The dawn was very beautiful. Tongues of the
palest coral pink licked across the sky and
the dew was heavily aromatic. Then the sky
darkened. It was a bird. Not your common
or garden British bird, all fluffy feathers
and tweety song, but an enormous helicopter
sized monster with wings like tennis courts.
And it was watching me - watching me very,
I was at the Roebling Road race circuit,
Faulkville, Georgia - admittedly not one
of the Sunshine Beltís most well-known
tourist spots in the normal run of things
but a mecca for classic bike fans from all
over the world.
My dawn walk was because in half an hour
practice would begin and I still didnít
have a clue which way the track was going.
The big bird clearly smelt the panic- and
saw brunch on the way.
"That thereís a crow andíll
heíll eat anything thatís dead
or dyin..." quipped a smiling marshal.
I thought about informing him that real crows
were rather like big blackbirds and sat in
trees all day gossiping - but didnít.
This was the land of the big truck, the big
apple and it seemed, the thoroughly enormous
race track crow.
Not only was the crow unthinkable in Britain
but so was Roebling Road. In 1954 sports
car enthusiast J.C. Roebling, sometime multi-millionaire
steel baron from Philadelphia, decided that
he would build himself a little race track
on which he could play with his toys. The
result was a superb 2.02 mile circuit which
twists and turns through the lush Georgia
Not that JC did things by half. Thereís
a 60 acre paddock and all the goodies necessary
for civilised racing. Not a bad attempt for
Transport the track to England, build some
serious spectator banking, and you would
have a price tag of a solid £30 million.
Here, the track was sold to the Bucanner
section of the Sports Car Club of America
at an affordable sum on the understanding
that they continued to run sports car meetings.
The rest of the time, the venue is rented
out to like minded organizations for non-spectator
One these is the American Historic Racing
Motorcyle Association - or as it is more
popularly known AHRMA. This huge club exists
to promote classic bike racing with a range
and complexity which is bewildering. At one
end, there are the magnificent hand-change,
rigid, side-valve Harleys and at the other
classes for modern MZs - the big four-stroke
singles, not the old Eastern block two-strokes.
As well as road racing, AHRMA organises everything
from observed trials to historic motocross
and flat track racing - really catering for
the whole of the two wheeled world.
AHRMA is guided deftly on its way by Jack
Turner, a thoughtful and charismatic hard
core biker with, by American standards at
least, a very well defined sense of humour.
Jack sums AHRMA philosophy as: "AHRMA
is all about fun. The reason we exist is
to give the vintage enthusiast a place to
play with a sensible degree of risk management.
We need racing to be safe but we never lose
sight that weíre there for fun - and
that we all gotta go to work on Monday morning."
And so it proved to be in practice with AHRMA
officials demonstrating a firm, but courteous,
touch when it came to the safety side of
racing but no evidence of the use of power
for its own sake. Perhaps there is something
in the British pysche which demands that
not only are rules obeyed but they must be
seen to be overtly and clearly adhered to
- and heaven help the rider who doesnít
toe the line.
Certainly the emphasis on the pleasure of
participation - above any other consideration
- was a wonderful experience compared to
Britain where winning is often the raison
díetre for many riders. On reflection,
perhaps this is why our officials have to
take such a firm line with riders: truly
a chicken and egg situation.
Sometimes in life, you drop really lucky
and certainly my cup of good fortune ran
over when I was invited to ride with Sundial
Moto Sports. More than anything else, Sundial
races with good humour. Take the name for
example. Team owner, chief tuner and number
one rider Eric Kalamaja was so slow when
he first started racing that his friends
used to say that they would time his laps
with a sundial instead of a stop watch.
However, before we could race came the really
dangerous part; the pre-race Mexican meal.
Mexican food in Mexico is lively, spicy and
interesting. Mexican food in Georgia consists
of lumps of full fat beef, spiced with fat,
cream cheese, fat sauce, extra thick fat
syrup and a delicious topping of super heavy
duty fat. And of course, a diet Coke because
weíre calorie watching. The team collapsed
into bed feeling as if we had eaten a meal
provided by Readymix concrete.
No matter, the day next dawned and a suitably
strong case of pre-race nerves meant that
the Mexican meal had left me for good.
Race paddocks are magical places at dawn.
There is a heady mix of nervous anticipation
and an aching desire to get on with the job.
I paid my 31st visit to the toilet and then
our practice was on the line.
The first thing that struck me was that these
American were top quality racers - fast,
smooth and skillful I cheated by tagging
on to the second Sundial T500 ridden by the
talented Todd Brockmeyer and learning his
racing lines. Todd was riding really well
but my T500 was newly built and faster and
this was enough to keep up with him. Eric
was riding the third Sundial production racer
and he simply cleared off and left us.
After practice, there was time to wander
around the paddock and enjoy what must be
one of the most ecletic ranges of race machines
ever gathered in one place. There were the
wonderful hand change Harleys and Indians
from before the war. Then on to John Cygnorís
side-valve KR race machines. John bought
this machine in 1957 and raced it in flat-tracks.
He went on to race enduros but never sold
the KR. Eventually, like many AHRMA members,
he "unretired" himself and began
road racing the bike in 1993 - and hasnít
had a dull moment since!
Next, there was a wonderful range of classic
European bikes like Dave Roperís Aermacchi
and the B.50s tuned by ex-BSA mechanics Ted
Hubbard. Finally, a mountain of converted
Japanese road bikes which ranged from extremely
basic to completely stunning.
Eric worked miracles looking after the three
production bikes and a Grand Prix class bike
ridden by Joey Naval. Since I have the mechanical
ability of a marmoset with a migraine, my
contribution was to hang around and make
encouraging noises until race time.
I knew that things were going to be tough
when the flag dropped and Todd cleared off
and left me for me for dead! This looked
like hard work. Eventually, the speed of
my virtually brand-new T500 enabled me to
scrape past Todd and win the production class
which was all very satisfying and a tribute
to the quality of Ericís bike preparation.
Eric had the dreaded ignition problems -
reflecting the fact that, like the riders,
middle-aged wiring isnít as flexible
as it was in its youth. If Eric had been
running, I donít think that I would
have been on the same lap.
There was a consolation prize because Sundial
Moto Sports won the prestigious award for
the best presented bikes - a tribute not
only to Ericís skill with the spanners
but also his meticulous attention to detail.
The win brought to an end what had been a
wonderful dayís racing and, of even
greater importance, a superb weekend of classic
The only thing which remained left undone
was to have a jumbo sized helping of the
delicious barbecue laid on by the track caterers
and lay a nice thick layer of bovine excrement
around the Sundial pit area as I re-lived
my race for 429 times. A perfect weekend
brought to a perfect end - and tht Georgia
crow never did get an English crow to chew
My thanks to Eric Kalamaja and Sundial racing
for providing a super bike, KLM for a thoroughly
nice flight and all the nice people at AHRMA
for making us so welcome.
Eric will tune, or re-build, your T500 to stunningly high Sundial standards
for road or race. He can be contacted at
(540) 980-0700 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org