At the end of 2016, some sponsorship business changes led to a connection between myself and Z1 Enterprises, who were eager to have representation within the AHRMA vintage racing community. I had a Z1 that I had raced with AHRMA over a decade ago and then retired from active AHRMA racing. We struck an arrangement to campaign that same Z1 in the 2017 AHRMA season, and it’s a very good thing that we did!
The Z1 needed a little engine refreshing and a cosmetic upgrade from its old, dingy appearance to something evoking the mighty 1973 Z1 that redefined the term “Superbike” in the early ‘70s. The cosmetics were taken care of quickly by installing a Z1 Enterprises Orange & Brown bodywork kit and doing a lot of cleaning. The engine was updated with new cams and pistons along with some small tweaks to timing. It was ready for the first race of the season mere days before the season began in February down in Georgia. After a quick checkout run down my 15mph speed limit road to ensure the Z1 actually ran and shifted and the brakes & clutch worked, it was loaded into the trailer and we headed off to the east coast from Albuquerque.
The Z1 Enterprises sponsored 1974 Z1 ready for 2017
Roebling Road Raceway
Roebling Road is a surprisingly fast racetrack located in Bloomingdale, Georgia. My plan was to run in three races riding three different bikes, and using the Z1 for the Formula Vintage class. All the bikes were unloaded and taken out on the practice day. The Z1 with its new-found power needed to be geared taller in order to use all the horsepower it made, and another bike – a big Honda CB-F – that I was planning on racing in the Vintage Superbike HW class turned out to have a bad transmission. Luckily, the Z1 was eligible to run in the Vintage Superbike class so that became the new plan. The Z1 ran amazing during the practice day and seemed to have no issues. I was excited to race it in two races each day beginning with Vintage Superbike, and then Formula Vintage.
On the first day in my first race on the Z1, I got a good start and was in the lead by the third corner. However, the front brake lever was feeling a little ‘floppy’ with a lot of up and down movement. When I looked down I saw the lever’s hinge bolt coming out, and sure enough it vibrated out before the next corner. Thankfully, I’d had the presence of mind to notice and look because running at race speed into a corner without a front brake isn’t healthy. I pulled in on the first lap and did not finish that race, but quickly installed a spare brake lever before the Formula Vintage race was called to the grid. I got another good start, made a quick move to the front and ended in first place with no close challengers. It was a much better result than the first attempt when the front brake lever fell off! Sunday’s Vintage Superbike HW and Formula Vintage races were also great with a good start, a quick move to the front and a win. The Z1 had begun the season with 3 wins in 4 attempts. If only the front brake lever hadn’t fallen off…
Racing at Roebling Road
My plan for the two initial 2017 AHRMA rounds was head out to Georgia from New Mexico, race, park my rig with the race bikes near the Charlotte, North Carolina airport and fly home for the month between the two rounds. With the big Honda broken, the Z1 was the only bike available for both the practice day and the four races at Carolina Motorsports Park in South Carolina. When I flew back in to Charlotte the next month and drove to the second round, my fingers were aching from being crossed that the Z1 would run well the whole weekend.
Carolina Motorsports Park
Kershaw, South Carolina
Carolina Motorsports Park was also the location of the 2016 AHRMA series awards. Happily, I had won several! The most important one was the Formula Vintage National Championship, which is why I was running the #1 plate on the Z1 for the 2017 AHRMA season. I thoroughly enjoyed myself at Friday night’s awards ceremony, and more than one competitor suspected that after my indulging in many sips of very potent adult beverages that my mental and physical state would be impacted for Saturday’s races. They were right, but the effects were thankfully minimal. Saturday’s races were marked by a poor start in Formula Vintage and I entered the first corner around 5th or so. Thankfully, the Z1 has lots of horsepower and I was able to work my way back into the lead after four or five laps. The Vintage Superbike HW race wasn’t as bad as I got a better start and was quickly in the lead. However, I was having traction problems on the rear of the Z1 with several slides under power trying to get a good exit out of the corners. I was also passed by a competitor on a very nice CBX, but luckily was able to get back around him for the win though it wasn’t easy.
