On the weekend of October 5th, the 13th Annual Barber Vintage Festival welcomed fans from all over the world to its iconic track in Birmingham, Alabama. Among the crowd of almost 100,000 were Damian, Marcelo and the MotoDoffo crew. Damian, who came ready to race, shares with us his experience at the Barber Vintage Festival and how it felt to ride on the famous pavement.
After a few technical difficulties and one incident on the grass on Friday, Saturday morning has finally arrived! Both Damian and Marcelo prepare to hit the track for the first official race!
The nerves were overpowering Saturday morning which made eating breakfast a challenge. Knowing our race was the first race of the day on a cold track made the butterflies stir. The threat of Hurricane Nate was now very real. The sky was dark grey and gloomy and the track temperature was the coolest we had experienced since arriving on Wednesday. First Call for our race came blaring over the loudspeaker. It was time to zip-up the leather, suit up and get ready. Second Call meant helmets on, bikes fired and warming up. Third Call, we’re rolling onto the track! I can’t speak for my father since he had already been to Barber, but for me, the warm up lap was intense!
There were over 35 entries in our 200 Grand Prix class, however, we shared the race slot with 2 other classes for a total of 65 bikes on the grid! Once I got to my starting position I looked over my shoulder and was in awe with the amount of bikes waiting to launch into turn one! I was gridded on the 5th row in 18th position with my father one row ahead in 14th.
The green flag dropped and off we went, both my father and I making great starts. I worked my way into 3rd by turn 2 and my father was not far behind. As the race went on, I noticed a loss in power as the bike just didn’t seem to have the same punch out of the corners and wouldn’t rev as high down the straight-aways. I glanced down and saw a little shimmer of oil on my leathers by my shins and then noticed a small amount of oil coming from the cam cover. I had to make a decision to roll the dice and try to finish with the high risk of blowing up a new motor or pull off and perhaps fix the bike in time for the next race. I took a long look behind me and saw the rest of the field far back and opted to try to nurse the bike home. The checkered flag waved and a sigh of relief as the motor held together long enough to finish, but I lost 2 positions in the final laps. I finished the race 5th with my father just inside the top 10, finishing 9th. What an adrenaline rush!
The next race was the Sound of Singles class onboard my KTM RC390. The grid was just as large as the 200 Grand Prix class, however this time it included KTM’s factory Pro Chris Fillmore, the favorite to win the race. I was gridded up on the 2nd row on the outermost position. At the drop of the flag I dropped the clutch and rocketed off the line capturing the hole shot into turn one! Fillmore, who started dead-last on the grid, came roaring by me on the brakes into turn four, “Charlotte’s Web”.
Before I had exited the corner, he had already gapped me by 3 or 4 bike lengths! I managed to stay with the leading group for the first few laps, but mechanical issues in the gearbox cost me several positions and I finished the race deep in the field.
Back in the pits, Shawn and I were trying to wrap our heads around how we had two mechanical issues that cost us dearly, but we concluded, like we often do, that racing is just a cruel mistress. We had two more races and we still had a chance of obtaining our goal of being on the podium at the Barber Vintage Festival.
The announcer’s call for the 250 Grand Prix race came quickly. We knew getting on the podium in this race would take a miracle as we are racing in a bump-up class. Our heavily modified Honda CB 175cc parallel twin had its work cut out for it as we are racing against 250cc, two stroke single cylinder machines and 250cc four strokes, i.e. ducati’s. This grid included none other than Juan Bulto, the son of Bultaco’s founder, on a factory 250cc grand prix machine. Not only is he an amazing rider, but his machine is prepared by the Romero Brothers who were the factory race mechanics during Bultaco’s grand prix racing era. Second and third call came all too quickly and before I knew it I was standing on the second row of the grid with Bulto parked right in front of me. I have raced with him in the past and I knew I had a chance of beating him off the line and into turn one.
I made a last minute adjustment to my bike positioning on the grid much to the dismay of the starting official. The green flag waved and off I went roaring by Bulto and approaching turn one in 3rd position! As I set up for turn 1, Bulto snuck up the inside and made a great pass before I could close the door. The front runners checked out by lap 2 leaving me to defend a top 5 finish, holding off a very fast Ducati. The Ducati and I traded positions a few times before the checkers and I was thrilled to have finished the race right outside the top 5 on a bike that really shouldn’t even be on the grid!