April 22-24, 2016 marked the 21st running of the annual Corsa Motoclassica, a 3-day event held at the “Fastest Road in the West,” a.k.a. Willow Springs International Raceway. The popular West Coast event was launched in 1995 by Yoshi Kosaka of the Garage Company (Inglewood, CA), and the unique 3-day race/bike show/swapmeet draws an international crowd.
The event focuses around AHRMA-sanctioned vintage races that go toward national championships, in this case a double whammy thanks to the two days and a total of 24 races in various classes. Factor in the AHRMA races held a week later at nearby Sonoma Raceway, and it adds up to a major week of important events for competitors seeking to bolster their standings. As a result, the Corsa attracted race teams and spectators from Australia, New Zealand, England, Italy, France, Germany, Japan and Thailand as well as across the U.S., and all were greeted by both mild temperatures and mild breezes.
Special attractions included several “First Ever” bikes both on the track and displayed in the Bike Show, not to mention treasure hunting in the swap meet area.
While there were literally hundreds of cool bikes/cool people to choose from, here’s a taste of a special event attended by true enthusiasts of all ages enjoying the full spectrum of exceptional bikes. Big thanks to Yoshi for making it all happen for all these years. He tells us next year’s event may include the addition of Willow Springs’ other race venues for competition, including the dirt track and mountain course, no doubt attracting even more competitors ready to enjoy some of the country’s best vintage racing.
Best Eye on the Prize
After bringing his ’37 Indian all the way from Port Orange, FL, Ralph Wessell set his sights on beating a particular Norton Manx in the Pre-1940 Grand Prix race. His hand-shifted, leaf-spring front end Sport Scout did best the Norton, with Ralph taking First Place in the event on Saturday and repeating the win on Sunday.
Best Bedazzlin’ Beezer
The BSA Lightning Rocket A65 2L, developed for the U.S. market, was a stunner when introduced in thre 1960s. This restored example, in red and chrome, is still stunning.
Best First-Time Racer
Caroline Patterson was ready to rock and roll her 1971 Honda 350cc CL as a member of the “Ramming Speed” team that includes her boyfriend/fellow racer Brady Walker who helped promote this year’s Corsa event. Says Caroline, “This was only my second day on the track, yesterday passing the AHRMA race course.” All went well, the Ramming Speed team scoring several AHMRA points over the weekend.
Best Conservation of Fuel
Triple Nickel 555 racer moves toward track for 160cc race. That would be L.A.-based industrial designer Stacie London, also the founder/prez of the East Side Moto Babes women’s motorcycle club. Seen here on her 1968 Honda CB160 roadracer, she also pilots a 1966 Bultaco Sherpa Flat tracker.
Best Le Mans Start
The160cc race was launched by a traditional Le Mans call to action as racers make a dash for their bikes. This 1968 160cc Honda, raced by Richard Illman of Nordland, WA, was nicely fitted, including a ’60s Benelli Mojave gas tank. On Sunday, Richard, riding a ’72 Honda, took First in the Novice Historic Production Lightweight event.
Best Bike Named by Noah
Tokyo-based Animal Boat Custom Cycles, founded in 1995, specializes in vintage restorations and customization. Like they say, build the Corsa and they will come, even from about 7,900 miles away. Rider Daisuke Mukasa did just that.
Best Psychedelic Sidecar meets Tripping-Out Pedestrian
Piloting the Suzuki-powered hack was Christine Blunk from San Francisco. Other sidecars employed Honda, Yamaha and BMW motors.
Best Amped Up Racers
The eMotoRacing team brought its Brammo Empulse R “electron eaters” (now Victory owned) to compete against the gas guzzlers. The group of silent runners, streetbikes prepped for the track, were fielded at Corsa by (l to r), Peter Nicolosi from Charleston, SC, Murrae Haynes from Sante Fe, NM, and Bob Berbeco from Indianapolis. Other eSuperSport competitors joining them on the track were Bobby Loo and Gene Sigal both from SoCal. Peter took the checkered flag for the Saturday win. On Sunday, Murrae switched to gas and took First Place riding a Buell in the Battle of Twins race.