The Carolina Motorsports AHRMA Awards Ceremony and a very “happy” me
To fix the rear tire issue on the Z1 I looked at my broken Honda CB-F. It had a new rear tire that was the same size as the Z1’s! I removed both wheels from both bikes, removed both tires and then had the ‘new’ tire mounted on the Z1’s rear wheel Saturday evening. Sunday morning arrived bright and early, and when I took the Z1 out the rear traction problem was solved. I got good starts and won both Formula Vintage and Vintage Superbike HW races with greatly improved rear traction and slightly improved mental and physical condition because I’d been a teetotaler since Friday night. The Z1’s finishes were now at 7 wins in 8 races. All the race bikes were packed into the trailer and I headed back home to New Mexico.
South Haven, Michigan
I made massive engine changes to the Honda CB-F when I rebuilt it after returning from the east coast, but the Z1 was fine and needed nothing beyond a good looking over and some fresh oil. When I arrived at Gingerman Raceway in Michigan I’d brought five motorcycles to race in four classes each day – with one backup bike, a second CB-F. The plan was to run the Z1 in Formula Vintage, just like my earlier plans. Practice on Friday went well and all the bikes ran fine. Saturday arrived, morning practice went well and I started out on the Honda for the Vintage Superbike race. Sadly, the CB-F broke and I was stranded on the track. The next race up was Formula Vintage on my Z1 so I left my Honda parked in the infield of the track. I ran all the way back to the pits in my leathers and helmet to get on the Z1 for the Formula Vintage race. I made it, barely. Sweating profusely, the Formula Vintage race was flagged off and I got a decent start. At the end of the first couple of corners I was settled in 2nd place, where I finished the race. It was manic that whole day with me running in four races. The Formula Vintage race on the Z1 was my best result on Saturday, and when Sunday arrived I was ready. I’d be riding the Z1 in both Vintage Superbike HW and Formula Vintage just like the earlier east coast races. I got decent results on Sunday with the Z1 finishing 3rd in Vintage Superbike HW and another 2nd in Formula Vintage. They were lonely races and finishes as I didn’t have much dicing back and forth for positions. The Z1 continued getting great results, with 11 races resulting in 7 wins, two 2nd places and a single 3rd.
My Pit area at Gingerman
I drove from Gingerman Raceway near the east shore of Lake Michigan to the west shore where Road America is located. Since I only had the weekdays between the races, I parked my rig in an RV park and worked on my race bikes. I moved some Honda parts around as I’d brought two of big Honda CB-Fs. Since I’d broken my preferred CB-F I decided to swap ignitions between the two as the backup CB-F had always been hard to start. I did that work along with checking over all the other bikes in the cool green comfort of the RV park.
RV Park Repairs and Maintenance
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Road America is one of my favorite tracks with its long straights and fast corners. I still had four running bikes and planned on running four classes each day. They all ran fine for Friday’s practice, and I was ready for the races on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday arrived with beautiful blue sky and warm weather, but when I went to start the Honda CB-F for morning practice it wouldn’t. I gave up right away and made the decision to ride the Z1 in both Vintage Superbike HW and Formula Vintage races both days. Saturday’s Vintage Superbike race was a lot of fun with some close racing for 2nd place with the same CBX that had passed me for a short time at Carolina Motorsports Park. We had a couple of good laps of back and forth until the CBX pulled enough of a gap I couldn’t close back up. I finished in 3rd after a thoroughly enjoyable race. A few races later I went out for the Formula Vintage race and got a good start, running in the top three. However, before the first lap was over I was punted off the track when another bike tried to pass me on the inside of a slow corner. The passing bike tucked the front and just kissed the inside of my Z1 causing me to have to go in a straight line. This naturally led off the track because this happened at the apex of the corner. I rode through the grass for a while and headed back toward the track watching for a clear spot in the traffic so I could rejoin. Once I got back on track, I put my head down and passed several bikes but never caught the leader – the same CBX that had beaten me in the Vintage Superbike HW race – and finished 2nd. On Sunday, attrition had taken everyone who’d beaten me on Saturday in Vintage Superbike HW and Formula Vintage out of contention. One bike had a bad transmission bearing and the CBX had an ignition failure. I was looking forward to some close racing, but when the flag fell I got good starts both times and won both races. The Z1 continued to dominate; it had now participated in 15 races with 9 wins, three 2nd place finishes and two 3rd places. I wish that front brake lever hadn’t fallen off in the first race! I packed everything up again and headed back to New Mexico from Wisconsin to prepare for the next event.
