He may be the best American motorcycle racer you never heard of. Bobby Sirkegian, while still barely a teenager, was a dominant force in early NHRA drag racing. At 17 he switched to AMA competition and was the nation’s top-ranked novice for 1957. The next year, an amateur in only his second road race, Sirkegian beat all the experts save one at Riverside Raceway, finishing a strong second to national champ Joe Leonard. In 1959, his rookie expert season, he came home fifth in the Daytona 200 and was ranked sixth overall in the final point standings. Fate then stepped in and ended his race career when Sirkegian’s father — his mentor, sponsor and main supporter — fell dead from a heart attack. Bobby, just 20, hung up his leathers and took on the family business, running a Los Angeles BSA franchise.
Now a semi-retired 71, Sirkegian has restored two of his motorcycle race bikes to museum-quality condition and is putting them up for sale in an upcoming motorcycle auction. Both will cross the block during the inaugural Bonhams Las Vegas Motorcycle Sale January 6, 2011, at the Imperial Palace Hotel. (Editor's note, 12/23/2010: We've just learned that Sirkegian's Triumph, Pretty Boy III, has been withdrawn from the auction and was sold privately. The Daytona Gold Star will cross the block as planned.)
“Pretty Boy III” is Sirkegian’s Triumph 650 fuel drag bike, which ran on a potent nitromethane mix, covering the quarter-mile in the high 9’s at 138 mph. Five times in 1955 Sirkegian and his 650 took Top Eliminator honors, meaning he posted the meet’s best motorcycle times (much to the chagrin of the unlimited-class nitro Harleys) then took on and beat the quickest car. Not bad for a 15-year-old kid!
His BSA Gold Star is a factory-prepped Daytona Beach special that Al Gunter put on the pole and rode to second place in the 1957 200-miler. Sirkegian had the bike in 1958 for Daytona’s 100-mile amateur event, finishing fourth. The Goldie was set aside for Daytona 1959 when a spare factory Harley-Davidson KR became available, but it was back on the sand in 1960, last year for the old beach course. A refueling mix-up dropped Sirkegian to 17th place, first BSA behind a slew of Harley KRs. In fact, each time the Gold Star raced at Daytona it was the top-finishing BSA.
Will Sirkegian miss the two bikes that have been part of life for the past 50-plus years? “Sure, but I’m not getting any younger,” he says. “It’s time to move ‘em on to a collector or museum where they can be displayed and appreciated. Besides, I’ve still got a Gold Star miler and Ascot special that need restoring ... “