Racer 2008 | The Evolution of a Norton Racer: 2008


January 2008:Without a heart!

Here sits a lonely 1962 Featherbed frame and bits. The motor has been removed so I can check the balance factor. The bike shook last year, and it was time to get that sorted. Off to Lindskog’s with the crank, rods, pistons, pins, clips, etc. I’m working on some new things for 2008, but I’ll leave it at that for now. In the meantime, I’m amassing all the pieces necessary to get a bike back out on the track and defend my championship. Daytona looms. This year I’ll be riding a friend’s Triumph (cough cough!) on the high banking, which will allow me a bit more time to get things sorted properly with the Norton to be ready for a fast 2008.

 

Twin Towers of Power

New JE Pistons – So beautiful. Such a shame to hide them away in the motor. Good things are afoot, so keep checking back. When I have something tangible to show, this page will be chock full of pretty stuff to peruse.

March 3, 2008

Dudes need some SUN!

I took 2nd in BEARS at Daytona on Monday, riding a friend’s Triumph T140. Here we are living large at the Daytona winner’s circle.

In Tuesday’s race I had a great one going, swapping first place with another Triumph, but blew the clutch on the banking sometime around the 5th lap. Bummer. Nonetheless, I couldn’t be happier to arrive back home unscathed. Thanks to Works Engineering for the loaner and support, and for allowing me to have my moment whilst they wrenched to keep the bike going.

 

March 10, 2008

I am “EXTREAMLY” excited.

 

March 11, 2008 – Seeley Commando

It was getting a bit boring around here, so I decided to take on a new charge. This is my brand spanking new Seeley MK2 (replica) frame built for me by John Woods Racing in the UK. John and I have been working closely over the last few months working through the details for the chassis, tanks, yokes, engine plates, etc. John will always get special mention from me. What a pleasant experience this has been getting all this sorted out.

 

It is a shame that I have to post such low-res images on this site as this frame and tank setup is absolutely a work of art.

This is an exciting time as I get to document the build of this bike the same way I did my Featherbed. Most of the parts have been amassed and it’s mainly about putting the puzzle together, getting everything aligned and assembled, and moving from there. I will post more detailed pictures as the build commences.

March 20, 2008 – Mock Up

Time to start bolting everything together. A couple of tweaks to the engine plates were necessary to get everything to fit proper, as every motor is slightly different. I’ve opted for a Quaife close-ratio 5-speed here, and some very trick Works Ultralight shocks. Up front is a Norvil disk hub, and in the rear is a Triumph T140 disk hub. This motor is just here for mock up as mine is getting a good going through with Mike Rich Motorsports.

 

March 21, 2008 – Alignment

Particular attention was paid to the alignment of the front and rear wheels and all sprockets. I had some alignment issues with the Featherbed which caused some problems with wear on the sprockets and want to be sure this bike is blueprinted from the get-go

 

March 22, 2008 – Offset and truing

This rear Triumph(!) hub was used on quite a famous Norton racer back in the day and I hope some of its mojo will rub off on this bike. But, as I’ve found time and again, nothing ever just drops right in. After lining up the hub and sprockets it was time to move the rim over and reduce some of the offset that was initially built into this wheel, aligning it with the front. This is tedious work, best done whilst enjoying your favorite beverage (notice the fizzy water bottle in the background), listening to your favorite music, all with an open-ended schedule. Not only was it necessary to pull the rim over more central to the hub by loosening one side and tightening the other, but also necessary to insure it stayed true by tweaking individual spokes along the way. Good God, I need a haircut.

 

March 30, 2008

I finally got to sit on my new baby Seeley. It’s long and low, and light as can be. I’m anxious to get it going. Mockup is pretty-much completed, and final build is about to commence. Time for the race motor and start buttoning it all up. I spent a lot of time working to achieve proper alignment of the wheels and making sure the rear chain had adequate clearance on the rear tire. It’s close, with only about 1/4″ to play with, and it might be prudent to shim the sprockets out a bit more. I’ve already put a .030″ shim behind the countershaft sprocket and there’s still lots of room to move it out a bit more, so maybe more shims there and a larger spacer behind the rear sprocket might be in order.

 

April 13, 2008

6 days until Summit Point, my first race on the new bike. New pistons, a rebalanced crank, a bit of a rise in compression, and a bit of a work up on the valves. The motor and gearbox go in (and come out) as a single unit so help was necessary. Have I said how wonderfully beautiful this Seeley frame is? Thank you John Woods.

