Suzuki Snapshots

Kris (Krash) Larivee

Mosport, in my own words.

Posted by Kris L., the Ugly American on August 27, 2001, 10:01 pm


My four-day saga began and ended in torrential rain, divided by a couple of heavenly days. The difference was almost manic in comparison. Little did I know this would be the theme of the whole weekend. This is the Readers' Digest version.
Thursday, August 23

Left for Mosport. Jetted the bike yesterday on some deserted back roads. Running well, feels fast. Added another washer to the detent on the shift drum. Shifts much easier now. All crash damage fixed, chambers painted and Sundial stickers on tank. Drove all the way in pouring rain. Borrowed my brother's truck to get there. The VRRA volunteer at the gate made some rude comments about us f@#&ing Americans, then found out I was from New York. It's funny, because the VRRA was more than happy to take my membership fees and entry fees (totalling over $175 dollars US, along with a $20 gate fee). If the VRRA really feels that way about us Americans, maybe they should piss off, and have smaller grids and less money in the bank as a result. I came to race, not be stereo-typed and insulted. I hope it was an isolated incident. We'll see.

Many bikes and people are already at the track. I feel a little bit outclassed with all the beautiful machinery and experienced riders. The track looks huge.

Friday August 24

Woke at seven with the butterflies. I would be out in practice at nine, riding on a track I had never been to before. Walked the bike to tech, then ate a little breakfast. Still no sign of anyone I knew. Then I finally ran into Steven Szikora, also running a Titan. Nice to see a familiar face. Got out in practice and was trying to learn the track when the bike started whistling. Having heard this sound before on the last lap of a race at Shannonville, I pulled into the pits. Another cracked head. Left side again, cracked exactly the same way. No problem, I've got stock heads in the truck. That's funny, both of these heads look light right handers, oh no, they are! A small tantrum ensues as I watch my weekend go down the toilet, again. To be continued.

Steven S. senses my frustration, which is beginning to boil over into rage, and kindly invites me to ride his Titan with him and Eugene Stewart in the 2hr endurance race. I nearly refuse, having already smashed someone else's vehicle earlier this week(see earlier rants, er.. I mean posts on this board). Steven doesn't seem the least bit worried about letting me ride it, so I decide to. I'll get some track time before I go home.
I rode Steven's bike a few laps in practice, turning 2:18s, not very good. I couldn't get used to the bike's seemingly over-tall gearing, and was having alot of trouble keeping it in the powerband. Handling was nice and stable, even with an un-braced stock swing-arm. Brakes were very good as well, (unlike mine!).

Steven rode first, Eugene second, me third. The plan was to ride smooth and take it easy, just finish the race. The fuel stops and rider changes went well, considering we didn't have much of a plan and no time to practice. I won't say we were a well oiled machine, but we worked much better than my bike has been. Four laps into my ride, I was getting used to the bike, learning the track as well. The bike could be fast, you just had to keep it on the boil. Shift at redline, and run it to the bore. I held two fingers on the clutch down the almost 1/2 mile back straight for a few laps, just in case, but the bike was invincible. The three of us rode and rode that machine for two hours straight, and the only thing was that the brakes got hot! Never a cough, or a sputter, or even an unpredictable wobble from the suspension. Why the hell can't my Titan go like this?

Attrition was high, and I started to see bikes all over the side of the track, especially during my last round in the saddle. Oh, there's that really souped up T-500 broken down. Eugene told me I was making good time, and that was the fuel I needed to really give it all I had during the last few laps. My whiplash was giving me some trouble, but on the track it was all but forgotten. I rode the bike harder and harder. I started dicing with a Honda 4, (750?), he would pass me, then me him. If I got out of the hairpin correctly, I had him on top end, but if the motor got lazy, he would pull me, and I'd have to play catch up. The back and forth made me ride even faster. I finally took the checkered flag for the team, as I was the finishing rider. Come to think of it, Steven should have run the last time out to get the checkers, as he was the bike's owner. It's a credit to him and his preparation that the bike went so well out there, being the only two-stroke to finish. Also, credit goes to Eugene and Steven for riding well, knowing that smoothness and consistency win the day, not bone-headed moves and trying to win it on the first lap, (I may be guilty of this from time to time.) I later found out that we placed second, much to our surprise! I would also find that I made my goal of an under 2 minute lap, running consistent 1:58s. I think we all had a blast, and much thanks goes to Steven for letting me flog his bike. Thank you.

