Photos by: Sid Tangerine Words by: Andrew McCracken #26
With the pandemic, racing, like everything else has been affected. The club I race with, the Vintage Road Racing Association, was not spared and in 2020 they were limited to one race which I was unable to attend and the first two races of the 2021 season were similarly cancelled due to covid-19 restrictions on events.
The annual Vintage Festival at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park is the VRRA's crown jewel of the race season. The opportunity to race on such a historic track, combined with close proximity to major urban areas and the US border make it usually the biggest race of the year for both racers and spectators. Attendance was certainly affected this year because of uncertainty surrounding Covid and the US border not being open to non-essential travel but the executive put together an excellent event in the short amount of time after it was given the green light.
Personally, I hadn't been on a track since August 2019 and hadn't raced at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park since 2018 and hadn't really touched my dirt covered bike since I crashed at my last race at Shannonville Motorsports Park 2 years ago but figured I should get my bike sorted, pack up the family and head to the track.
I was actually able to really get my shit together and properly prepare my 1970 Honda CB350 for once. Perhaps a side effect of finally having a garage at my house or maybe a 2 year hiatus. Either way, I repaired all the damage from my last crash, cleaned the dust, dirt and rocks out of my carbs, brakes and everywhere else it was hiding, changed my gearing, changed the oil and lockwired it all up. It was the most ready my bike had ever been for a race weekend and was for ready for Tech when I rolled it off the truck at the track.
The way our race weekends are scheduled is Friday is full day practice and a 2hr Endurance Race, Saturday two rounds of morning practice then qualifying races, and Sunday includes morning practice and final races throughout the day. My friends Tim(#840) and Cody(#515) who I pit and race with had come down a day earlier to do a track day which I ended up wishing I had done as well, as it wasn't until the 2nd or 3rd practice on Friday I started feeling the cobwebs lifting and started to remember how to get around the track again. I wasn't doing the endurance race but watched them and Timothy of Keep it Twisted Racing come in 2nd in lightweight on the oldest bike on the track - Tim's CB350 endurance bike. Rounding out our crew of Honda CB350 racers was our pal Colm(#665).
Saturday I was looking forward to the heat races. A real race is the best way to get going at an actual race pace and I was curious to see how far I was off my old times. Morning practices went smoothly and I was eager to get gridded up. My first race was P2-Lightweight which has a great group of fast riders I ended up coming in 6th of 12 mostly due to a couple of faster riders pulling off but was good to get a clean race in and had some riders to dice with to keep it interesting. In my second race P1-350 I finished 8 out of 12 and went faster at 1:59.2 for my best lap of the weekend so far. My previous personal best was a 1:54.5 so that's the carrot I was chasing. I ended up being on my own most of the race though which isn't as fun and hard to keep pushing your pace when you don't necessarily have a rider in front of you to use as a marker. All in all a successful first real race day and happy to keep the bike upright as always. The day ended in rain and pushed the last race of the day until Sunday. The main mechanical issue in our crew at the end of the day was Tim's motor blew up in his P2 race so we swapped in his spare that evening so he'd be good to go on it the next day.
Sunday was foggy in the morning so practice got cut down to one round with the schedule changing a little to accommodate the extra race. The Town Moto & Motosocial crew rode down to cheer us on and it was a pretty great day to be racing. In P2-Lightweight I held onto my position and was racing largely on my own, chasing my faster friends in the distance. In P1-350 I managed a 6 of 12 and was able to shave my best lap down to 1:57.5 so 3 seconds off my best time but I was still super happy to get out on the track, have some fun, and see all my VRRA friends and family again.
More than just racing a VRRA race weekend packs an amazing amount of fun, beautiful vintage racing motorcycles, camaraderie, and go fast action into three days. If you've never been, make sure to check out a race. Camping is included in your weekend passes and you can get more involved by volunteering. It's also a great way to find out if vintage racing might be something you want to try.
A super big thanks to my family, Alex & Ash for their support in getting back out there, my racing friends and Pit Fam: Tim, Cody, Colm, Thomas, Lindsay, Michelle and the little ones Abi, Izzy, Charlotte & Charlie. Thanks to my friend Sid for capturing all these great photos and hanging out for the weekend. To all of the VRRA Executive and volunteers who always put on an excellent event regardless of what the universe throws at them, The Town Moto & Motosocial Crew for your support and all the other racers, families and fans who make The Vintage Road Racing Association so great! Hope to see you out there again soon.