I write this post through the haze of post-surgery pain-killers, having capped-off this year's Ducati Owners Club of Canada Mosport festival with a trip to the hospital to get a little pre-arranged repair work on my meniscus. The typing goes slowly, the words flowing though my numbed fingertips like molasses in February. But as I write, I find myself being pulled back to the pictures I took over the weekend of a gorgeous black Vincent called Gunga Din.
Gunga Din. Just the name invokes a sense of mystery and power. One of the most celebrated and powerful Vincents ever produced was strapped-down in my trailer as Bar Hodgson and I rolled through the Southern Ontario countryside on our way back to Mosport with this legendary machine. The plan was to start it up, maybe run it around the pit area for a while and then spend the evening appreciating the machine in the fading twilight.
Built in 1947, Gunga Din was the development platform for the Vincent Black Shadow and Black Lightning. It was a seriously radical and fast machine that unfortunately was reduced to a collection of parts under a variety of ownerships and only recently was restored to its former glory. For a complete record of this storied machine, check out this excellent article in Motorcycle Classics.
Although Bar is a serious Vincent collector, he didn't go looking for Gunga Din; it came to him - and though most of this past May he was focused on a deal that would bring the machine into his collection. I knew about the trips to Boston, but it wasn't until we were unloading the Adamo Mille at Mospot last Friday night that he broke the news to me that he had just picked up the bike the previous Wednesday. Although we spent some quality time running his TT1 and my F1 on Saturday, by the end of the day it was obvious that he was pining for his latest acquisition so on Sunday just after the riders' meeting, we zipped back to Bar's shop with my trailer to pick up the bike and bring it back to the track.
Even if you know absolutely nothing about Vincents, the visual impact of this bike is immediate. It's stunning, small and has features that belie its age. Honestly, this just doesn't look like a mid-'40s motorcycle.. It looks loud, fast and dangerous.
With little fanfare and only a smidgen of trepidation, we fired it up at noon. We had been experiencing issues with the roller starter occasionally sliding out from under the bikes on start-up, so my job was to hang onto the rear of the machine and keep the rear wheel centered on the rollers. Gunga Din awoke with a hammering exhaust note that was loud, crisp and intoxicating. After warming the bike, Bar trundled off for a tour of the upper and lower pit areas leaving me to watch with wonder as it took over 25 meters for him to finally release the clutch lever. Geared a little tall, eh? I'm sure I spent a good 90 minutes snapping pictures f the bike and letting my eyes wander over all of the details. The caliber of the restoration is amazing, but more impressive is the way the whole package hangs together functionally and aesthetically. Bar told me that certain Vincent owners refer to Ducati as the "Series E" Vincent and with that in mind, a Ducati event wasn't completely out of character for the machine's Canadian debut.
And it was a pretty fine event - warmer than any I remember; with temps in the 30s (Celsius, eh?) all three days. Although I was working around a bum knee, I got some dynamite laps in on the somewhat renewed F1 and in particular, had an excellent session banging around with Fran McDermott on his TT1. I think I'm finally getting free of the post-crash fear of this place and looking forward to the July event.
It's been a while since we've seen new Ducati bevel hot-rod at the event, but this year Paul Hewitt debuted his big-bore NCR replica and after a couple of tentative sessions to get the measure of the thing, he settled into a weekend program of merciless thrashing. I came up on him a couple times when I was out in the Yellow group and was amazed by how composed (and fast) the machine was. Some three years in the making, Paul's done a fabulous job creating something that looks the business and delivers the goods. Look for a spread on this machine in Cycle Canada this summer.
What looked like a nice, mellow event suddenly took an ugly turn Monday midday. After loading up, I stopped at the McDermott pit and was chatting with Gerry when we heard that bike "29 red" was down at turn 9 - which had Gerry trying to remember whether he'd tech'd that machine. What came over the radio next gave us a creepy chill; it was corrected as "92 red" as they called for an ambulance. #92 being Fran, we got into my car and drove down to the tower (just shy of turn 9) and while Gerry waited for someone official, I walked down the track to the incident. Fortunately I found him (although being strapped to the transit board) forming complete sentences and moving important body parts. He'd had his bell rung, but looked to be in decent shape considering... After he was loaded into the ambulance, I picked up his TT and rolled it over to a spot where I could lean it against a bale and check out the cause & effect. Cause was pretty obvious; the rear tire was soaked with oil. Back in the pit with the bike, it became obvious that he'd been spit off the high side, but it wasn't until someone pointed out a crack in the cases just above the left front engine mount that the plot began to thicken... I walked around the other side of the bike and found that the crack ran right across the cases (between) the cylinders and continued past the output shaft. Gerry was figuring that the engine had locked-up, but I disagreed; having pushed the bike briefly while it was in gear. I rolled the bike off the Baxley so I could get it into neutral and - thinking I'd turned the kill switch off - thumbed the starter. I was astounded when the motor fired and settled into a nice steady idle and watched with amazement (and some kind of horror) as the crack in the cases expanded with every stroke of the engine. Oil flowed through the crack like blood from a ruptured artery, but there was no hint of mechanical carnage in the form of clatters and bangs.
Fran's out with a broken collar bone for six weeks. His first crash in the 14 years I've been riding and racing with him.
Which just goes to show you.. er, something anyway...
Hi-rez pics are HERE..