Spoken Wheel: Racing Solutions

January 19, 2011
Gavin Trippe
Gavin Trippe
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Gavin Trippe is an AMA Hall of Fame member and racing promoter. Currently Mr. Trippe organizes the Monterey Classic Bike Auction and relentlessly campaigns for a new road racing class based off 450 motocrossers. In his spare time, the industry insider pens his serial column – The Spoken Wheel.

Honda Proving Center
Honda cuts down on its assets as it parts with the west coast proving grounds. Grab those lottery tickets!

A telling sign of the times comes from Honda, as Big Red puts its massive test facility up for sale. Located just two hours north of Los Angeles, Honda Proving Grounds center near California City features all modern conveniences and improvements: fully state-of-the art oval, road course, motocross track and all hidden by landscaped berms. 

I have noted in past columns, the migration of sponsor dollars and factory teams this past year and in 2011 as economic realities shift priorities toward getting the ‘human recourses costs’ off the books and into private teams. A close associate tells me that a guy that was making a $1 million plus, is now scratching to break $100K in salary. Seems this little bauble of Honda’s is a clear signal to all that manufacturers are going if not gone from the sport!

xtrm contingency site

In my last column “What Racing Needs” I brought up the cost of racing and lack of sponsors to pay the freight in these tough times. So to temper cristism with possible solutions, I hope to identify where the hidden cash is and also where to find it and potential sponsors. It’s not all bad news.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have advised the following website along the way but am not on the payroll. I have to say it is a very unique and useful site for aspiring racers. www.xtrm.com . After reading the doom and gloom, there is hope. With the wonders of the Internet and social networking, even if one is a little shy about putting pen to paper, XTRM can help you create your own resume, seek sponsors and collect contingencies often ignored or passed up, to the tune of over $6 million so far, one particular manufacturer posting over $12 million in cash last year! They run the gamut from tire companies, to OEMs such as Honda to Husqvarna, to getting parts vouchers dropped into your inbox. So in times of hardship, scratch the surface and find some gold; you can even automatically enter many events. 


Danny Eslick doing things not normal in training! Eslick pitching it in for the crowd at the Troy LeeQueen Mary Supermoto Dual at the Docks National.Nicky Hayden on his 450 doing the opposite  road race style practicing for X Games... Both Hayden and Eslick still train on everything that has two wheels  Hayden actually has a 450cc Road Racer in his stable as does brother Tommy!
Danny Eslick (top) and Nicky Hayden (bottom) doing things not normal in training! Eslick pitching it in for the crowd at the Troy LeeQueen Mary Supermoto Dual at the Docks National.

One of the best and most traditional racing disciplines is Flat Track and I think it could be one of the more enticing prospects for young racers who can’t afford swerving on the asphalt any more. The bad news is you really have to work at it and a tip of the old helmet goes to all those dirt Trackkers, the salt of the earth and real people.

I had a chance to talk to ‘Slammin’ Sammy Halbert, who showed up to race Gene Romero’s short track race at South Pointe Casino last week, some 2500 miles from his home base! An enthusiastic and sincere five-foot-nothing of energy, who makes his living racing no less than 55 races a year. Not half a dozen or even 20, yes 55!

This band of nomads are the old school, race for prize money, list some 15 sponsors in the program, all mainly parts suppliers, travels in a van with a mechanic and end up probably netting $120K a season. Complaints are none, just pure racing fools that make the Mile, Half-Mile and TT’s just good value to the fan and the best show for the buck. Walk up to them in the pits, and there is a smile, a handshake and an autograph.

We all know Nicky Hayden, Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey and Freddie Spencer honed their skills on the dirt… now some young road racers are having to give up the dream, or at least cut it back and return to their first love, such as PJ Jacobson, Stevie Bonsey – Roberts protégé – and even the Larry Pegrams of this world…

Check them out when they come your way this year. Close to my own heart are the heart-stopping 450cc races, no longer a side show for the 750s. With 50-plus races a year, you’re bound to find them and well worth the price of admission. And guess who just can’t wait to get back on a mile, that’s right Nicky Hayden and even King Kenny!

Jonah Street placed 12th overall in the rally after finishing the final stage in 13th.

Finally, talking about my favorite subject of the most prolific and affordable race engines ever built, 450 Singles are dominating the Paris/Dakar races, now in Chile not Africa, the ultimate test of man and machine. The 450s feature power/weight ratios akin to a stock 600 Supersport bike and are as nimble as a mountain goat. I feel somewhat vindicated that MotoGP will turn to single-cylinder 4-strokes in 2012 as its test for young riders… AMA Pro, when will you step up and insert 450s for youngsters of tomorrow? There are plenty around and a lot better learning office than wrestling 400 pounds and 100-plus horsepower!

Happy New Year to each and all, fans and racers alike! Despite everything, the passion will never die and two wheels are still the cheapest fix known to man. As the late and great friend, Mike Hailwood wrote on his first van as a teenager, “Ecurie Sportive”!

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