Even with the elation of the endurance race, my thoughts began to turn to my bike and where the hell to get a left hand head for a T500 by tomorrow morning. Things looked bleak, as no one at my home (3 hrs away) could get me my spare heads (car's smashed, don'tcha know?). I'm ready to pack up and head for home when hope arrives in the back of a beat up Chevy truck.....

Saturday, August 25
Practice. The bike is running and I want to make the most of getting used to my bike, now that I know the track. Steven and I chase each other around the track a few times when disaster strikes. I was preparing to pit in after a particularly fast jaunt down the Mario Andretti back straight when the motor made a whoomp! noise and cut out to one cylinder. Figuring another cracked head, I coasted in to the pits, only to find a holed piston on the left hand side. Upon removal of the head, I find not only is the piston holed, but the crown is stuck in the top of the bore and the cylinder is ruined. The bottom half of the piston is still attached to the con rod, except for the hundreds of aluminum bits that are down in the crankcase. I am screwed.

A few hurried phone calls later and Eugene Stewart and I are pouring gas in the base, kicking over the motor repeatedly with the con-rod bungeed to keep it from contacting the cases, and making a general mess and racket. The crank feels too crunchy too move, and indeed gets stuck several times during the process. I know the bottom ends on these bikes are bulletproof, but I doubt this one will survive such punishment. The crank finally frees up nice and smooth and we turn the bike upside down to drain the case, dumping gas everywhere. Eugene and I swap out the left barrel and piston with a stock GT barrel and piston that have 14,000 miles on them. I now have one ported cylinder and one stock one, one Titan piston and one and one GT piston, which is different than the Titan one. Eugene mentions that you are never supposed to re-use the cir-clips that hold the wrist pin in place. I ask him if that really matters, seeing how we have a crank full of aluminum chunks, differently ported cylinders, and different weight pistons. He gets my point. Two hours later the bike is running again. I will start the heat race today, thankfully we are last on the schedule.

I'm gridded dead last on the start, as I have no points with VRRA. 29th out of 29. At least if the bike breaks on the line, I won't get run over by anyone. The flagman raises the red flag, clunk into first gear, rev to six grand, green flag and I'm off. The bike wheelies as I shift into second, passing three riders. Before I know it, there's six riders behind me, eight, ten. I'm up with Steven S., who was gridded in the third row, before we reach Turn One. I pass a couple more riders, but the bikes are getting their legs now, and a couple of them pass me on the short straight before Turn Two, the Chute. I'm doing a decent job of holding off many of the guys I passed on the line when I get to the hairpin. Who's there, but this tricked out, done-up, illegal, non-period parts, no expense spared beautiful GT750, taking a very awkward line. I try to go to the outside, but he runs wide and I almost end up in some Oil-dry from a previous mishap, so I cut in low and make the pass by running over the top of the rumble strip. Probably a bone-head move, but there was room and I knew I could make it. Before I can get it into fourth on the back straight, the angry triple comes wailing by me like a wounded banshee, leaving me wishing for much taller gearing and some more motor. I'm only revving the bike to 7 grand to keep it together and finish. I figure that's good for maybe ninety-five on top, with me well tucked in. Not enough for the P2 Heavyweight, against big Ducs and Hondas and 750cc 2 strokes. Halfway through the second lap, we get a red flag coming into the hair pin. Somebody's crashed a Dresda Honda 750 in turn 2. We head back for the re-start, I'm dead last all over again, after all that.
This time I line the bike up crooked to the others, but still next to the wall, to give me a straight shot by the guys in front of me. I have my work cut out for me again. I don't react to the flag as quickly as the first start, but the bike does the work for me. I get by three in front of me, see a big hole by the pit wall, pass the GT750 (again!), scraping my knee puck on the pit wall, and still managing to make a decent line for turn one, without killing anyone else, or cutting them off very badly. I maintain a position in the middle of the pack, and finish thirteenth. I am proud, the bike finished the heat and we beat quite a few in the process. Fingers crossed for the final.

