George Taylor is one of the real Classic US AHRMA Vintage riders, now in his 51st Daytona year! Read his amazing diary:
AMA 250GP #42 (retired)
Yamaha TD3 and Yamaha TR3
I asked George-San how he felt about Daytona after having been there for more than half a life time. Here is his story!
Yes, indeed, I truly did have a nerve cracking time at Daytona this year. This was my first year of going to Daytona as an "owner". In all past years I was the rider and "chief cook and bottle washer". But this year I stepped into a different world -- and I might add -- learned that there is a LOT of difference in being a rider/owner and just an "owner"!
I could write a book about all that went down wrong this year, -- but most of it was MY fault. Won't happen NEXT year --- I HOPE!!!
I first raced there the year the Speedway opened, back in 1959. But not on bikes - or cars!!
I was an 18 year old boat racer then. And I competed in both of only two boat races ever run in Lake Lloyd (1959 and 1960). The lake is in the infield and was created when they built the "walls" at Daytona. Anyway, I switched to car racing in 1961 and then to m/c road racing in 1972.
George then started e-mailing his report, a very fascinating story about what racing is all about all over the world. Good fun, good friends, something to eat and drink and talking/riding bikes!
Well, it's Daytona time again -- and I'm "pumped" (excited)!! As most of you should know, this is my 51-st year of racing at Daytona International Speedway!
I'm no longer riding -- I retired after my 50th year, but my trusty Yamaha TD3 250cc GP bike will still be in the F250 races come the first and second of March. My close friend, Chris Spargo, will be handling the riding duties.
This will be my first experience at being an "owner". I always said that if I wasn't capable of riding the bike, most likely I'd "quit" cold turkey! Didn't work! I still LOVE tuning the bike to go racing, even though I'm no longer riding!
Once a racer, ALWAYS a racer, even if you’re "over the hill”!!
I've been busy getting the bike ready over the last couple of weeks. And all the work is just about finished. And it will be finished by tomorrow!
Then on Saturday, Hooterville will "host" a bunch of my racing friends that are down to go racing at Daytona. I am going to "treat" them to "George's Custom Chilli". And that it's a "Texas Chilli" that will melt your gonads!! I do hope they will enjoy it.
On Sunday morning we head out for Daytona and the Technical Inspection time.
The Monday and Tuesday are RACE days!!
HALLELUJAH!! I "LOVE" Daytona race time!
I have been doing it now for 51 of the 71 years I've been around!!!
My nickname is: “The "Grey Fox" of Daytona”!
I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it!
Garage area -- this is only one garage area consisting of 20 spaces. The total garage spaces are over 90. And they were all filled up. The paddock area included the rest of those that did not want to rent spaces. Total race bikes were around 400.
The following morning around 11AM my friends started showing up. First to arrive were my rider’s (Chris Spargo’s) mom and dad who are always punctual.
Shortly thereafter Chris and Glen Christensen arrived, followed by Joe Lachniet and Fleta and Marty Lunde.
Marty Lunde's 1965 window van that he bought new and then restored years later in the UK. Now it's back home in the USA, along with my TR3 that I just recently sold to him. It was a big hit at the races. You would not believe how many people took pictures and asked about its past.
Marty Lunde raced in the World Championships back in the 60's. Then returned to the USA in the early 70's and became my first distributor for my racing fairings.
Then he returned to the UK in 1974 and started a M/C business:
which he still owns today, even though he has now moved back to the USA, only about 80 miles from me, here in Florida.
It's been a great reunion for us after all these years!
From left to right:
Nigel (our English friend); Yours Truly; Marty Lunde; Chris Spargo (our rider) and Chris' mom and dad.
And the “FUN” began! First off, Joe announced that he thought his crankshaft has gone south in his Yamaha TD1 GP bike.
So we made room for Joe’s bike in the “Hooterville” race shop to start with.........!
In the meantime I put Chris to work getting my Yamaha TD3 ready for technical inspection tomorrow. There were a number of “issues” to be resolved, all of
which Chris resolved over the next 8 hours.
Yours Truly sitting on Marty's restored TR3 and Marty's Vintage Van.
I sold Marty my TR3 last year, and he did a complete restoration on it.
In the Meantime Joe was busy disassembling his TD1 to install a new crankshaft. Luck was not with Joe for this year’s Daytona. After disassembly it was discovered that it was not a crankshaft problem, but rather a gearbox problem. And it was a problem that he did not have the parts with him to fix.
So Joe’s “Daytona Experience” for this year is over before it began – But for his girlfriend, Fleta, it’s a bonus! Now she can “chase” the Daytona Experience like females like to do – which means NOT being stuck in the paddock for two days while Joe plays with his “boys’ toys’”!
