Anticipation, I’ve had my share of late. Mix it with excitement, hope, anxiety, and worry, and you’ve just sampled my steady diet for the end of summer/beginning of fall. Casey @gandhcycles was finishing up the final tuning of my new Yamaha MX250, and transporting it down to the track with Aaron Cope @am_cope for me to race… Then, after a great deal of stress, running around, finding the right cdi box that works, the bike’s transmission wasn’t right. Casey couldn’t get it into first gear… So, not ten minutes after I’d signed up for the 250 Vintage class, and paid my entry I get the text: 'No dice man. Having gearbox trouble, can’t get it to shift right.' I went from flying on first race fumes, to crawling up into a proverbial ball of bummed out in the cockpit of my Mazda.
There is a back story on the bike that will be saved for another blog entry, alas, it deserves a great deal of copy. This was just the disappointing frosting on a dissolution layered cake with 'set back' sprinkles.
While in line at the shack to enter Salem Speedway, I was positioned behind Erick @original_burrito and his beautiful Ossa Phantom 250 in the back of his truck (top photo). I’d not met him to this point, but recognized his bike from the few posts and exchanges we’d had on Instagram. The bike has been in his family for years and traded hands several times between him and his dad, never running, until Thursday, wherein, after amassing some replacement parts from eBay, robbing some from his ’74 Pioneer, and 'tickling the old Amal Concentric' (Erick’s words, not mine) the bike fired first kick. He ran it on Ether Thursday night, and dumped gas into it for Friday’s practice. He said 'The clutch is slipping and the countershaft seal is puking its guts out, but other than that, she’s flawless.' This is but a mere slice of what makes the Vintage 250 class so enjoyable.
The class was as crowded as it’s ever been, and it couldn’t be more welcomed! More bikes, more riders, more enthusiasm for the sport, it just gets better and better. See included photos for bikes not present in last year’s line up. #84a is piloted by a new rider in the class, a friend of Erick Navetta, Aaron Shelton, and looks an awful lot like a bike I went to look at, and test rode it on Sauvie Island, before I found the RD200... Aaron took a spill in turn two last night, but looks to be ok. Welcome to racing!
Upon arrival, I drove around the entirety of the track and paddock, to find it more crowded than any other race, besides The One Pro event (that coincides with the One Show) and draws riders from all over the country! This was an encouraging sign, and I’d yet received the text informing me I wouldn’t be racing.
Cory Churchill, last year’s reigning champ, was in his normal spot at the north end of the paddock, and we exchanged greetings. It was really good to reconnect with the riders I’d met last year. Cory needs to know: he’s got people gunning for his title!
I saw Korry Fitzpatrick @k_fitzpatrick as he was coming through the gate, and we circled looking for a spot to park together. About the time we parked and rolled his bike off of the truck, the rest of the @cycle_heap gang arrived and commandeered several spots next to the start/finish line. We moved and completed out encampment for the night.
Eric Purdy from Cycle Heap had his newly built Suzuki TM250, The Blue Bomber ready to make a statement in the class. It’s fast, and looks boss, benefitting by a one of a kind saddle completed by Roxan @rangeneedlework just hours prior. Eric rode it hard and battled grip to grip with the champ in their heat race. The class was big enough to require two heat races. The other heat hosted the rest of the Cycle heap gang, including Korry Fitzpatrick.
Korry’s bike wears the number 18 plates that he hand painted, but the similarities to his bike this year and the one he rode in years prior, end there. Korry knows how to get a deal online. He is patient, and he knows what he wants. He was able to find a Champion frame, vintage tank and tail piece, vintage Borrani rims, a Barnes quick change rear hub, a set of old XS650 fork legs, bars and tyres, all at incredible prices. He had engine work done by local legend engine builder Charlie Brown, but besides that, Korry did all of the painting and assembly himself. He did have some fantastic fabrication work done to the chassis and pipe by @toothlessgary to accommodate his ’73 Yamaha MX250 motor and vintage Circle F pipe. Korry wants to win this year. Not just a few races, but the title. If his riding last weekend was any indication of things to come, the smart money may be on #18. In his heat race, he lead after a shaky start, for the entire race, and the rest of the pack was at least a half a lap behind. Things got dicey in the main, and after an early fall, he ran out of laps to catch the leader, and winner, Cory Churchill.
At the end of the race, after passing the checkers at full speed to overtake Aaron Cope, Korry got off his bike in an attempt to avoid a nasty highside. In turn, he bent his bars badly enough to require swapping them out. Hurriedly, with the help of yours truly and “Fast” Eddie, he got the new bars on, and was ready for the main in the 'Vintage over 30 class,' a newly created class suggested by Korry in hopes of getting another class for all of the vintage 250 riders to garner more seat time on race night. He and Chris battled for third and fourth respectively in a class of 4, alas, the other two riders were on built 500+cc framers.
It was a great night for all to behold and create. I spoke with Thor Drake while he was waiting for one of his heat races and told him of my misfortune, as he knows how much I’ve been anticipating the night. Without hesitation, he offered up the use of the bike he was racing, the beautifully built Harley XG750 (featured in SB24) he crafted, which has become a storied bike, winning not one, but two brand new Indian motorcycles as prizes. I was touched and honoured by his generous offer. I considered it for a split second, but quickly came to the conclusion that I didn’t wanna be the first guy to borrow the ‘Indian Giver,’ as it’s now aptly known, and crash it.
It was a fantastic night of racing all around. Sammy Halbert, one of the most incredible riders alive right now was there, as was Tanner Dean, and a kid who’s name I don’t know, putting on a spectacle in the 450 Expert class. It’s nothing short of a physics demonstration of horsepower, transference of energy, torque, friction, speed, inertia, skill, and pure guts to get those bikes around the track as swiftly as they do. The beauty of racing to me, along with the camaraderie, energy, style, and anticipation, is that no matter what class you ride, you probably feel like you’re going just as fast as the pros.
Mr. Churchill, take heed: you’ve got some people coming for your title. It looks to be a great season at Salem. Dig.