My Pits at Road America
New Jersey Motorsports Park
Millville, New Jersey
I’d never raced at New Jersey Motorsports Park and was looking forward to the event. However, when I arrived on Thursday the weather forecast was very grim for Friday’s practice day. Severe thunderstorms and high winds were anticipated along with the current intermittent rainfall. I brought only the Z1 and Honda CB-F and rode both to try and learn the damp track but this was cut short by multiple red flags. Also, if you were to use the past as a guide you might not be surprised to find out the big CB-F broke again at the end of the day. The Z1 ran very well, but I only got about twenty laps total on both bikes before practice was halted due to incredibly heavy rainfall, lightning and extreme winds.
Looking out the RV window at the downpour at New Jersey – it’s very dark, but only 4:30pm!
Saturday arrived with cool blue skies but no rains, though the track had water running across it in a few locations from the water saturated landscaping. Practice went well on the Z1, but on the last practice session there was some oil seeping from the right side of the cylinder head. I had to get “re-tech’d” after cleaning it up and sealing an apparently leaking oil passage plug. The tech inspectors were satisfied with my fix and allowed me to race. First up was Vintage Superbike HW and I went out on the Z1. However, after three or so laps of racing the race was red-flagged due to multiple bikes crashing because of water on the track. When we came in to the pits, I looked down at the Z1 to make sure the fix I’d done for the oil seeping was working. It wasn’t! The right side of the engine had oil on it, and I decided to throw in the towel and fix the Z1 at home. Driving to New Jersey and back from New Mexico is a long haul, and I figure I drove about 1300 miles for each race lap I turned that weekend.
“The Rig” on the way to New Jersey Motorsports Park
After the long drive to New Jersey and back, I had a break between races and tore the Z1 down, carefully looking for the source of the oil seeping on the right side of the engine. After my initial ‘fix’ of the oil passage plug hadn’t corrected the issue, I suspected the head gasket was leaking under the 6mm bolt on the outside edge of the cylinder head. When I got to the head gasket, it appeared to be weeping a little from the right side, and I installed a new one with a touch of sealer for luck. I tested it out on my 15mph road again and didn’t see any issues so I felt the problem was fixed.
The Z1 on the bench after getting new head gaskets and installing a new rear tire
Utah Motorsports Complex
Once of the nice things about racing at Utah Motorsports Complex outside of Salt Lake City is that it’s the closest race to me – it only takes a leisurely eleven or so hours of driving to get there! By this time in the season I’d started focusing on the big bike classes, Formula Vintage and Vintage Superbike HW. I brought two Honda CB-Fs and the Z1 with me, expecting to ride the Z1 in Formula Vintage and the Honda in Vintage Superbike HW. Practice on Friday was predictable, but not in the way I had hoped! First, the massively upgraded Honda CB-F broke. Again. Second, the Z1 was leaking oil. Still. On a happy note, the ‘back-up’ Honda CB-F was running fine. I was stumped on the Z1, though. After cleaning it off a couple times and running it, I found a hairline crack in the cylinder head between the spark plug and the 6mm bolt on the outside of the cylinder head. This was over an oil passage in the head, and oil was slowly bubbling up through the crack and seeping all over the left side of the engine. All it needed was a replacement cylinder head, which I didn’t have. The solution was to clean everything so it was spotless, and whip out some JB Weld! This fix worked, but I ended up deciding to ride the Honda CB-F in both Formula Vintage and Vintage Superbike races on both days while keeping the Z1 in reserve. Another small factor was that I was sick – I had a very bad head cold and cough that made sleeping and racing difficult. I did the best I could, and could hardly wait for the weekend’s event to be over. I did okay on the Honda, finishing 4th Saturday and 3rd Sunday in Vintage Superbike plus 1st Saturday and 2nd Sunday in Formula Vintage. My Formula Vintage results pretty much tied up the Formula Vintage National Championship, but I was still chasing the Vintage Superbike HW National Championship.
