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 still has.

Tam and Dann, thanks for awakening some great memories."

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