The Vallee Report (20)

Inside Motorcycles contributor and Flat Track Canada announcer, Todd Vallee, offers his thoughts on racing, motorcycles and much more!

With Daytona Bike Week only a couple of weeks away, many Canadians will be headed to the Sunshine State for a little two-wheeled fun. While I won't be able to attend this year, last year’s Bike Week was the logical destination for a little fun with my buddy Gary as we were both celebrating our 50th birthday. With our wives Kim and Heather in tow along with friends John, Irene and Brent, we invaded Daytona and did our best to fill our week with good times. Although your list may differ from mine, here are five great things to check out in Daytona if you happen to be making the trip this year.

Daytona Supercross. In a series that is normally set inside stadiums, there is something special about taking in the race at Daytona International Speedway. While the track layout is quite different from the norm, there is still plenty of action to get the crowd fired up in the giant grandstand. Under the stars the bikes seem to stand out a little more and the fireworks seem to pop just a little brighter. The event was perhaps even more special in 2018 as Justin Brayton took his first ever main event victory and in the process, became the oldest ever Daytona winner in history. Congrats Justin.

Daytona TT. Also taking place at the speedway, the Daytona TT is the season opener for the AFT series. Like Supercross, there is something a little different about seeing your favourite flat track stars do battle inside the giant speedway. With 2019 being the third Daytona TT event, AFT has modified the track layout to include a paved stretch of the iconic superspeedway which could prove to be a game changer come race night. Along with the races at the speedway there is also a huge motorcycle midway with everything from demo rides to parts, gear and so much more. You can easily spend a full day at the Speedway and still wouldn't be able to take in all it has to offer.

Bruce Rossmeyer’s Destination Daytona. Located about 15 miles north of Daytona Beach, Rossmeyer’s little slice of heaven can maybe be best described as a day camp for bikers. Over 150-plus acres where you can find a 109,000-square-foot Harley showroom, a hotel, restaurants and more. Much like Daytona there are vendors everywhere, bands playing, beer chilling and just overall good times. Last year while visiting Rossmeyer's we saw the Wall of Death, the Globe of Death and all kinds of meat on sticks that may clog your arteries and lead to your death… While bikers are given the best spots for parking, they do provide a shuttle from the far side of the property for those driving cars.

Daytona 200 Monument. Located beside the beach not far from Main Street, the Daytona Monument is a tribute to the original Daytona beach races and the origins of bike week. The monument itself is stunning with granite plaques honouring past and current racers. The project was spearheaded by Dick Klamfoth who happened to win the 200 in ’49, ’51 and ’52. Klamfoth was on hand for the ceremony last year and along with him I spoke to Hall of Fame announcer Pat Gonsalves, flagman extraordinaire Kevin Clark, flat track pro Sammy Halbert and many others. AFT Chaplain Raymond Rizzo was also on hand to speak about a few of the motorcycle greats we had lost recently including Jamison Minor and the man with the great voice Barry Boone. You can easily spend hours here reading all the plaques and stones and you can even purchase your own customized brick to go into the design surrounding the monument.

Main Street. The best way to describe Main Street is to say it is like Port Dover on steroids. The street is lined on both sides with bikes, people and bars. Every bar has three things in common; cold beer, street meat and great bands. You won’t hear much Justin Bieber or Abba here, but you will get your share of AC DC, Aerosmith, and Def Leppard. Somehow, we always ended up at The Boot Hill Saloon and I drank my share of cheap beer to ensure I had some cash left for some of the delicious shooters. Canadian racing dad James Phibbs showed me some great dance moves and I even got to see one happy/tired patron being wheeled home in a luggage cart one night! Remember though, throttles and bottles don’t mix so if you are going to partake in the festivities leave your two-wheeler at the condo.

As the calendar turns from 2018 to 2019, racing fans are eager to see what the new season will bring. While the first race of 2019 is still a few months away, silly season is in full swing as riders look to secure rides that may lead them to a championship.

I was fortunate to fly to round eight of the Harley-Davidson Canada flat track series in Strathmore Alberta this season and it only seems right to share some of my thoughts on the trip.

First of all let’s talk about the flight itself. Flying on one of our discount airlines out of Hamilton, about a dozen or so of us flat track people headed out for our western adventure. While not looking forward to a seven hour stop in Winnipeg, we were all eager to see what the province of Alberta had in store for us. On the plane to Winnipeg I ended up sitting with my wife of course but also had Hall of Fame member Kurt Biegger sitting beside me as well. Over the next couple of hours Biegger shared stories not only about racing but also about being a young boy growing up in Hamilton. Although he is known as a pretty serious guy when it comes to the racing world, Biegger had me laughing out loud several times as he spun nostalgic yarns. In reality it was like sitting beside the racing equivalent of Yoda, and it was great to be entertained for a couple of hours by his wisdom and hilarity.

After a $40 breakfast and a few alcoholic drinks in the Winnipeg airport, we boarded plane number two to continue our journey. When we finally landed in Calgary we were greeted by the smoky haze of distant forest fires that seemed to have been present since leaving Ontario. We split up a bit at this point. With the Bauers and Biegger hopping into a rental car and Clayton Isherwood heading off to see family with Tyler Seguin in tow, the McCullough’s continued on with us as we were picked up at the airport and given a lift to the track in Strathmore.

