim S wielding the wrenches, and Tim V overseeing the work. Apart from 5 minutes spent fiddling around with the fuel lines Saturday morning, Timothy had a well deserved relaxing weekend of racing with no panic repairs required.

Sunday afternoon Tim treated us to a 'Carb School' talk, complete with flip-charts. School started with only three of us but more joined in as they overheard the subject of the lecture. I know much more about carburetors than I did before, although my comprehension is still incomplete - it's a very complicated subject, which Tim did a great job of explaining.

looking down the pit row over a sea of delightful racing equipment Part of the enjoyment of the racing experience is sharing your passion with like minded individuals. Your fellow racers understand your weekend ups and downs, and your friends at the racetrack are people you become very attached to. Pitting together in a shared pit area adds to ones enjoyment of the weekend, as the shared jokes run moment to moment, and mutual assistance with bike issues is always forthcoming.

Gazing along the row of pits this year in North Bay was quite a treat, seeing such an interesting assortment of seldom seen machinery all lined up and ready to go racing never fails to thrill me. Some of these bikes I'm getting to know quite well, having observed them coming apart and going back together through the course of previous racing weekends.

Laura's CBR250, which I've had the pleasure of riding at the Quinte TT with 'Team Iron Ovaries', is one of the bikes I have observed being disassembled on more than one occasion. Laura has been plagued by cooling system problems, and like many vintage bikes in the course of solving one problem you can discover and spend time on quite a few other problems in the process.

Laura works on her CBR 250 Laura used to look quite distressed taking her bike apart at the track, but as you can see from the photo (left) she has more fun with it now that she's become more familiar with her bike. We're both learning more about our bikes each year, but I've had the fortunate luxury of doing my learning at home with less time pressure than at the track. On the other hand, Laura can take apart and reassemble her bike much faster than I can mine, so the added stimulus of learning under pressure seems to have benefits too.

The CBR managed to finish the North Bay weekend without major mechanical incident, but much water was spilled from the cooling system, and we haven't yet isolated the source of the problem. We have greatly increased our trouble-shooting skills though, thinking through the various sources of over-heating on the little Honda. Hopefully the CBR will get some new parts (always hard to come by in the vintage bike world) over the winter, and be all happy by next spring. Stay cool little CBR, stay cool!

NS 250 F seen from the right hand side My little Honda needed nothing except a shifter bolt tightened. The North Bay circuit can be pretty punishingly rough on the old equipment, and I've nearly always lost or broken parts of my NS at this track, but not this year. My new billet fork-brackets that hold my number plate were more than sufficiently solid for the job. I think two of my previous number plate brackets have broken at this racetrack, and any number of exhaust parts. Fortunately I'd found time to weld up my exhaust before the North Bay round this year, since I discovered when I took my exhaust apart to weld one spot, it needed welding in more than one spot. Actually, it turned out I needed help with that welding job - I started to weld it on my own, but exhaust pipes are thin steel, and it was hard to get the area around the weld clean of oil and paint, so it was a challenging weld and I gave up part way through before I did too much damage - I could see it wasn't going well. Tim saved the bracket I was in danger of melting, and fixed the hold in my exhaust too. So when I arrived at North Bay this year I was reasonably confident that both my number plate and my exhaust system would survive the punishment of the airport circuit.

Honda NS 250 vintage two stroke race bike consumes large quantities of gasoline After nearly running out of gas more than once, at trackdays mostly, but also occasionally racing weekends, I decided to help myself out with a reminder sticker (left) which so far this season has proven easily worth the 1$ investment. When you consider that a dollar worth of gas is nearly useless, and even less so if it's in a red gas can in the pits instead of my motorcycles gas tank on the track. So with this little visual aid I've remembered to keep my gas tank topped off; I'm far less concerned about the weight penalty of a few extra liters of gas than I am of failing to finish a race due to lack of fuel.

You can also see my new tachometer bracket well in this photo. While my tach needle is clearly missing it's business end (well, not exactly missing it - the little wee pieces are bouncing around in there somewhere) the tach itself is attractively and solidly mounted to the front of the bike, along with my kill switch. Enough of the tach needle remains so that I can have a fairly good idea of the RPM when necessary. These sturdy brackets Tim built for me and my NS are solid enough to cope with the abuses of the North Bay circuit, and looked just as good after the race weekend as before.

