(L to R)  Rob North and Gordon MenzieCorsa MotoClassica at Willow Springs, CA

Joe Michaud, photos & text


Willow Springs International Raceway was the first facility in
California built to duplicate actual road-racing conditions and has been in operation longer than any other “purpose-built” track in the US. Before its construction, any racing that could be considered “road” racing would have required the use of public roads with all the attendant dangers and risks. The two and a half mile road course at Willow was laid out on the rolling desert terrain in 1953 and originally featured an oiled dirt surface. Paved in the ‘60’s, it has since featured a myriad of famous racers from Hollywood-types like James Dean and Paul Newman to motorsports legends like Carroll Shelby.   In 1996, Willow Springs International Raceway was designated an Official California Point of Historical Interest and continues to be a great venue for racing on its four venues (including a new cart track.)

Photo (L to R)  Rob North and Gordon Menzie

WSIR is the site of Corsa MotoClassica, one of the most popular vintage racing venues on the AHRMA calendar. Yoshi Kosaka from the Garage Company in Los Angeles is responsible for this popular three day event.  Corsa features vintage racing, a swap meet, concours plus other festivities and was held on May 1, 2 and 3, 1998.

Practice on Friday and Saturday was split into four multi-class groups while racing on Sunday divided the field into thirteen events of eight laps each on the two and a half mile road course.  We arrived early on Friday and wandered the pits meeting old friends and new while practice went on around us.  

21K color image of Menzie's Rob North Beezumph, Right side Gordon Menzie (20x) was fielding a new Rob North Triple on its race debut  with Rob North's expert and well-seasoned help. We heard the machine run on Friday while they fettled out some minor details. After starting the machine on the rollers, North twiddled, hands concealed beneath  the fairing,  while most onlookers protected their ears from the sound of the unbaffled three-into-one mega. The Menzie pit was a busy place with Rob wrenching and Gordon riding the various bikes from his stable.  We were anxious to hear the as-yet untested Triple at speed.

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North makes most of the parts on these bikes, including milling the wheel hubs and fork nuts from billet as well as fabricating various bracketry and the headers.   The detail and craftsmanship inherent in Rob's  fabrications reflect the mechanical excellence that extends back to the factory race bikes born in his shop in the early ‘70’s.

21K color photo, Beezumph Rob has built 5 complete machines in recent years; the first  was commisioned by fellow San Diego Antique Motorcycle Club member Bob Ferguson.  Three of the bikes went to Australia. Bob and his wife Judy were in attendance at Corsa, although the Ferguson bike now resides in their living room as a "100 point" concours showbike with a link to racing lineage.

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Right side view, North Beezumph racer, 22K image Wandering the pits, we discovered an original Rob North BSA Rocket Three now owned by Fred Mork and ridden by Dave Russell.  Once campaigned by Jim Rice, this triple has been restored and is an immaculate piece of racing history. Hearing the two North machines howl up the long straight out of Turn Nine was an incredible auditory experience. Who wants ear plugs with this kind of music available?

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From Left, Rob North, Gordon Menzie, Don EmdeLeft to right: Master builder Rob North, owner  and rider Gordon Menzie and fellow San Diegan Don Emde (1973 Daytona winner on a 350 Yamaha;   Floyd Emde, his father, also won Daytona).

The bike pictured here appears to be a Manx Norton.  the van in the background sports a vintage BSA poster with a picture of DonVesco on his Carlsbad winning BSA A50 twin.

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Link to '98 Corsa, Page 2

 

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