Motorcycle Classics at Motogiro America – Day 5

Reader Contribution by Richard Backus
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Our man Dave Miller’s mighty 1966 Moto Guzzi 125 Stornello

The inaugural Motogiro America ended Thursday. Over the course of five days, riders on bikes ranging from tiny, early-Fifties Italian singles to Seventies Italian twins and Japanese multis rode over 900 miles in and around California’s Central Coast. From Sunday’s start in Monterey to yesterday’s final run from Paso Robles back to Monterey, some 120 classic bike enthusiasts flogged their little machines across California’s heartland in the classic rally of the year. Dave Miller gives us his final report …

Dave Miller, our man at the Motogiro America, riding a 1966 Moto Guzzi 125cc Stornello with support from Moto Guzzi, filed his final report from the rally’s end in Monterey. It was, clearly, the experience of a lifetime for Dave. And the element of the event he says he’ll remember most has nothing to do with classic bikes, but the people riding them: “The warmth of the whole thing, you could see there were a lot of bonds created, including for myself, with my running mates John Goldman and David Hills. I was jersey #3 and they were #4 and #5, so we rode together all week,” Dave says.

“There was a lot of emotion at the awards. A few people got placed who didn’t expect it. David Hills ended up in 2nd place for the Vintage 125 Class riding his Motobi Imperiale 125cc single. And one of my students, Ivan Thelin, got 3rd in the 125 Vintage, also riding a Motobi Imperiale 125. I think I would have beat him in overall time if I hadn’t had the two late start days. He had the watches, was doing the math and all that kind of stuff, and I know I did as well as he in a lot of the stages.

“The two top guys were the two top guys the whole week. First place over all was Stephen Flach from Ravena, New York on a Honda CB160. He entered in the Super Sport Class, but he won the overall award. There were a lot of winners who were in combined classes. The #2 overall was Hugh Schink of Montico, Calif., again on a Motobi Imperiale 125! Seeing a trend here? Stephen Flach was very emotional about his win. He’s a big bear of a guy, a regular, soft-spoken kind of guy, and you could tell he was just overwhelmed. We went over 900, and his time penalty over 900 miles was 9.1 seconds — for over five days and 900 miles! That’s the kind of machine this guy is.

“A cool thing that was a surprise was the people from the Italian Trade Commission and from EICMA, the big Italian motorcycle show, who supported the event hugely, presented him with a grand prize of a trip to Italy. Paola Bellusci, from the commission, presented the award to Flach, which included all expenses from airfare to tours, hotels, even visits to Italian motorcycle factories. He worked for it, that’s for sure.

“In Vintage 175, Michael Harper-Smith from Tarzana, Calif., was first riding a Moto Morini Tre Sette 175; second was Matt Prentiss from San Francisco on a Ducati single; and third was Steve Lawrence from Alamo, Calif., riding a Ducati Sport 175. Hugh Schink was first in Vintage 125, as well; second was David Hills; and third was Ivan Thelin. First overall in Vintage was Hugh Schink, and second was Michael-Harper Smith.

“In the Super Sport Class; first was Stephen Flach; second was Barry Porter from Santa Clara, Calif., on a Bultaco Metralla 250; and third was Mark Duncan from San Jose, Calif., on a Ducati Silver Shotgun.

“In 70s Sport Class; first was Rob Diepenbroek from San Francisco on a Ducati 860; second was David Edwards from Cycle World on a really beautiful Triumph; and third was motorcycle journalist Allan Girdler.

“In Scooter Class; first was Harely Welch, who runs the Motogiro California, on a Parilla 175 Special; second was Peter Savantaes from Scoot Magazine. There was no third, there were only two bikes. Peter took over for somebody who crashed out the first day. Even starting a day late, he was within striking distance of Harley Welch. This guy can ride, he’d ride by taking pictures, he aced every special test and he can do wheelies on a freaking scooter.

“There’s also a combined class, I guess taking everybody’s overall score. First was Gary Porter on his Bultaco; second was Peter on his scooter; and third was Jimmy Dillard on a Parilla 175 Gran Sport.

“There was also a Rodney Smith award. Rodney Smith was heavily involved in vintage car and motorcycle racing in the Monterey area and he was instrumental in the expansion of Laguna Seca raceway. He passed away last year. His big thing was his cars and bikes were always extremely well prepared, very fast and show worthy, to the nth degree. So Burt Richmond and others went around all week looking for a bike that would fit this award, and the winner was Lester Townsend from Orange, Calif., on a Bianchi. Unfortunately, the hotel lost the trophy. They can’t find it. Rodney Smith’s widow was here to present the award, and they handed out a bunch of Swiss chronographs in Rodney’s name, also, and I actually got one. The way they decided who got these, they asked Rodney’s widow what her favorite numbers were, and that’s how I ended up with one because one of her favorite numbers was #3.

“As far as is known, they’re planning on running it again next year. They want to do it same time, same place, because they’re planning on running the MotoGP again. So all of this is supposed to become a yearly event, including the show put on by Loren Guy, the classic bike show, plus the classic bike auction by Mid America. The auction and the bike show were a big success, they were very well done. Hell, everything was well done. Considering that they only had five or six months to put this together, it seems like they’d been doing it forever. In my opinion it was that good.

“Would I do it again? In a hot second. If you want the epitome of class in terms of machine and people, the way you spell classy is Motogiro America.”

Dave doesn’t know yet how he placed, but as soon as he does we’ll add a line at the end of this blog letting you know. – Richard Backus

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