I'd been driving for 7 hours with the windshield wipers set on high. My night vision sucks at the best of times, but on the unlit Highway 17 to New York City in a rainstorm that had been with me since I left Ottawa, I was blind as a bat. But I was a man with a mission; en-route to Lou Saif's 2nd Annual Ducati TT Symposium - hosted this year by Ralf Stechow at his shop in Closter, NJ. The last 3 weeks had been a thrash to get my F1 rebuilt for the event and Bar's ex-Mertens TT at least presentable (if not track-ready). …All this amid the chaos of the move from DC back to Ottawa and the creation of a business based on the Romanelli Collection. It's been a wild ride these past five months, but with The Hot-blooded Mexican and I reinstalled in our Ottawa house; things are beginning to feel somewhat normal.
No time for blog posts or much else other than setting up the warehouse and e-store while selling the really shiny bits on e-Bay.
The TT event was a turning point and signaled the beginning of the 2010 season for me – it also forced me to put some much needed time into the F1 and although I was surrounded with a dizzying array of cool stuff in the warehouse that was crying to be installed on the bike, I found myself focused on moving the oil cooler up where it belonged, replacing the fairing, installing a glass tank fabricated and generously donated by Gary Palmer, and making a few changes to my riding position. There was a quiet Sunday earlier this year where I spread all the cool stuff: 300mm rotors, Q-R calipers, M1Rs from a Bimota, 1st generation upside-down Marzocchis, DB1 triple clamps, etc on the floor in front of the F1. After gazing at this techno-feast for an hour or so, I decided that the bike worked brilliantly as it was and any exotica that I might add would only set on a frustrating path of regaining the set-up I’d developed over the last 6 years.
Bar’s TT1 needed a good going over that started with stripping it down to the frame and motor and giving it a WD-40 bath. From there, it’s been a slow process of repairing wiring, sealing the tank with Caswell’s magic epoxy sealer and then fixing stuff as the bike was reassembled. Still about 10 hours of work to do, but I was able to get it reassembled to the point that I could bring it down to the TT event.
And the event – this year with the inclusion of F1s – was a huge success and a welcome opportunity to connect faces with people I’ve developed email and phone relationships with over the years. And also to finally get the opportunity to meet the likes of Cook Nielson – a man who so strongly influenced my passion for Ducatis and the original loudbike 750 desmo vintage racer I built and campaigned. The adventure started with a chance meeting with Cook in the lobby of our hotel the morning of the event and we shared a morning coffee and smoke in the parking lot. It was a completely unexpected pleasure that set the tone for a number of great discussions with the man over the course of the weekend.
Bar Hodgson loaded with ex-Adamo / Leoni BOTT championship-winning Mille bevel and a machine I hadn’t yet seen (the ex-Roger Sears BOTT Championship-winning Pantah) in his motor home and set-up a temporary homestead in Ralf’s parking lot. The Sears Pantah is going to be our focus this season and after looking it over on Saturday afternoon, I can’t wait to give it a try. It’s all business; you sit on the machine and it just feels as well engineered and sorted as it looks when you take in all the details.
Nothing prepared me for the TTs, though. I’d never seen Lou and Ralf’s machines and they are simply elegant, yet brutal track weapons. The real deal, too. While I’m intimate with Fran McDermott’s TT1, it’s not a “factory” bike and these are. The packaging is impressive and their single purpose becomes more obvious the closer you look. I didn’t count the F1s in attendance, but had I been able to scare up a good-sized stick, there would have truly been more than I could have shaken it at. .. A’s B’s, racers, and a pirate-themed street bike sporting my number.
But, while the event was about bikes it was the people that really became the focus of the experience. Strange, but I was so busy meeting folks that I only had a couple of brief opportunities to actually sit down and spend some quality time just gazing at the machines and talking to the owners about how they came to be. The exception was a good session with Gary Palmer; learning about the development of his F1 racer since the time I rode it almost 5 years ago. Gary’s F1 has to be the most potent example of the breed on this side of the Atlantic and continues to help him win races in a class where he should be running mid-pack.
We fired up my bike and Ralf’s TT1 as the sun broke out in the late afternoon and it was at that point that I truly realized what was missing.. More time, and a race track. In fact, I told a number of people that it felt to me very much like one of those rainy days at a (DOCC) Ducati Owners Club of Canada event where there’s nothing to do but wander from pit to pit and socialize. Great fun, but I really wanted to hear “First call for the green group!” over the PA so I could struggle into my leathers and go play with all my new friends and their shiny toys.
And after much discussion with Lou and Ralf, and DOCC president John Ross and Bar, we were able to put an opportunity to do just that on the table for the DOCC Mosport Event in 2011. We garnered enough positive response to announce that we will host a TT / F1-specific sub-event that will offer those who have always wanted to experience their TT or F1 on a racetrack, but were justifiably worried about safety to give it a shot – and those of us who already worship at the Church of Going Fast and Making Beautiful Music to go mix it up at a faster pace as a group. This is the way these machines need to be truly experienced and appreciated and our goal is to offer a controlled environment and an amazing, unique experience. … We are able to announce the venue at the event and will be posting more details to the community in the next 30 days..
And Vicki Smith announced that she has arranged to host the 3rd Annual TT Symposium at Barber in the fall of 2010 as part of the Vintage Festival held there. This venue will truly give the TTs the exposure they truly deserve and the room the event needs. As with everything Vicki’s put together, this should be a grand affair that celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the TT series. She’s put up an excellent 2010 TT Symposium photo gallery at Ducati.net.
Thanks to Lou Saif and Ralf Stechow for putting an amazing event together. And to Ralf’s wife Anita and her sister Chris for putting on a feast that was delicious beyond description.
More high rez pics are in my Flickr set HERE.
Yeah, I’m psych’d now…
The "F1" is based on a 1988 Ducati 750 F1. loudbike is a state of mind, a weblog about fast, loud Italian motorcycles