R.I.P. Nicky Hayden

22 05 2017

With great sadness, Racing to the Red Light salutes American MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden.  Rest in peace, Nicky.  We are very sad to hear of your bicycle accident and passing.

We saw Nicky in person twice (saw, not met).  Once at the Laguna Seca MotoGP round back in 2008 or so (memories are hazy …) on the Saturday practice and qualifying day:

Nicky Hayden enters the infamous Corkscrew turn at Laguna Seca, in front of a Red Bull ad in the background featuring his likeness.

Nicky Hayden enters the infamous Corkscrew turn at Laguna Seca, in front of a Red Bull ad in the background featuring his likeness.


We also saw him once a year or two later down in Fontana at an A.M.A. race where his brother (can’t recall which) was racing.  Both times he seemed friendly and easygoing, as he did on camera on TV.


Hayden was a world-class motorcycle roadracer and dirt tracker.  He won the MotoGP World Championship title in 2006.  Nicky was the first American to win the title since Kenny Roberts Jr. won in 2000, who was himself the first in seven years, when an American dominance last reigned in the premier class.

Our hearts go out to Nicky’s fiancee, family and friends.  What a terrible loss.  He seemed like a great guy, and it is especially sad as the world seems to be lacking in great people these days.

RIP Nick – far too young. 1981 – 2017

Nicky Hayden with American flag riding helmetless, after clinching the 2008 MotoGP World Championship aboard his Repsol Honda grand prix motorcycle

2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden

Superbike Planet

Another from SBP with some nice remembrances

Easter Bunny on Motorcycle Gets a Talking To

3 04 2013

The LA Times and KTLA had this gem:


easter bunny on a motorcycle getting a ticket

Super Sic #58

25 10 2012


Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of MotoGP motorcycle racer, Marco Simoncelli.  He died in a tragic, freak accident during last year’s MotoGP round at the Sepang racetrack in Malaysia.  What should have been a routine fall and slide to safety instead turned horrific as his bike’s tires regained traction after he had fallen off and become entangled with part of the bike,drawing him back into the path of riders behind him.

Simoncelli was quite a racer. In his too-brief time on Earth, I viewed him at first as a reckless and dangerous rider, but then began to see him get ahold of his talent, understand that to be a winning rider he has to stay in the bike (i.e. not crash out) and finish races.


He manned up and apologized to other riders that he crashed into. He internalized the criticism and made himself a better rider because of it – unlike what some other riders have historically done – and seemingly was making progress towards a potential championship season, one of these years.


I came to be a fan of Marco’s. He was fast – so fast! – and every race he participated in was guaranteed to have some excitement, #58-style. He was bold, really almost brazenly so, he would pass other riders in parts of the track deemed impossible by the TV commentators.  And he did it as a giant among diminutive men, at six feet tall he was easily recognizable even in his leathers and helmet.


Besides his impressive skills with a race bike, the other, main reason I came to like Simoncelli was the praise for him that was echoed from various corners of the motorcycle roadracing world, from fans who all said that no matter when and where they found Marco and asked for a picture or autograph, he was more than happy to oblige, to his competitors who said that while he was a demon on the track, he was one of the nicest people you’d likely ever meet.

He was rarely observed without his big hair and trademark smile:


And in our hyper-politically correct world, and particularly in his weird world of the very top echelon of professional motorcycle racing, Marco was a standout personality – a guy with opinions on things, events and people, unafraid to speak his mind. Sometimes this made certain people upset, and frequently it made for great entertainment – something that is very much lacking these days in world-class professional motorbike racing these days.

Many other, infinitely more qualified people have written some great tributes to Marco over the past year. Guys like world champion Kevin Schwantz, who was friends with Marco and knew him well.

Moto-journalist Julian Ryder had a great article.

And Superbike Planet has many tributes and even some family vacation photos up.

Most of the pictures here are Brian Nelson’s.

MotoGP, and the world overall, is so much the worse off without Marco Simoncelli.  Big, bright personalities sometime burn hot and far too quickly.

Ciao Marco “Super Sic” Simoncelli – gone but not forgotten.


Laguna Seca MotoGP

31 07 2012

Last weekend was the Laguna Seca round of the MotoGP World Championship.

Two great pictures, courtesy Cycle News:


MotoGP on Lombard Street

That is a publicity shot of a Grand Prix bike being ridden down San Francisco’s famous Lombard Street, the twistiest street in the West.


And here is American rider Nicky Hayden’s helmet for this round – notice the chin area.

Jerez from the Air

4 05 2012


From this past weekend’s MotoGP round in Jerez, Spain.  Thanks to SuperbikePlanet.com for the image.

Ride the Pony

13 03 2012

Now THIS is a cool advertisement:


Racers and Rental Cars

7 02 2012


Superbike Planet is one of the very few websites that I read on an everyday basis.  It is a motorcycle roadracing focused website, and I really admire several things about their style, attitude and philosophy on reporting. 

