Byron Kukla 92, Steve Kukla 15.jpg
Who Needs A Front Brake?
By Steve Caro
Photography by Kathryn Caro
Campo, CA. Oct.31/Nov. 1
There were no tricks but lots of treats as members of CALVMX returned once again to Camp Lockett Event and Equestrian Facility for their second exhibition weekend of flat track racing in preparation for a planned series of races in 2016. A good turnout of two, three and four wheeled machines dotted the pit area throughout the weekend. The two wheeled machinery ranged from mini bikes, full-on flat track machines and knobby tired MX bikes with their front brakes removed.
Being that it was Halloween weekend, many riders got into the spirit of the holiday and dressed in various costumes for a special end-of-the-day race. Joining in the costume spirit was Inter-Am Pioneer and recently appointed AHRMA Southwest Regional Coordinator Bill Silverthorn who came dressed as Raggedy Ann. Silverthorn reported that driving in to the event drew shocked looks from other drivers who first noticed his vintage Husqvarna and then did a double-take when they saw the driver! Silverthorn conducted tech inspection in costume and then switched into his normal racing gear.
Joining Silverthorn in the outrageous costume category was veteran campaigner Bob Schaller who dressed as sheriff deputy. From the waist up things appeared normal, but below the belt it was an “Oh My Gawd” moment as Schaller had completed his “uniform” in definitely non-regulation short-shorts. The general consensus in the pit area was it was an image permanently burned into the memory of all who had glanced Schaller’s way.
The one machine carrying probably the largest race pedigree was the early 1960’s Harley Davidson 350 Sprint ridden by long-time flat track racer John Apple. Apple related the machine had originally belonged to San Diego legend Cal Rayborn. Considered to be one of the finest all-round racers of any era, Apple said Rayborn campaigned the machine for several seasons in the 1960s. Essentially all original other than an aluminum Japanese brand gas tank (Apple does have the original) the brakeless, rigid rear frame machine was a piece of living history of the sport of flat track racing.
Racing action was extremely quick on the short 1/8 mile course, with lap times measured in seconds for many of the intermediate and expert level competitors. On Saturday, former factory pro-motocrosser Scott Burnworth once again dominated several classes, taking wins in 50 Plus Expert, Adult Mini Expert, and 250 Expert classes. Fellow motocrosser Gary DeForest enjoyed his Saturday with wins in 70’s and 80’s Singles Expert along with a second in 250 Expert. One other motocross veteran, who readily admitted to having never been on a proper flat track before Saturday was Gary Faxon. Despite having never done circle track, Faxon took wins in 60 Plus Expert and Open Knobbie Expert.
Some of the best racing both days was in the three-wheeler classes. Resuming their ongoing battle for supremacy, Tom Decrescente and Tanner Pies held nothing back and put on bar-to-bar battles both days. Hanging far off the left side of their vintage Honda’s, the two broad slided around the course in spectacular style both in the heat races and finals. The two swapped wins in the finals with Pies taking the gold on Saturday and Decrescente topping Sundays’ finale.
Certainly one of the most unique race teams at the two-day event was the team consisting of members of the Booze Fighters Motorcycle Club. For those unfamiliar with the story, the Booze Fighters were the basis for the famous LIFE MAGAZINE photo (later proven to have been staged) and Marlon Brando movie THE WILD ONE. Both highly inaccurate and, in the case of the movie, wildly fictionalized, both film and magazine story purported to be based on a report of about a motorcycle rally in the town of Hollister, California in the late 1940’s. Reports of rowdy behavior, fights, etc. became grossly exaggerated with every successive recollection and thus were born the nearly 70 year old myth of what actually occurred.
Booze Fighter members Ken Shilling and Shawn Chamblee thankfully bear no resemblance to their movie counterparts. On this weekend of flat track racing, the two members, clad in their distinctive white/green leathers showed they are as adept on a flat track as they are on a street going V-Twin. Shilling took to the track for two classes both days, while Shawn doubled that with four entries both days. Competing on bona-fide Class C machinery, Shilling took wins in 50 Plus Intermediate and 70’s Singles Intermediate both days, while Chamblee took wins in Open Novice, 70’s Singles Novice, 35 Plus Novice and Post Vintage 600 Novice.
A third Booze Fighter also took to the track on Saturday as Brian Trum carefully circled the course on a diminutive Yamaha RT-100 in Adult Mini Beginner. His efforts garnered him a well deserved second place behind John Gangitano.
Lady racers were also in attendance and motocross regular Randi Schaller powered her way to double wins in the Powder Puff Novice class Saturday and Sunday, with Chris Roysdon and Kerri Kress rounding out the podium with Schaller on Saturday. Making their first appearance on an oval course, Powder Puff Beginners Lori Kneebone and Debbi Vrettas split wins, with Vrettas taking the Saturday final and Kneebone Sunday’s event.
A trio of brothers took to the track during the weekend in several classes. Braydin, Daltin and Larry Collie have flat track in their genetic code, as their grandfather, Larry Collie, was one of the top flat track competitors on the west coast in the 1960’s and 70’s. All three took wins in the various 16 and under and 12 and under youth classes during the weekend.
Solid support from racers and fans alike proved there is a strong grass roots level of interest in oval track racing in San Diego, missing essentially since the late 1970’s. As Frank Vrettas stated during the morning riders meeting, these exhibition races were designed to highlight and eliminate any problems that may arise in staging such an event in the areas of track preparation, scoring, staging, etc. With two successful events completed, the upcoming series should be a well executed endeavor.
Further photos and race coverage can be found at: