Old Bikes, Older Racers And Fast Laps At The 2018 Corsa Motoclassica

Has it really been 12 years since I last attended the Corsa Motoclassica at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California? A lot of things have changed and a lot of things have stayed the same. Willow Springs still feels (and looks) like the place I raced a box stock Suzuki GS550 in 1978. There are new attractions around the main road circuit (the Walt James Stadium, a kart track, skid pad, the Streets of Willow) but Big Willow is still the raceway’s heart and little has changed. It is at Big Willow that the American Historic Motorcycle Racing Association (AHRMA) racers gathered for the 2018 Corsa Motoclassica.

The most noticeable difference was more classes because the last time I attended, 1990 and early-2000 motorcycles were not “vintage” yet. Now, they are welcomed by AHRMA. The next obvious difference was younger riders. They may not have been (on average) younger than the 2006 event, but I’m 12 years older so they looked younger to me. Still, gray hairs were the biggest contingent of racers.

The Garage Company founded the event and used to be the title sponsor. This year, they were not even on the event poster. Bummer. Seeing Yoshi Kosaka (the owner of the Garage Company) at the 2006 event on his beautiful MV Agusta was a highlight. The Garage Company website said to visit them at the event, but I never saw their display if they had one.

Also, the late Gilles Vailancourt was racing back in 2006. Gilles, an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame member and owner of Works Performance Products, died of a heart attack in 2015. I did more than one double-take this year when I thought I saw Gilles walking through the pits with a shock in his hand. The event was not the same without him.

It may be due to Yoshi’s absence but the vintage bike show was not as impressive as the last time I attended. There were interesting bikes on display, but there weren’t as many of them. The swap meet was weak in 2006 and it was weak this year too. It seems that every old desert hoarder from Rosamond to Lancaster drag their sandy backyards and anything metal that the tilling reveals gets thrown in the a pickup and offered at the swap meet. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. The vendor row was lean.

The 2018 event didn’t live up to the last one I attended, but with an admission price of $15, I got my money’s worth. Roaming the pits is a pleasure for two reasons. The first is checking out all the amazing vintage race bikes from better-than-new steeds to duct-taped-and-safety-wired abominations. The second reason is the people. They are an interesting cast of charactors. And yes, the racing is pretty fun to watch too. Hope to be back in 2019.

The bikes may be over 50 years old, but the racers still go at it. The racing is real racing, not a parade lap.
This Kawasaki had the largest expansion chambers of any race bike I’ve ever seen. How does racer David Crussell make right-hand turns? Very carefully.
I’ve seen beefier forks on a mountain bike. A very pretty Triumph.
Vintage racing is serious business. It doesn’t matter how old the bikes (or riders) are, close racing is close racing.
I’ve shot mostly motocross where you get very close to the action. I need at least a 300mm camera lens to do road racing justice. Still, at the speed these bikes go, I was close enough.
The late Gilles Vailancourt in action way back in 2006. The infield was a little greener.
Anybody who wants to wrestle a Harley around the Big Willow is okay in my book.
The Honda 160 class had a Le Mans start. Racers would run to their bikes, hop on, paddle like crazy, drop the clutch and fire up the engine. It was the biggest class on Saturday.
If you believe vintage racing is a walk in the park, just take a look at this knee dragger.
New riders are required to wear a vest so experienced riders give them a little extra space. This new rider gave himself extra space by riding away from “experienced” riders. If that Ducati is a vintage bike, can you imagine what their new bikes look like?
A very clean BMW air-cooled boxer twin. You know you have leaned far enough when the cylinder head scrapes the pavement.
I only attended Saturday’s racing so maybe Yoshi Kosaka showed up on Sunday. This is Yoshi from 2006.
One very sweet trophy.
Walking the pits was more fun than checking out the vintage bike show.
My Best In Show trophy goes to this beautiful Honda CB750. I would have loved to ride this one home.
Hondas were the largest contingent of vintage bikes and it’s no wonder. These little CB160s and 350s seem to run forever.
This one goes out to Norman. It might be prettier than yours, but yours gets ridden.

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