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CMG goes vintage racing, Part 1

Words: Richard Seck, Rob Harris    Photos: Richard Seck, unless otherwise specified

Editor ‘arris is lacking gorm as he waits in line with the common folk for registration.

Still slightly bleary-eyed, the CMG “B” team made up of Ronn Moffatt, Editor ‘arris and myself converged at Mosport for the annual VRRA Endurance Race at the ungodly hour of 7:30am. As per usual, everything had come together at the last minute.

As we stumbled around teching the bike and sorting out all the necessary waivers, licenses, and memberships, I’m sure that my teammates (like me) were wondering if this would end up like many other CMG racing efforts of the past – badly, with much carnage …

Out of our motley crew, only Editor ‘arris had ever successfully completed a race, albeit in last place (hey, that would be second to last – ‘arris). Mr. Moffatt and myself had our racing debuts cut short with spectacular crashes, resulting in a vast collection of broken bits (not to mention the bikes). As a result, neither of us has successfully completed a race – something that has become goal for both of us.

The annual VRRA Mosport race weekend gets a stellar turn out.Photo: Colour Tech

With my track record in particular, the chances of racing a supplied bike again were slim to none (see BMW race). So it was with some surprise that I discovered at the Toronto Motorcycle Show that my ’89 Kawasaki ZX-7 was eligible for the Vintage Road Racing Association’s (VRRA) new Period 4 class. Quelle bonne idée (sp?). Let’s do it!

The 25th anniversary of the VRRA’s Mosport Endurance race seemed like a perfect fit. The ’89 ZX-7 was based on an endurance racing platform and it seemed like we could actually be competitive (well, the bike anyway). Those who read my sad experience at the BYOB FAST School will know that this racing effort was not coming along as smoothly as we would have liked. All I can say is thank god for Dr. Jeff Bloor and his team at Cycle Max for agreeing to help us get the bike sorted (stay tuned for a full report on all that was done to the bike).

Shannonville track day testing …Photo: Flair Photo

We did manage one track day prior to the event where engine woes had been corrected, but the suspension was still in need of dialing in. Several things were confirmed at this track day: The first was that bike was a handful to ride – suspension and handling quirks aside, the motor would hit really hard at 6,000 rpm. There were no more power holes, but it was still soft below six grand so had to be screamed around the track like a two-stroke. Add to that the new D&D exhaust and the bike was f*ckin’ loud and somewhat intimidating.

“Ronn, you see this dial here? It’s pointing to ‘Fat Bastards’. You’d better get to MacDonald’s”. Mr. Seck tells Ronn the bad news.

Photo: Flair Photo

The overall frightening performance of the bike reinforced a nickname that Ronn had already given it – “Angry Japanese Man”.

Despite the handling problems, Editor ‘arris and myself were able to bond somewhat with the ZX by the end of the day, but Ronn – being about half the weight of either of us (the bike was sprung for fat bastards) – had the look that this project was going to end with his demise. We were pleasantly surprised when he showed up on race day.

Cycle Max had come to the rescue once again prior to the race by safety wiring the bike and adjusting the Penske shock to act like a suspension (it seemed we’d failed miserably with our “experiments”).

Rob and I hadn’t rode Mosport since our BMW Buell Cup racing practice. Even then it was only two fifteen-minute sessions prior to the race, which we did not enter. Rob still regrets not entering, although I was happy enough to let it go as Mosport is a very intimidating high-speed track, and I was far from figuring it out at the time.

LET THE GAMES BEGIN

“Y’all a racer? I lyke raycers”. CMG Brolly-Babe, Earl-Anne scares the shit out of Editor ‘arris.

After my first practice session, I wasn’t disappointed to discover that Rob had not showed up at his second practice session when I pulled into the pits for the swap. Turns out that he had been completely thrown for a loop when our volunteer brolly babe (perhaps not the right term) Earl-Anne, showed up. This gave me a chance to run almost 25 minutes in a row and I was starting to get in a groove. The bike was running great and the suspension and handling were the best they’d ever been. Good to go!

The racing order was determined by the need for photos. As I was photographing as well as racing, Rob would take the start. Ronn would go second, followed by me taking the third session. This would allow for the necessary start and swap-over photos.

Larry Tate had formed a much-needed Team CMG pit crew when his ride on Steve Bond’s KZ1000 was over before it even hit the track after its tach drive exploded during warm-up. Our original pit crew/score keeper (CMG’s tech guy Scott Smith) had been relegated to a special scoring booth on the other side of the track. Who knew?

Mr.Tate, (now self-appointed Team CMG manager) upon hearing about our proposed twenty-minute sessions called us a bunch of pussies and stated that everyone would do forty minutes, and that was that for that. What the hell, you only live once, and nothing like dying in a spectacular turn eight crash after exhausting yourself.

At this point I’m going to hand the race commentary over to Editor ‘arris because as it turned out, this was to be one of the few shining moments of his motorcycle career. So without further ado, ‘ere’s ‘arris …!