 

April 14, 2008 – On the dyno

Actually, just to get it started on the rolling road to get a heat cycle in. Didn’t even try to get numbers on this motor with new pistons, rings, main bearings, and rod bearings. I’ll be back after a few break-in laps at the track.

 

April 18th, 2008 – Seeley Commando is leaving in 6 hours

I had to burn a little midnight 20w50 to get everything assembled in time for Summit. Finally, Friday morning the dress goes on. Since my fairings unfortunately have yet to arrive I borrowed an old fairing from Jamie Waters, which was a great help, allowing me to get the final details sorted.

 

April 19, 2008 – Pay no attention to the hammer

Summit Point – 80 degrees in April, a new track surface, and a beautiful new bike. I woke up at dawn to find a can of Guinness miraculously “tumbled” out of the cooler the night before and left its marks EVERYWHERE on the bike. A fine christening, indeed. I retorqued the head, adjusted the valves, finished some safety wiring, and teched the bike. I ran a couple of laps in my first practice and was overwhelmed to say the least. But I was chuffed with the power of the motor, the power of disk brakes, having more gears than ever, and the stability of the chassis, naturally. Unfortunately I had a breather hose come off and oiled the right side a bit. Second practice was much better and I started pushing – maybe harder than I should. Then my gear change linkage came undone 3 laps in and I pulled off. Onto the first race, V3. I promised myself not to really race, but to take it easy. Uh huh. I gridded up, got the green flag, and took off, passing some fast dudes. I pushed harder than ever but the bike was compliant as can be. It’ll take more than I can give. At the end of the front straight on the 4th lap I felt the bike drag down. I grabbed the clutch and the motor died. The rear wheel was locked. I managed to safely pull off and took a seat on the sidelines, wondering what I’d done to my new baby. Turns out the rear hub’s bearing retainer backed out and the hub shifted, forcing the brake caliper over to rub on the disk, causing it to overheat and seize. Ack. Not devastating, but serious enough to make me sit out my other race. Back into the van, 4 hours back home, and back up on the bench for analysis. More later.

 

May 3, 2008

I strolled into my shop today and decided I should take a look at my motor as there was something in the back of my mind telling me the rear caliper couldn’t have been all that was causing the bike to pull down at Summit.

ACK! This is what I found.

But wait, there’s more…

 

Remember those beautiful pistons pictured a few cells above? Well, here they are after a few laps. Oh yeah.

I’ve got 7 days to get this sorted, the motor put back in the bike, and the bike loaded onto a trailer on the way to Talladega.

This is the BEST way to get rid of that pesky money.

 

The cases needed to be split as the rods weren’t spinning on the crank very smoothly. Why? Because the brand new bearing shells are scored and gouged beyond belief.  Going into the shop today, I thought I would do some minor stuff just to get the bike ready for Tally. HA!  Kids, heed the warning – racing is an absolute disease with no way out. Take all your time, money and good intentions and flush them down the toilet. You’ll be better off.

 

Thursday, May 8, 2008 – Good, Bad and Ugly

Here sits my cylinder barrels freshly honed to remove scoring, my head with new valves and springs, a brand new set of JE pistons, and the old scorched set to use as paperweights.

Carrillo specifies a bolt stretch figure between .005 -.007″ for proper torque. Today this worked out to be 39ft lbs. New big end bearing shells, and onto the crank they go.

Fortunately the crank journals were not at all scored, so replacing the bearing shells was all that was necessary. During the rebuild I went through every oil passageway and made sure there were no obstructions. While there was evidence of cold seizure – that is the bike was run too hard without proper break-in and warm up – I did find some chunks of debris that shot out of the sludge trap through an oil hole in the crank journal, but can’t be certain any of it ever blocked anything. Nonetheless, I really flushed the sludge trap and cases, changed all the seals and renewed the anti-wet-sump plunger in the timing cover.

Saturday, May 10, 2008, 7pm.

A Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress

I managed to squeeze off a couple of blurry shots before running out the door. I’ve been working every free moment from Thursday to now getting the bike ready to deliver to a friend tomorrow who’ll take the bike to Talladega. I barely had time to get the new fairing mounted. I’ve had no time for beauty – the tanks are unpolished, the frame is natural (and will remain as such), and some of the welding and fabbing need a little clean-up. In due time, I suppose.

I’m very (cautiously) excited for the upcoming 3-day showing at Talladega next week.

 

Friday, May 16, 2008 – 2pm – Talladega Gran Prix Raceway – Talladega, Alabama

Day 1 – Base Gasket 1

I chose to take only a half-day practice and went out for my first session after lunch. After 2 casual laps I pulled in and the hot-tech inspector shouted to me that I was leaking oil. Blammo – that’s one base gasket blown to bits. To change a base gasket means pulling cylinders, which means taking everything out of the bike, which means no more practice, socializing, or dinner.

