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Racers ready for Bonneville Vintage GP - Norton 961 sets new record

Norton 961 at Bonneville
The Bonneville Norton team, left to right: Jerry Augusto, Matt Capri, Alan Cathcart, Roger Russell (Photo by Phil Hawkins/ 

Racers in the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Assoc. (AHRMA) series are on their way to Utah for rounds 16 and 17 of the AHRMA Michigan Engineering/RaceTech Historic Cup Roadrace Series at the 5th Annual Bonneville Vintage GP Presented by Motorcycle Classics. They’ll be descending on Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, west of Salt Lake City, just as other riders finish up the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats, where a new Norton 961 Commando SE broke the land speed record in the 1,000cc Production Push-rod class, recording an average top speed of 129.191mph.

It was a big day for Stuart Garner’s new Norton Motorcycles, as moto-journalist Alan Cathcart, a former racer and a regular contributor to Motorcycle Classics, took a box-stock Norton 961 Commando SE to the new record Monday, August 30. The record was previously held by a Buell, which hit a two-way average of 126.398mph last year. I spoke with Cathcart briefly prior to the run, and he was confident that he and the Norton team, led by Norton importer/distributor Matt Capri of South Bay Norton in Lomita, Calif., would break the Buell’s record.

While 129mph doesn’t sound especially fast, keep in mind that power output drops as elevation increases. The flats sit at 4,219ft above sea level. And running on the salt isn’t like running on pavement; there’s a lot more wheel spin as tires try to find grip in the hard-packed salt. Congratulations to Cathcart, Capri and Norton Motorcycles. We hope to post more on the effort after we’ve had a chance to speak with Cathcart directly.

Meanwhile, racers in the vintage scene are busily preparing for the 5th Annual Bonneville Vintage GP Presented by Motorcycle Classics down the road in Tooele, Utah, at Miller Motorsports Park. Racer preregistration for Miller has been impressive, with 470 spots already filled, making the Bonneville Vintage GP the third most popular event for the 2010 AHRMA season. Only Daytona and Portland have exceeded those numbers this year, further proof, we’d say, of how much the vintage crowd loves racing at Miller, even if it is off the beaten track. Racers and attendees rave about Miller. Racers love the excellent surface of the 2.2-mile circuit run on the east half of the Miller track and the superlative pit facilities, and attendees get to take it all in from the impressive grand stands, the surrounding mountains providing an impressive backdrop to the racing going on below them.

Motorcycle Classics will be there as we are every year, supporting the racers and holding our annual Motorcycle Classics Vintage Motorcycle Show. This year’s featured marque is BSA, and we’ll be giving out trophies in 10 categories, including Best BSA, British, American, Offroad and People’s Choice. Preregistration for the show is closed, but you can register at the event starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, September 4. The show begins at 10 a.m., judging is at 3 p.m. and we’ll host our awards ceremony at 4:30 p.m. See you there! – Richard Backus 

Bonneville Vintage GP 2010