LA VIE EST BELLE!

by Editor ‘arris

‘Arris give the okay – the ZX-7 was well sorted for Mosport.

The grid was proving to be a big one. All the classes were eligible for the endurance race, meaning that I was in the company of oil-burning CB350 twins to mammoth one-litre air-cooled superbikes.

Being on a relatively modern 750 meant that I got grided on the fourth row, ahead of the slower and smaller bikes, but behind the beasts of the event. It was time to breathe deeply, clear the mind and … uh oh, here comes Earl-Anne.

It was the comic relief that everyone needed, and as the bikes at the rear were shuffled into place, Earl-Anne stood at my side, brolly perfectly placed to keep me out of the midday sun, Billy-Bob teeth glowing a chain-smoker yellow.

After the officials regained their composure, Earl-Anne was ushered off the track and the starting flagman raised the red flag. Okay, was it ‘go’ when he dropped the red flag or ‘go’ only after the red had dropped and the green raised? I seemed to remember the second, and as the green twitched up, I instinctively grabbed the throttle and feathered the clutch.

Earl-Anne provides comic-relief to a tense grid.

To my surprise, the two riders ahead of me were slow off the grid and I found myself shooting between them and coming together with the front-runners. Now was not the time to hold back and I kept it wound open, picked my line and tried to make myself look as big and as daunting to the riders behind me as possible.

It was perfect, and I cranked it over into corner one and followed a smooth arc through the inside line. Out of the corner and with a quick prod up of the gear lever, I rapidly approached the crest of corner two, just short of redline.

All I could think of was a heaving pack of chaos behind me, all eyeing up the ZX-7 and planning their passing maneuvers. But I wasn’t about to give one iota away and pulled the ZX over to the left as bike and rider became momentarily weightless over the crest and then recompressed as we shot off down the hill into the infamous corner two.

“Angry Japanese Man”.The orange vest is for people who have yet to complete at least two races – i.e. Team CMG.

Photo: Colour Tech

Before corner three, one or two of the slow starting big-bores cut in front and took their rightful place in a smooth sweep and tuck. Okay, well done, but that’s that for that. This was a race and I wasn’t about to let anyone past without a fight. Then, coming into the hairpin a couple of smaller bikes found a better line and nipped in just before the second apex. Bugger, I have to get that one sussed if I don’t want to lose a couple of positions each lap.

But their glory was short lived as I dropped down two cogs, whacked open the throttle, tucked in behind the screen and pulled in the two little bastards that dared to pass the mighty ZX. It was pitiful – kinda’ like shooting fish in a barrel – as I snicked up through the gears and showed them a view of the Kawasaki’s arse.

The back straight seems to go on forever, and in typical Mosport style it’s best taken fast and furious. As I approach the crest at the end, I take a peak at the ZX’s speedo (still attached in typical CMG style) and see 210, 220, 230 km/h. The bike gets light as I pass said crest, only then realizing that this was the same point I’d picked in practice to apply the brakes in time for the glorious sweep of corner eight.

The track was full of all kinds of vintage machines. Very cool.Photo: Colour Tech

I grab a handful and sit bolt upright to add as much sail retardation as possible. I’m shocked that I’ve overbraked and have to apply some more throttle in order to hit the corner with the right amount of velocity. Hmmhh, let’s see if I can leave it even later next time.

Eight is pure ecstasy and I nail it perfectly, swoop the ZX over lusciously into nine and hit the brakes hard for the gnarly last corner before the short home straight. I screw it up but the back straight, and proceeding two fast sweepers, means that there’s no one close enough to take advantage of it. I drop another cog and rev it up to the screaming redline, past the throngs of cheering crowds.

Well, in my head anyway.

ENDURING THE ENDURANCE

Team CMG leg-stretcher, Steve Simmons, takes care of Editor ‘arris post race …

After a little over 15 minutes I’d done less than nine laps and my body was starting to complain. I’d failed to find any race boots big enough in time for this ride and had had to resort to my pair of Prexport touring boots. As comfortable – but slightly lacking in protection – as they were, having my right foot digging into the end of the footpeg was starting to hurt and make my toes go numb.

Relief came in the form of letting my right leg flap behind in the wind as I tucked in and wound it up on the back straight. Wiggling toes confirmed that feeling was returning, and a quick move back to peg at the crest/brake marker gave me enough time to get back into position again for corner eight.

By this time I’d also caught up with the slower backmarkers and picked them off one by one on the back-straight, and – as my confidence grew – around the outside, inside or any whichever side I could in the corners. I’d always been a nervous passer but this stuff was fast becoming the highlight of the race.

The short home-straight passes could be made by drafting the rider for most of the straight, then late braking past them to the start of corner one, followed by a swoop in front and a perfect line through. Ha ha, see ya. Suckerrrrr!

BRINGING IT HOME IN ONE PIECE?

Starts were a blast.

