Shannonville:It's late on Friday night, a balmy June evening, and I'm rolling along the 401 in a borrowed van, my vintage race bike in the back. Suddenly I wonder 'what the heck am I doing?'. I'm going racing. Actually racing a motorcycle. Yikes, who talked me into this I wonder, as I carefully aim the unfamiliar van along in the slow lane to Shannonville. Hours behind schedule, alternating between wondering what tools I've forgotten, and how I'll manage to unload my bike in the morning, I arrive at the track. I managed to find an unoccupied pit in the dark, narrowly avoiding pitching my tent in a small pond.
I'm running in the Period 4 Lightweight class in the VRRA's vintage racing series. I'm just doing the 3 Ontario rounds for my rookie year. My first race is be the Quinte TT on the Nelson circuit at Shannonville. I'm familiar with the track, but I haven't ridden on it recently, and the bike is new to me.
My vintage race bike is actually a converted street bike - a 1983 NS 250 F Honda 2-stroke, a V-twin and liquid cooled - not to be confused with the NSR250 - it's a pretty unique bike. I'm totally new to 2-stroke though, and I've found it a challenging adjustment. The power is there (somewhere), but you could hide the business end of the rev range with one finger over the tach, so there's a bit of a trick to making it go. It's small and light, with narrow tires, and the handling is completely delightful. The disc brakes are effective, but I'm struggling a bit with the lack of feel/feedback from them - they seem to require more of a brute-force approach for hard deceleration.
My first race weekend was a bit overwhelming. So much new stuff to learn. I managed to navigate the complexities of rider registration and technical inspection. The smallest hurdles seemed to grow to vastly mountainous proportions though - I had to remove the sidestand but couldn't get it loosened. My pit-neighbour came to my rescue - held my bike for me while I reefed on it, then when that wasn't working, he loosened the stand while I held the bike. My number plates also proved challenging - I wasn't equipped with the right colour of duct tape, and when I managed to borrow what I needed, I still didn't accomplish sufficiently legible numbers - another seemingly minor hurdle that proved challenging.
I managed to make it out of pits and arrive at the track on time for my practice sessions, and I needed all the track time I could get. I was dismally slow; unfamiliar with the bike and it's noises, struggling to get much power out of it, dubious about the traction from those skinny tires. I'm glad they let rookies wear an orange vest for their first season, I was doing a pretty good impression of a pylon.
When I checked the grid positions for the first race for my class, I was surprised to discover I was not at the back of the grid. Apparently my early arrival in the morning at registration counted as doing something fast, and moved me a few places up the grid. Now I had a dilemma, I'd never done a standing start before, and I really wasn't confident of my ability to get the bike quickly off the grid. I've been rear ended once already this year (that's another story) but I wasn't keen to try my first standing start with other riders behind me.
When it came time for my first race, my bike wouldn't start. Now I'm new to kick-starting - this is the first kick-start bike I've ever owned, but so far it's been very easy to kick it to life. I'm mystified. With my 4-stroke street bikes I know what to start fiddling with when they won't start, but with this one I have no idea. I can hear them calling my race on the PA, and panic sets in - I'm frantically kicking the bike and again another racer takes pity on me. Clearly knowing more about 2-strokes than I do, she gave me a bump start, and my bike spluttered to life. I arrived at the track entrance panting and frantic, and hadn't settled down much by the end of the warm-up lap, so I waived off my grid position and started from the back. I managed to get off the grid without stalling, but the bikes ahead of me vanished so quickly I must have been dismally slow off the mark. I regained my focus and did my best to make the unfamiliar bike go. I improved my laptimes, but remained dismally slow.
Sunday my practice session was early and my final race was late in the day, so I had a more relaxing day hanging out with friends and taking a demo ride (Honda Silverwing Scooter!). I spent some time before the race stretching and gathering my concentration - I learned my lesson on Saturday - I don't need the extra stress of arriving on the grid in a panic. I started warming my bike up early and arrived on the grid focused and calm. I took my grid position, and managed a slightly better start. I'd love to say something more exciting than 'I finished' but that's about the sum of my accomplishment. I have a steep learning curve ahead if I want to make this bike go faster.
2005 Season: Rookie Season - First Race Shannonville - Second Race Mosport - Third Race North Bay - 2005 Season Photos
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