2010 Bonneville Vintage GP – The Best Yet

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Brad Steorts and his 1967 BSA Hornet, which got our nod for Best BSA, the featured category at this year’s Motorcycle Classics Bonneville GP Vintage Motorcycle Show.

The 5th Annual Bonneville Vintage GP has come and gone, yet another fabulous event in a string of spectacular celebrations of vintage bikes and racing. Classic Nortons and Hondas ripped around the 2.2-mile course on the west track at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, and 50-plus classic motorcycles, including Nortons, Hondas, and Vincents and BSAs, filled the Motorcycle Classics tent in the east paddock for the Motorcycle Classics Vintage Motorcycle Show.

The weather was perfect and blue skies ruled for the 2010 Bonneville Vintage GP, which hosted rounds 16 and 17 of the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA) 2010 AHRMA Michigan Engineering/RaceTech Historic Cup Roadrace Series. Among the throng of vintage racing machines were 32 Honda CB160s and 175s, which crowded the starting grid for Saturday’s Battle of the CB160s LeMans Start. This is great theater for attendees, who get to watch as the racers sprint across the track to their waiting bikes, grabbing hold of the bars and pushing them to a start before roaring off for the first corner and, they all hope, victory. Of course, only one person gets to come in first, and on Saturday that person was CB160 racing stalwart Mick Hart, followed in quick succession by Eirik Nielsen and Joe Pethoud of Vicious Cycle fame. The trio repeated their performance in Sunday’s LeMans start, exactly duplicating their positions from Saturday. CB160 racing is tight, and these guys and gals bring huge excitement with their little bikes. Big horsepower? Maybe not so much, but the fun is huge.

Truth be told, I didn’t get to watch much of the racing, sequestered as I was over in the Motorcycle Classics tent tending to our annual bike show. We had an excellent show, with over 50 bikes vying for top honors in nine categories. Featured marque this year was BSA. Brad Steorts walked away with Best of Show for his immaculate 1967 BSA Hornet, a bike that was perfect in every way and a solid runner, to boot. Actually, all the bikes that won on Saturday were runners, a sub-category, if you will, that we’re particularly fond of. While there were some absolutely amazing machines on hand that probably would have walked away with top honors at another show, we like to focus on bikes that are ridden and used. For instance, Mark Chadwick’s absolutely perfect 1973 Honda CB350 Scrambler with 53 original miles was impossible to fault: If you want to know what one looked like new, this was the bike to examine. Following our Ride ‘Em Don’t Hide ‘Em creedo, however, we gave top honors in the Japanese category to Rob Baggaley for his nicely preserved 1974 Suzuki GT750 Water Buffalo, appropriately accented by the bugs still on his headlamp from riding the bike to the show!

People’s choice went to Canadian Dan Smith, who showed up with his 1939 Vincent HRD Series A Rapide, a machine he hand built from scratch, making his own casting and doing all of his own machine work. It’s an amazing piece of work, and he rides it regularly. FYI: Look for a feature on his reproduction AJS V-4 in an upcoming issue; it’s another amazing bike Dan built completely from scratch. Seems if Dan can’t buy what he wants, he just builds it!

Interest in the bikes was excellent, with our tent literally packed most of the day. The strongest category was British, not exactly surprising given the huge support we get every year from the Utah British Motorcycle Club. It’s fair to say that without the club and its support, and the amazing help we get from them every year – especially from club member Ken Wheadon – our show wouldn’t be what it is. Thankfully, they keep coming back, and bringing new machines every year. Particularly nice to see, especially in light of our recent article on the model, was Steve Seeley’s lovely 1967 Norton P11, a machine he’s equipped with a Norton badge on one side of the tank and Matchless on the other, just to see who’s paying attention! Nice touch. Steve let me take his P11 out for a spin; I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the sound of a British parallel twin running free from the civilized notion of mufflers. Lovely.

Steve Seeley with his 1967 Norton P11, Best Offroad.

If memory serves, there were race registrations for something like 470 positions, making the Bonneville Vintage GP the third most popular race event of the AHRMA season so far. The 2010 AHRMA season wraps up next month in Alabama, when the action moves to the amazing Barber Motorsports Park outside Birmingham, part of the 6th Annual Barber Vintage Festival, a show that keeps getting bigger every year. It’s not to be missed – be there, or be square. – Richard Backus

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine
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