 

Friday, May 16, 2008 – 5pm

Yup. It’s blown. Shame on me for running paper gaskets. Many Norton racers run no gasket at all. I would’ve like to have eliminated the gasket this at this time, but my squish and valve-to-piston clearances leave little room for a reduction in height, so another gasket goes in.  I must stop at this point and say what a great bunch of helpers I had during this process – Tom Sharp, Craig Hirko, Mike (don’t know his last name, but he owns a Triumph 675 that Tim Joyce eats everyone alive with), and several others were there to lend a hand.  Later that evening I got the motor back in and the whole lot 90% buttoned up just in time to pass out in my tent.

 

Saturday, May 17th, 11am

This is not a joke. I got in 2 laps in the first practice, and about 2 more in the second when I felt a sudden BAD vibration. I was certain I’d cracked my cases or worse. When I pulled off into the grass I looked down and was in complete disbelief. That base gasket we’d worked so hard to put in last night had completely vaporized. The nuts had backed themselves off, and the studs were loose. After winding down, Tom Sharp convinced me to pull the motor out of the bike again (that’s motor removal #2) to have a look as to what was going on.  After tearing down the motor and finding no extensive damage, Tom twisted my arm to put yet a THIRD base gasket in, button it up, and try it again on Sunday. What the hell. We nipped it up carefully using lots of Yamabond as a sealer, and once again I spent the evening sitting on the Alabama tarmac rebuilding my bike whilst my friends caroused and drank beer.

 

Sunday, May 18th, 12 Noon

I went out in the first practice starting off easy, came in with no oil leaks, let the bike cool a bit, then retorqued the base nuts. They were loose – loose meaning 1/2 turn loose. Very curious. After the second practice I came in, still no oil, and really let it cool over lunch. I retorqued, and the nuts were moderately loose again. Not good. As I began tightening the gasket began oozing out of the sides of the barrels. ACK!

During one of the weekend’s rebuilds it was discovered there is a ledge between the crankcase halves. Here you can see the gasket rippling where there is a significant step between the cases.

 

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

It’s time to get to the bottom of this, excuse the pun. I’ve once again pulled the motor and split the cases. I’m happy to report that there is little damage done by any perceived seizure. The now-blueprinted cases have been fly cut by Charlie Olsen of Olsen Engines. He had to take off .014″ off the case mouth to even out the deck heights. I have procured bullet-proof copper base gaskets, and am working on my breather configuration. It should be noted that there was an obstruction discovered in my oil tank fitting where a 5/16″ ID feed pipe was reduced to 1/4″. This has now been drilled out and good to go. This obstruction could possibly explain the Summit Point seizure, but doesn’t really explain the base gasket failures.

 

A theory:

I dropped one of the thick, stock cylinder base washers in my shop after Summit’s teardown, never to be seen again. So during the rebuild before Tally I used a regular stainless 1/4″ ID washer (seen here furthest to the right). Bad move. It was noticed during the third blown gasket rebuild at Tally that this washer is too wide and fouls against the curvature of the cylinder barrel casting and therefore does not sit perfectly flat, giving a false torque reading. And because the washer is thinner than stock it is very possible the nut was bottoming out on the stud before actually tightening down the cylinder barrel. This, combined with the step in the cases could’ve caused a lot of the trouble. I noticed even the reliable stock washers distorted and wallowed, clearly seen here on the washer in the foreground. Is this fatigue that happened over time, or a result of my cylinders hammering up and down on the cases? Don’t know, but it’s time for new ones. Once again I’m under the gun – a big gun this time. Road America’s 4-mile-long motor-eating track is my next charge. I’m loading in little more than a week to head out to beautiful Wisconsin. Then, the week after Road America is Grattan in Michigan; back-to-back race weekends on very fast tracks. Trial by fire.

 

Saturday, June 22nd, 2008 – Grattan Raceway, Michigan

Bluer Skies/Greener Pastures

After back-to-back weekends at Road America and Grattan things are looking pretty good. Not once during either weekend did the motor do anything but perform like it should. I had a couple of clutch issues at Road America on Saturday, but got a win in BEARS on Sunday. At Grattan things went smooth, I scored well, and actually had time to socialize. A great run with good friends. More detail to come.

Photo courtesy of Doug MacRae.

 

 

Saturday, July 26. 2008

Mid Ohio – AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days – BEARS grid.