This is where I really have to mention the hospitality that was ever present throughout the weekend. From the moment we arrived at the track, people we had never even talked to were offering us a place to stay, food to eat and so much more. I ended up at a little gathering on the outside of the track that went on to the wee hours of the morning and included many beverages and some mystery meat cooked with a blowtorch. At one point Darrell McRae pulled out a photo album and shared some stories about the “glory days.” I spent the next couple of hours laughing at his tales while also amazed that he was still alive, as he kept me stocked with beverages, the mystery meat and whatever other edibles he could scrounge up. Finally feeling the effects of all of the above as well as single digit temperatures (shorts, a t-shirt and sandals apparently aren’t the suggested attire for Alberta nights); I staggered off to the bus for a little shuteye.

Race day was a blast. The track was fast and racing was great despite the Expert class being a bit lean. Although the crowd wasn’t huge, I have never seen one that was more enthusiastic. One fan was so pumped up that I even bought him a t-shirt off the Flat Track Canada crew. I had people helping me with paperwork as I announced and at the end of the races I met an excited couple named Chany and Ben. Ben was originally from Leamington so he is a racing fan since forever but Chany was at her first race and was hooked instantly. I also got to meet Royal Adderson finally and along with buying me a beer he put on a pretty good show on his XR 750.

The next day we piled into the Hesmer’s bus and drove to Calgary for a little fun at Olympic Park. While wreaking havoc on the luge ride was a blast, perhaps it was the ride on the bus that will be more memorable for me. On the way back to Strathmore it was me, my wife Kim and the Hesmers as well as Dustin Brown and Hunter Bauer. I spent the ride talking to the two young superstars about cars, girls, music, and of course, racing. With both youngsters having an incredible season in 2018, it occurred to me that perhaps I was sharing a ride with the two riders who could very well hold onto, or at the very least fight tooth and nail for the number one plate in Canada for the foreseeable future. As I sat during the ride soaking in their youthful exuberance, I thought about how cool it could be years from now when I share the story about the bus ride in Alberta with a couple of young men who may just turn out to be the greatest Canadian racers of their time.

If things all go according to plan for myself, Brown and Bauer, hopefully I can share these stories at a Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the two of them in 20 years or so.

In a move not seen for decades, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was recently cancelled due to unsafe track conditions. It seems the new surface at the track allowed an abundance of standing water in critical areas, and after meetings and delays, the ultimate decision was made to cancel the event.

I can’t even imagine what kind of turmoil this throws into a series such as MotoGP. The logistics and costs for the teams to make the useless trip to Silverstone must be maddening. My thoughts on this matter aren’t just for the teams involved, but more for the fans. I’m sure fans will get a refund for their tickets they purchased but what about everything else? Think of the fans that travelled from far away, paid for accommodations or camping, booked a week off work to attend, and just the simple feeling of depression for many that no doubt make this a yearly trek and most likely look forward to this event for the whole year before.

I am all about track safety, that isn’t what this is about. Just upon hearing this news, I, as a race fan, reflected on how awesome this year has been with the incredible racing I have been fortunate enough to witness here in Canada.

In our Flat Track Canada series we have had some of the best racing we have had in years. At the two nationals held at Welland County Speedway, Tyler Seguin and Chris Evans engaged in a 15 lap fistfight on both occasions to the delight of the excited crowd. When the checkers flew Seguin and Evans exchanged fist bumps after such a great battle and it seemed only fitting that each of them won one of the rounds. At Flamboro Downs in late July, Dave Pouliot gained a bunch of new fans after an epic Dash for Cash race in which he took victory by inches over former champ Dominic Beaulac. Pouliot even had to charge from the back row after falling early on in the four lap sprint. Video of this epic race has been shared well over 300 times all over North America. In August we saw young upstart Dustin Brown go side by side with veteran Doug Lawrence for several laps at Ohsweken Speedway before Lawrence edged out the victory.

My spectating hasn’t been just in the flat track series, I’ve also seen a couple of pretty good road races this year as well. June saw me take the drive to Grand Bend and watch Canadian Road Racing legend Jordan Szoke squeak out a victory by .171 of a second over a very hungry Ben Young. Then in August I made my annual pilgrimage to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and witnessed what many are calling the best Canadian Superbike race ever as Kenny Riedmann took a narrow victory over Young after a thrilling race long battle.

While all I’ve talked about here are the races in the Expert/Pro ranks, trust me when I say that there have been incredible battles in almost every class all year long.

I feel for those fans that were at Silverstone, I really do. I guess the good news for me is that after the thrilling summer I have had so far, there are still two more national flat track rounds for me to attend.
I’m almost positive the best race of the season is still to come!

Last week I tuned into the History channel for Evel Live, which would see Travis Pastrana duplicate three of Evel Knievel’s famous jumps.

The call came from Inside Motorcycles’ editor Patrick Lambie and I would be telling a fib if I said it caught me by surprise.

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