Aprilia introduced a pair of scooters to the American market in 1999 – the SR50 and the Scarabeo 50. At the Road Atlanta AMA Superbike round in May of that year Aprilia invited journalists on hand to try out the little 50cc bikes.
On Friday of the race weekend Aprilia set up a mini-test course in a large parking lot and unleashed a group of about dozen journalists. I’m not sure what Aprilia expected to happen, but naturally the journos immediately turned the little test course into a road-racing circuit. Before long it looked like a mini-supermoto race complete with full-lock slides, brake checks, stuffing, course-cutting etc, etc.
I’m proud to say I emerged as the fastest rider of that day’s session. I’d been doing a lot of aggressive street and gravel road riding on my DR650, so I was pretty dialed in. When everyone else was rear braking sideways into the turns, I was diving inside them, heavy on the front binders and just steadily pulled away. Now I was somewhere north of 200 lbs. and I distinctly remember ex-racer Peter Jones getting more than a little pissed that I was passing him at will. “How is he doing that!” He said to some of the other riders on hand.
The next day the group assembled again for another round of mini-races, this time with the addition of AMA Pro Racing PR man Bill Nordquist. We went out on the track as a group and I again emerged as leader, that is until three or four laps into it Nordquist outbrakes me into a turn and quickly gapped me. “Wait a just a minute,” I thought to myself. “I’m the king of this track and I’m damn sure not going to let my replacement at the AMA beat me.”
So I whacked open the throttle of the Aprilia bringing the 50cc motor to life and gave chase. I think I may have gotten by Bill one more time, but he immediately blew right back by me (with little to no care for his or my physical well being, I might add) and this time he put his head down and gradually pulled away.
I had to face the facts; I had been dethroned. Nordquist was the King of Scooter racing.
To add insult to injury I spilled the little Aprilia riding it back to the staging tent when I inadvertently hit the front brake while going over some water hoses.
Bill went on to form his own company and I think he still does contract work for the AMA, among other companies today. I emailed him the other day and found out that yes, he’s still the neighborhood scooter ace.
Here’s the story I did on the scooter for Motorcycle Online.