The Race of Gentlemen 2016

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Flag girl Sara Francello starts each race with a high-jump flag drop.
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Joe Oz lining up riders on Saturday morning; all contestants drive or ride onto the beach.
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Racers waiting to stage.
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Brittney Olson of 20th Century Racing and her 1938 Indian Sport Scout named ‘Spirit of Sturgis.’
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Matt Walksler’s 1927 Harley-Davidson JD cutdown was a star of the Night of the Troglodytes chopper exhibit.
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Black Horse Cycle's H-D Knucklehead.
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Class winners Matt Walksler (foreground) and Matt Silvio go head to head.

Some of the earliest motorcycle races were held on beaches and dry lakes. Mother Nature often affords a marvelous surface prep, and Daytona Beach and The Pendine Sands in the U.K. were synonymous with racing and record runs. This was the fifth year for The Race of Gentlemen, or TROG, a retro event celebrating the glory days of beach racing and initially held in Allenhurst, New Jersey, before migrating to Wildwood and now drawing contestants from as far away as Japan and Germany.

A totally vintage event, all contestants — both car and motorcycle — must don vintage apparel, including helmets, and even press members on the starting line must wear clothing “of the period.” Pre-1934 cars are featured and motorcycles are limited to 1930-1947 American. The only overhead valve engines allowed are Harley Knuckleheads. Occasionally an exceptional bike is let in, and this year an original paint 1922 Henderson Four was mixing it up with the contestants.

There’s an informal tech inspection on Friday, and contestant as well as display vehicles circulate through. Friday night features “Night of the Troglodytes,” an old school chopper show at a local motel, but things really heat up on Saturday as contestants line up early near the boardwalk to enter, with Joe Oz dressed in a tuxedo with top hat checking contestants’ credentials. This is, after all, The Race of Gentlemen!

Once inside Mother Nature still rules, as the tide must go out before racing goes on. The infield is filled with vendors and a Wall of Death, and the race staging area is reminiscent of the early dry lakes era with stripped down jalopies and motorcycles, and an energetic Sara Francello waving off contestants with 4-foot leaps. Competition is basically “run for fun” — though there are winners. Matt Walksler beat the field on an H-D Flathead, and there were 10,000 additional winners — the spectators who got to experience this fun and exciting show. TROG expands to the West Coast on Oct. 14-16, 2016, at Pismo Beach, California. MC

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