Five outstanding motorcyclists took their place in history Friday, Nov. 18, at the 2011 AMA Visa Card from Capital One Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, presented by KTM, held here at the Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa.
Hosted by actor and motorcyclist Perry King, the event kicked off the AMA Visa Card Legends & Champions Weekend. It honored the Hall of Fame Class of 2011: magazine editor Phil Schilling, motocross promoter Stu Peters, industry leader Fred Fox, motorcycling pioneer Norbert Schickel and roadracing champion Doug Polen.
In addition to the class of 2011, the induction ceremony recognized the outstanding careers of two existing Hall of Fame Legends: world champion racing icons Roger DeCoster and Kenny Roberts.
Jeff Heininger, chairman of the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation, which raises money to support the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, welcomed a sold-out crowd to the induction ceremony and voiced appreciation for their support.
"The vision of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony is only possible with partnership," Heininger said. "You need only to look around this room tonight and see the realization of this vision. I'm honored to be a part of this effort."
The 2011 inductees were honored with videos chronicling their careers, Hall of Fame rings and induction speeches. In addition to the honorees, several luminaries from the world of motorcycling participated in the ceremony. These included motocross superstar and 2010 Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legend Bob "Hurricane" Hannah; roadracer and Hall of Famer Jody Nicholas; journalist and Hall of Famer Gunnar Lindstorm; roadracer and Hall of Famer Don Emde; promoter and Hall of Famer Gavin Trippe; and industry leader, motocrosser and Hall of Famer Mark Blackwell; among others.
"What an evening this has been," said King, as he closed out the program. "Gathered in this room tonight with our heroes and legends, we are reminded that events like this don't occur often enough. With well over 400 members, today's Hall of Fame is a Who's Who of men and women who have thrilled us, inspired us and, in many cases, brought a tear to our eye with ground-breaking achievements that have forever altered the world of motorcycling."
The title sponsor of the induction ceremony was AMA Visa Card from Capital One. KTM
was the presenting sponsor. Zero Motorcycles was the official Motorcycle Hall of Fame ring sponsor.
Other sponsors included Yamaha
Motor Co., Mecum Auctions, Chet Burks Production, Genuine Yamaha Technology Racing, Greg Owen, Motion Pro Inc., Ack Technologies and Top 1 Oil, The Owen Collection, AeroStich/Rider Wearhouse, Don Rosene and the Motorcycle Shop, EBC Brakes USA Inc., Fluidyne PowerSports, Perry King, Metl-Span LLC, Moto Museum, Rytec Corp., SubZero Constructors, Melbourne J. "Mike" and Margaret Wilson, Dealernews, Don Emde Inc., Dunlop Tires, Early Years Motocross Museum, Glen Helen Raceway, Heininger Family, Hi-Torque Publications, Husqvarna Motorcycles North America, Matrix Concepts, Metl-Span LLC, Michelin Two Wheel, Motorcycle Industry Council, Motorsport Aftermarket Group, Nature's Best, Parts Unlimited/Alpinestars, Pro Circuit, Racer X Illustrated, Saddlemen, Sidewinders Motorcycle Club, Yoshimura Racing, American Suzuki Motor Corp., Angle Ironworks Inc., David Backer LTD, BadCo Racing, Mark Blackwell, Brad Boyle Motorsports, Jamison Door Company, Missouri Mudders Motorcycle Club of St. Louis, The Penton Family, Ron and Lisa Ribolzi, Sidewinders MC Club, SubZero Constructors, Allied Federal, Avis-Budget Group., Carden Fire Sprinkler, Catalina Material Handling.
Phil Schilling was one of motorcycling's most accomplished journalists and an expert race tuner who set the early mark for Ducati motorcycle's on-track success in America.
Schilling was teaching at the University of Wisconsin when Hall of Famer Cook Neilson asked him to become managing editor of Cycle Magazine. Schilling and Neilson developed Cycle Magazine into the gold standard of motorcycle periodicals in the 1970s. Schilling and Neilson were not just successful at the editor's desk. In 1977, they entered a Ducati in the Daytona 200 and gave Ducati its first AMA Superbike win in the United States.
