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HIGH LIFE : It's Full Speed Ahead for Three Motorcyclists

July 09, 1988|TRICIA WERTNER | Tricia Wertner, who will be a junior at Edison High School in the fall, will serve as editor of the school's yearbook--The Oracle--and as a statistics girl in basketball. She also enjoys cruising down Pacific Coast Highway with her friends

Speedway racing is a type of motorcycle racing that is a little left of center.

Unlike motocross racing, where riders pilot their bikes over all sorts of cross-country terrain, speedway racing takes place on an oval track on motorcycles that have no gears and no brakes, and cannot make right-hand turns.

But that's OK, because left is the only turn that is necessary, and the last thing a speedway rider wants to do is slow down.

For Trinon Cirello, Bobby Cody and Greg Hancock, speedway racing offers life in the fast lane. The three are Orange County teen-agers competing in a sport in which the average age is 22 1/2.

Cirello, 17, will be a senior at Newport Harbor High School this fall. He has been racing speedway motorcycles for seven years.

"My dad took me to the races a long time ago--when I was 8 or 9," he said. "I just asked for a speedway bike for Christmas, and I got it."

Cirello learned to ride on a motorcycle with a 200-cubic-centimeter engine, moved up to the junior division and a 260-cc. engine, and now races professionally on a bike with a 500-cc. engine.

Riders normally must be 18 to ride professionally, but they may obtain a court document that waives the rights of a child under the age of 18 and of his parents or legal guardian to sue a race promoter in case of an accident.

Rising insurance costs for track promoters prompted them to end the junior speedway program in 1986 and increase the minimum riding age of Division I and support class riders from 16 to 18.

The court document allows under-aged riders to compete in speedway, which features weekly stops at race tracks in San Bernardino, Gardena, Costa Mesa and Victorville. The season begins in April and concludes with the U.S. Championships at the Orange County Fairgrounds in October.

Injuries are an accepted part of speedway racing, and so far Cirello has suffered a broken foot, rib and finger.

Another inevitable part of racing is expenses. Competing on the speedway circuit--with money needed for tires, bikes, fuel and mechanics' and entry fees--can cost upward of $25,000 per season. To help meet expenses, riders obtain sponsors. Their brightly embroidered patches and decals can be seen on their leather racing uniforms and helmets.

Once on the track, Cirello's strategy is to break out of the pack as early as the first turn.

"If you get behind on the first lap, it's hard to catch up," he said. "It's a lot easier to lead a race than to come from behind."

One area where speedway racers rarely fall behind is in catching the eye of the opposite sex.

Cirello admits to getting a lot of attention from girls, who, he said, follow him around at the track because "they think it's kinda cool that I race."

But Cirello has a girlfriend, Susie Jawor, a 17-year-old graduate of Newport Harbor who attends Orange Coast College. Cirello said that Jawor attends many of his races but that "she gets nervous and doesn't want to watch."

Cirello's immediate plans are to get in as much water and snow skiing, motocross riding and surfing as possible between trips to the track. Once he is out of high school, he hopes to enroll in junior college and eventually transfer to a four-year school.

His long-range plans include competing in speedway for two more years, then to start racing Indy cars.

Another new face in speedway's professional division is 17-year-old Bobby Cody.

Cody's interest in motorcycles can be traced to his father, "Wild" Bill Cody, who was a famous rider on the speedway scene in the '70s.

Bobby Cody is in his first year at the professional level. Just a couple of weeks ago, he was moved up to the second division because he was winning his third-division main events so handily. His goal this year is to reach Division I status.

Cody said the attraction he finds in racing is "the speed, the thrill of the speed and the fact that the bikes have no brakes . . . all that power you control."

Or try to.

Competing in the junior division two years ago, Cody had an accident in which he suffered a broken thigh bone. It took him nearly a year to heal, and since then, both his parents have tried to discourage him from racing--without success.

"I'm very proud of him," Bill Cody said of his son. "I just don't want him to be as involved (in speedway) as I used to be. He should explore other avenues, not be as one-sided like I was. I never had the opportunities Bobby has. Speedway will make it easier for him."

Top riders can earn as much as $1,500 a week, but most beginning riders struggle to cover their costs.

For Bobby Cody, speedway racing will most likely remain a hobby. He limits his racing to the summer months and refuses to let his motorcycle interfere with his social life or schoolwork.

At Dana Hills High School, where he will be a senior this fall, Cody has lettered in swimming and played water polo his freshman year. He also tries to make time in his schedule--which includes a job in the meat department of a grocery store--for water skiing and jet skiing.

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