I’ve mentioned the 'arms race' that’s in full effect for the Salem Indoor Vintage 250 class this season, and I’ve also referenced that dude who showed up on his Astro from California and gave us all someone to chase for the night. For those of you who are reading these little snapshots of our precious class at Salem Indoor Sideburn so graciously posts, you may also remember mention and photos of #19, one of the riders new this season. Erick (don’t-forget-either-the-c-or-the-k) Navetta (@original_burrito) showed up for the first race of the season with his Ossa Phantom 250 in the back of his truck, and I was right behind him at the gate to get in. I was still on a pretty big high at that moment, only to have the wind taken sucked from my sails minutes later by the news that my bike wouldn’t make it for the opener. (See an earlier post for that story) I was stoked to see the bike, and anxious to meet its owner.
See, I was first seduced by an Ossa as a little boy with my fingertips hanging in the fencing that separated the riders from the spectators by less than 3ft at Ascot Park. It was the early ‘70s, and the image is vivid. The bike was white and green, highlighted by that unmistakable, iconic logo on the tank…Ossa, with the clover* in the “O,” and the sound, like a nest of angry hornets, and that sweet 'bean oil' scent, pouring blue out of the tailpipe while the rider revs the engine to about 9000 rpm waiting for the flagger to signal 'Go!'
It obviously stuck with me in more ways than one. If you’ve seen my bike, you’d know…
Erick is a renaissance man. He likes building, making, studying, learning about, and geeking out on mostly cool, old, European cars and motorcycles. He’s a Spanish bike guy by default, as his dad, having owned several Bultacos and Ossas throughout the years, definitely influenced the guy.
There are two vintage Fiats, a ’74 128 Sedan, and a ’69 850 Sport Coupe in his driveway and garage in various states of repair, respectively. Oh yeah, he’s got this matching hollow body Vox guitar and bass from the ‘60’s hanging in his house, too. I digress.
I was over at his shop (read: I basically invited myself) on a good day last Sunday, as upon arrival in the shop he tells me, 'You may get to see her fire up.' He’d been methodically re-assembling the bike since breaking it down after last race to: have a 19” wheel laced to the rear hub, and shoe it with new flat track rubber, so some porting and timing work on the top end (can’t divulge his secrets), build a new pipe (yes, by geeking out on the math and utilizing software available online, he fabricated himself an expansion chamber), swap transmissions between the Phantom and the Pioneer (when asked, he told me he was running in fourth gear for the first 3 races!), spiffy up the cases and covers with some hi-heat flat black paint, new throttle assembly, a new pair of shocks on the rear, and new Mikuni VM 36 carb. Things went back together smoothly, and before we knew it, the moment of truth was upon us: as predicted by Erick, she fired up beautifully on the 2nd kick! So good. We both wore big ol’ grins. With a very typical January drizzle falling, Erick decides to take her up the street, 'Just to see what it’s like…'
Keeping in mind, he’s not really heat cycled it yet, I thought he’d just putt up and down the street… Nope. He revved her and let her run. He had trouble keeping the front wheel on the ground. He came back from his lap to the end of his block wearing what looked like a grin only a plastic surgeon could apply to his face. The guy was thrilled! So was I. The arms race is escalating in the Vintage 250 class.
And, the Spanish are coming. Not only in the form of Erick’s Phantom, but next month, there’s rumour of an Astro Cup slated as a special feature of this year’s One Pro Races. Bultacos from far and near… with 'Bultaco' emblazoned on the tank and case covers in that unmistakable font, the black and white dashed speed block cutting through the crimson and gold… It’s truly one of the most iconic liveries in motorsports. Dare I say “seductive?” And, it needs to be mentioned that, Bultaco, the Spanish manufacturer, is responsible for a production motorcycle that was a factory built, flat track race bike, for sale to the public… in North America, the birthplace of flat track. (See Sideburn 35 for more on Astros) I cannot wait to see what’s in store in Salem for the One Pro Races this year. I do know these things: There is a Spanish inquisition brewing, Erick’s Ossa will be in the vintage 250 class, and I’ll be listening to the 'London Calling' album on the way to the races. Track six is one of my favourites on the record. “I’m flying in on a DC-10 tonight…”
We have regular season races (a two-day, double header to make up for a month of Supercross in the pavilion throughout December) this weekend. The usual suspects in the 250 vintage class will be there, and I, as a spectator. And, if all goes well, #73 will be on the track at the One Pro Races. Dig.
Todd spied writing this very blog post at a seat in See See Portland.
* It's a common misconception that the Ossa logo is a four-leaf clover. It is, in fact, a component from the inside of a movie projector, another product of the Ossa company. I can thank Hugo Wilson for that fact. GI