Oh Mid Ohio, what can I say? This is the big show. 40k attendees at the circus known as AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days. Always such a good time to hang out and talk with the fans, and race in some of the biggest grids I’ve ever seen. There were 21 entries in the BEARS class and even more in Formula 750.  Unfortunately, the track was oiled 2x over the weekend, forcing us all to take very creative racing lines in an attempt not to bisect the oil-dri.

On Saturday I got the holeshot in the BEARS race only to be red flagged after 2 laps due to a bit of rain that made the already greasy surface feel like ice. After all was said and done 17(!) riders between the BEARS and 500 Premier classes – both gridded on the track together – went down. A video of part of the incident can be seen HERE.

After the sun came back out I managed a 2nd on Saturday and 3rd on Sunday. The bike was a dream – not a single hiccup other than a loosening clutch nut. I didn’t even use a stitch of safety-wire over the weekend.

Beautiful pinhole camera photo courtesy of my buddy and fellow fast guy Aron Ahlstrom.

 

 

Mid Ohio, 2008

Cooling off in Garage #18

Photo courtesy of Doug MacRae

 

The NYC dudes (and one Torontonian) – Mid Ohio 2008

L – R: Jordan Levitt (Seeley Norton), Jamie Waters (Seeley Norton), Jon Blonk (Triumph Triple/Sony Handicam), KC Masterpiece (Seeley Norton), Andrew Anderson (Honda RS125), Aron Ahlstrom (Ducati 350), and Doug MacRae (Norton Commando).

Photo courtesy of the ever-effervescent Laura Trigg.

 

Moss’s Corner, Mosport, August 16, 2008

Oh Canada… I went up to one of my favorite tracks and favorite events of the season. Results were mixed. My times were over 3 seconds faster than my previous best, but I actually slowed a couple of seconds as the weekend progressed. I tried running a smaller profile Dunlop front tire for the first time and it took me a while to adjust. Possibly it played with my confidence across the concrete patches?? Mind games, I say. Didn’t matter – nothing could get in the way of the beautifully cacophonous echoes we all made while racing up the back straight between the fir trees.

This was holiday racing – no championships, no points, no stress, just fun. I spent the weekend with fast guys Dave Roper, Doug MacRae, Dean De St Croix, Henry Hogben, Maurice Candy and Ken Rosevere, and we all had a great time.

Photo courtesy of Jean Des Rosiers.
(Note racing number 11 for VRRA/Canada)

 

 

Friday Practice – Miller Motorsports Park, Utah, September 5, 2008

Happy times – I flew out to SLC and met up with fellow Northeast racer Bob Demetrius, who carried my bike all the way across the country for me. I arrived Friday morning to find everything ready to go to head out for practice. Thanks Bob.

I changed my jetting (Miller is 4200′ above sea level) and was good to go.

First practice was so-so, but that’s to be expected. 2nd practice I picked it up, but snapped a throttle cable towards the end and had to nurse the bike back in on one cylinder. After a hasty repair to the cable, I was ready for 3rd practice and was going good, but somehow managed to tear the teeth off the drive belt. There was no warning, just got on the gas and suddenly there was no power but I sent the revs to about 10k! I guess it’s best this happened in practice. I managed to nurse the bike in and was actually happy to find this was all that was wrong as I was sure the gearbox had blown up on me! Put on the new belt (new and old seen here) and was ready to go.

However, my repair to the throttle cable was preventing me from synching my carbs properly, and something needed to be done. The next morning I located a local dirt bike shop and sourced a throttle cable that would work with a little cutting and soldering. I made my changes and got everything synched and ready to go for Saturday’s race.

 

Remember that throttle cable repair? Well, it worked perfectly in every way, but I neglected to completely tighten down the throttle housing! Oops.

During Saturday’s race I took off in the lead and was poised to get the win. On the 6th (of 8) lap I looked behind me and saw I had quite a gap over 2nd place and decided to relax a bit. As soon as I thought this, I felt the throttle let go in my hand. The housing had come loose and the entire throttle assembly was slipping off my clip-on! I tried holding it in place with my left hand while twisting with my right, but the cables were jamming up my brake lever which made negotiating some turns really tricky, to say the least. I knew it was time to pull in. I was scored in last place. Not where I wanted to be.

 

… Sunday comes along.

I must’ve checked every fastener on the bike for tightness. I went out and was able to pull away again, finishing with a sizeable lead over the rest of the field. Finally.

I spent the next 2 days dry-fly-fishing with my father in the scenic canyons of Utah. What a way to prepare for The Sandia Classic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, coming up the next weekend.

