Michael Bateman's Race Report, June 7-8, 2002 at Spokane Raceway Park

Yes - it was a good weekend.   Northwest vintage racing is heating up in the 250 Vintage class.   There were 12 Honda 160s, one Honda 175 and a Ducati 250 on the grid.   There were several more bikes that didn't start, as well as one spare Group W Racing Honda 160 that ended up without a rider.  

Five 160 riders made the trip up from Portland to race at Spokane.   There are at least five more Portland riders that didn't make the trip, and from what I understand there are between three and five 160s currently being built in the Portland area.

There were also several Seattle area riders that didn't make the trip.   It looks like we can probably count on around 20 bikes on the 250 Vintage grid for both the Seattle and the Portland vintage days races if the weather holds out, and we can probably count on at least 12-14 bikes on the grid all year long.   This is turning out to be a great success.

Tim Keane and I are locked in battle for the 250 Vintage season championship - Tim on the Ducati 250 and I on the Honda 160.   I'm the defending champion, and Tim is challenging with supposedly superior machinery.   Tim's strategy is to win all the races he finishes with the horsepower and straightaway speed of the Ducati, assuming that he won't be finishing all the races.   Italian racing at it's finest.   My strategy is to   finish all the races, hopefully finishing some of them in front of Tim, and win on aggregate points.

Tim's strategy has been working perfectly so far - of the races he's finished, he's won.   Until this weekend that is.  

My strategy isn't working quite as well - I've had mixed success.   I had to miss the first race due to a little maritime disaster.   The second race I siezed a cam bearing on the 160 due to a mechanical blunder, and raced on the spare bike.   I did manage to beat all of the 160's, but I couldn't keep Tim in sight after he sorted out his shifting problems.

I got the bike back together for the second Portland race, and headed down with big ideas of a class win as Tim wasn't going to be making it down.   It was not to happen however, as the bike was missing and cutting out on top, not revving out at all.   I managed a 5th overall finish, but I was back from the lead pack.   I changed the entire electrical system at the track, but it didn't make a difference.

Back at the shop, I called Craig Hanson for some advice.   He suggested fuel flow problems, and asked if I'd degreed the cam yet.   I tore into the bike, finding nothing particularly wrong with it.   I had bid on and won an accel coil on ebay, so that went in the chassis.   It turns out that with a minor bit of metal removal it mounts perfectly in the stock location, with the two posts sticking through the frame to the other side.   I took the petcock apart and found nothing wrong.   I did blow out the screen in case it was plugged with something microscopic.   I washed the carbs out in the parts washer, but found nothing wrong with them either.   When I degreed the cam I found it pretty far out.   Craig had said that a good target number was intake lobe centers between 101 and 104 degrees, definitely not more than 104 degrees.   I found the cam at 106.5 degree lobe centers.   I set it to 102.25, and reassembled everything.  

Having found nothing particularly bad that could explain the cutting out, I decided a bit of dyno time would be worth my while.   I loaded up and drove down to Bremerton, home of Mike Velasco racing.   Mike has been a Honda tuner for decades, working with Pops Yoshimura, Two Brothers Racing, Freddy Spencer and many others.   He ran the 160 on his dyno and it ran great with no breakup on top.   It made 14.4 hp, running rich.   That was some of the best $$ I could spend.   I found that the jetting was way too rich, that power drops off dramatically after 8,500 rpm and that the bike was not breaking up.   And I now have a baseline for future tuning changes.

I dropped the main jets from 98 to 95, the needles from clip #4 to #3 and headed for Spokane, happy with the results.   I also dropped two teeth from the rear sprocket (18/38 to 18/36) as it is evident that I've been shifting much too late to keep the bike in optimum power.   I also took my heat gun to the front number plate and curved it a bit for better aerodynamics than the reverse curve dinner plate it was previously.

Armed with new confidence in my machinery, I headed for Spokane.   We arrived to find it cold and wet.   Ugh.

Saturday morning practice got in a couple of semi-dry sessions where I was able to figure out that the bike was running great.   I'm much closer to being able to keep up with the Ducati now, and the new gearing is perfect.   I can catch a draft on the straight and the bike will keep on the power and keep pulling through the draft to put me past going into turns one/two.   It's also raised my gearing enough that I don't have to shift from second to third and back again between the hairpins, and I'm better able to carry third gear in several other places where I was really between third and fourth.   I had a fantastic second session with Tim Fowler and Simon-Pierre Smith, trading leads every other corner and going three wide in several corners.   We came in grinning and cackling about how much fun we'd had, like usual.

In the afternoon it rained heavily, so I opted to ride the high of the second session and not ride in the afternoon as it was .   The Portland riders having not seen the track before decided (wisely) that they needed all the track time they could get and stayed out, doing very well and getting faster.