Fleta is a “happy camper”, that is for sure!
The day was spend basically enjoying all the “tall tails” that racers tell along with a lot of last minute work. And all “warmed” with plenty of George’s “Texas Chilli” for dinner and of course lot’s of beer and other “stiff” drinks! (Just ask Glen!)
Then the “Strong Stories” began and continued until we all ended up “crashing” around midnight.
We all had a GREAT time!!!!!!!
Left to right -- Chris (our rider). Ron. Marty Lunde and Glen.
Bike #637 is my TD3 and # 19 is Marty's TR3
7AM --- Everyone is “up and at em” --- Kinda! As much as you can be when it’s 32 degrees F. (0 C.!) in Hooterville.
All I heard from my Minnesota and Michigan friends was what the “f**k”
is THIS all about. And I told them --- this is the way it’s been ALL winter in Florida.
And believe me, I’m a native of Florida. And this year has had more freezing weather that I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime!
Next we finished loading up everything and off we headed for the Technical inspection over in Deland, Florida – not far from the speedway.
On schedule for today was the Technical Inspection of the race bikes along with rider’s meetings for the following two days of racing.
After these formalities were complete, Chris, Glen, and Marty continued to the Speedway to unload our bikes and tools in our garage area so that we are set for tomorrow morning.
Chuck and I hit the road to return to Hooterville for the night. I have to be home on Monday morning to hydrate my kitty cat (Myrtle). She’s 21 years old and requires special medical treatment. (i have to ask for a picture of Myrtle, she should be in the story!)
Chuck and I will be heading back to Daytona tomorrow morning at 6.0 am so we will be there for the first practice session. Racing starts after lunch.
That’s about it for now everyone!
This is Marty Lunde's TR3. This was my TR up until late last year. Marty and I have been close friends since the 70's. So I sold it to him - to kind of keep it in the "family" so to speak. He did a "restore" to it which came out great. I kept it in good shape. But it was in "racing shape", not pristine, like the picture.
I’ll be doing a final Daytona wrap up report next Wednesday. I’ll be spending the night at Daytona tomorrow so that we can all do our yearly “Brick House Grille” dinner get together.
We are having LOTS of FUN!
7-Photo # a brace of Norton inters race bikes
9-Photo # a lovely Manx Norton
10-Photo # Harley Davidson works racer
13-Photo # AJS 7R 350 cc Boy Racer
Lots of “drama” went into today. And lots of work to make things happen. The weather for today was COLD but clear.
All sorts of “issues” arose during the morning practice sessions. The worse one was the fact that Chris forgot to take the carburettor covers off my TD3 and attempted to start it…..!
Two hours later we finally got it started again after draining out over a quart of raw gas out of the crankcases.
Then Chris made the second practice session. But, alas, our problems were not over yet.
He had to catch a ride back to the pits with the pick up truck when the motor quit.
After a lot of serious troubleshooting, we found that there was a lot of “dirt” that ended up in the carburettors caused by the new fibreglass tank we had installed.
Anyway, we went to work and cured those problems just barely in time for the F250 race.
Chris finished second! HALLELUJAH! All our work paid off in the end!
Next came the F500 race. Chris was riding Marty’s TR in this race. And things did not turn out like we hoped. Chris pulled in after a few laps complaining that it felt like it was trying to seize up.
Further investigation on our part proved that was not the case. The problem was with the ignition system.
So I made a note to bring along my Motoplat spare ignition to install on Marty’s TR on Tuesday morning. Then Chuck and I headed back to Hooterville for the night.
Well, the predicted cold front arrived during the night! Lots of rain and really HIGH winds persisted for most of the morning. But as luck would have it, by race time the rain had stopped and all races were done on a dry track. And that’s something we didn’t believe could happen from the info we had received on the weather report on Monday night. The storm was travelling at over 50mph, so it blew over Daytona by around 11am, and the track dried out quickly due to the high winds that persisted all day.
I helped Marty install my spare ignition on his TR while Chris worked on adjusting the shifting drum on my TD. He was not happy with the way it shifted during the race on Monday, so he cured the problem.
Next we tested the new ignition on Marty’s TR and found that it had cured that problem. Great!
Next up was the F250 race and Chris grabbed another 2nd place!
Then it was F500 time again, with Marty’s TR. Things didn’t work out like we had hoped. Turns out that the ignition change had cured the ignition problem, but created another problem. Now the TR was experiencing detonation, so Chris pulled in rather than destroying the engine. Good choice!
14-Photo # Myself on the bike and our rider, Chris Spargo. The bike is Marty's Yanaha TR.
So that was it for this years “Daytona Experience”. Even with all theproblems, overall, we all had a GREAT time!!
