Coming or going, three days of high-desert vintage racing brought out bikes of all flavors to the 18th annual Corsa MotoClassica. It was the 18th running of the three-day vintage bike event, a combination of non-stop racing, classic bike show, swap meet and grooving on the high-desert terrain some 55 miles north of Los Angeles, home to the famed Willow Springs International Raceway, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2013. Yoshi Kosaka, owner of The Garage Company in Inglewood, California, who now both promotes the event and orchestrates the bike show and swap meet, originated the Corsa party. Overall sponsorship of the event is by the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association.
“It’s like racing on the surface of the moon,” said 13-year veteran AHRMA racer Tim “Merciless” Mings. “I’m talking the landscape, not the track itself, which doesn’t have a ripple and is a pleasure to run on.”
Tim should know. A fan of the classic ’60s Honda Super Hawk, he was the 2002 350 GP AHRMA champion, the only time a 305cc Super Hawk has won that distinction. He was back at Corsa this year aboard his factory race-framed CYB77, but was also mentoring Melissa Clemens on the occasion of her very first track race after completing the onsite class conducted by AHRMA instructors.
“One of the coolest things this year was how many newbie racers got on the track for the first time,” said David Stark, a 13-year vintage race veteran and “The Voice of Corsa,” aka the event’s announcer. He demonstrated an encyclopedic knowledge of the bikes and racers, with some 200 entries signed-up for this year’s series of races.
Corsa is an “enthusiasts” event, since almost everybody attending is connected in some way to the action on the track. It’s also a true family affair, one where camaraderie is as strong as the competitive spirit, with everyone adding a helping hand when needed. Dave and his wife Anne both race on Honda 160s, while Dave’s father Charles not only races but built his own race bike from scratch, a 1967 250cc Kawasaki A1-R Replica. In fact, there are a lot of father-and-son racers, dueling brothers and husband-and-wife combos, going all-out on whatever size bike they happen to enjoy. Vintage racers are “do it yourselfers,” often working on a sparse budget, but share a rich commitment and passion for the sport, all of which shines in evidence at Corsa.
The schedule of races consisted of 10 event groups with 2-5 races within each one. It’s a mix-and-match affair; often older bikes are paired with newer machines, the criteria being compatible speeds, so that slow and fast bikes don’t get in each other’s way. At Corsa, you might see Kawasakis and Suzukis grouped with ’60s Nortons and the like. In addition to a smorgasbord of British, European and Japanese machines ranging in age from the 1940s to the early 1990s, some famous American iron also took to the track, including some Harley-Davidson KR-TT 750cc side-valve factory racers.
Corsa participants also had the pleasure of seeing the Gilera in-line four racer in action, brought by longtime AHRMA supporter (and inventor of the electron microscope!) Virgil Elings from his Solvang Motorcycle Museum. Laf Young brought his jewel-like 4-cylinder 250cc Benelli all the way from Hawaii. Another cool entry was Dave Crussell’s Yamaha TZ750, a legendary two-stroke racer from the 1970s. Crussell and Elings both raced wildly diverse bikes in several different classes, from 250cc to 1,000cc bikes. Talk about multi-tasking.
Just getting to Willow Springs for the Corsa MotoClassica can be an adventure in itself, but once there…well, it’s a paradise for gearheads and vintage bike fans of all shapes, sizes and tastes. There’s literally something for everyone who loves motorcycles. Yoshi and AHRMA are already planning next year’s event, so slip on some leathers and sign up for the racer’s class… newbies are always welcome at Corsa.
(This article Racing on the Moon was published in the July 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)