In the first race Tim Keane's Ducati had water in the gas, and he wasn't able to put up a fight, so I was able to take the win beating Eirik (one of the Portland guys) after a bit of a battle.   It was fun, but I had been looking forward to a match-up with the Duc.   In the second race Tim had figured out the problem and fixed it.   I got a good launch, drafted past the other Honda that had beat me off the line, and Tim managed to draft past going into Turn two (turn one is a non-event for us - a right hand kink that's more intimidating than anything, mostly because when I ride a fast bike there it is a real event.)

I was able to keep up with Tim, even drafting past at one point on the straight, but he was riding very well and my usual corner speed advantage was nullified.   On top of that, the Ducati was pulling off the corners better than my Honda.   Eventually I figured out that I would still have the combined win over Tim as long as I didn't crash, so I did back off a bit in the last few turns on the last lap.   It was a fantastic fun race, just what I've been looking forward to this season.   My bike ran great, and it showed that it is capable of reeling in the Ducati if I ride it hard.  

I only have a couple of more tricks up my sleeve to make more power from the 160 and still keep within the spirit of our "160 spec class - The Fowler Formula."   I've found that the vertical model 175 cam and right cam bearing will fit right in the 160, and the right cam bearing has a mechanical tach drive.   Right now none of us have a tach, so we're not sure how high we're spinning the bikes.   It's clear from the dyno run that the stock motors we're running in our spec class sign off the power early, so running a tach will really help make sure I'm shifting at the right time.   The 175 cam also has a bit more lift.   I haven't yet investigated whether or not this would be a straight bolt-up affair or the additional lift would cause piston fouling.   It'd sure be nice to have a tach though.

I'm currently running straight shorty pipes on the bike, clearly not optimum for the 360 degree crank that these bikes run.   I've got a 2-1 pipe with calculated head pipe lengths, a megaphone and supertrapp disks to make it a bit quieter in the shop that I bought from Craig Hanson last year, I just need to weld it together.   That should help a little with both power and carburetion, while helping keep my bike within the decibel limits at the tracks that are slowly dropping.   Mission, BC is enforcing a 95 dB limit now, and many of the other tracks are probably not far behind.

I could also spend a bit more time on the dyno to optimize jetting and timing advance.   I think with all that the stock motor 160 will run about even with Tim's Ducati when it's running well.  

To get much faster than that I'd need to push beyond the spirit of the 160 stocker class, which I don't think is a good thing.   I could shave the head quite a bit for more compression.   By my calculations I could go up to about 10.5:1 before I would need to switch from super unleaded to race gas.   We're currently at 8.5:1 and only about 135psi of compression.   I could also fit a fairing for a large increase in straightaway speed, but we'd like to avoid anything like that if possible as it would increase the cost of racing for our bare bones budget spec class.

If Tim manages to find too much more power in the Ducati and I'm still not able to keep up, I may have to abandon the spec 160 class-within-a-class and build an actual race motor.   I've got Michael Moore's 160/175 racing pamphlet, my notes from talking to Craig and some of my own ideas about tuning with which I think I can build a fast 175 honda that will run in front of the Ducati.   It'd also have five speeds instead of four which would be nice.   I'm hoping to not have to do that though, as our 160 spec class is what has the 250 vintage grids growing so fast around here.   People have figured out how much fun it is to ride a low power, reliable, good handling motorcycle that can be built from a total boat anchor for between 800 and 1500 dollars (including tires and number plates!), go the entire year or more on the same engine rebuild, need tires once a year and provide some of the closest racing that either club has seen in years.   We've regularly been told that we're the best show of the day, as we stay in a pack and trade leads multiple times/lap, as well as riding several bikes wide in the corners.   It's very similar to the old GS500 days, when they raced stock GS's with stock pipes and the winner was the rider with the most skill and biggest nuts.  

We're happy to help every rider on our grid - loaning parts and helping with wrenching to make sure every bike makes the grid and has a chance at winning.   We've got a website set up at www.groupwracing.com to spread the word and help anyone wanting to get started.   There's more information being added all the time about building and tuning the Honda 160 as well as where the show will be next, so keep checking back. If anyone lives within striking distance of Mission, BC I suggest you don't miss the vintage races there July 26-28.   It's a short track well suited to the 160, you can see most of the track from the stands and the Canadian hospitality is legendary.   Their poor dollar is also sort of in the dumper so to speak.   While we're terribly sorry for our Canadian friends, it makes the racing super cheap for us.   Come on out and watch, or even better, take that boat anchor 160 out from behind the maple tree, print out the instructions from the Group W website and come out and play with us!

Jeffrey from Portland has even been catering the races.   In addition to racing a 160 and doing pretty well, he's been making incredible food for the 160 crowd.   Vintage racing in the Northwest is turning into one of the best deals going anywhere, with cheap racing, good camaraderie, good competition, large grids and some of the finest people you could ever want to associate with.


Thanks to my sponsors:

AGV Sport
Burton Motorsports
Motorcycle Works of Renton
Group W Racing
Vicious Cycles
The Flying Circus aka Mean Bees
The vast empire of Tim Fowler, Esq.