Looking forward to next year, God willing!
The “Grey Fox of Daytona” – in my 51-st year!
If you would like to know more about my racing history go to this URL and you can read about my racing beginnings back in 1948. I've been competing as a racer ever since I was 8 years old. But not just in m/c racing. I didn't start racing bikes until 1969. Before that it was boats and cars.
If you register, you'll be able to receive e mail notification anytime something is added to the thread.
I began this thread just recently, and now that Daytona is over, I'll be back adding more information from my past on a fairly regular basis.
Now that I'm finally "retired", I have more time to write musings from my early youth.
And I'm really enjoying it! I'm beginning to go through all my memorabilia from those days. And I have a lot of it.
Most of which I've not looked at in 40 years!
I think you'll find it interesting.
Now that I'm retired I plan to keep writing my history simply because its a great way to "re- capture" some of those "lost moments" that have slipped from my memory until I started going through all my memorabilia.
Here's a "teaser" for all of you. Keep track of my boat racing thread. As I work up the years, you will discover some names that I'm sure you will recognize. Like Dieter Koenig from Germany (boat engine manufacturer).
I became a factory driver for Koenig boat engines back when I was just 17 years old.
Dieter came to the US in 1957 for his honeymoon, and also to race his father's racing engines, hoping to open a market for their racing engines in the US.
I ran up against him at a boat race in Savannah, Ga. at Lake Harr. I was the current Hi-Point champion and 5 class champion in the South-Eastern Boat racing Association at the time.
But I sure met my match that day! His piston port engines just blew my modified Mercury engines into the "weeds" on that day!
We became good friends and when he left to go back to Germany, he left me his 250cc, 230cc and 500cc engines for me to race. And told me to return them to Scott Smith, their new importer, when they blew up.
To make a long story short - that's what I did!!
And it lead to factory support for me, and to setting two world records and winning two American Power Boat Championships in 1958 and 1959.
Then disaster struck -- and my life changed forever--- My dad was a boat racer too. We were a team. He started me racing boats when I was only 8 years old in 1948.
I would have remained in boat racing except for my dad's tragic accident at Daytona in 1959…………..
I was there that day and was also racing. Needless to say, his death that day altered my life forever.
I would have stayed in boat racing -- after all, I had an all expenses paid factory drive, and the prize money back then was really good...
But my mom told me that I had to make a choice. If I continued to race boats --- pack my bags. I was on my own.
I've always wondered what would have happened if I had just "checked out" at that point. But I'll never know.
I chose to honour her wishes and "forced retirement" from boat racing.
This allowed me to continue my education and get my college degree. Which was a good thing!
But there was NO WAY that my competitive urges could be just "shut off".
So I took up racing cars. And by 1969 I had switched to motorcycles and was doing motocross. Then switched to road racing in 1971.
And I actively raced bikes until last year. I did Daytona last year, and got to ride my favourite "old track" one more time, then called it quits.
My mother could never deal with, or understand, my love of the Daytona International Speedway. To her it was what killed my father back in '59.
But that is not the way I saw it. To me, every year I went to Daytona to race, it was a very special "reunion" between myself and my Dad! And it remains that way to this day --- and always will!
I feel closer to my Dad when I race at Daytona than any other time.
I have attached a copy of my "Daytona Report 2000". When you read it, you will understand why that day was so important to me. I FINALLY achieved a life long dream.
The reason that winning a motorcycle race at Daytona was so important to me is because I had won at Daytona in boat racing and car racing -- but never bikes.
Believe me when I say that even though I had been very successful in boat racing, the biggest thrill of my entire racing life was that FIRST M/C WIN AT Daytona!
I was on a "high" for over a month!!!
DAYTONA REPORT 2000
A twenty seven year old dream finally came true for me last Monday. I finally won a motorcycle race at Daytona!! I won the Formula 250 race on my Yamaha TD3!! And what a race it turned out to be!
A battle right down to the line between myself and Harry Barlow on his Yamaha 250 "Barlow Special".
Here's my lap by lap description of the way the race unfolded:
I started on the fourth row of the grid. At the rider's meeting the day before, the Starter had shown us his procedure. When the one minute board was turned sideways, he would count to 4 and then drop the flag. So I was primed and ready to count when the one minute board went sideways. The board turned sideways and I counted to four and dropped the clutch! Uh oh, too soon - thought I had the count wired but I was wrong! Must have been the adrenaline pumping in my veins! I was just able to get stopped before my rear axle crossed my start line which would have caused me to suffer a stop and go penalty - a death knell in a sprint race! Big mistake on my part as now I was at the back of the pack as we entered turn one. I could see as I rounded turn one that Harry had already moved up to fourth place as we headed to the International Horseshoe. Unfortunately for me there were about ten bikes between me and Harry. I knew I really had to get busy if I was to have a chance.
