Today, in what has become an anticipated annual event, Yamaha and Star Touring and Riding Association joined with current and past Yamaha racers to give to Feed the Children and honor Yamaha’s Champions. For the 8th year in a row, Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. presented Feed the Children with a check for funds raised by the company’s employees and various events throughout the year. Additionally, Yamaha Racing honored 11 current and former racers for the championships they won for the marque. The event had a little bit of everything for all motorcycle fans: a charity ride, an awards ceremony, a stunt show by Yamaha sponsored rider, Bill Dixon, and free food. What could be better?
The racing portion of the event is a chance for Yamaha Racing to celebrate the current and future legends that have flown the Yamaha colors in battle. Of the 11 honored racers, seven are still actively campaigning for Yamaha. Current racers on the dirt side, Dustin Nelson (QuadX Series), Chad Wienen (Pro ATV Motocross), Jeremy Martin (MX250 AMA Pro National MX), and Paul Whibley(OMA), received their plaques after video presentations of their Yamaha achievements. Current Yamaha roadracers, Jake Gagne (Daytona SportBike), Garrett Gerloff (DynoJet Pro Sportbike), and four-time AMA Superbike Champion, Josh Hayes were also honored during the celebration.
Special mention should be made of the previous Yamaha racers who left their mark on Yamaha and the sport. David Emde, brother of Daytona 200 Winner, Don Emde, was a champion in his own right, winning the 1977 AMA 250cc Roadracing Championship. Since David died in 2003, Don and his sister, Nancy Emde-Steward, accepted the award in his memory. Finally, while many people associate Randy Mamola with Ducati, he won the 1978 AMA 250 Grand Prix Championship aboard a Yamaha. Mamola spent a good part of his acceptance speech discussing his dream of helping the general public see motorcyclists as a force for good in the world, sentiments he backed up in his career by being one of the founders of Riders for Health.
Inducted just this year into the AMA Hall of Fame, Pierre Karsmakers was one of the first European motocross champions to school American racers in how it was done overseas, bringing the level of racing in the US to new heights. A three time champion in his home country of Holland, Karsmakers came to the US in the early 1970s and won the 500cc motocross national championship in 1973 and, in 1974, the first AMA Supercross Championship, eventually retiring from competition in 1979.
After getting his professional start on dirt tracks in 1972, Randy Cleek moved on to roadracing on a Yamaha and captured the inaugural AMA Roadracing Championship in 1976. He even managed to finish fifth in the Camel Pro Series that same year. Unfortunately, his career was cut short when he died in a 1977 car crash at an overseas event. His sister and mother attended the ceremony to honor his championship.
Yamaha’s employees are intimately involved in the fundraising through the monthly “Feed The Children Blue Jean Fridays” program. Throughout the year, the company also raises money for the foundation through a variety of events, including: the Colin Edwards Gear/MotoGP Package eBay Auction ($3,651), the Yamaha Golf Tournament ($2,830), the Motorsports AIM Expo Dealer Auction ($37,500) and Cypress Office “Week of Caring” change collection ($455) and Cypress Office employee donations ($4,863). This year, the total amount donated to Feed the Children was $82,000. To put that in perspective, it was enough money to fill five 18-wheeler trucks full of food and hygiene supplies. In celebration of the donation, a parade of motorcycles lead by Santa (A.K.A. Alan Cease, International President, Star Touring and Riding Association) escorted a Feed the Children truck through Cypress.
After the ceremonies were taken care of, the fun began with a stunt show by Bill Dixon and his team on a plethora of Yamahas. Next, the crowd moved on to a pancake breakfast as the tire smoke from the stunts wafted through the air. We’re already looking forward to next year.