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Motor Racing : Tougher Licensing Needed, Not Ban on Hot Bikes, Says Race Instructor

September 10, 1987|Shav Glick

How would you like to be able to tell a couple of hundred motorcycle officers how to ride a motorcycle? No, not where to go. Just how to ride.

Keith Code, a former racer who conducts the California Superbike School, gets that opportunity once a year when he prepares policemen from 15 countries for the Race of Nations, a 30-mile road race at Willow Springs Raceway that is part of the International Police Olympics.

"These guys ride all the time, but they can always use a little race track preparation," Code said. "All of the race track techniques have an exact application on the street, so it can't help but help them. We hold a course one day for the American riders and another day for the foreigners. Then they go at it in the Race of Nations."

This year's race will be Sunday, Oct. 4, with all riders on equally prepared Kawasaki Ninja 600s from Code's school. Qualifying on Oct. 2 will pare the entry list from more than 100 riders down to 20. Defending champion is Rick Williams, an Arizona highway patrolman.

"The teaching we do for the officers is essentially the same as we do for our regular students," Code said. "The gist of it is to stress the idea that riders think about what they're doing and to use their heads to control the hand that controls the throttle."

Especially on bikes that will run 160 m.p.h.

Code's school, which started at Riverside and Willow Springs, has expanded into a traveling circus that stops at just about every road race track in the country. Since he opened the school in 1980, Code has graduated 16,000 students from 14 different tracks.

"Most of the students come to us as competent street riders and we put them through what amounts to a finishing school," he said. They come in all ages, from 18 to 74, with the average being a 28-year-old male. "At first it was nearly all men, but in the last couple of years there have been a lot more women.

"We are seeing a terrific resurgence in road racing at the amateur level. What this means is that it is getting riders off the streets and on to the track to do their racing."

Code takes issue with Sen. John C. Danforth (R-Missouri), who recently introduced a bill that would ban the sale of high performance motorcycles in the interest of individual and highway safety.

"The marketing of these bikes is a lesson in corporate irresponsibility," Danford said in introducing the bill. He pointed out that 4,700 individuals were killed in accidents in 1985 involving motorcycles.

"What Sen. Danforth did not say," Code said, "was that this number was down 5% from the previous year and that 50% of all motorcycle accidents are caused by automobile drivers invading the cyclist's right of way. "The manufacturers try to spur interest with technology, and now the senator wants to deny them that. I know that I would rather be on a 1987 model cycle if I was in trouble, and out of shape, than on a 1970 model. You would have a much better chance of staying on the machine and working out of the trouble on a newer model."

Code, who has written two books on riding, "A Twist of the Wrist" and "The Soft Science of Road Racing Motorcycles," sees the problem as not one of super-fast bikes, but one of training and licensing.

"It is so easy to get a motorcycle license it is ridiculous. In England and Japan a rider has to really know how to ride to get a license. He is tested with observers all around the course and is put through a stringent test.

"Over here, in most states, all you need do is show an ability to start the machine, get it moving at a slow speed and turn it around. You can even take your test on a little 125cc bike and then ride off on a high horsepower superbike with 1000cc. It's not rare for a guy to go down to a dealer--who has no responsibility for the buyer--and get a high horsepower bike and not make it home without an accident. More often that not it's when he meets a 3,000-pound automobile at an intersection and he doesn't know to handle it.. That wouldn't happen if it were more difficult to obtain a license in the first place."

MOTORCYCLES--An all-Southern California team entered by Vance & Hines Motorcycle Centers set a national 24-hour record by riding 2,150 miles on a Suzuki 750 in winning the Western Eastern Roadracing Assn. endurance road race last weekend at Willow Springs Raceway. Riders were Dennis Smith, Torrance; Peter Carroll, Costa Mesa; Mitch Boehm, Panorama City; Nick Ienatsch, Panorama City; Steve Cardillo, Long Beach; Richard Moore, Whittier; and Dave Zirkle, Lomita. They averaged 89.58 m.p.h. to better the year-old record of 2,085 miles for 24 hours. It was the third win in a row for the Vance & Hines team, which led almost all the way after the early leader, Team Suzuki, lost an hour in an engine change and then dropped out. Former two-time national superbike champion Wes Cooley made a successful return to racing after a two-year layoff with injuries before the Suzuki team quit the race.

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