U.S. Vintage Grand Prix Revs up at Laconia

June 15, 2011
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

Vintage motorcycles rip it up at New Hampshire Motor Speedway during the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix presented by the USCRA.
Vintage motorcycles rip it up at New Hampshire Motor Speedway during the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix presented by the USCRA.
The Pre 1950  Pre 1965   LWSV class race ultimately was red-flagged when an old Honda seized  dumping both bike and rider.
Tell the owner of this motorcycle the racing action wasn’t serious.
Sidecar racers let it all hang out during the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix  Laconia 2011.
Sidecar racers let it all hang out during the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway came alive Monday as members of the United States Classic Racing Association (USCRA), claimed to be the oldest vintage motorcycle racing organization in the U.S., gathered for an afternoon of competition and camaraderie during Laconia Motorcycle Week 2011. Engines buzzed and rattled like angry insects as riders rung them out for every ounce of horsepower the old bikes could muster, from screaming Singles to desmodromic-driven Ducatis. Vanson Leathers as old and weathered as the riders who wore them told the story of past glories, scuffed knees serving as badges of honor.
The program featured 14 races ranging from 50cc to Formula 1. Most races were scheduled for eight laps, except the 50cc contests which were six. Races were divided not only by motorcycle classes, but catered to specific age groups as well to even the playing field. The ‘Masters’ class was open to anybody over 50 and a ‘Super Master’ class was formed because many of the participants were over 60. Bikes competing ran the gamut, from Hondas to Yamahas, Nortons to Bultacos.

But don’t think this was a meeting of the geriatric club. Competitors in the Euro Cup/ Formula 2 class hit the first corner three-wide. Motorcycles bombed down the straight wide-open before braking late to make the first corner. Contrary to most road races, on this day it wasn’t all about displacement. In Race 5, a Yamaha 250 held off a couple of larger Ducatis at the line as the smaller, more agile bikes held their own on the winding course. In the eighth race of the day, a modified Harley 883 Sportster held off a pair of Ducati 750s for most of the contest before one of them edged it out for the checkers. Fourteen riders lined up for the Pre 1950/ Pre 1965 / LWSV class race which ultimately was red-flagged when an old Honda seized, dumping both bike and rider.

The event also featured sidecar racing, a definite favorite among the fans. There is artistry to the choreography between driver and “monkee,” the first focused on throttle and lines, the second busy shifting side-to-side, leaning with all their might to keep the sidecars from flipping in turns. Racers sourced a variety of powerplants, from BMW Boxers to a MotoGuzzi V-Twin. Among the entrants were several husband and wife teams. The inherent danger of the sport reared its ugly head when a wreck on the warm-up lap of the second sidecar race brought out the ambulance.

And though the action on the track was competitive, the scene in the pits was amicable. When one racer broke down, others would come by to see if they could help get their bike fixed and back on track. Many participants have been competing against one since the days when they all had hair. Fans cheered for the last place finisher as loud as they did for the first place finisher. Riders passed by the stands on cool-down laps and gave fans the thumbs-up sign in return. In the days of high-dollar sponsorships and big egos, it was refreshing to see people giving it their all simply for the love of the sport.

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