This photo made me do a double take. It is George Tapscott road racing a gorgeous Harley-Davidson badged Rotax. I didn’t recognize it right off since most of time these bikes were flat trackers and done up in a blacked out motor and never looked this shiny. Some viewers over at the WERA BBS think this bike features a nickel-plated Knight frame. Whatever the case, it’s a gorgeous motorcycle and George rode it to numerous victories. George may have been sandbagging a bit too. I think he was a little fast to be a novice. This photo is from a WERA race at Putnam Park Road Course in May of 1992. George won a couple of novice races on the bike and even finished second overall – beating a slew of experts – in the Unlimited Twins class. I talked to George’s widow Sue. Sadly she reported to me that George passed away from cancer back in 2000. I’m glad I found this photo of him in his prime, doing what he loved to do.
Shipping to dealers next month is the revised 2012 CBR1000RR, a model that celebrates the model’s 20th anniversary.According to Honda, the new CBR1000RR handles better via a patented Balance-Free Rear Shock, Big Piston Fork and new wheels. New aggressive bodywork aids aerodynamic flow and high-speed handling, and new LCD instrumentation includes a lap timer, five-level shift indicator and more. Read more.
By Larry Lawrence
The King of the AMA Battle of the Twins (BOTT) competition in the mid-1980s was Gene Church riding a Don Tilley-built Harley-Davidson XR1000 dubbed Lucifer’s Hammer. It may very well have been the fastest Harley-Davidson road racing machine ever to hit the track.
Church rode Lucifer’s Hammer to three BOTT titles in 1984-86. The shy North Carolinian was an unlikely champion in the popular road racing championship. First of all Church was a flat tracker and rarely road raced before going up against experienced road racers like Jimmy Adamo, Harry Klinzmann, David Roper, Marco Lucchinelli and Dale Quarterley.
Perhaps even more unlikely a championship winner was the bike on which Church rode. Lucifer’s Hammer was aptly named. It came straight out of the inferno of factory Harley-Davidson rider Mark Brelsford’s fiery crash at Daytona in 1973. Brelsford, the 1972 AMA Grand National Champion had a rough start to the 1973 season when he hit Larry Darr’s slowed bike at Daytona International Speedway’s high-speed infield kink. The impact resulted in Brelsford’s factory Harley going up in a ball of flame. The horrendous crash was captured on film by a Daytona Beach News-Journal photographer. The fiery crash photo became famous on magazine covers and posters.
The factory XR racer of Brelsford’s sat in mothballs for nearly 10 years at the Harley-Davidson factory in Milwaukee. Then in the early 1980s a group of Florida club racers convinced Jim France to run a race during Bike Week for twin-cylinder machines called Battle of the Twins. In 1982 the BOTT became the fourth road racing class at AMA nationals joining Formula One, Superbike and 250 Grand Prix.
A year later Harley-Davidson racing boss Dick O’Brien thought it might be a good idea to rebuild Brelsford’s XR, punch it out to 1000cc and enter Jay Springsteen in the Ducati dominated class. In March of ’83 Springer won the Daytona Battle of the Twins round over Adamo and Brit Tony Rutter, both Ducati mounted.
With Springsteen turning his attention back to the Grand Nationals, his winning BOTT Harley went back into storage.
Meanwhile Gene Church was cleaning up in the stock class of the Battle of the Twins (a predecessor to the Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster Series) on a Don Tilley Harley. Tilley was surprised to get a call from Milwaukee in the summer of ‘83.
“Dick O’Brien called me and asked me if I’d like to take Lucifer’s Hammer and see what I could do with it,” Tilley remembers. “I said ‘I’d love to.’ HOG (Harley Owner Group) told me they would sponsor it, and it wasn’t much let me tell you. That’s when HOG just got started.
“I went to Milwaukee and got the bike, brought it back to my shop and did some modifications to the engine. We painted it tan and brown. I had a Lucifer’s Hammer decal made and put it on the bike. It was Dick O’Brien’s wife who named it. Some said it was named after a comet. There’s two or three stories about how it was named, but the name stuck.