Schilling was joined on stage by Neilson, who read Schilling's comments on his behalf.
"Thank you to the American Motorcyclist Association for this tremendous honor and to all those who nominated me, wrote letters on my behalf, and voted for me," Neilson read. "I am humbled and proud beyond words to be in the company of so many of motorcycling's great talents and industry leaders and my fellow Hall of Fame classmates.
"I have been fortunate in my life to do exciting work that I love alongside people I love and admire. Cook's and my success at Cycle Magazine and on the racetrack was due in large part to the talent and hard work of an army of people, who share in this honor and deserve our gratitude."
Stu Peters is one of the most prolific and enduring motocross promoters in the history of the sport in America. Peters' company, the Continental Motosport Club (CMC), has been promoting motocross races since 1968.
Although Peters has expanded beyond his Southern California base, his early start and subsequent success in what became a hotbed of motocross competition in the 1970s, 1980s and beyond, established his presence in the national consciousness of American motocross.
Peters, who raced motocross professionally in Europe in the 1950s, was already actively running local events when the AMA approached him to promote two rounds of the 1970 Trans-AMA Series, which became the sport's first national championship series in the United States sanctioned by the AMA and recognized by the FIM (Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme), the world governing body for motorcycle sport.
Today, CMC Racing has grown into one of the largest motocross racing organizations in the country.
"Most of all, I'd like to thank my family for holding up the fort," Peters said. "I also thank the Hall of Fame for honoring me with this great award for doing something I loved to do and would have done anyway."
Parts Unlimited founder Fred Fox built a small business into the largest aftermarket motorcycle, snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle and personal watercraft accessory distributorship in the world.
Fox founded Parts Unlimited Distributing in 1967 to distribute motorcycle parts and accessories to dealers. Today his umbrella company, LeMans Corp., is based in Janesville, Wisc., and it employs more than 1,000 people in operations spread across the U.S. and in Europe. Parts Unlimited serves the "metric" side of motorcycling, while Drag Specialties serves the American V-twin industry. The company's own brands include Thor
Motocross, Moose Off-Road, Icon and Z1R Helmets.
Fox elevated motorcycling and the sport of motorcycle racing nationally by creating a state-of-the-art distribution system that got parts to dealers quickly and by sponsoring motorcycle racing series as well as amateur and professional racers. His sponsorship dollars also supported various races and series to help grow the sport.
"I'm honored to be here," Fox said. "This business means so much to me. I'm still enjoying working every day. I still go in early and leave late, but it's the employees who do all the hard work. I really enjoy this industry. It's been good to me."
Norbert Schickel was an innovative designer and builder in the early years of American motorcycle manufacturing. As the founder of Schickel Motor Co., Schickel was part of the motorcycle design boom that occurred in the United States between 1905 and 1915.
Schickel unveiled his first motorcycle at the 1911 Chicago Motorcycle Show, and Schickel Motor Co. began producing motorcycles in 1912 in Stamford, Conn. The company sold more than 1,000 motorcycles.
Schickel's vision and designs were evident in his two-cycle motorcycles that he developed. He also helped popularize the twist grip control and had a patented "spring fork front suspension" and "fly wheel magneto."
Ken Anderson, Schickel's grandson, accepted the Hall of Fame honor on his grandfather's behalf.
"If Norbert Schickel were here today he would be thrilled by his selection and would take great pride in knowing that his designs and innovations were worthy of Hall of Fame recognition," Anderson said. "It is a great honor for me to represent my grandfather here tonight. Norbert Schickel's selection to the Class of 2011 is a dream come true for our family and attending his induction is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to celebrate his achievements."