JB Weld – there is no substitute
Talladega Gran Prix Raceway
The AHRMA road race schedule had a surprising twist. After the race weekend in Utah the very next weekend there’s a race in Alabama at a nice little track called Talladega Gran Prix Raceway. That makes for a very long drive from Utah! Luckily for sick old me it goes right through my home in New Mexico. I was able to spend a couple of nights sleeping in a real bed before hitting the road to Talladega. The problem for me was I was still pretty sick. On my way to Talladega I had a spell of vertigo that lasted a couple of hours, but thankfully I was able to check in to a local Walmart parking lot just off the freeway to recover. Once my symptoms subsided enough for me to be able to drive, I hit the road again and made it to Talladega Thursday night before dark. Practice on Friday was okay, but I still wasn’t feeling well plus felt ‘slow’. Both bikes were running well, but I decided to stick with the Honda CB-F for both races as it had better brakes and handled a little bit better around the tight Talladega track. AHRMA officials announced before the start of Saturday’s races that a hurricane was due to hit the area Sunday so Sunday’s races were being cancelled. However, Saturday’s races would count for double points. Thankfully I felt better on Saturday and had some good racing trading places in Vintage Superbike HW with the CBX previously mentioned and a Moto Guzzi that got around that small track very well. I finished in 3rd, beating the CBX but not the Guzzi. Since I’d already tied up the Formula Vintage championship I decided to forfeit that race and get on the road a couple of hours early to avoid any bad weather. I was still leading the Vintage Superbike National Championship points but would have to wait until Barber’s results were complete to know if I’d be able to win the Vintage Superbike HW National Championship.
Barber Motorsports Park
I arrived at Barber Wednesday morning and spent a leisurely day moving in and getting set up. My practice day was Thursday, and I brought both the Z1 and the well running backup Honda CB-F. Practice went well, but the Z1 slid pretty badly during practice and kind of spooked me so I stuck with the CB-F and got comfortable remembering the track – my favorite.
The CB-F at Barber
Weather wasn’t perfect on Saturday, and there was threat of ANOTHER hurricane coming in on Sunday. My first race was Formula Vintage, and I was mediocre on the CB-F running in 4th or 5th when the race was red flagged due to multiple crashes. There was a mass restart after the mess was cleaned up and sadly all I did was try not to get run over. I rode around working my way backwards and tried not to get in the way of anybody. I finished 10th, and was glad when that race was over. Vintage Superbike HW was later in the day and weather had deteriorated somewhat. We went out just as it started to drizzle very lightly. The drizzle seemed to quit on the sighting lap, and we gridded with dark skies above us. Another poor start from me put me into 4th or so for the first lap or two. It started raining pretty good on the 3rd or 4th lap so everyone slowed their pace. I slowed enough to work my way back into 6th place, with the infamous CBX again in front of me. I was able to pass the CBX briefly on the last lap, but was passed back just before the front straight to finish 6th by a tenth of a second or so. The good news was that I cemented the Vintage Superbike Heavyweight National Championship with that race, and was able to finish off the season a day early in bad weather but with a great accomplishment.
The Z1 in the pits at Barber
Z1 Enterprises Products
used on Dennis Parrish’s award-winning 1974 Kawasaki Z1 race bike:
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Engine / Upgrades: