Pages of History Honor Du Quoin Racing Traditions | Sports

Catherine O’Connor for the South

Following a decades-long summer tradition, the best runners from across the country will face off this week at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.

The 2022 Mission Foods American Motorcyclist Association National Amateur Championship race events will be held on the historic short track, “TT”, half mile and “Magic Mile” oval.

The event runs until July 13.

Du Quoin has been well known for years as the place where flat track stars like Scott Parker, Bubba Shobert, Ricky Graham and Jay Springsteen scored thrilling victories in front of packed grandstands.

But current fans might not know that the track also featured prominently as a historic proving ground for a figurative “roast pork” success, which resulted when factory Honda smoked the longtime champ. dates back to Harley-Davidson, in a mid-1980s battle for racing superiority on American territory. .

When Honda went on Dirt Track Racing is a timely coffee-table-reference-book-almost-boutique manual by historian Gerald Foster and Chris Carter, CEO of modern giant Motion-Pro, whose passion for lasers sparked the research and writing from scratch.

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In 544 pages, it explores how the famous rivalry between American giant Harley-Davidson and American newcomer Honda Inc. enriched motorsport racing and changed the industry forever.

“The heartland was a sort of proving ground for the Honda-Harley rivalry that ushered in global market growth and the greatest story of an industrial battle of the 20th century,” Foster said.

Exposure in newspapers, radio broadcasts, and televised races at converted racetracks in places like Du Quoin, Springfield, and Peoria, created the FBI’s “Fast Boys from Illinois” legacy.

On the tracks from Ascot to Daytona, every race was a contest of superiority that also served as a live advertisement for the growing interest in daredevil motorsport culture, before the dawn of digital age marketing. cause the popularity of street-ready motorcycles to explode.

For those who dig into the technical intricacies, Foster’s book is liberally splashed with vivid action photos, drawings, documents and first-hand accounts detailing how Honda’s newcomer entered the flat-track racing scene.

Japanese engineers working behind closed doors in California have successfully transformed a docile Honda CX 500 half-liter cross-mount street bike into a V. By pumping the engine, throwing out the driveshaft, grafting onto a sprocket, they worked on about 20 clever engine cooling solutions and suspension setups to enter the season opener, Houston Astrodome doubleheader in January 1979.

But that was the game when Honda innovators finally broke Harley-Davidson’s decade-and-a-half dominance, introducing the RS750 with a four-valve overhead cam engine based on their Paris-based endurance prototype. Dakar. Honda’s winning streak began with a breakthrough victory for National #14 dirt track rider Hank Scott at Du Quoin in August 1983.

What was to follow, after Harley continued to suffer losses from 1984 to 1987 against Honda’s impressive factory team, was a fight of stealth and intrigue as the Harley-Davidson company fought back by taking advantage of the weight restrictions and rule changes sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association.

This fascinating story, told through the voices of some 62 brilliant engineers, young renegade privateer pilots, former factory-sponsored golden boys, hardworking tuners in the pits, retired officials and lifelong fans who lived it, will resonate with local motorsport enthusiasts, vintage and current racing fans gathered at Du Quoin this week.

In its conversational tone, Foster’s book is a casual stroll through years of social history and cultural roots of America’s fascination with racing that would launch the commercial sports and mainstream motorcycle industry of several million dollars today.

Fans of Du Quoin will appreciate the photo-splattered pages of dialogue from Bert Shepard who dedicated decades of his life to capturing weekend racing action when rolls of film were rushed through the darkroom a few hours after a race, to meet his editor. deadline.

This weekend, Shephard, a retired high school history teacher and still a fan of the sport, will travel from Ohio to Du Quoin to watch his own grandson compete alongside hopefuls from across the country.

Additionally, former professional racer David Aldana, who rose to prominence in the cult 1970s documentary film “On Any Sunday”, will be on hand for a Q&A discussion on Thursday, July 7. Appointed Grand Marshal of the event, Aldana, 72 will greet fans and don his flight shoe to run the Du Quoin “Magic Mile”.

At the end of the race on July 13, the AMA will present its Horizon Award, which honors the legacy and success of former MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden, to recognize the most outstanding riders who have the potential to have an impact on a professional level.

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