The masking tape note is a reminder of my grid position, a small diagram showing my position second from the outside of the 9th row. That's the second wave of the start of the race. A two wave start is safer than the overcrowding we would have in the first corner otherwise, but if you start in the second wave, it's really hard to catch up to the riders in the first wave.

vintage motorcycle racing on the airport runways at North Bay Unlike most racetracks, the Runway Romp circuit changes slightly from year to year - one year we even had a corner arrive and depart in the same day. This year the track configuration was 1.73 km's in length, and included a section of recently laid asphalt along one runway. The hairpin corner was even tighter than in previous years, since that runway now offers less useable width with the addition of runway lighting electrical connections on the edges of the runway. An aid to navigation for airplanes is just a traction hazard to motorcycles.

The borders of the track are outlined with orange pylons and straw bales, which I find provide a very challenging visual distraction. Finding the racing line amongst the various visual distractions shouldn't be so challenging, but I struggle with that every year at this track.

exciting, close and competitive racing in the VRRA A beautiful weekend for motorcycle racing, fine weather was enjoyed by racers and spectators alike. The marshals that racers rely on to guard our safety while we race are excited, like the rest of us, by this unique venue. While I never once saw a marshal distracted from the racing by the air traffic, I did see several of them going after the end of the race day to look at some of the airplanes more closely, and watch the action on the other runways. I'm glad to see my enjoyment of this unique venue shared by others, particularly our alert, dedicated and hardworking marshals. One of the few things I don't like about this circuit; riders don't get a full cool-down lap after the race, so we don't get an opportunity to wave our thanks to each of the marshals as we circulate the track. Since I missed my chance then, I'll thank them here - to all the marshals who support the VRRA Racing series, I would like to extend a sincere thank you for all your hard work through the racing season helping keep us safe... we couldn't race without you!

three very different Honda 250 cc vintage race bikes Three very different Honda street bikes, all converted to vintage race bikes. In the photo on the right, from left to right: me and my Honda NS 250 F #418, Mel and her VTR250 #653, and Laura and her CBR250 #211. All three of these 250 cc Honda street bikes are eligible for Period 4 Lightweight class (P4F3) in the VRRA. This was Mel's first season of racing (hence the orange 'rookie' vest). After completing the VRRA school at the Quinte TT, and riding Laura's bike in the endurance race with 'Team Iron Ovaries', she ended her first season of racing riding her VTR at the North Bay round. Laura, finishing her second season on the CBR250, was officially 'de-vested' at the riders meeting on Saturday, getting a rousing cheer from riders and marshals alike.

Of the three 250's mine is the oldest, both in appearance and technologically. The VTR is about as new as a bike can be and still be vintage-legal, and the CBR is relatively modern, in some ways, compared to my NS. None of these bikes are common, although the VTR 250 was sold into the Canadian market, neither the CBR or the NS were.

four women racing in P4 at this year's runway romp, possibly a new record We couldn't resist the opportunity to line up the four women racing in the Period four class for a group photo. Since we so seldom have so many women racing all at one event, we were all pretty tickled. And so were the race fans - our plan had been to line up so Tim could take our photo, but once we got the bikes in a row there were about a dozen cameras facing us. The bike on the left side, that isn't a 250, but it is a Honda - a CBR 600 Hurricane, and Jen is the newest addition to our growing crew of women, her first race was at Mosport this year. Jen and her 600 run in a different class than the 250's - Jen's 600 runs in P4 middleweight (P4F2) in the VRRA's class structure.

Four very happy women racing four great Honda motorcycles!

And so ends the 2009 racing season; another great year of racing in the books, and another winter ahead to plan for next years racing season. For 2010 my plans definitely include finishing my conversion of the Kawasaki ZXR 250 from street-bike to race-bike - stay tuned for updates over the winter!

More Reading...
The Honda NS 250 Page - the North Bay racetrack map and photos

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The 2009 Racing Season Page - the Articles Page

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Dirty Girl Motor Racing 2009

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