“I think part of it was because we had a Church riding Lucifer’s bike.”
O’Brien was a little skeptical when he heard that Tilley planned on having Church as the rider. He was after all a flat tracker with very little road racing experience. But Tilley stuck to his guns believing that young Church could race anything. He was right. Church won the BOTT in his debut on Lucifer’s Hammer in the October AMA Pro-Am National at Daytona.
Church came back in earnest in the 1984 season and opened with a win at Daytona. He went on to score victories at Sears Point and Mid-Ohio to win his first Battle of the Twins Championship in his first full season over Jimmy Adamo and Devin Battley.
Church have proven to be a fast learner on the road racing circuits of America and Brelsford’s resurrected machine still had a lot of life left in it.
As the 1985 season dawned, Church sensed that the competition was going to be a lot tougher. In an interview before Daytona that year Church said in his thick North Carolina drawl, “There’s a lot of mighty good riders competing in the Twins class. I think we’ll win Daytona, but everything’s got to be just right. This year will be a real challenge.”
Adamo’s program stepped up that year with him riding a factory Cagiva. And the series had African-American rider John Williams on the Dale Newton-tuned Ducati factory-backed machines. And then there was British born veteran Malcolme Tunstall on one of his trick Ducatis.
In the face of all the serious challengers in 1985 Church and Tilley hit their stride. Church won Daytona for a second straight year and went on to have his best season in the class, earning a career-best five wins to dominate that year’s title chase.
In 1986 former 500cc GP World Champion Marco Lucchinelli came to Daytona on a factory Ducati special. When radar recorded Lucifer’s Hammer at 156 mph on Daytona’s tri-oval the Ducati factory personnel were impressed.
“They came over to me to congratulate me on having a bike that would go that fast,” Tilley recalls. “I told them 156 wasn’t nothin’. I told them something was wrong with the bike and it could go a lot faster. They walked away laughin’ about it. They didn’t believe me.
“I found out one of the carbs was messed up. I fixed it and the bike went out and did 170 mph. The guys from Ducati jaws dropped when they saw that.”
Lucchinelli won the race on the strength of his riding skill, but Tilley had shown the Italian factory that an early 1970s Harley with the right kind of tuning could run with Italy’s state-of-the-art desmo twin.
The 1986 season proved to be the tightest yet in BOTT. Church won four races, to Adamo’s two. Lucchinelli came back after his Daytona triumph and won at Laguna Seca, but back then running on an FIM license he earned no AMA points. Church took the championship by a scant two points over Adamo. It would be his last.
In 1987 the team switched to a revolutionary chassis designed by Eric Buell. In spite of the advantages it offered over the old Harley chassis, the new bike had a number of issues such as rear shocks blowing out. Church broke his collarbone at Daytona, and after that riding injured, he went from champion to not being able to find the podium that season. Church’s three year run atop the standings was over.
Scott Parker sat in for Church at Daytona and finished third in one of his rare road racing appearances. Chris Carr got his first taste of road racing on the bike later that summer at on oppressively hot national in Memphis.
“Carr was so small he’d blow by everybody down that long straight at Memphis,” Tilley recalls. “But he didn’t have much pavement experience and they all got back by him in the turns.”
Carr finished a credible fifth.
Harley-Davidson asked Tilley to take what was supposed to be a one-year hiatus from racing while they developed their new Superbike. Lucifer’s Hammer made a final appearance in 1988 where Church got 13th at Laguna Seca.
“The Harley Superbike took a lot longer to develop than they thought,” Tilley said. “The original plan was I was supposed to get one of the first VRs when they were ready, but Harley got a new racing manager and all that stuff was forgotten.”
In the 1990s Tilley finally did get a chance with Harley’s VR and he beat the factory most of the time.