It threatens rain all day Sunday, and the schedule is hurried to beat the weather. Steven has one final race early, which he finishes, I'm not sure of position. Our race is not until just about the end of the progam. Shortly before we are set to go, the heavens open with a deluge. I will not be denied finishing another race weekend! Not by mechanical failure, crash or even and act of God. I announce that if I have to race by myself in a monsoon, I will finish this damn weekend. If I must carry the bike on my back, I will cross the line in a final race today, (at which point Steven wryly suggests I start lightening the bike up now). Racers start going home, cones are put up in the hairpin to keep us off some slippery concrete, we wonder if they will cancel. The Superbike challenge is cancelled. More people leave. I grit my teeth and try to smile. I just want to finish one event with my own damn bike.
After excruiciating rain delays, the skies brighten and we go out for a warm up lap. The track that was yesterday my friend, now wishes me dead. There seems to be no traction to be had, no line a safe one. I am riding a writhing snake down a greasy, slimy snail trail to oblivion. I miscalculate turn nine and almost meet with the hay bales, saving it at the last second. My foam filters are wet and making the bike run like crap. I go to pit in, not sure whether I should start the race or bag it, being nervous about the track. I look to the skies for an answer, and for a brief moment the sun peeks out, as if to say, go ahead, I will watch over you. Steven S. followed me in to see what the problem was. Unable to make the grid for the start, we have to start from pit lane, unable to see the riders or the flagman. I overheat the clutch waiting and stall the bike. It restarts, just a little roughly on the B9s Les Trotter suggested I run, we get the green and we're off for four laps of white knuckle, foot down, slip and slide. I get behind the second place guy, on a Yamaha 650 and try to take his lines, but those Metzelers feel so greasy I back off in fear of going down and not finishing at all. Finally I see the checkered flag, content to have finished a weekend on my bike. I found out in the pits later that I finished third. Four started the race out of 29 on the grid. Steven finished fourth. We probably should have packed up and gone home, as the track was so bad. But with a little skill and a whole lot of luck, we finished without falling, and got a little something for our efforts. What a rollercoaster, I am drained and think I will need a week to recover. I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

Wed. Oct.24
In between raindrops, Phil and I did some testing with the Titan on our illegal back road test strip. Much to our dismay we cracked another milled left hand head. That makes three this season, all on the left side, even after switching barrels. If anyone has any theories on this, please let me know. Zooke's porting was great, the 15/33 gearing seemed a bit too tall. Later that night we switched back to a stock head on the left. You guys will laugh when I tell you the compression readings on the cylinders. 90psi on the left and 125 on the right! I was surprised the motor even ran.
Thurs. Oct. 25
More rain, cold. Finally the roads dried up and we headed out to test the bike again. It ran, and we couldn't seem to break it, but it felt appallingly slow and came on the pipe very late making it especially hard to ride with the over-tall gearing. The only way to keep it on the boil was to twist the thing unmercifully. Yet I had confidence that the motor would hold together, with such low compression, running on race gas and B9 plugs, how could we hurt it?

Fri. Oct. 26
As soon as I hit the road for the track it started pouring. After being searched at the border I was finally allowed into Canada. It was raining at the track, but I paid for practice anyways, figuring it would dry up later. At noon it was still raining, but three guys went out to practice anyways, two of them crashed. That made up my mind not to practice in the wet. I took a nap in my tent and listened to the raindrops. No practice today. A short practice tomorrow and two races, Club Cup and Vintage. The butterflies set in. Would the bike hold? Could I learn the track in one ten minute track session? How bad was I going to get beat (or worse)? Me, a motorcycle racer? Who was I trying to kid?

Sat. Oct.27
Froze my ass off in the tent last night. No official word on how cold, but it was damn close to freezing. Good news is, the storm front blew by us in the dark and the morning nice, sunny and clear, even if everyone is wearing wooly hats and mittens at the rider's meeting! Bad news is, the bike is going terribly. Gearing is way too tall and the motor sounds sick. I'm too worried about the bike to learn the track, and it keeps bogging on the slower corners. I'm considering withdrawing from the race and going home to build a real race bike for next season. Frustration starts setting in. I count to ten (more like a hundred!) and decide to ride in one more practice session and make up my mind then.
The bike goes better in the second practice, and I'm riding a little bit better. Still, the gearing is so tall, I have to drop it into first gear in the hairpin, back wheel hopping on the entry, pin the throttle WFO and fan the clutch shifting into second. That's the only way I can get any kind of drive for the long straight. Do it in second and run wide in the hairpin and the motor bogs wickedly, sputtering and sounding like a dying cow. I decide I will run my races and beat the piss out of the bike doing so. It's the end of the season, I've got all winter to re-build. right?

