Sonoma Raceway over the past two days for races put on by the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association. The riders zoomed around the track in search not of world fame, but for the essence of fun and accomplishment that comes with knowing how to do this kind of thing very well.
Take Valentine Welch, of Medford, Oregon, for example. She is all of 16 years old and she has been racing since she was 8. That’s right. Eight.
“She took her first steps at a sprint race,” said her father, Mike Welch, as he tinkered with a Derbi Predator scooter he had bought for a song and was trying to get running.
Valentine races a Kawasaki Ninja 250. Asked why she does it, she said, “I just like going fast. I really like it when I throw on my leathers and a helmet and get out on the track. Out there, everyone’s equal.”
Most of the riders who were at the Sears Point raceway (that’s its name from way back) were privateers, which means that, unlike the big, flashy teams that are on the professional circuit – kind of the Formula One of motorbikes – they don’t have factory backing.
But some do have their parents. Fred Gauvin, for example, came out from the state of New York to help his son, Darrin, who lives in Camarillo, Calif., get a 1981 Honda CB900F ready for the races. “I think I got four hours sleep last night,” Fred Gauvin said, as he worked on the Honda.
During the day, racers took to the track to compete in various classes, then brought their bikes back to their tents or RVs or pickup trucks and worked on them some more.
This weekend (May 3-4, 2014), the old bikes will be gone and the racing will be taken up by professionals in the Superbike Shootout.