Doug Polen was a dominant national and world champion roadracer in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Polen had a series of strong winning performances in motorcycle roadracing in the United States and abroad, including winning 45 of 51 Suzuki Championship Series events in 1991 and earning the World Superbike title by 150 points. He was the Suzuki GSX-R National Cup champion in 1986, Japan Formula 1 and Formula 3 National Champion in 1989, AMA Pro Twins National Champion in 1991, World Superbike Champion in 1992 and 1993, AMA Superbike Champion in 1993, and World Endurance Champion in 1997 and 1998.
"Being recognized with so many iconic people is touching, and to see my career made permanent as part of the Hall of Fame is really something," Polen said. "I'll always have that. I'm truly honored to be inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame."
Hall of Fame Legend Roger DeCoster
Roger DeCoster's name is practically synonymous with the sport of motocross, and he is generally recognized as the best-known MX racer in the first 50 years of the sport.
When DeCoster was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, his racing accomplishments were simply remarkable: five 500cc Motocross
World Championships, numerous 500cc Motocross Grand Prix victories and four Trans-AMA Motocross Championships.
He also was a member of six winning Belgium Motocross des Nations teams, was a Gold Medalist in the International Six Day Trial (Enduro) and earned numerous national championships in his native Belgium, including a national Trials title.
DeCoster continued to find success after his racing career. He was the manager of the first U.S. team to win the Motocross des Nations in 1981, and managed many U.S. teams at the prestigious event over the years to the present day.
Today, DeCoster is in charge of KTM's Supercross
and motocross efforts in the United States. His stature is such in the world of motocross that he is often simply referred to as "The Man."
"I have to thank America for welcoming me," DeCoster said. "First was Bud and Dave Ekins. I met them in Germany in 1964, and it was the beginning of a great journey in America. We have come a long way from when I was inducted in 1999 in the AMA parking lot under an E-Z Up. This is a fantastic event."
Hall of Fame Legend Kenny Roberts
Perhaps more than any other competitor, Kenny Roberts has put his stamp of dominance on American and World roadracing, both as an AMA National Champion, a Grand Prix World Champion and then as a Grand Prix team owner.
In recognition of his outstanding achievements on both the American and world racing circuits, Roberts, who was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998, was honored as a 2011 Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legend.
"King Kenny" Roberts won his first-ever AMA Grand National race in 1972 and went on to win 33 AMA Nationals in dirt-track and roadracing, including the prestigious Daytona 200 three times.
A two-time AMA Grand National Champion, Roberts moved to the world stage and became the first-ever American to win a 500cc Grand Prix motorcycle racing world championship in 1978. In the following years Roberts dominated the World Grand Prix circuit, and by the end of 1980, he had captured three consecutive World 500 Grand Prix titles.
Retiring from full-time racing at the end of the 1983 season, he formed his own World 500 Grand Prix team. In 1990, Team Roberts' rider and future Hall of Famer Wayne Rainey won the World 500 Grand Prix title, and teammate John Kocinski took the World 250 Championship -- bringing the team a rare 500 and 250 championship season.
"I have to thank the AMA," Roberts said. "I did what I did, and that's what we do. We ride motorcycles. I do this because I'm a motorcycle person, and this room is full of motorcycle people. To honor me like this in front of motorcycle people is very important to me."
AMA Visa Card Legends & Champions Weekend
The AMA Visa Card Legends & Champions Weekend is a three-day celebration of motorcycling's greats held at Las Vegas' Red Rock. In addition to the AMA Visa Card Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, presented by KTM, the celebration includes the 2011 AMA Visa Card Racing Championship Banquet, and the annual Motorcycle Hall of Fame Dave Mungenast Memorial Concours d'Elegance bike show, which features some of the country's most-stunning original and immaculately restored classic motorcycles.
The Concours d'Elegance is Saturday, Nov. 19, and the racing banquet is Sunday, Nov. 20, also at the Red Rock.
In addition, the weekend features the final round of the GEICO AMA Racing EnduroCross Championship Series on Saturday evening at the Orleans Arena.