Sometimes when the stars come out in L.A. it’s not always the type of characters gracing tabloid magazine covers.
Celebrities of the motorcycle racing variety mixed it up with a true Hollywood regular, Jay Leno, at Leno’s sprawling garage this past Tuesday evening for what could be described as a Laguna Seca MotoGP warm-up party and gift-giving event put on by Yamaha Motor U.S.
Generations of Yamaha roadracing heros, from current GP points leader Jorge Lorezo, to the King himself, Kenny Roberts, mixed it up with media and select racing fans, and moto industry types, while ooo-ing and ahh-ing Leno’s incredible collection of rare, exotic, vintage and sometimes ordinary, cars, trucks, things powered by steam, and of course, an exceptional fleet of motorcycles.
Serving as more than just a primer for this weekend’s upcoming MotoGP at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif, the gathering was held so that Yamaha could present Jay Leno with a special gift.
Yamaha gave the bike to Leno as a thank you for Leno’s donation of his customized Star V-Max in a charity auction last year benefiting Bailey’s Café, a community arts program that operates in Brooklyn, New York.
The auction run by famed auction house Barrett-Jackson, held at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., in October of last year saw the V-Max reach a final bid of well over $120,000.
“Last Fall, Jay auctioned off a custom Star V-Max to benefit Bailey's Cafe, a charity that we both support,” said Bob Starr. “We were thrilled with the results of that auction; it benefitted a very worthy cause. But we realized that when he sold his V-Max, it left him without a Yamaha in the garage.”
“We wanted to make sure that Jay had a unique bike, that reflects his uniquely effective role as an ambassador for our sport,” said Starr.
Graves prepped the R1 to be as street-able as possible without eliminating the many high-end, unobtanium racing bits.
“This bike was built before we homologated parts,” said Graves, “so really, a lot of these components just aren't for sale, at any price.”
In addition to the superbike – something Leno appeared very pleased to receive – Tim Collins of Alpinestars presented Leno with a set of Alpinestars leather jacket and pants. And none other than Troy Lee himself gave the NBC Tonight Show host a Troy Lee custom painted helmet, complete with racers’ signatures.
Leno is a down-to-earth, affable fellow, and a true gearhead.
He eagerly led people around to various machines, cars and bikes in his facility, starting them up, opening their hoods and explaining some of the history behind the vehicles. And in an impromptu moment, Leno gave regular Motorcycle.com contributor Mark Gardiner and myself a sneak-peak at a recently renovated additional section of garage.
Leno explained the new space is around 30,000 sq-ft, The add-on makes his total display/garage facility on the order of 100,000 sq-ft, or “something ridiculous like that,” said Leno.
The evening was a special treat for all in attendance since Leno’s sprawling garage isn’t open to the public, and for the chance to rub elbows with the horde of Yamaha racing greats. It was also nice to see a generous man, one of the good guys in Hollywood, and fellow bike lover, receive an unsolicited reward for his philanthropic efforts.