Part Time Racing by Mike Emery ~ Part Time Shooting by Mike Boehm
An e-mail from Triumph’s press guy, Jim Callahan, confirmed the fact that Triumph had indeed forgiven me for my cardinal sin of turning one of their nice shiny Daytona 650′s into a very fashionable coffee table ornament.
Their offer this time? How about a ride in the newly formed AHRMA spec series, The Thruxton Cup? The nice fellow even offered me my choice on the venue, that choice, after losing the Daytona pick, was Mid-Ohio. I’d never been to the track before despite hearing all the stories, good and bad and I broke my own bag packing world record in my attempt to get out the door.
The AHRMA weekend’s are typically two day affairs with practice in the mornings and racing in the afternoon. Although my race day was Sunday, I popped my head in the garage door, Saturday, to eye up the bikes and to offer support for the Saturday shift of Roadracer X’s Chris Jonnum and fellow Brit freelancing scribe, Sir Robin Wibbly B’Stard.
The bikes certainly looked to be in the road race business with their GMD optimized frame and suspension set-ups’ replete with Ohlins dual piggy-back shocks out back and Race Tech massage forks up front – all courtesy of the factory’s next door neighbor, Kent Soignier, of GMD Computrack, Atlanta. The front cowl is a Sharkskinz piece with a stock seat and cowl sourced from Triumph’s own parts catalog.
The rearsets were built for the little Trumpet that could, by AXLJAK Racing, as were the stout looking frame sliders and steering damper mounts. Remarkably, The owner of AXLJAK, Jack Aksel took just a couple of days to produce these race kits for Triumph and they looked superbly made. The bike’s wheels were shipped to Buchanan’s for heavy duty spokes – safety first, you know. On their return Avon Tyres supplied them with some treaded race rubber, in the form of their AM 22/23 series tyre (tire). The chain and sprockets were replaced with a lighter 520 chain and Vortex sprockets. EBC also chipped in with a floating rotor to complete the chassis set-up.
The motor is stock for the series, with the only allowable mod’s being a Factory carb kit and freer flowing exhausts. The head received a multi-angle valve job and had the air filter replaced with a freer flowing piece. The exhausts were retro style with reverse megaphones with a not too a mega-noisy sound, and they obviously looked the part. This particular set was supplied by South Bay Triumph who is a renowned source for go-fast Trumpet bits. A quick peek at their website shows them available in a ceramic black or chrome finish. They also supply big bore kits for most Triumphs too, including the Thruxton, but that would be cheating for this series.
I visited an AHRMA fast guy, and fellow Brit, Pat Mooney, and asked him for some go-faster hints and advice on the track layout. Pat proceeded to give me some valuable info on the hot lines and gave me a couple of lurid crash tales, just to keep me honest, and sent me on my way. On his recommendation I pestered tech and bagged (begged) an extra practice session to compliment my sole morning one, before my debut race. Typically for AHRMA, they obliged – they really are a super organization.
The first practice saw me wobbling around on a dry track, trying to make some sense of the jigsaw of concrete and asphalt that is Mid-O. The contradictory advice that I seemed to be receiving from various sources confirmed that A, the concrete was grippy, ignore them, to B, they are very slippery, watch out for them. I had a couple of “moments” on the transition between the two surfaces, but mostly I felt OK, with the bike handling pretty decently for its size and weight. I clearly wouldn’t be dragging any elbows this early though, even if I did recognize that infamous corner.
Second practice was a wet one, I’d been secretly hoping for rain and boy, did I get what I deserved. Being from England, I was brought up on the stuff, breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. I seriously felt that what I lacked in track knowledge, I could make up with some mad wet Brit style. I didn’t, however, account for the concrete racing surface, to say it was a little unnerving, wins my understatement of the decade ward. It was ‘orrible and scary too (sniff) even moderate amounts of throttle greeted me with a sideways momentum rather than forward. I did however, pass a few people in practice, so I felt a little better.
As race time came closer, so did the sun, the track was almost 100% dry, and I’d had time to sit quietly and mentally break down the track, feeling I’d worked out a couple of options for faster times. About two minutes before we grid, the heavens opened. All optimism faded with that sun, could I or couldn’t I? We’d soon see. Having no tire warmers, I did a fast-as-I-dare first lap in the hope of getting some heat into the tires – I slipped a couple of times, but was reasonably happy.
I took my position on the last row of the grid, predetermined, by the way, not based on lap times (although I probably would have been in the same place) but by late registration. My race strategy reasoning was that I could only move forward – I really didn’t want to finish last.
An almost perfect start saw me bounding away like the proverbial hare, in the much fabled tale of the Tortoise and the Hare. However, instead of being beaten by a meek little tortoise at the finish line, I was positively devoured by a bunch of maniacal Thruxton 900 mounted fast guys. The first wet corner saw me sliding both wheels in a very graceful arc and even before it was over, three or four bikes passed me. Going up the hill to the chicane saw me nab a place back, but I was immediately repassed by two or more around the keyhole, due to my teetering on the concrete. I steadily went backwards and was finally lapped by Mr. Mooney and Jay Springsteen (yes, that Jay Springsteen). To show you how competitive this race was, Gary Nixon finished 4th … I finished 12th out of 14.
If you’ve even been the victim of me and my crazy Supermoto, then go ahead and rejoice, because today I had my arse handed to me quite handily – I’ve never been smoked so badly – ever (all this in front of my lovely girlfriend too). I must admit, I still loved every minute of it though. I’d like to go back to Mid-Ohio – It’s a very technical and challenging track and I certainly have some unfinished business there and I also can’t help but think I left some mojo at the place – I’ll be looking for some sun and some extra time on a Thruxton next time though.
AHRMA seemed to be really happy with Triumph’s participation in this series. However, both sides are looking to increase the grid for this spec series. There are currently two trains of thought here, either keep it as is, minor mod’s, cheap thrills and close racing or open it out to the fastest rider/engine builder in a run what yer’ brung format. Personally I’d love to see it maintain its present format. It gives the average guy a chance to buy a Trumpet, chuck a couple of grand at it and then proceed to beat up an old duffer like me. It’s a win win situation. However we (they) need to let more people know about it, big fun on a budget is the best fun I can think of.
Admission is easy; go buy a Thruxton 900 then trot off and get an AHRMA license. Triumph will then present you with an $800 rebate check, which can go towards the various and easy mod’s (to be competitive). That’s it really. Buy it Friday, win on Saturday/Sunday, ride to work on Monday. A big thanks to Jim Callahan for the opportunity and to Paul Runion for prepping and adjusting the bike to my satisfaction
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