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Willow Springs Twenty-Two Skidoo!

Story and Photos by Paul Garson

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It’s officially Willow Springs International Motorsports Park, but most people just call it Willow which happens to be the name of the area located about 85 north of L.A. not far from Edwards AFB, home to stealthy aircraft. Things get flying over the course of the year with a variety of auto, go-kart and motorcycle competitions as well as training and racing license schools conducted within the 600 acre grounds.
In addition to the longer road race course, Willow offers the shorter, tighter 1.8 mile Street of Willow, the Horsethief Mile road course, the Willow Springs Speedway’s quarter-mile oval and the Willow Springs Kart Track and a couple more. In other words, plenty of places to flog your machine, car or bike, to your heart’s content.
In this case, bike/race fans from literally around the world have gathered at Willow for the annual Corsa Motoclassica, in fact its 22nd running as well as a certified AHRMA event. A rider’s 10 best finishes count towards the National Championship with a minimum of two race finishes required to qualify for year-end awards so the wheel to wheel action can get intense.
For 2017, the 3-day weekend April 21-23 of vintage racing fielded dozens of classes, a bike show and a swap meet. Most would agree the Corsa is an event for ‘serious” motorcyclists and its low key profile gathers long-timers as well as younger competitors who enjoy ‘Old School’ do-it-yourself racing.
There’s no big factory participation and the competition though serious also incorporates a brotherhood of the bike feel, everyone pitching in to help a fellow racer. Sponsors of the event include Works Performance and the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, the latter bringing something very special to Willow this go around in the form of one of the now near legendary Britten V1000 racers. It rocked the industry when the homegrown machine kicked factory ass.
The Corsa Motoclassica came into being more than two decades ago thanks to Yoshi Kosaka, the proprietor of The Garage Company, the Inglewood, CA shop itself a vintage and performance bike magnet with dozens of historic and rare race bikes of all makes and models plus a treasure trove of memorabilia on display. For Yoshi, himself an avid racer, having won an AHRMA Formula 250 national title in ’93 piloting a water-cooled Bultaco TSS, he saw a need for bringing AHMRA racing to the L.A. area, so he made it happen in 1995 and it’s been going strong ever since.
A wide spectrum of sanctioned events range from 160cc bikes to multi big liter Superbikes, not to forget the very swoopy racing sidecars and the Electric Bike competition now getting shockingly popular.
At Corsa, your head’s on a swivel, bikes coming and going to their staging positions or being wrenched on by their crews, and it’s all up close and personal, no cordons or lines of security guards keeping you at a distance. You are literally immersed in a Skittles rainbow of vintage racebikes. Watching wave after wave of bikes do the loop de loop on the track only got more intense when several milestone machines took off together for some ‘demonstration laps’ including the aforementioned Britten ridden by Jeff Elings, son of Virgil Elings, proprietor of the Solvang Museum.
Jeff, a veteran roadracer, also scorched several wins at the Corsa aboard his very rare, emerald green Italian made ‘60s vintage Paton 500GP, the only such machine raced in the U.S. Also racing to the top of the list was Dave Roper, the first Yank to win the Isle of Man Senior TT Mountain Course as well as over 20 AHRMA national championships. Also in attendance was Wes Cooley, legendary AMA Superbike champion (1979 and 1980) when riding his Yoshimura Suzuki GS1000. He had plenty of takers when he began signing Corsa posters.
Narrating the track action was event organizer/ promoter/AHRMA racer Brady Walker manning the microphone from the track ‘tower’ keeping both racers and spectators well-informed as to the fast-paced goings on.
Enough said, so let’s spin out the photos…Paul’s Pix and Picks for Corsa Motoclassica #22.

Best Tank-Shifting Knight in Black and White Color Scheme
Arthur Farley from Chelsea, MI rode his 1939 Harley-Davidson to a 2nd Place in the Class C Handshift class.

