Racing Big Bore Vintage Motorcycles
and the “Big Boys” at Daytona.

Alan Masters

I got the bug to go vintage road racing after attending the Canadian Vintage Road Racing Association (VRRA) in 1990. Next came the decision of what bike or bikes to compete with. My first inclination was to ride a Triumph (my brand of choice since a kid) but after some discussion with a veteran member he suggested I consider a vintage Japanese product, "if I wanted to spend more time on the track and have lower operating cost". As I'm a big guy, I chose to run in Period II, Super Vintage, heavy weight class (not the rider the bike), which is composed of machines of more than 500cc, manufactured from 1969 to 1972. I made this choice after observing this class and noting that Yamaha XS series bikes were very competitive and parts were cheap, and readily available.

I found a 1971 Yamaha XS1, the first year of manufacture and pre-runner of the venerable XS650. The stock frame was heavy and flexed a lot, so I had it modified by Scott Bain of Bain Machine in Brampton. Next, I needed a strong motor that could haul my 6ft:1ins, 220 lb ass around the track and be competitive. Well known vintage racer Toivo Madrus, a Yamaha specialist and strong competitor, offered a complete and highly modified engine he built to run at Daytona.

I immediately snatched up Toivo's engine and installed it in the bike. The engine was punched to 750cc with Mega cams, special valves, springs, long intake tracks and welded crank. I was taken by surprise by the power of this motor. In my first race I dropped the clutch and inadvertently pulled the wheel, eventually fighting it down by the first corner, Wow! My motocross experience had taught me quick clutch starts and I soon mastered this brute of a Yamaha. Blasting it off the line, usually running with the top 5 or better through the first corner, I gained many valuable positions; which I needed by race end. Period II vintage machines typically offer the rider big power with high top speeds. After all the mods are done to maximize these two factors, we then have to find a way to stop the machine as quickly as it goes. This is not so easy a task for vintage bikes, especially if you run in both the Canadian VRRA and the USA AHRMA series where brake regulations can differ between classes, in particular 750 sportsman class. Prior to my first race at Daytona I was advised to change the gearing on my XS1 for the highest top speed possible. After changing some cogs around, my rear chain ended up nearly parallel, it was geared so high! We calculated it was possible for my Yammy to hit 140 MPH in top gear at 7,500 RPM! My first time out in practice on my XS1 the "Britten" scared the crap out of me when it went by me on the back strait at 205 MPH (confirmed via radar gun by Jamie Broad VRRA). You are warned to keep one bike's width space between you and the wall for such instances! In my first race on the Yamaha I actually hit 8,500 RPM in top gear on the Daytona back strait; with approximately 500RPM of clutch slip when hitting the bumps. I don't know how fast I was going. I knew it was bloody fast. Everything was a blur with the vibration but the engine stayed together and I ended up 10th in my first race at Daytona. Bitten by the Daytona bug, the following year it was now time to roll out my Honda RC51. Yes you can run a modern four stroke twin in Vintage BOTT, F1 class in the AHRMA series.

I had installed a race kit on the RC51 and performed some minor performance mods which still allowed me to ride it on the street.

I had some reservations about competing at Daytona on my RC51, but a friend in the VRRA and well known long time racer Tom Faulds noted that I would be a darn sight safer on a modern race machine such as the RC51 that does everything better than my XS Yamaha! Well Tom was right. What a blast! What a rush! I've never had so much fun and exhilaration on two wheels as on my RC51 at Daytona. I raced in the Battle of The Twins (BOTT) Formula 1, unlimited (anything goes), sitting on the line with ex-works riders who were out having fun in their off season. The RC51 fell into a nice pace with other machines on the track. The relative matching speeds making it all appear as if in slow motion from my seat. However; I was soon jerked back to the reality of the speed I was going after I sat up too quickly at the end of the race before slowing down sufficiently. The resultant wind force nearly blew me off my bike. Finger nails and toes were the only things keeping me on. Phew! That could have been a disastrous first day at the track at Daytona!! You don't realize how fast you're going until it is time to slow down! You are also told at Daytona to keep one hand on the clutch lever in case of catastrophic engine failure. Having an engine seizure at Daytona, in particular at speed, is a recipe for major hurt and disaster. Riders are slipstreaming nose to tail at very high speeds... between 140 and 200MPH depending on the class. There is no way of avoiding a seized bike or its rider at those speeds. Pulling the clutch in time could save you from a world of hurt!

Everything is at high speed at Daytona, even the corners especially when transferring from the infield to the banking. Many riders misjudge this power and weight unload/transfer flick to the left, causing them to throw the bike away up the wall, through too much throttle and the attempt to turn too quickly. Also, turning into the chicane from the high speed back straight is another judgment call. Wrong angle or approach too fast and you screw up your exit speed. In one case, in the rain, I completely overshot the chicane, sliding by riders in a two wheel drift down the overshoot, which I managed to save... but cost me 5 places by the time I got back on the track! Last, but not least, don't miscalculate your fuel usage. Daytona will suck every drop you bring and more! One year I got mixed up when topping off between race and practice laps due to rain postponements and ended up running out of fuel in the final race on the last lap! When this happens, the track service people that pick you up make you ride your bike in to the pits atop the pickup truck box for all to see. Embarrassing! I think I calculated that my stock RC tank was good for 10 laps at Daytona. Yipes! Your throttle is wide open most of the time! Will I continue to race big bore vintage machines at my age? You bet! In the blink of an eye... first chance I get!










Alan racing XS1

Alan at Daytona

Daytona pits

Big Bore Racing