Photo courtesy of Bill Vande Sluis

 

 

Sandia Motor Speedway, Albuquerque, NM, Saturday, September 13, 2008

As I arrived to Sandia I was chuffed to find we were pitted right next to AMA Hall Of Famers Dave Aldana and Gene Romero who were there as guests of Craig Murray, the Sandia promoter and all around fast guy. I found out Aldana would be racing in the BEARS class and I knew this would be an interesting weekend. On Saturday I gridded up, got a great start, and suddenly there’s a T140 Triumph underneath me going into T1. Whomever it was wasn’t giving an inch. When he squeezed past I saw the telltale #13 on his infamous skeleton leathers and knew I had my work cut out. I did my best to keep up and we had a great race, but Aldana was really good through some traffic and gapped me by a second or two, so I took my 2nd place proudly. No doubt a win would’ve been great, but all I needed was a 3rd or better in any race this weekend to clinch the 2008 AHRMA BEARS national championship. So… that part of my season’s work was finally done. All right!

As I pulled into my paddock I was a happy bloke. I was smiling ear-to-ear under my helmet! A great celebration came later.

 

Sandia, Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday was poised to be a repeat of Saturday, but the championship work was done and it was time for some fun. We took off, and Aldana got me into T1 again, but I wasn’t letting go. We were tire-to-tire for a good while. He was pushing much harder than yesterday, as was I. I stuck with him but ultimately he had a gearbox issue and ended up way behind. I took the win as a great end to a long trip of back-to-back race weekends.

Here is a shot of Dave Roper and myself being interviewed after our race on Sunday. Dave won the 350GP race and I won BEARS – both gridded together during this weekend. I must say Craig Murray puts on a great event out here and we are definitely well taken care of.

The bike is ready for a good clean up for the big show coming up – Barber in October.

 

Saturday, October 18, 2008 – Barber Motorsports Park

I got some great times in on Saturday. I felt like things were good to go for the weekend. However, after my 2nd practice on Saturday I pulled into the paddock and the bike was making a terrible racket from the motor – a clak clak clak that didn’t sound good. Odd, because it was running great on the track.

Photo courtesy of Esther Montoro

 

I had Tom Sharp, Marino Perna, Keith Hussey, Herb Becker and Steve Shiver all poring over the bike and their help was much appreciated. Theories abounded as to the cause of the sound. Did I break the crank? Bent pushrod? Tappet face fall off?  Nope. None of the above.

I think Keith Hussey gets the prize for discovering the source…

 

In this blurry photo, you can see what we discovered – the crankshaft pinion had sheared 2 teeth (seen here just under the cam chain). The bike still ran like a top, but it was only a matter of time before this became a catastrophic failure. Yikes. Steve actually volunteered to run out to the Barber swap meet and score me another pinion, which he did. I put it in, buttoned it up and it fired right up with a mighty roar! Unbelievable. Thank goodness for that swap meet or my weekend would’ve been over. Unfortunately I missed my race for Saturday, but Sunday was another day. This was “Holiday Racing” anyway, as the championship was already clinched and there was no need to push the issue.

 

Sunday, October 18, 2008

Stan Miller, KC, and Andrew Anderson, getting ready to go.

Nothing but glamor in our paddock, folks.

Photo courtesy of the wonderful Esther Montoro

 

Sunday, October 18, 2008 – Barber Motorsports Park

I did all right – I won the BEARS race by 30 seconds or more. My times were more than 5 seconds-a-lap faster than last year. The only disappointing part of the day was packing up to go home.  What a wonderful way to close the season. I learned a lot this year and had some major issues that almost sidelined me, but I managed to work through them all. When I look back now it’s all a blur and I’m already preparing for 2009.

2008 Racing:

March 3/4, 2008 – Daytona International Speedway, Daytona FL, with AHRMA
April 19, 2008 – Summit Point, WV, with WERA
May 17/18 2008 – Talladega Gran Prix, Talladega, AL, with AHRMA
June 14/15, 2008 – Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI, with AHRMA
June 21/22, 2008 – Grattan Raceway, Grattan, MI, with AHRMA
July 26/27, 2008 – Vintage Motorcycle Days, Mid Ohio, with AHRMA
August 15/16, 2008 – Mosport, Ontario, Canada, with VRRA
September 06/07, 2008 – Miller Motorsports, UT, with AHRMA
September 13/14, 2008 – Sandia, NM, with AHRMA
October 18/19, 2008 – Barber Motorsports, Birmingham,AL, with AHRMA

2008 National Champion
First Place – 2008 AHRMA BEARS National Championship

 
 

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