RIDING ON THE EDGE.
Michael Clipsham of Bracebridge rides his 1971 Honda CB450 at the Vintage Festival event organized by the Vintage Road Racing Association at Mosport International Raceway.
BRACEBRIDGE -- A father and son are taking their love of the past onto the race track.
“We stood and watched and said, ‘we could beat those guys...’ We were
both excited about motorcycles and thought we’d get a bike and give it a try”
- Michael Clipsham
Michael Clipsham of Bracebridge and his son Jeremy, 26, are gearing up for another weekend of vintage motorcycle racing Sept. 10-11 in Saint-Eustache, Quebec.
The pair have been racing in the Vintage Road Racing Association (VRRA) circuit for the past five years. They have enjoyed several top-10 finishes during that time.
The VRRA was formed in 1980 by a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who wanted to preserve the traditions of vintage and classic motorcycle racing. The association holds four races a year in different locations.
The Clipshams have a passion for older motorcycles. Both father and son have been avid road bike riders since the age of 16.
But it wasn’t until they were introduced to vintage motorcycle racing by a mutual friend that they got involved in the race circuit.
“It was a novelty. We had never been before,” explained Michael. “We stood and watched and said, ‘we could beat those guys,’ ‘we could be faster than them.’ We were both excited about motorcycles and thought we’d get a bike and give it a try.”
It took Jeremy little time to find a bike.
“He was racing the next spring,” said Michael. “Jeremy took to it like a duck to water. He was at the front of the pack and doing it well. He seemed to be a natural.”
Jeremy races his 1989 Yamaha FZR 400 in a competitive Period 4 class of about 30 bikes, while Michael, 59, races a 1971 Honda CB450 outfitted with a 1969 drum brake in the Period 1 class.
“You can’t help but improve every year when you start from never being on a track before,” Michael said.
In the first event of the season in June at Shannonville Race Track, the Clipsham team was first overall. At the Vintage Festival at Mosport International Raceway near Bowmanville Aug. 13-14 they were second overall, but first in their class of like bikes.
To make them race ready, the motorcycles are stripped down of anything superfluous to racing. The speedometer, lights, horn, signals and sometimes the fenders are removed.
No modern equipment is allowed either, only authentic improvements of the period.
The Clipshams not only ride, but also maintain and repair their own motorcycles.
Weaving around the track, the goal is the best lap time.
“You’re going as hard as the bike can go in that distance,” Michael explained, adding they reach speeds of well over 100 kilometres per hour. “We’ve certainly developed a passion for racing. It’s a lot of fun and something we can do together.”
Having an outlet to race is important, he said, adding riding on the roads at such speeds is foolish.
“With the racing laws today, you’re not only risking injury, but you’re risking losing everything,” he said. “These bikes are designed to drive like this, but the road is not the place for them.”
At such high rates of speed, spills are expected, but protective gear limits injury.
“We’ve both been off (the bikes) before, Jeremy more so, but nothing really serious,” said Michael. “It hasn’t scared us away yet. It’s too much fun.”
The Clipshams hope to stick with vintage racing and are actively looking for another motorcycle to outfit for racing in a different class.