Best Original Desert Racer with Bike Lawyer Back-up
Lucas seen here happens to work for a concern involved in buying and selling bikes, including old metal, via the Internet so he does get a chance to score something for himself including this 500cc single cylinder’56 Indian Enfield that came originally out of Pennsylvania.
When new and shiny, the Indian Enfield hybrid was actually a matter of ‘badge engineering’ in that in 1955 Indian, hitting hard times, brought in some Brit built Enfields and stuck their name on them, in this case calling it the ‘Woodsman’. This thumper obviously had been put to good use tearing up dirt tracks on the East Coast back in the day. In this case Lucas went home with a 2nd Place Trophy after bike was placed in the American Class thanks to the Indian name.

Best Badass ‘Do It My Way’ Motorcycle Ever – John Britten’s V1000
John Britten of Christchurch, New Zealand, broke the mold in more ways than one, including crafting his engine by sand casting, then going on to beat the best the Big Guys could throw at him.
Back in the early ‘90s, the Britten, utilizing advanced and innovative design and materials like carbon fiber and weighing 304 lbs. wet, was capable of 150 mph wheelies and 188 top speeds, winning the Battle of the Twins in Daytona and setting a ton of records. Only ten were made, actually nine before Britten passed away early. This was the tenth bike. Here at the Corsa event, it was taken several demonstration laps by Jeff Elings of the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum where it is on display.

Best Hmmm…Aren’t those colors Eerily Similar to the Britten…Minus the Wheels?
Another E-bike gets spectator attention, in this case 93z was raced by Maria Delgado, taking a 7th place finish. And yes, they did take off the tire blankies.

Best Jaywalker Challenge Award Winner
Not to worry, he made it across, and #69 went on to win the Sidecar Formula 1 race with Kelly Bell at the controls. #18 took 5th, the Suzuki powered rig piloted by Heidi Neidhoefer.

Best “I Got Your Back-Off!” Leathers
Pondering the race schedule is Billy Hamill of Carlsbad, CA. Later in the day he would take the First Place Win in the Sound of Thunder 2 event riding his 1990 Suzuki.

Best ‘Moving Is a Motorcycle Adventure” Backdrop with Pair of Indians

Best Didn’t I See These Guys Chasing Tom Cruise in Mission Implausible 913?
Seen here leading the pack is the winner of the eSuperSport class race Rafael DaSilva aboard his hi-tech cool electric powered Zero bike.

Best Bosozuko Bike Hands Down
No, we don’t mean a Bozo bike. Bosozuko is a Japanese custom bike phenomenon all the rage in Tokyo and Yokohama, their version of an “outlaw bike.” Seems to be a mix of bio-mechanical and Salvador Dali, but definitely a unique custom. Owner Patrick Ladd actually builds rad Cadillac hotrods but decided to try his hand on a motorcycle in this case built around a ’79 Suzuki GS750E.
The radical fairing and sissy bar ‘Sandan seat’ were sourced from Japan, even taller ones seen in Japan. Patrick painted the bike himself using rattle cans. And about those six orange air horns protruding from the rear…Patrick has them tuned to play the opening chords of “The God Father” movie theme. We were sure he’d win a win a trophy in the Bike Show but he had to scoot, seems he had a ’80s rock singing gig at a party shindig in nearby Lancaster. No doubt that six-pack of air horns will come in handy.

Best Pair of Bultacos Not Brought from Spain
The Bike Show brought out a Skittles rainbow of bikes including this tasty Race and Street pair, a ’68 TSS Replica and ’68 250cc Metralla owned by Roland Ortiz.

Trophies went for winners of Best British, Best American, Best European, Best Italian, Best Japanese, Best Competition, Best Café Street, Best Restoration and finally Best of Show to the Britten. Everybody also got a tire gauge courtesy of Russ Brown biker attorney. This year’s party also saw the likes of Wes Cooley signing posters, free ones, during the Bike Show.

Best Ducati Under Pedal Power
You don’t get more classic than this 1961 ‘Jelly Mold’ tank Ducati single restored by owner Ernest Quiga.

Best Winningest Manx Norton
Who said you can’t paint a motorcycle green? Not Ron Melton. His 1962 500cc Manx Norton has taken him to many a vintage win including the Corsa’s 500 Premier Class. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Manx was the fastest thing on the planet until the MV Agusta showed up. In 2003, after Ron had just bought bike, he took it to Daytona and finished third in AHRMA racing, eventually winning the #1 National Plate in the 500 Premier Class. He was also 250 National Champion on his 350 Bultaco and has competed at the Corsa Motoclassica for some 20 years.