With my session almost done I crested the end of the back straight to be greeted by a waiving yellow flag and a cloud of dust wafting towards me from corner eight. A bike lay on the left, and the rider was not to be seen. Holy shit, a get-off there would be a fast one.

Okay, not your concern Harris,concentrate … and, err, what does a waiving yellow mean? Caution, no passing. Yes, that’s it. Still fast, just don’t pass. The next flag was a held yellow, meaning that you can pass, but still with caution. The fun and games could begin again.

My next pass was flag free, so I figured that all was well, until the following lap. Coming up the back straight once more and I was greeted by a frantically waiving red flag. Stop! For some reason the rider who had crashed had originally gotten up to walk behind a wall, and duly collapsed. The officials were rightly worried and decided to stop the race and get the ambulance out.

Mr. Tate supervises the CMG pit crew (Steve Simmons and Betty Boop) during gas fill-up. Editor ‘arris tells Ronn to risk life and limb for CMG glory.

It’s over ten minutes later before we’re given the go ahead to return to the grid for a restart.

This is where my inexperience kicked in. I had no idea how long I’d been out for. Do I pit now, thereby getting a refueling and rider change while the restart is being organized, or just go back to the grid?

Being close to the front I didn’t want to lose my position, so I opted for the grid. Larry waved for my attention and held up one finger. Was that ‘the finger’ or a “you’re number one” or “one more lap till pits”? Hmhhh, the latter I think.

With a slight lofting of the front I got another good start and went hell for leather for my last lap – somewhat miffed that my time was up. Hell, I could have done another twenty – forty’s for wankers!

And so it was, with a quick jump-off to enable for a somewhat less-quick refueling, my time was done – but I was on top of the world. Although only my second race, I’d done my time with track days and manufacturer launches, and this was the moment when it had all come together. I was so ecstatic I could have kissed Earl-Anne…

IT’S NOT OVER YET. OH, IT IS …

Wrap-up by Richard Seck

The new Period 4 race class brings some serious kit to the VRRA races. Ronn and Frenchy (on a VFR) psych themselves up for Mosport.

With ‘arris done we sent Ronn out for his 30-minute session, gauging that there was an hour left in the race after the crash chaos. Although he has the most Mosport experience out of all of us, Ronn was hampered by a seriously hairy-chested bike that wasn’t set up him. After his session he said the dialogue in his helmet while on the track went something like:

“Holy shit, I’m going to die! Oh, I didn’t die – oh no, not again – that’s it, I’m dead – no, I made it! Uh oh, make it stop!”… And so on.

To his credit he did bring the bike into the pits in one piece, thus succeeding in completing his race. I was psyched and ready to bring Team CMG to racing glory in the last 30 minutes (yeah, right). Of course even before I could get on the bike the chequered flag was waved and that was that for that. What the hell?!

Turns out that the crashed rider had still to be taken off the track and to the hospital. That meant that we’d be without an ambulance, so they called the race a half hour early. Many racers were pissed, including Mr. Bond who had managed to secure another ride but like me, never got to race.

Team CMG, Team Lake and the CMG ‘fans’ at the CMG hospitality tent.

I had to laugh, it was my bike and I didn’t get a chance to race it. How CMG is that? So I’m still left blowing in the wind as far as completing (or even participating in) a race.

Oh well, same time next year?

You bet!

RESULTS

Although the race was called after only an hour and a half (was scheduled for two), Team CMG managed to get in a total of 37 laps, to get 9th out 18 in Period 4 class, and 14th overall. Best lap times were 1:43 for ‘arris, 1:58 for Ronn Moffatt and 365 days for Mr. Seck (as that’s the next chance he’ll get to actually ride in the Mosport endurance race).

Congratulations to Team Safe–T–Strap for the overall victory, and on a Period 3 bike no less!

(Read Part 2 here)


THANK YOUS:

RACE DAY:

Peter Sheppard and the rest of the gang at the Vintage Road Racing Association for not only doing stuff like this, but for also helping Team CMG get on the track at Mosport.

Lisa for providing her alter-ego, Earl-Anne as CMG brolly-babe!

Malcolm Lake and the gang for supplying the ‘hospitality’ part of the CMG hospitality tent with their barbeque, food, beer and smart trailer.

Scott Smith for supplying pre-race accommodation and for getting our lazy asses up and out the door in the morning. And to top it all, for supplying the fire extinguisher / gas can / scotch / time keeping, etc., etc., etc.

Team CMG Pit Crew – Larry Tate, Steve Simmons and Betty Boop.

Colour Tech and Flair Photo for the superb photos used in this article.

ZX-7 HELP:

Cycle Max for making the “Angry Japanese Man” ZX-7 more rideable.

Pirelli for supplying the Diablo Corsa tires that kept Team CMG on the track.

Penske for the help in getting the rear suspension sorted.

Moko for the frame sliders

Dynojet for the Stage 1 jet kit.

D&D Exhaust for the barking mad exhaust system.

Cycle World for the help in getting required maintenance supplies.

Comfort Inn in Belleville for our test day accommodation.

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