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Just as fans started coming out in larger quantities to watch the races and on the heels of Jared Mees securing his first AMA Grand National Twin championship on the 5/8-mile dirt oval H-D throws dirt in the face of the “Wrecking Crew.”

I’m talking dirt-track racing.  Dirt-tracking is a uniquely American sport, which matured on our nation’s multitude of county fairgrounds horse tracks, but the decision yesterday by H-D was to slash its AMA Pro dirt-track support programs for 2010.

H-D pulled the kill switch tether for “Wrecking Crew” riders Joe Kopp, Bryan Smith and even National Twins Class Champion Jared Mees. H-D will continue to support Ken Coolbeth, why I’m not exactly sure, as the official team rider whose equipment is prepared in the factory race shop.

It’s interesting to me that a typical H-D dealer has no one who cares or knows about flat-track.  This seems like a missed opportunity to evangelize the XR1200s and waterfall information/agenda’s to the various franchises.  Retaining Mr. Coolbeth may be damage control as media outlets would rain negative press on the company for bailing entirely on flat-track given the heritage.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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mcqueen_metisseStop.  You had me at McQueen!  You didn’t need to remind me of the Triumph 6T engine and desert racing heritage to make me think it’s cool.

I’m talking about the Metisse Desert Racer.   The original Desert Racer was built by actor Steve McQueen and his friend, stuntman Bud Ekins for off-road competition.  The  photo (above) is of a replica. 

As an avid motorcycle enthusiast and product developer McQueen pulled together the first American team in the Olympics of motorcycle racing (International 6 Days Trials) held in East Germany in 1964.  The team consisted of McQueen, Bud Ekins, Dave (Bud’s bother) Ekins and Cliff Coleman.  Dave and Cliff both returned with gold medals.  McQueen continued to race the Triumph Metisse during 1966 and 1967.  The motorbike was originally built in Carswell Oxfordshire.  The distinctive design proved to be very successful and in 1973 the company received the prestigious Queen’s Award to Industry.

Steve McQueen - Metisse Desert Racer

Steve McQueen - Metisse Desert Racer

In 1980 the Rickman brothers ceased motorcycle manufacture. At about that time the original tooling and the remainder of the stock was sold off.  In 1982, Pat French purchased all of the company’s assets.  Production continued until the mid-90’s when the economic recession forced a decrease in production due to lack of demand.

Under license and the endorsement of the McQueen estate, the company will hand-build 300 authentic motorcycles.  The completed bikes use a fully reconditioned period Triumph TR6 engine and faithfully include the ideals employed by McQueen from years ago. They include items like the styled footrests, 35mm Ceriani forks, with seven inches of travel and the yokes are from BSA which is what McQueen preferred as the handlebar position was set behind the steering stem for better control.

It’s great to see the company bring back some of the magic and easy to visualize a clear sunny California morning – a perfect day to go racing in the desert on this bike!

Photos courtesy of Metisse web site and Flickr.

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