Shopping for a Virago and Stopping by the Portland Historic Races

This blog post could also be titled, “How to Get an Awesome Sunburn on a Perfect Sunday in July”… Who would’ve guessed that not wearing suntan lotion on a partly-cloudy July afternoon and being in the direct sun for about 5 hours (at least) would do any more than add a little color. You’d think I was 14 or something.

Part 1

I started the day by driving the S2000 up to Portland (top up actually) to meet friends who were shopping for their first motorcycle. I was coming up to help out with the test ride and once over for overall condition. Twist my arm right?

{Mark 10:00am: Dropped the top after a quick stop for a bottle of water.}

Danno wanted a beginner bike that was somewhere between a standard and a cruiser. We went to look at a 92 Honda Nighthawk 750 and an 82 Yamaha Virago 750. To be honest, the Nighthawk looked pretty promising in the ad and I was secretly pulling for this one over the Virago — mostly because it’s newer, I know a guy who’s put a ton of miles on one, and it’s more familiar in terms of the riding position I’m used to.

Unfortunately as is the case with many Craigslist sourced leads, those re-sized (and generally crappier) photo’s they host for you make it difficult to tell just how nice the bike really is. In short, the Nighthawk was generally not well cared for. Maintained just enough that all systems worked ok, but in general needed a thorough service front-to-back to be right. At $2000 it didn’t feel right to me. One sentence review of riding experience: Even though it’s power is pretty good for it’s age, the bike didn’t feel well balanced and in fact felt pretty heavy and a bit awkward during transitions.

So we decided to consider this bike as a ‘maybe’ and decided to break for a quick breakfast since it was still only mid-morning at this point. A quick stop by was needed at Fat City Cafe in Multnomah Village, where we were quickly served a great breakfast. Now we were ready to check out the next potential ride.

Next up was the Virago which was actually in Vancouver across the river. We met a nice retired man who had probably 6 Japanese bikes of this vintage in his garage, all in mostly good condition. Initial impressions were really good as the bike had obviously received some recent care with good tires, new starter, and very clean overall. Compared to the Nighthawk that had a brutally filthy chain, peeling paint, and a leaky caliper, this bike was ready for sale: clean, similar miles at under 15K, and was priced at only $1200. Granted it’s ten years older and power was no comparison to the Nighthawk, it was really easy to ride. It can’t weigh much and dipped into corners with ease. The riding position was somewhat new to me and I actually put my feet on the rear pegs the first time I sat on it. But after riding it for 15 minutes, I see the appeal. It’s totally relaxing and I’ll be damned if those vents on the front of your jacket don’t work 100% better when air is actually hitting them head on instead of getting the leftovers just above the tank!

My advice was to sleep on it and offer $1000 the next day. Danno replied, “I’ve got a thousand on me right now…” and then walked back to the front door and made a deal. We’re going back next week to get it. Congratulations guys, it’s a great first bike!

Part 2

Then I continued top-down in the Honda to the racetrack for the Portland Historic Races around 1pm. This is a great event in our own backyard, and Bob and Joe from Sports Car Shop were racing as well. I was looking forward to putting the 70-200 F4 L into the field again and the weather was perfect.

Sports Car Shop got a great spot for their team and was in the parking lot just behind the clock tower. Plus their close friend decided to add to the general Feng Shui of their pad with his recently acquired Ferrari F430! Beautiful car!

I then puttered around the paddock and club parking areas while grabbing a quick bite to eat before Joe and Bob went out in back-to-back sessions between 3 and 4pm. Once they were out, I grabbed my favorite spot at the track even though the light was facing me. Nonetheless, it was worth the full frontal sun assault considering some of the resulting pictures:

Leaving PIR with the top up, I washed up in the bathroom before hitting the road and when I saw myself in the mirror, my cheeks were definitely a little pink, but not bad. But now that I’ve cooked dinner (on the BBQ outside, doh!) and sat down to edit photos and blog about the day, I’ve gone from pink to full on red — all over. Like an idiot I failed to remember, like I do every year after the first good drive with the top down, that when the top is down = you’re outside and getting burned. Maybe I’ll remember next year…

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Partial Gallery of 2010 Portland Historic Races Sunday Afternoon

Honda S2000 Update: Track Day #2

Back from another great track day with the Cascade Sports Car Club. This club is always well organized with good instructors. Turned out to be a nice late summer day with the temps touching the low 90’s, which provided fantastic grip!

I’m really feeling very comfortable in the S2000 and despite all the internet folklore of the AP1 being tail-happy, I’m pleased to report that this is another rumor we can put to bed. Sure if you lift off and yank the controls in the middle of a turn 9 at 100mph, you kind of deserve what you get. But I had two gotcha moments and both were easily caught with smooth controls. This isn’t to say I’m a genius driver, but rather, it’s a really well balanced car and very forgiving with gentle hands.

Here are some pics from the pits that my buddy Gabe took:

I hear he has video too, so I’m hoping to get my hands on that and will post if I can.

Sadly this was probably my last track day of the season, but one of the most memorable days out in recent memory for sure. Big shout out to Gabe who convinced me to attend at a late date!

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Take a lap of Portland International Raceway

This was shot just recently and demonstrates the proper line to follow in a front engine, real wheel drive car, at Portland International Raceway (PIR):

Source: Portland BMW ACA Club

This really gets me in the mood to plan a track day or two! Especially after getting the S2000 out to the auto-x last weekend!

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Paul and I Return to PIR After a 2 Year Hiatus

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After our second session, the ear-to-ear grin that was covering my face reminded me how much fun track days are. I can’t believe I found excuses for the last 2 years not to go for one reason or another. But I know now that I have to make this happen more often!

In addition to it’s recent tune up, and race gas flowing through her veins, our MK1 Rabbit/Golf track car also saw her first ever action on real racing slicks. This lightly used set of Hoosier slicks were generously provided by the Sports Car Shop, and gave us a whole new level of satisfaction in the Rabbit. It was totally subtle at first. I didn’t notice a sure difference until I was out in the second session by myself after being approved for solo runs. The track was warming up nicely as the sun moved more overhead. Suddenly I was having trouble reaching for gears because I was reaching to downshift from 3rd to 2nd, but kept finding the car in 4th. It immediately dawned on me that I was a full gear higher through corners 4 to 7! And then it was on as we both experienced the never ending grip and predictability that slick tires provide at temperature.

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I’ve bragged before about chasing down S4’s in the hands of less skilled drivers, but now, the Rabbit can hang with just about anything with less than 250hp in the tight corners of PIR. That’s no lie as we both enjoyed a day of dicing it up with a Lotus Exige S, 95 BMW e36 M3 (OMFG, there were two there, same year, color and wheels as my old one!), Mazda RX-7 FD3S, and other very respectable company.

I certainly want to thank Sport Car Shop again as the addition of the slicks made a huge difference and made our day. And of course no Track Rabbit post would be complete without a big thank you to Paul for building a budget conscious, bullet-proof-start-every-time-drive-to-and-from-the-track, car that still amazes year after year. Where will the Rabbit lead us next?

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Check out the complete gallery slideshow below. Some sweet cars for this event including an e39 M5, multiple Evo’s and STi’s (hi Mike!), a beautiful white s2000, and even a brand new R35 Nissan Skyline GT-R!

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