Classic bike fans in the greater Atlanta area should point their bikes this weekend toward the famed Road Atlanta race track for what’s set to be the first of a series of exhibition races for classic and “near classic” race bikes, the Historic Moto Grand Prix.
Organized by former AMA racer Bill Brown, five races are planned for 2008, with the first set to run this Sunday, May 4, during the Historic Sportscar Racing Mitty Challenge at Road Atlanta (www.roadatlanta.com).
Designed as an alternate forum for both acknowledged classics like Manx Nortons and MV Agustas, the new series is also looking to draw more recent “classic” racers including the likes of Yamaha’s legendary water-cooled, two-stroke TZ750 as successfully raced by the likes of Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts and Eddie Lawson. In fact, regular contributor Neale Bayly will be on hand for the first event, making a run on a 1985 FZ750 that organizer Brown is planning on morphing into a full-blown Eddie Lawson replica as the season progresses. Brown tells us he even has a correct factory race frame like the one used by Lawson. Film crews from SPEED and other motorsports outlets are scheduled to be there, too, and if the day pans out as planned we’ll end up seeing some of the action on TV at a later date. We’ll post any updates on coverage as they become available.
Brown, who plans a variety of different classes with attention to era, displacement and track capacity so that bikes are evenly matched, sees this as a unique opportunity for riders with bikes that otherwise might just sit to get them out of hibernation and on the track – where they belong. Amen to that, we say.
While long-term plans for the Historic Moto Grand Prix are still developing, we think Brown is spot on in trying to tap into a rich vein of motorcycle racing culture – the near classics – that generally gets short shrift from the established bike community, sitting somewhere between too new to be classic and too old to be competitive in modern racing. Yamaha is providing critical financial support of the new series, a move that suggests the boys at the Tuning Fork Factory appreciate the role their old racers have in fostering and maintaining rider and customer support for the factory’s efforts both on and off the track.
Next stop for the series is Alabama's famed Talladega Speedway, with more racing action scheduled for May 31-June 1, 2008. If you want to know more or have a bike that you think belongs in the new series, call Brown directly at (404)379-6091. – Richard Backus