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Doug Polen: King of Club Racers : Texas Motorcycle Racer Will Compete Today at Riverside

October 11, 1987|TOM HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

Doug Polen, the premier road racer on the national club circuit, cracked open his fortune cookie, found the piece of paper stuffed into the stale cookie and read the prophesy to those sitting around the table.

"Your income will increase," Polen said. "I like that. I like that a lot."

Polen's fortune cookie could not have been more accurate. In only two years, the Denton, Tex. native has earned $260,000 competing in the Suzuki National Cup Championship series and in the American Motorcycle Assn.'s Superbike series.

Polen has earned more money than any privateer (nonfactory supported) rider in the history of motorcycle racing and figures to add to his earnings today in the Suzuki series season finale at Riverside International Raceway.

Polen is entered in the 750cc and open class races where he will compete against 64 of the country's top club racers. The event concludes a 112-race series in which riders competed on "showroom stock" Suzuki GSX-R 750 and GSX-R 1100cc motorcycles.

Club racing is the training ground for professional road racers such as Eddie Lawson, Freddie Spencer, Kenny Roberts and Randy Mamola. The top road racers in the world compete on a European circuit where crowds average 100,000.

"That's the ultimate," Polen said. "My goal is to compete on the world circuit within four years."

A lofty goal, but then Polen has made quite an impact in the motorcycle world in only two years.

"I quit racing in 1983 because I wasn't making a dime riding," he said. "It wasn't feasible to drive cross country, spend a couple of hundred dollars to race and not get anything in return.

"There was no pay back to the riders in club racing. It wasn't worth the effort so I didn't ride for nearly three years."

When Suzuki announced plans in 1986 to revive club racing with $1 million boost in purses, advertising, contingency programs and endorsements, the Japanese-manufacturer added new life to a dead sport.

Riders would compete for $285,000 in a regional series. Polen won 41 of 48 races, was named the series 750cc national champion and earned $100,000.

This year, Polen has divided his time between the cup series and the AMA Superbike series. He has won 20 of 26 races in the cup series and finished fourth in the Superbike series, the best finish of any privateer rider.

"The first year, I competed in 50 races in 12 states and put 80,000 miles on my van," Polen said. "Sometimes, I went by myself. I did all the driving, prepared three bikes, raced, and then drove back home.

"What kept me going? I won 45 of 50 races. I attracted some new sponsors. I was able to buy a new home with my purse earnings. That's what kept me going."

Polen could add another $15,000 in purse earnings today with victories in the 750cc and open class races. Among his top rivals is Iain Pero, a 24-year-old from New Zealand, who currently lives in La Habra. Pero was the regional champion in Northern California for both classes.

Another top rider is James Domay, a 24-year-old from Sylmar. Domay is a former motocross rider who switched to road racing this year and won the 750cc class in the Southern California region.

Four rounds of qualifying were held Saturday.

The 750cc class race is scheduled today for noon and the open class race will follow. Both races will be 18 laps on Riverside's 2.62-mile course.

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