Small displacement engines and shift patterns be damned, a day on the track is still a ton of fun.
Three nights before the VRRA endurance race at Calabogie, Alan Burns texted me a photo of a bike with no wheels and no tank or bodywork. I thought he bought another race bike but, no, it was the actual Yamaha R3 we were racing later in the week. He just installed his Superbike engine (is there such a thing when it’s 321 cc?) and was pretty excited. “It’s alive and tomorrow I’ll do dyno runs” he texted.
We were racing in the four-round Vintage Road Racing Association (VRRA) Endurance series. Four Fridays of two-hour endurance races. Two years ago, Alan invited me to join him in this series on his Yamaha R3. The 2020 series was pretty much a Covid write-off but, in 2021, we were able to race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP) and Shannonville Motorsport Park, both in Ontario, and we actually won in the Modern Lightweight category. I was surprised at how well we did, especially against a lot of Kawasaki 400s and excellent riders, but sometimes there are awards for good attendance!
Back when I was racing, my other hobby on the weekend was teaching motorcycle courses. Alan, myself and three other instructors had a great time racing in Amateur 600 at the Canadian Nationals or club level races at various tracks. We called ourselves Team Shoulder Check. Very fitting, because we couldn’t shake the safe street habit of shoulder-checking even when we were on the racetrack.
Of course, when you’re on the racetrack, only the slow racers would look over their shoulders. All focus should be straight ahead: You’re losing time if you look backwards or over your shoulder. Mind you, one of our guys, Dan Henri, won the first televised National Amateur 600 in 2003, and in 2004 I set a Shannonville lap record. Alan picked up speed years later and is now very fast.
In 2019, Alan’s dear wife passed away from health issues and Alan subsequently fully immersed himself into track activity. He was lucky enough to have his son race with him for a couple of years until his son started his own family.
The Older I Get, The Faster I Am
As Alan aged, he seemed to get faster and faster. I started calling him Benjamin Button due to his increasing youthfulness with every year that brought him closer to 60. At age 59, he, until recently, held the Lightweight lap record at Calabogie Motorsports Park of 2:23 minutes on his Yamaha R3, a lap time I’d be happy to achieve nowadays on my 600 cc track bike.
Ten years ago, I had my own health…