My brother, Tip McPartland,
adds his memories of
racing motorcycles at
Vaca Valley Raceway
"What a treat to realize that the Vacaville
track is still there. It was kind of like a poor man's Riverside
with that great long front straight, a somewhat banked "oval track" turn,
some tight switchbacks and a long run of esses. Only the tight turns
were before the esses at Vacaville and after the esses at Riverside.
Also the oval track turn wasn't as banked, but it was still very fast.
It was a nice layout but the, uh, "pavement" was very poorly maintained.
It seemed acceptable as a racetrack only because Cotati was even worse
and Sears Point didn't exist yet. By the way, does anyone know if
the Cotati track has been plowed under yet?
It was the first track on which I ever
raced a motorcycle, Carey Rossiter's Honda 350. It was an enduro
race that lasted hours, I can't remember if it was two hours or six or
what, but it was a long time to ride fast. Carey crashed a couple
of times and sadly had unzipped the sleeves of his leathers to stay cool
and his forearms were injured pretty badly, so we DNF'd. Later I
co-rode in another enduro with Jack McCornack on a Suzuki 750 Water Buffalo
to a third or fourth place finish in our class.
During this era (early '70s) the track
had very poor pavement. On one of the "ess" bends, I think the left
where the road course is tangential to the oval's back straight, there
was a pothole that was so bad that they had to put a rubber traffic cone
in front of it to warn the riders away. And of course the pavement
had been weathering for so long that if you went off the relatively clean
pavement of the racing line you were in the marbles in a big way and were
probably either power sliding or crashing.
Speaking of crashing, I had my first
over-100-mph get-off there on my Bultaco Metrella. I had the bike
pretty dialed and was looking to win the race, but as we were flagged off
it started hailing. Yes, the weather there can be unpredictable.
Scores of bikes were sliding off the track and crashing as a road covered
with ball bearings made of ice is not motorcycle friendly. This helped
me to get up to second place rather quickly as the Metrellas were really
light and handled beautifully, hence you could save a slide that would
be a crash on a Japanese twin like a Suzuki Hustler.
Target fixating on the leader, I was
closing in as we got toward the end of the main straightaway. But
at perhaps 110-115 mph, the Bultaco's engine seized which was not a terribly
uncommon event on a Spanish two-stroke road racer. Sure, my finger
was wrapped around the clutch lever, and sure, I freed up the rear wheel,
but by then the bike was far too sideways to recover. I blacked out
from pure terror but when I came to I was relatively unhurt. I did
have an audible clunk in my left hip when I walked for awhile, but that
went away some time later after a visit to our chiropractor Dr. Jarvis.
An event or two later I won my first
race there on the Bultaco. It was, at that point in time, easily
the fastest 250cc. production bike in California, and man, did I love riding
that thing -- even at Vacaville. We also have some choice 8mm footage
of Tor (McPartland) on Vacaville's turn two getting really sideways on
his Metrella -- my first one and always the best handling one which he
Tam and Dann, thanks for awakening some
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