Best Yet Another Green Racer
Talk about rare Italian dragon’s teeth, this ‘68 Paton 500GP is the only such machine raced in the U.S and Jeff Elings had it knocked, winning the Formula 500 event.

Best Got Kerker? Okay, one more Green Machine.
The ‘82 Kawasaki S1000 making music with a classic Kerker pipe is from Yoshi’s stable of vintage racers. Says Yoshi, “Now we see many more Vintage Superbike Heavy Weight class super bikes like Honda 750s, Suzuki GS and Kawasaki KZ1000 and a lot of people are finding them very interesting since the class was formed about six years ago…and they’re still not expensive to buy and prepare for the vintage competitions. But with this class you have to keep the bike very close to stock. For example, you can remove the headlamp lens but you have to keep the headlight bucket and also keep the speedometer and tach.”

Best ‘Best Café’
Mike Stafford put a new spin on his ’77 CB750 with a Mad Metal rear section, extended swingarm, vintage pipe…looking long, lean and mean...and built in 19 days. Yes, still has the kickstarter along with the electric button.

Best Honda ReDux
Another trophy winner was this very tasteful “upgrade” by Dave Crivello of his 2013 CB1100 featuring one-off Thruxton tail section, trimmed front fender, matching repaint of sidepanels, lamp bucket, plus popped on a Yoshimura pipe

Best Tall in the Saddle Race Winner
One of vintage racing’s true legends, the lanky Dave Roper, exits the track after winning the Class C Footshift event aboard his 1951 Velocette. Dave made the trip from his home in Hicksville, NY.

Best Corsa Poster Couple
Ben and Cassandra Zinne, regulars at the Corsa event through the years, rocked in from L.A.

Best Factory E-Bike with Ducati Tank and Fairing
Okay, we got to say there were some super interesting electric bikes zipping around Corsa…yep, maybe the future is now. I’d stick my finger into a wall outlet to have one. This one, brought by Hollywood Electrics is a 2016 model tagged FXS Café Primo.

Best One-Off Shocking X-Bike
Ely Schless knows a thing or two about electric powered vehicles going back some 30 years. In the early ‘80s this rider/writer rode his “Shawk” electrified Honda HawkGT, the first of its kind. Ely is still at it, having joined forces with a major electric bike manufacturer, but now solo again making his own breakthrough designs like this prototype eBike built around a highly modified Honda RS250. Ely says it rides as smooth as a stream of electrons. It could see production as the world of eBikes is
Best ‘Turn on a Dime’
#81 Indian pivots toward the track where Ralph Wessell of Port Orange FL earned top honors in the Pre-1940 Grand Prix event.

Best “Bagger with 800 amp Loud Speakers Blasting Away During the Rider’s Meeting’ – (and many did ‘cheer’ him on)
Best ‘Are We Looking at Twins?’
Check out matching tennis shoes, chin structure and tattoos. Or maybe it’s my misinterpretation, the result of the Straw Hat Syndrome since I wasn’t wearing one in the desert heat.

Best ‘The First Step to Recovery is Recognizing You have a Problem’

Kudos to the Movers and Shakers
Yoshi Kosaka, founder of the Corsa event, and Lorenzo Dalla Vedova offer up an event t-shirt. Lorenzo has been working on establishing a mega-motorcycle museum for the Los Angeles area and word is he may have the backing on a very ‘energetic” company.

Corsa at Willow. Remember, your bike’s never too old to race vintage. So that’s a wrap as they say in La La Land, but plans are already afoot for next year’s 23rd.

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Reader Comments

Sitting tall and lanky on Number 8n is Neville Mickleson, from New Zealand, on Fred Mork's KSS racer. Dave Roper's number is 7 and he rides Gary Roper's ( no relation) Mac. And where is the best pit Bike?

Lanora Cox
Vallejo, CA
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Editor Response I'm still looking.

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