Reading Phil Burgess’s latest blog about his first trip to the up coming NHRA Gator Nationals many moons ago made me think of the first time I got to go racing with F&B Racing a few moons ago.
Frog had just '”freshened up” the engine in the Strip Tease so it was time for some test and tune runs at a local drag strip. Since you don’t just walk up, throw your leg over this animal and punch the button and go for a ride, this is something that you need to do before you drive long distances to a race. I was asked if I wanted to go along and help a little. Would I ever!
This turns out to be a good idea as this nitro snorting engine was doing plenty of that. It snorted nitro out the carburetor instead of ingesting it the first time Frog whacked the throttle, it did it couple of more time just for good measure a couple of seconds later. Frog aborts the run not wanting to hurt his hard work, not to mention nothing good is going to come out of this run. Walking back to the trailer with Buffalo he turned to me and asked “what do you think?” With what I’m sure was a surprised look on my face I said matter-of-factually “it needs more fuel.” When he asked “was it back firing out the pipes or the carb” I replied “out the carb.” He nods in agreement.
Back in the pits we start servicing the bike. Buffalo pulls the plugs so he can spin the motor with the starter motor to clear the cylinders of any left over fuel and also services the clutch. I do my part of draining the fuel tank, opening the crankcase drain so what oil is there can drain and I drain the oil tank of what looks like a babies diaper on a bad day. Frog sits down on his little stool next to the carb looking up at Buffalo questions him about what he thinks. “Fasthair thinks it needs more fuel” to which Frog’s reply confirming this with a “me too” as he starts to putting bigger jets in the carb. Tuning a carb is a black art and Frog is one of the best at it.
With all of the fluids back in the bike and the motor backed up for starting we head for the staging lanes. This run is a bit better with engine only backfiring once before it clears out and takes off only to back fire once again about a second later. The walk back to the pits, this time in silence, starts over.
Once back at the trailer Buffalo asks me “still think it needs more fuel?” This time with not as much confidence in my voice I say with a questioning tone yes? What do I know? I’ve only tuned multi cab Mercedes and motorcycles before. What in the world do I know about a nitro motor? “I think so too” he says. “In fact if it was a car I would say the accelerator pumps were not working” I respond. “I’ve got a little trick for that” he replies pointing to the little can hanging off the front of the carb.
I had wondered what that “little can” was. We hadn’t touched it this whole time. Service was carried out and the engine was backed up ready to start. Just before we push to the staging lanes Buffalo opens up the little can and pours about two ounces of 100% nitro in it. He goes on to explain that once the burnout is done he will hook the hose on the bottom of it to the carb. When Frog opens the throttle it will act just like an accelerator pump and give the engine an extra shot of fuel. I beam with pride.
This time the Strip Tease leaps off the line with the front wheel in the air and the engine on full song. That is until about a second later it again back fires but not near as hard this time. After it sneezed it clears out and Frog rides it all the way through this pass. Progress.
Again the ritual of serving takes place. This time as Buffalo is adding fuel to the little can he smiles and kind of giggles as he says “if a little was good then more should be just about right” filling it up almost three quarters full with about six ounces of 100%.
The burnout is done and Buffalo hooks the the little cans hose to the carb. I don’t have a clue why I am so nerves but I’m almost on pins needles as I wait for the Christmas tree to activate. Frog moves in to the pre-stage beams then inches forward into the stage beams. The yellow lights flash and Frog twists the throttle. Strip Tease responds with a bark as once again the front wheels goes up and the bike settles on the wheelie bars. Nothing by nitro motor noise this time as I watch Frog ride this angry machine for the finish line. It’s running so hard you can see some whispers of smoke off the big drag slick at half track. A good pass.
Sitting around the trailer beers in hand after the final service of the day felt great. I had officially worked on a nitro burning Harley. My brain was buzzing with everything I had seen and done this day. The bike was running good and nothing was hurt including the most important part, Frog. The bench racing is going hard and fast when Buffalo looks at Frog and asks him “What do you think, are we ready to go racing?” A smile crosses Frog’s face as he raises his whiskey in the air “yup.”
We will leave in two weeks for my first time as a crew member on a nitro Harley drag bike race team. I’m stoked.