He said Harley officials congratulated him one year at Daytona for getting 157 mph out of his VR. “I told them it was disappointing,” Tilley says with a laugh. “They asked why and I told them because 10 years earlier I got 170 mph out of one of the old pushrod engines.”
Tilley continues to build race bikes out of his Statesville shop, now primarily for drag racing. Church too works at a motorcycle performance shop not far away. The relationship between Tilley, Church and a Harley that escaped from the gates of hell will forever be one on the most unique stories in AMA racing lore.
Lucifer’s Hammer was not just a motorcycle with the coolest name of all time, it was also Harley-Davidson’s last great road racing machine.
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. (November 29, 2011) – Just weeks after celebrating the conclusion of an epic 40th season of professional motocross racing, MX Sports Pro Racing and partners, Alli Sports, are pleased to announce the 2012 schedule for the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. The series will begin on Saturday, May 19, near Sacramento, Calif., at the Hangtown Classic-the longest-running event on the schedule-and will conclude on September 8 in Southern California, at the championship’s newest stop (to be announced at a later date). Throughout the summer, the 12-round series will visit such highly-regarded motocross circuits as High Point, in Pennsylvania, RedBud, in Michigan, Washougal, in Washington, and New York’s legendary Unadilla.
“We are very fortunate to have so many great, iconic motocross tracks as part of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship-tracks that challenge the racers and have strong, loyal fan bases that come out to see these races,” said MX Sports Pro Racing President Davey Coombs. “This series is the pinnacle of professional motocross, and the growth we’ve seen in the last three years for both the live audiences and television viewers watching from all over the world has been outstanding.”
Not only does the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship include the best tracks in the sport, it also features the fastest riders on the planet, as well as an expanded television package with NBC Sports Group. Add in a global television package that allows fans from all over the world to tune in, plus live event streaming on www.allisports.com, and the result is an unprecedented audience for motocross racing.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto will defend his #1 plate against no less than three former 450 Class Champions in 2012. Besides the man he wrestled the 2011 title from, Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, as well as a hugely-popular Australian star in TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed, Villopoto must also contend with James Stewart, who is returning to outdoor motocross for the first time since his perfect 2008 season as a member of the Joe Gibbs Racing/Toyota/Yamaha team. There will also be challenges from such formidable programs as Team Honda Muscle Milk, the Yoshimura Suzuki factory team, MotoConcepts/Alessi Racing, the new L&Mc Racing Honda team spearheaded by legend Jeremy McGrath, and more.
In the 250 Class, newly-crowned champion, and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider, Dean Wilson will not only have to defend his title against the best young riders in America, he will also be pursued by the two most recent MX2 World Champions. Frenchman Marvin Musquin and German sensation Ken Roczen have each earned Grand Prix titles on 250cc motorcycles, and will now join forces at Red Bull KTM to challenge Wilson for the most-coveted outdoor title in the sport, a Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Add in the formidable GEICO Honda team, DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing Yamaha, Rockstar Energy Suzuki, JDR KTM, in addition to Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda, and the 2012 season is ripe for exceptional competition.
Additionally, the Women’s Motocross Championship will be included at eight rounds. Led by defending champion, Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Ashley Fiolek, who claimed her third title in four years as a pro, the world’s fastest women riders are set to bring even more excitement to the series. Fiolek can once again expect serious competition from her primary rival, and fellow multi-time champion, Jessica Patterson of the DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing Yamaha team.
Following the traditional opener at Hangtown, series favorites – Freestone, Thunder Valley, High Point, Budds Creek, RedBud, Spring Creek, Washougal, Southwick, Unadilla and Steel City – all return to compose the bulk of the 2012 schedule. While some venues’ traditional dates on the calendar have shifted, they remain as part of the integral foundation of American Motocross.
The season finale will feature a new venue in the motocross hotbed of Southern California. Details and additional information will follow.
