Harry Klemm’s “The DG Years, 1975-1976” – Episode 5: Building a Race Team

As mentioned earlier, 1970s motorcycle racing was a world without cell phones, laptops or even EZ-Ups. None of them had been invented yet. The SoCal motocross world was every bit as unevolved. In 1975, privateer motocross race teams didn’t exist in the way they do today. Even the factory-sponsored team riders had just one mechanic and one box van dedicated to each factory race bike. At big races those factory mechanics tried to park their box vans near each other, but it often didn’t work out that way. Since most motocross tracks (Saddleback included) had first-come first-serve pit spots, looking like an actual motocross “team” at the races was not easy, but that was my goal.

At that time, there was no model or blueprint for building a pro-rider privateer race team, because there really weren’t any. While DG didn’t exactly have an organized team at that time, it did have a huge box van capable of carrying 6 bikes, tools, stands and everything else a race team would need. With that, I set about putting together what would eventually become Team DG.

The row of Mark Charles stands in the DG pits.

The first order of business was to create a workshop layout that could be duplicated at the racetrack. I started the habit of doing this during my CZ stint with Rex Staten. Duplicating your shop work space at the race track was certainly a bit more work while setting up your pit in the morning, but it resulted in a lot less time spent searching for tools, spare parts, gas and lubricants, both at the track and at the shop. In the case of a pit area with 4 to 6 race bikes to look after, saving time was everything. In the end, the layout was pretty simple. My shop rollaway sat next to the box van, and all the Mark Charles stands for the race bikes were evenly spaced in a long row next to the van. The box van had lots of cabinet space, so 90-percent of the spares were kept in the van for use at the track and at the shop. The final touch to making it look like a “team” pit area was carpeting. I had begun using an 8×12-foot piece of carpet in my pit during my road racing days, so I wouldn’t have to kneel on the scorching hot pit pavement. I felt that kneeling in the gravel was for savages, not professional mechanics. When I made my move to motocross bikes, I used the same residential carpeting under my Mark Charles stands to avoid having to kneel in the dirt and rocks. I took plenty of ribbing from other racers and mechanics about the carpeting at first, but before long, many of them started showing up with pit carpeting of their own.

In most cases, each DG rider had their own mechanic/buddy who helped look after their particular team bike. Those mechanics kept their tools under their Mark Charles stand. Racers and their girlfriends could set up chairs off the carpet in front of the stands, but nobody set up anything on the carpet in-between the Mark Charles stands, or at the rear entries of the stands. The end result was an efficient and well-organized pit that had a “team” look about it. The test bikes, that would be need the most attention during race day always sat nearest to my rollaway. The rest of the “less needy” bikes sat further down the line of stands. I would later learn that many of the DG riders awarded status on whose bike was allowed to sit closest to my toolbox. Of course, I was way too busy to ever think about such stuff.

For me, the purpose of the DG race team was two-fold. The first mission was to track-test and develop the products we sold. The second mission was to be a racetrack showcase for the newest products we had released for sale. Of course there were color magazines to advertise in, but the leadtime from photos to newsstand (at that time) was 2 to 3 months. Since there was no internet, the weekly races at Saddleback were very literally the “showroom” for the latest in racing developments from our race shop.

Story Index (Click on any title to read the episode)
Episode 1: Understanding The 70s SoCal Motocross Atmosphere
Episode 2: My Road Into Motocross
Episode 3: Getting a Foot in the Door
Episode 4: Reality in the Race Shop
Episode 5: Building a Race Team
Episode 6: Building the Team Bikes
Episode 7: Understanding the Goals of a Racing Business
Episode 8: The DG Front Office
Episode 9: The Competition
Episode 10: Painting the SoCal Racer’s Atmosphere
Episode 11: From Mechanic to I.T. Before There Was I.T.
Episode 12: A Few Words About Engine “Formulas”
Episode 13: Mechanic Buddies
Episode 14: 1976 Turning Points at DG
Episode 15: Facing the “Race-Gas” Era
Episode 16: The Retail Chamber Birthplace
Episode 17: The Mammoth Motocross Classic
Episode 18: The DG/Saddleback Launching Pad

 

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