If you have read past posts, you have learned how I came to meet Bill Gately, owner of Bonneville Performance. Bill graciously extended an invitation for me to join the pit crew for his Triumph factory sponsored AMA Pro Flat Track racing team at the Springfield Mile double header event on August 31 and Sep 1, 2013 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois.
I left Chicago on Friday, AUG 30th and arrived at my hotel south of Springfield around 5 PM. After settling in I headed to the Illinois State Fairgrounds Multi-Purpose Arena for the Steve Nace Short Track race event. This type of race takes place on a short oval dirt track that is also used for horse racing events. The amateur and pro riders are on single cylinder dirt bikes of various sizes. They are sorted out in their various classes with smaller groupings or “heats” until the best riders emerge in each category for the main event race (20-25 laps) at the end of the evening.
The short track races were interesting and I enjoyed them, but I doubt that I would attend another one since they do not race the larger twin engine bikes that I prefer like the Triumph Bonneville.
The next morning I rode from the hotel to the same fairgrounds but entered at a different gate. I found Bill Gately and the rest of the team waiting in line to enter the main fairgrounds 1 mile race track pit area to start setting up and preparing for the races. I went to the AMA trailer and got my pit crew credentials, compliments of Bill. We entered the main pit area, found our assigned spot and started unloading the hauler and setting up. It was turning into a hot, sunny day, so we broke out the water bottles pretty quickly!
The racing schedule includes time for practice laps, followed by 2 rounds of timed qualifying laps. Our team rider, Mikey Martin (91) did pretty well on the Bonneville Performance Super Tracker, winning a 4th position (front row) for his qualifying heat.
I can now tell you from experience that owning and operating a racing team is no easy job! My respect goes to Bill, his brother Steve, Ryan Kearns, Mikey Martin, John Glass and all the other volunteers who helped out. This was a lot of hard work! But it was also fun and rewarding.
There were high points and low points throughout the 2 days of racing. Overall, I think that for only being the 2nd or 3rd year that Triumph has been back in flat track racing, they are doing pretty good.
There are some rule issues that the AMA needs to sort out as well. For instance you can race a smaller engine bike (650cc) unrestricted, or you can race a larger bike up to 1000cc restricted, of course both have to be within a certain weight range as well. These rules tend to put the Triumph’s, Harley’s, and a Ducati’s at a disadvantage because they are larger. In the current setup, the races tend to be won by the smaller unrestricted Kawasaki’s which in my opinion makes the racing to predictable and not as entertaining or competitive. For instance, both of the winners for both days of racing rode Kawasaki’s!
During the open paddock times both days, I couldn’t count the number of fans who came by the pits to express their excitement to see Triumph back in flat track racing, and encouragement to keep at it. Many fans are tired of the Japanese brand dominance and the lowered competitiveness in the sport.
I know from talking with Bill and Steve Gately that the Bonneville Performance team has an aggressive off-season plan for upgrading and improving the Triumph Bonneville Performance Super Trackers that they have developed and are racing. From what they shared with me, I think the 2014 racing season will be pretty exciting for Triumph!