Bevelheads at Mid Ohio - July 2003 - by Peter Bonner - home click images for larger views
"the great thing about Bevelheads is how people reach across the gaps of geography and time"

Left to right: Gary Herman and his lady, Charlie Clancy, Rich Lambrechts, Bob Meade (yellow shirt),
Peter Bonner, John Watrous, Holly Korzilius, Mark, and Rodger Harrison
It started on a Wednesday for me, with my arrival at Columbus and getting a ride with Rich Lambrecht to his race shop. Various cool cars were there, plus a fantastic collection of bikes. Over in a corner sat a lonely beveldrive twin, with only a spoked front wheel, a frame and an engine. Didn't much look like a racebike at the time, especially with practice only a day away. The problem was that Rich had not been able to finish the bike due to illness.

Here is where the Bevelhead "can do" attitude came in. Thursday morning found Rich and I hard at it, with me doing the machinist part. Enter Rodger Harrison, who drove in from Colorado. We worked until 5:30 am, when I left, thinking to get a couple hours sleep before Friday practice began.

Returning to the shop at 9:30 am, I found Rich and Rodger still at it. Then Charlie Clancy, Bob Mead, and John Watrous arrived. We spent the day working on the bike, until around 2 PM when we chased Rich and Rodger to bed after their all night effort. Charlie and Bob continued work on the bike, John worked on assembly of components while I machined up the bits needed. The crew left about 10:00 pm for dinner while I remained to work on the bike. By midnight when they returned, it was beginning to take shape, with part of the fairing mounted.

Leaving for the hotel, I had 5 hours sleep before returning to the shop with Rich. We worked on the bike until I had to leave for the mandatory riders' meeting for the Saturday races. Finally the bike was deemed ready and arrived at the track for tech. The inspector had already been advised the rear brake was decorative only, and no shut off valves for petrol, because the respective new bits had proved faulty.

At this time, we had already missed practice and the first race. However we were in time for the second race, which was the final race of the day. Naturally I was horrible since the first complete lap I ever got at Mid Ohio was after the green flag indicated the start of the race.

That Saturday night we partied in the pits like we had won the whole thing. Everyone was just relieved and happy that we were able to run at all. Bevelheads came through!
Sunday morning rolled around and the gracious tech inspector let us through again, plus enabled me to have one extra practice session in the interests of safety. The track time paid off and the track started to make sense, although very tricky due to the concrete patches that create bad grooves that are right in the lines.

For the first race of Sunday, I was in the BOT F1 group with the 99x Ducati bikes so little chance there. However I managed to pass a few lads from my last place position on the grid and was starting to hit some respectable times, being caught at a 1:52 lap time. Glad to see the checkered flag and not in last place, but still without much practice, I was intent on using the cool down lap for all it was worth. This was unfortunate, as there were still a few issues with the bike.

Number one issue was that the idle was now quite high for some reason, which was especially a problem with no rear brake. Secondly, we had been unsuccessful in our attempt to drain some gas out of the very full tank, leaving the bike quite top heavy.

The disastrous cool down lap began by taking the checkered flag and entering turn one, which went well. Then it was up the hill with a good run around turn two. I got quite a good drive there to cruise uphill to the top of the keyhole, which is a carousel. This is a tricky part of the track with two distinct lanes starting about midway. The inner lane is concrete, and I had learned it would hold you well. At the very inside, about 18 inches wide was asphalt, but a bad transition, so you could not dive to the apex, as normally would be the case. The fastest line was to be outside on entry as you pick a small concrete patch that transitions into the concrete lane of the last part of the corner. The trouble is, this little preliminary patch has only about a 12 inch common area where you can go from the little patch directly onto the concrete lane.

For most of the race, I had been nailing that transition right in the middle of the 12 inch wide transition. However with the engine still surging, no rear brake, and probably a bit of mental vacuum because of feeling the need to get every lap in for practice, I missed my mark by 6 inches. As soon as the small patch ended, I was in trouble because I was right on the seam of the concrete and asphalt. The concrete is about three-quarters of an inch higher than the asphalt, with a decided groove running along there.

Suddenly mindful of the opinion of former Harley Factory rider Mike Smith about the need to grind the concrete down at those transitions, it occurred too late to do any good. The groove that both tires were in made the bike come loose at both ends. Then the rear stepped out sharply while the top-heavy full tank of gas began its descent towards the track. Just as I shifted a bit to get the rear in control, the front that was still on the groove, rode up onto the higher concrete where contact shifted to the sidewall and the front end slid irretrievably. The resulting low side on the right side of the bike caused me to fall to the track on my right elbow and side and then bounce up in the air (perhaps from hitting the higher concrete portion) so that I spun over and landed heavily on my left side.

While I was watching, there was great anguish as the beautiful Ducati kept sliding for a very long ways down the track, and finally coming to a rest in the grass.

I got to my feet and ran to the bike, but was unable to lift it. The remaining riders behind me slowed down and there was no danger as a corner worker came over to help. The steering was jammed into hard right by the master cylinder, but we got it to the edge so they could run the next race.

While that was going, I amused myself by rewinding the video camera, which was unscathed, and doing a replay of the crash. Not unexpectedly, during the worst moments, the camera didn't catch all the action, but it did fairly well overall. As scary as anything was the ride back to the pits because the trailer had no front stop, no brakes, and tied only in front. It was in gear, with me astride holding it back on the downhill section while I visualized the front wheel going off and the bike and I landing in front of the trailer to get run over. With great relief, we stopped at tech intact and the crew came over to help with the bike.

Thanks Peter!