KEEPIN' IT SIDEWAYS AHRMA DIRT TRACK
DE LEON SPRINGS
Story & Photos by Clink
AHRMA DIRT TRACK
DE LEON SPRINGS
‘KEEPIN’ IT SIDEWAYS’
The trouble with modern race bikes, along with hamburgers, boy bands and Cadillacs, is that they all look the same. Be it MotoGP, Motocross or Superbike racing, they’re all much of a muchness to look at and from a distance appear pretty much identical. It’s a phenomenon known as ‘cookie cutters’ as in the round things that your mom would use to cut shapes from rolled out dough to make cookies so that all of her crunchy treats come out like the silicone enhanced breasts of the Dallas Cowboy’s cheerleaders… all exactly the same shape, same weight and same size.
In order to see something less homogenised, (besides in a 1960s copy of Playboy – my god when did women have so much hair?), you have to go and see some old time racing where all of the makes and models of bikes taking part actually look and sound different from each other. Classic racing is always a good place to see and hear a diverse selection of old bikes from back in the day when men were men and wore baggy leather suits and everything Tupperware ever made on their heads - and undraped women, (as in 1960s circa Playboy), look like they’re sitting on the shoulders of one of ZZ Top’s guitarists.
Until the 1970s, motorcycle racing in the USA was all about dirt track. On mile and half-mile ovals all over America; Triumphs and BSAs and Nortons competed against the homegrown Harleys. Despite it’s agricultural persona, dirt track or flat track is a very precise form of motorcycle competition with the machinery used having evolved over many years into the ideal weapon needed to cover a mile, (or half-mile), oval racetrack with a loose surface of clay, sand or dirt in the shortest possible time. The ability to control a bucking weaving motorcycle at speeds approaching 130 mph, sideways into a corner while ‘steering’ the rear wheel with the throttle, is an art learned on the dirt tracks that made American racers like Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey into road racing world champions.
The bikes racing in AHRMA events, (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association), don’t quite hit those sort of speeds, but were going fast enough to send great rooster tails of red dirt behind them as they raced around and around the horse’n buggy track at De Leon Springs, central Florida. Besides some of the more modern Honda and Rotax bikes taking part, the Triumphs, BSAs, Nortons and Enfields were all out in force alongside Ducati and H-D Sprint singles, a lone Harley XR750, a tough riding girl on a Yamaha XS650, a few Jap two-strokes and a couple of oddballs like the Rokon strokers with automatic transmissions and a big lawnmower style pull string to start them with.
Also racing on a 450 Honda twin was former factory BSA rider Dave Aldana, complete with his famous black and white skeleton leathers, who almost won the US Grand National Championship in 1970 on a BSA. Aldana also raced a BSA in the UK in the Transatlantic Races in the early 1970s, but after BSA went to the wall he won the 1975 Production Superbike race at Daytona for Suzuki, raced for Kawasaki with Eddie Lawson in the AMA Superbike series in 1980 and won the Suzuka 8-hour endurance race on a Honda in 1981 before retiring in 1985 from fulltime pro racing. Now back on the sort of dirt tracks that he learned to ride on in California when he started out racing in the 1960s, Aldana did win a couple of heats at De Leon Springs and was way out in front of the pack in the finals when the Honda coasted to a stop. Yep, should have stuck with a BSA.