JORGE LORENZO GOES FLAT TRACK
merican flat track racing was born out
of the blisteringly fast board tracks and
dusty horse racing circuits of the early
1900s, where towns such as Dodge City,
Kansas, and Fresno, California, played
host to “Class A” national events.
In 1954 the American Motorcyclist
Association Grand National Championship
was launched with San Jose, Calif.’s Joe
Leonard winning the number one plate.
Leonard would later switch to Indy car
racing, taking the pole and coming
agonizingly close to winning the 1968
Indianapolis 500 in Andy Granatelli’s
turbine-powered Lotus 56.
By 1970 AMA Flat Track racing was
wildly popular, captured at its peak by
Bruce Brown’s cameras in the seminal
movie On Any Sunday. It spawned riders
such as Gene Romero, Gary Nixon and a
young Kenny Roberts, who would head to
Europe in 1978 to revolutionize Grand
Prix road racing with his knee-down,
rear-steering style, winning three
consecutive 500cc World Championships.
Roberts was the pathfinder for an
American invasion, and following on from
his third and final title in 1980, fellow
Yankees Eddie Lawson, Freddie Spencer,
Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz – all
racers who cut their competitive teeth in
the fairgrounds and steel shoes world of
American flat track – would add 10 more
titles during the next 13 seasons.
Fast forward almost 50 years from the
halcyon On Any Sunday period and
welcome to Perris Raceway. Buried deep in
Southern California’s Inland Empire, the
eighth-mile circle track, surrounded by
dusty, whitewashed walls and beaten-up
hay bales, seems a million miles away from
the glitz of MotoGP. But today, on a
90-degree Wednesday afternoon, it plays
host to 2015 MotoGP World Champion
Jorge Lorenzo, who’s trying to fit a steel
shoe to his left Alpinestars race boot.
And the man looks nervous.
“No quiero chocar,” he says quietly.
And he’s right, he doesn’t want to crash...
After clinching his third world title last
November in a high-drama showdown
with arch rival and Yamaha teammate
Valentino Rossi, Lorenzo decided he
wanted to spend a few weeks during the
off-season in Los Angeles. Oh, and
while he was there, could he try his
throttle hand at old-school flat track?
With the help of Yamaha U.S.A., the
28-year-old Spaniard’s wish was granted.
ON ANY WEDNESDAY
Back in the day, flat track motorcycle racing spawned a whole generation of American 500cc
World Champions. Spain’s Jorge Lorenzo, the current MotoGP champ, decided to try it out...
So, welcome to Perris, Jorge.
Working out of a non-descript white
box van is Bryce Eikelberger. A chassis
technician for 2015 MotoAmerica
Superbike Champion Cameroun Beaubier
– considered by most road-racing railbirds
to be America’s next great hope in
MotoGP – Eikelberger has transformed a
Yamaha YZ450F motocross bike to AMA
Pro Grand National Expert Singles spec
for Lorenzo, and the 247lb, 60hp
machine is ready and waiting.
“An early Flat Tracker from the 1970s
casts the same shadow as these bikes
here,” says Eikelberger. “The Yamaha
YZR-M1 Jorge won the MotoGP title on
weighs 346lb and puts out over 240hp.
And while Jorge’s MotoGP bike requires a
crew chief, a data technician and a whole
WORDS Eric Johnson MAIN IMAGE Simon Cudby/Monster Energy