Best of Best of Bike Show
1971 Benelli 4-cylinder 250 brought by owner Bobby Weindorf.
Best Ear Plugs Mandatory
Ferocious sounding 1965 MV Agusta 350 Triple, the first of its kind, was brought by Virgil Elings, mega race bike fan and collector. The MV factory built the bike to beat Honda in the 350 class, later increasing displacement to 420cc, 470cc and 500cc, notching up more championships than any other design. At Corsa, the MV was ridden by Virgil’s son Jeff who also took two Firsts on a ’72 Yamaha in the Formula 250 race, another First in Classic Sixties aboard a 1965 Matchless, yet another First in Formula 500 riding a ’68 Penton.
Best Stare Down by Corsa Founder Yoshi Kosaka
These 1000cc Formula Class Kawi racers were built by Moriwaki in Japan. Riders included Australian Wayne Gardner who campaigned so successfully on it that Honda hired him. Vintage superbike racing is by far the fastest of the Corsa weekend and a real crowd-pleaser.
Best First-Ever Ducati 350
A truly epic milestone machine built in 1963 by Frank Scurria (center in sweatshirt) at ZDS Motors workshop in Glendale, CA. Based on a 1961 250cc that Frank pumped up to 350cc, his drawings and specs for the prototype bike were then sent to the Ducati headquarters in Bologna, Italy, resulting in the production of the Ducati 350 subsequently sold worldwide. The first win for Frank’s creation was Sept. 8, 1963, and at Willow Springs. Frank would finish 3rd in the AFM 350 Championship.
Best Voice of Corsa
Veteran racer Scott Fabro on the mic kept fans up to speed on track action. Hanging out with him was Hall of Famer sidecar racer Larry Coleman. Scott later donned his leathers to race his ’72 Norton in the Vintage Superbike Lightweight and the Sound of Singles events.
Best Tunnel Vision of a Manx Norton
Debbie Vaillancourt, the wife of the late industry icon Gilles Vaillancourt, founder of Works Performance, displayed the legendary machine.
Best Conversion from Stodgy to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious:
George Beavers’ 1981 Suzuki GS1100E was engineered by Ed Milich with motor work by Carry Andrew, then topped off by Rick Carmody’s paint, so this was no longer a stock snoozy Suzi.
Best Pre-Race Warning – Don’t Get Near Me on the Track Because my Bike’s Named after a Sword!
Suzuki Katana GSX1100S circa 1981.
Best Dad Please Trade in the Humungous SUV for a Sidecar
Sidecar was piloted by Steady Betty while hanging it all out was “monkey” Red Fury. Go girls! You don’t find much sidecar racing in the U.S. as compared to other countries, so it was fun seeing them glide over the course a bit like wingless airplanes. A special race commemorated Doug “Mr. Sidecar” Bingham, a leading light in the sport who recently passed away.
Best I Shrunk My Race Bike but Bring it On!
#925 1972 Honda was raced in Open Two-Stroke by Kerri Kress of San Diego.
Best Envied Transformer Bike
Avid AHRMA racer, London-born Dave Crussell campaigns his own stable of vintage Kawi racers including a ’78 Z1-R, a 1970 H1-R, a Big Horn F5R as well as a 1978 150-hp Yamaha TZ750 he raced at the Isle of Man. He also happens to have one of the new Kawasaki H2R factory supercharged 300-hp racebikes that he enjoyed blasting around the track for the enjoyment of the Corsa fans.
Best Steroidal Bike-cycle
Jay from Lossa Engineering gave a regular BMX bicycle some extra boost via a Honda 90cc motor beefed up to 125cc and capable of 55 mph. Registered as a street-legal motorcycle, kids of all ages just gotta have one, right? Concept bike scored 2nd Place Best Japanese at the show.
Best Super Scoot
The iconic 1958 Cushman scooter exited the factory with an air-cooled single-cylinder engine pumping 8 horsepower through two gears, good for maybe 50 mph. Now it’s been stuffed with a 4-cylinder liquid-cooled Honda CBR600 mill. Owner Mario Tafarella says it can easily exceed 100 in 4th gear and that it handles like a dream.