The first heat race is Club Cup, sort of a "run what ya brung" class. The only rules are air-cooled and twin shock. There's RD350s and 400s, CB900 and 750 Hondas, a Ducati engined Cagiva, and several Honda twins. I'm gridded eighteenth (no points) out of thirty. I know I can't catch the top five bikes, and there are a few behind me that I know will get by, but my plan is to try not to lose too many positions on the grid and make a few safe passes if chance allows. To win, you must finish. And this was only a heat race.

I get a good start and pass four bikes off the line. They catch me in turn one and the battle is on. I pass and get passed several times, but still refuse to make any heroic moves. Let them go by. I'll be back tomorrow. No one crashes and the five laps are over quickly. I finish seventeenth. Not terrible, and the bike is still going!

All the classes are gridded together for the vintage race with about 35 bikes or more total. The 500 class is gridded in the middle, I'm on row 7, outside. The light goes green and I get another decent start. I leave the others in my class at the line, and don't see them again as they get caught in traffice. I catch up to the lightweights and pass a few Honda twins. I can't control myself anymore and make a bold pass on three bikes coming out of turn 2, running on the very last inches of the track in the rubber chunks to get by. I figure the more traffic between me and my class the better, and I want to race for position now. I calm down a lap later when I realize I can't catch the two-stroke Yamahas with my ailing Suzi. A quick look over the shoulder tells me I've got some cushion between the bikes behind me, so I let it coast a little bit. Again this is a heat race, and need to finish. The only tense moment comes on the last lap when some fat-ass on a Honda twin catches me in the carousel. He passes on the outside and cuts right into my line, nailing my front wheel with his back, sending me into a tank slapper. I save it, but go way off line and speed to avoid the crash. I finish the race where I started, at least I finished. With idiots like that out on the track, it's a wonder I did. I spoke to him later and he flatly denies hitting me, or cutting in on me. He claims a clean pass. He and I both know the truth, and he shows his true colors. I make a note not to lend him any tools or trust anything he tells me. I'd really like to punch him in the nose, but I do my best to be sportsmanlike and swallow my pride and anger. I'll take it out on the track. The thing that really irks me is we are not even in the same class, and he knew it! But hey, I finished two races and the bike is still going. There's always tomorrow!

Sun. Oct.28
A cold night and the darkness gives way to light to reveal another gorgeous day. Practice goes well and I feel confident about the bike. Still isn't fast, but it will finish.
Club Cup is my first 10 lap final of the day. I get a good start, slipping the clutch all the way to turn one, passing three riders on the way. I am in fourteenth and holding when the half way flag appears. I don't expect to catch many other riders, but I start thinking about you guys on the board and figured you'd rather hear about a top ten than a fourteenth. I'm riding the hell out of the bike, arms are getting sore. I catch two riders, drop down a gear, severely over-revving the motor, and make a good pass. I catch a Honda coming into the hair-pin. Something in my brain tells me to wait until the straight and pass, but the Honda runs wide, giving me a space big enough to drive a Munch Mammoth through. Balls over-ride brain and I make the move. My knee touches down on the rumble strip and I look at the straight, knowing I am home free, crack the throttle. And promptly end up on my ass. I didn't see the oil dust on the inside of the turn from a previous crash and the front end washes out on me faster than Dick Cheney can say "heart attack". I slide off the track with the bike and a Honda twin running off the track to avoid me runs over my hand. I'm glad the ground was soft!. The right hand clip-on is broken, but the rest of the bike survives the impact and subsequent slide.

An hour later the clip-on is changed and the bike re-teched and ready to race. I get a terrible start with a wheelie off the line, pull in the clutch and wheelie again. Finally I get the pig rolling and catch up with the first group of bikes. We play cat and mouse for a while. Half-way into the race the carnage begins. First one bike off the track. Two laps later another slides off the track. On the last lap three bikes in front of me crash, taking each other out and off the track. They appear unhurt. Bikes seem to be slowing down, but the race is not red-flagged. I finish first in my class and tenth over-all. I am happy. It wasn't until I returned to the pits that I learn a bike was pissing oil all over the track for most of the race. I guess I was just running too wide in the corners to hit the slick! Thankfully no one was seriously hurt, but I heard the gentleman with the leaking bike was aware of the problem before he went out for the warm-up laps. If that's true I hope they fine his dumb ass. He was responsible for wrecking at least three bikes and some minor injuries. It put a damper on the win for me, but at least I'm charged up and planning for Daytona already. See ya there!


Kris
 

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