At the end of lap one I had managed to get into fourth place but as I looked across to the exit from the Horseshoe, I could see that Harry was starting to pull a sizeable lead on me as I was working my way through traffic.
By the end of lap two, I was safely in second place but a long way behind Harry. So I put my head down and really started pushing HARD!
By lap three I begin to realize that I was losing time to Harry on the west bank but gaining ground on the east bank and in the infield so I started pushing even harder!
As lap four started I had almost caught up with Harry and at the same time we were about to start lapping some of the second wave bikes. Harry rode up to three of the lappers as we entered the Horseshoe. He elected to ride around the outside of the lappers so I just stuffed it under all four of them and came out of the horseshoe in the lead! It really caught Harry by surprise. But Harry sure wasn't done yet!!!
I held the lead until we were about to enter the chicane on lap five. Zip, Harry got me on braking and now he was back into the lead. I decided to see if there was any chance of a draft pass coming off the east bank - and there was!! I was back in the lead as we crossed the start/finish line going into the last lap. Now my question was should I let Harry by and
then set him up for the draft pass before the finish line? Or should I just press on. For reasons that I don't even understand myself, I decided to just keep pressing on even though I was very concerned about Harry doing to me what I had just done to him on the previous lap. Or maybe another late braking move going into the chicane. I really expected to see Harry as I entered the chicane, but it didn't happen! Now I was REALLY concerned about a draft pass. I remember thinking that it sure would be great if I could use the old "weaving" trick, but that got banned a number of years ago. So all I could do was start out high on the bank and slowly work down to the bottom as we exited the bank and started the run for the finish line. Usually I can just "sense" when someone is right on my ass, even if I can't see them. But that feel was not there - then the finish line WAS!!
Turns out that Harry had made a bobble and dropped just far enough back that a draft pass was not possible.
And just to show that even an old man can rise to the occasion, my last lap was almost one second quicker then my earlier laps.
I don't know where that came from – must have been a gift from God!
AND AFTER 27 YEARS, MY DREAM FINALLY CAME TRUE!! I'M A DAYTONA WINNER!!
But wait!! My adventure wasn't over quite yet. We also had the BOT 2stroke race to run. We had ignition trouble in both out practice sessions. We thought we had found the problem after the last session. But during the warm up lap I found that the problem was still there. Since I was gridded on the inside
of the grid I decided to take my starting position knowing that I could stay low and not be a road block to the other riders behind me. Sure enough I quickly advanced to the rear of the pack as the ignition problem persisted. Then about three quarters of the way through the first lap all of a sudden she just chimed in and took off!! All of a sudden I had a real race bike between my legs - and boy did I take off!!! Even though I knew that a good finish was not possible, I kept pushing because I was riding really
well and having a great time. 'In other words, I was "in the zone"!
And I love being there!! Greatest feeling in the world!! Then as I entered the exit from the chicane to the bank on the sixth lap all of a sudden the rear tire just let go - and then caught!! Now I'm telling you what - I thought I had crashing and I was waiting
for the pain that was sure to follow! I thought for sure I was going to get an ambulance ride next!! The tank slapper of my life had just occurred! All of a sudden the bike settled down and I remember seeing my front wheel and green grass! I was still on the bike, by the grace of God, but mostly laying on top of it.
I don't know how I managed to get back into the saddle, but I did! I decided to re-enter the race only to discover that I was stuck in third gear due to the fact that my foot had completely jammed the shifter under the frame during the "slapper" Good
thing too, as we discovered later that the oil breather line from the gearbox had come loose and left copious amounts of gearbox oil in the fairing and all over the rear suspension. That's where the scariest tank slapper of my life came from!! Just enough oil got on my tyre, and that's all it took! I spent most of the rest of the day thanking God for looking after me!!
After all of this, the F500 event on my trusty TR3 was rather anticlimactic but here's what went on. I started in the fourth row and got a halfway decent start but I could see that Chris, Miyagi and Harry were quite a ways ahead by the time we started lap two. I was still getting the head shaking that's plagued my TR since last year, in the west banking, and quite frankly, it was frightening - so I opted to take it easy and not risk the farm when it was obvious that I was getting my ass kicked real good anyway! Chris won going away and Miyagi was second followed by Harry and then me! Hey, I got no complaints - fourth isn’t bad - what the hell - I've just had my best Daytona ever!!!
Know the old saying "been there - done that"? Well, I could never say that about a motorcycle win at Daytona.
Not in twenty seven years - till last Monday - now I can!! - I truly have been blessed by God!!
The Grey Fox.