They aren’t afraid to pepper their articles with a little bit of opinion, which in the straight-forward, general journalism sense would usually be a no-no.  Partly because I generally share their views on many racing matters (such as the disasterous takeover of AMA Pro Roadracing series by the DMG), and partly because the stakes are frankly lower in reporting on racing news, I think it’s OK that they spice things up a bit.

The other thing I really love about the site, and Dean Adams, its editor in chief as far as I know, is the massive historical perspective they bring to the table. For people like me who haven’t grown up with racing in the family, even in a spectator sense, the stories and anecdotes are very informative and entertaining.

Here is a great example of what I’m talking about. Evidently there is some truth to the myth that racers are tough on things like rental cars. In this story, they talk about how one AMA superbike team went to a racetrack in Texas for an off-season test of the equipment.

Arriving at the track, they found that “a thick layer of Texas dust” had settled on the track surface after months of disuse, making it dangerous to ride the motorcycles because the dust reduces the traction that the motorcycles’ tires are able to get.

Usually when this happens, there are specialized blower trucks that they drive around the track, that help blow debris (and sometimes water) off the track. Evidently they didn’t have those trucks at the facility that day, so they began driving their rental cars on-track, to help remove the dust.

Being racers as they were, things soon got competitive and then spiraled out of control from there. As Soup puts it:

“The automobiles, which were newer sports cars and luxury vehicles (other than the mini-van) when they were rented (with the full and optional insurance, mind you) simply and quickly began to disintegrate. Designed to haul Joe America from his house to his job each day on a sedate expressway,the machines were way out of their element traveling at 130mph, with severe G forces pushing against them.

In this test [that] one the editors from Consumer Reports could only dream about, parts failure skyrocketed. One nearly brand new machine became a creaking, frame bent, tires rubbing against the fenders, seat belts sacked out from trying to hold the driver (and his passenger) in the seat against the G forces, doors won’t open, now the dash is loose too, machine, ready for the scrap yard, in less than thirty minutes, without ever touching the wall or another automobile.”

Robert Edison Fulton, Jr. – Inventor and Adventurer

16 12 2011

In one of my typical research side-trips, I came across this fellow, Robert Fulton, Jr. I originally was going to post about his novel surface-to-air extraction system (below), but I quickly found that Fulton himself was quite an interesting guy; an adventurous type, he rode a motorcycle around the world based on a glib comment (from him) at a dinner party:

At a dinner party at his friends’ house, a young woman asked him if he would be sailing home soon.

He answered: “No, I am going around the world on a motorcycle.” Robert Fulton would say for the rest of his life that he had no idea why he said such a thing.

He rode a Douglas motorcycle, fitted with extra gas tanks, lots of luggage (for water and supplies), and “common automobile tires” to enable him to find spares and make repairs more easily abroad. He travelled from England through France, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Greece. Eventually he ended up in Damascus and rode through the Syrian desert to Baghdad.

He rode sixteen kilometers on the road out of Damascus. Then he saw a sign showing the way toward Baghdad. It was here that the road ended. In front of him was the great desert. Robert Fulton was alone for most of the trip. He worried about his motorcycle. If the engine failed, he could die of lack of water before anyone could find him. He could fall off and break a leg or arm. The severe heat could kill him. But the motorcycle did not fail him. He survived the fierce heat. He arrived safely in Baghdad.

(Quote courtesy of: http://www.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/a-23-2009-01-13-voa1-83141307.html )

He ended up going through Afghanistan, India, Vietnam, China, Malaysia and Japan, took a ship to San Francisco, and rode cross-country to New York. Now that’s quite a trip even today, with modern motorcycles and equipment (and support infrastructure along the way, modern roads, etc.). Imagine that kind of trip in 1932!

His grandfather was ran stagecoach passages through the Old West, in the post-Civil War days, which ended up becoming the Greyhound Bus Lines, later when his uncle took over the business.

He died in 2004 at age 95. Here’s a great interview the NY Times did with him in March of 2000.

Fulton surface-to-air recovery system –STARS

During the Cold War, the U.S. military and CIA decided they needed a way to retrieve people and cargo from the ground, using an airplane, without actually landing the aircraft. Basically, they anticipated a need to retrieve people (like spies) from the ground who are out of helicopter range (which can obviously remain airborne with no horizontal velocity, and don’t require an airstrip to land).

Beginning in the early 1950’s, Robert Fulton devised this extraction system – what was later termed STARS for Surface-to-Air Recovery System.

Basically, on the ground the person (or cargo) wears a harness, attached by a long rope to a weather balloon. The balloon is set adrift, and an airplane with a special rig on the nose, wings and cargo compartment flies into the rope (beneath the balloon), and snags the person or cargo on the ground. The person being lifted gets a “swift kick in the pants” as I read somewhere, as they become airborne and begin “flying” behind the aircraft, which then uses a winch to reel them in. Sounds terrifying if you ask me!

See it in action below.





MC-130 pickup:

Cargo pickup:

It was even featured in a James Bond movie, Thunderball, at the end: