2023 and summer has been extremely wet, with floods and heavy rain most weeks, but the classic festival looks to be dry, But I am glad my budget( or lack of) withdrew the option to the $195 practise day option.( which was patchy wet)( no wet tyres)
My pitgirl and I arrive 5ish after a 2 hour hell traffic trudge through Auckland, to find heaps of happy campers and bike nuts, drinking, laughing and having fun, while the rest of us are setting up, running power leads, documentation etc.
My old friend 82yo mad professor, Bob Mann, has offered me a ride on his '55 Jawa 350 in the clubman 350 class, so he and his chief mechanic, Dennis, also aged and Bert Monro-ish, frantically frolic with repairs as the bike sits on a Puriri log, hewn, paddock stand. They negotiate a scrutineer pass, as the flex proves to be the frame ,not the wheel or swingarm bearings.
Light rain overnight is a concern, ( still no wet tyres), but the morning clouds dissolve and its gonna be dry, hot and so humid.
Qualifying goes good, slightest time improvement on last year, puts me in 25th out of a split field of 61?( 3rd in the pre 95 class which is getting more entries and there are entries from the South Island, Aussi, Sweden and UK.)
The Jawa sounds good , but while chatting to Les Harris, (97yo), who sold it to Bob some 20 years ago, part of the reason is revealed! He had removed too much from the 2 strokes transfere ports. It goes ok but loses 100 metres every straight, i gain quite a bit back in the corners, It wobbles pretty bad ,runs out of brakes, the shocks are really just springs and it is scarier than the Bimota.
3rd lap the Jawa locks up over the hill, sounds terminal. But after lotsa diagnosis, strip down, melted alloy is removed from the bore and piston grooves, sandpaper rebore, and eventually is restarted to great fanfare, with beaming ancient #8 wire pitcrew.(since the cause was not obvious, its safer to not repeat the excitement !)
My grid spot in Group 3a (fastest 29, F1 and superbike), gives me the inside of turn one, something i find is not so good, because after a great start( this yb8 just hooks up so well) i pass 3 or 4 into turn one, then a rapid approach to turn 2, I realise this 6 wide bunch is leaving no room for me, none , grass at 100ish is not really ideal, We stay up, but lose a couple of hundred metres to the pack. Damn!
I figure i can catch at least the last 5, but after an initial gain of about 100 metres I just dont seem to be closing, Im braking later until inside the 200m board from 255 indicated, it only just makes it ,the front tyre howling and squirming over undulations( maybe this is where the $5000 fork improvements on some other bikes pay off)
Xen on his Bimota SB6R is flying and i cant make up any more ground. Damn.
Party time, my championship win presentation is celebrated with a magnum of champagne and late into the night dancing, to the excellent band." never seen so many old people dancing"
Sunday, Race 2: I figure I'll head left a little so as not to be forced onto the grass again.Once again a perfect start, up between two bikes from the row ahead, when....the bikes ahead split wildly, revealing a stationary bike, close, right there,straight ahead. Ive got bikes close either side, so brake heavily to give me room to swerve, hoping nothing is too close behind, about to take us both out( probably at near 100kph ) Fortunately only a skimmed arm, and another place at the back of the field (the look of horror on that front riders eyes i wont ever forget). I try hard to close the 50m gap, too hard ,the front brake lever is starting to go soft, one lap i cant make the chicane and go up the escape road ,so lose another 100m.