Tickets for all 12 rounds of the 2012 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship will be on sale on Moto Monday, December 5th. Fans eager to get a head start on plans for next summer can simply log onto the official website of American Motocross at AlliSports.com/motocross. Special holiday promotions for advance purchasers will be available.
|2012 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship Schedule|
|May 19||Hangtown Motocross Classic*||Sacramento, Calif.|
|May 26||Freestone Raceway*||Wortham, Texas|
|June 2||Thunder Valley Motocross*||Lakewood, Colo.|
|June 9||High Point Raceway||Mt. Morris, Pa.|
|June 16||Budds Creek Motocross||Mechanicsville, Md.|
|July 7||RedBud*||Buchanan, Mich.|
|July 14||Spring Creek Motocross*||Millville, Minn.|
|July 21||Washougal MX Park||Washougal, Wash.|
|August 11||Moto-X 338*||Southwick, Mass.|
|August 18||Unadilla||New Berlin, N.Y.|
|September 1||Steel City Raceway*||Delmont, Pa.|
|September 8||TBA*||Southern Calif.|
For additional information please visit AlliSports.com/motocross plus like the American Motocross Facebook page and follow @americanmx on Twitter for exclusive content and additional information on the latest Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship action.
MX Sports Pro Racing
MX Sports Pro Racing manages and produces the world’s most prestigious motocross series – the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. The industry leader in off road powersport event production and management, its mission is to showcase the sport of professional motocross competition at events throughout the United States. Through its various racing properties, partnerships and affiliates, MX Sports Pro Racing organizes events for thousands of action sports athletes each year and attracts millions of motorsports spectators. Visit www.mxsportsproracing.com.
Alli Sports is a global business that encompasses national and international action sports tours and events, multimedia production, and a consumer facing lifestyle brand. The Alliance includes: the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, the Dew Tour, Winter Dew Tour, China Invitational, King of Wake series, and the Gatorade Free Flow Tour. Alli TV Productions creates original content, produces and presents content with partners, and distributes Alli content through a variety of channels. Alli is owned by NBC Sports and MTV Networks and represents a network of athletes, fans, brands and properties. Its mission is to facilitate the momentous growth of action sports, through competition and lifestyle, for a new generation of fans and athletes. The Alli properties are home to more than 550,000 spectators each year and broadcasts more than 150 hours of original content in 100 countries and 280 million homes worldwide. Visit www.allisports.com.
Lucas Oil Products
Lucas Oil is a worldwide leader in the production of oils, lubricants and additives. Based in Corona, Calif., Lucas Oil Products is one of the fastest-growing additive lines in the consumer automotive industry, featuring a premium line of oils, lubricants and problem-solving performance additives. Through innovative product research and development, along with aggressive marketing programs, Lucas Oil Products has established itself as the top-selling additive line in the American truck-stop industry. Lucas Oil is involved in an array of motorsports sponsorships, including the “Official Motor Oil of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship.” Visit www.LucasOil.com.
AMA Pro Racing
AMA Pro Racing is the premier professional motorcycle racing sanctioning body in the United States, operating a full schedule of events and championships for a variety of motorcycle disciplines. From its Daytona Beach headquarters, the organization sanctions professional motorcycle racing competition, which includes, AMA Pro Motocross, AMA Pro Road Racing, and AMA Pro Flat Track. Visit www.amaproracing.com.
NBC Sports Group
When the Comcast-NBCUniversal transaction was completed in January of 2011, the broad reach and storied history of NBC Sports united with Comcast’s 24/7 ability to super-serve fans to create the NBC Sports Group. The new sports media company consists of an array of broadcast television, cable television and digital sports assets, including NBC Sports & Olympics, Golf Channel, Versus, 11 SportNets (regional sports networks) and their respective websites. Together, the new combined assets of the NBC Sports Group possess an unparalleled collection of television rights agreements, partnering with some of the most prestigious sports properties in the world: the Olympics, NFL, NHL, PGA TOUR, PGA of America, USGA, IndyCar, Wimbledon, French Open, Tour de France and Kentucky Derby.
A story on one of the iconic turns of American road racing circuits. Read it here.