The sun peaks up over the well-manicured Barber Sports park lawn in the southern city of Leeds, AL. It's 7am. The silence, along with those who are camped here, is rudely awoken by the echoing sounds coming from this restricted area. Many who make the journey to this track each year witness the blinding speeds of the racers as they wind their way through the impossible turns, but there's more to this scene that is rarely seen. It's why we're here at the crack of dawn, at the crack of the first motor. After sourcing the only cup of coffee we could find from the lonely gas station that sits near the entrance of the park, GSCo. Founder Chris Logsdon navigates his way through Tier 2 of the racers pits to find our good friend Stacie B. London (also know as TripleNickel555) and her faithful sidekick Smokey. Careful to keep the conversation to a minimum, we watch the preparation of the racer, physically and mentally, for the day's races. - GSCo.
CL: Barber 2016 - what were the highlights for you?
SBL: I wasn’t originally planning to go to Barber last year but thankfully at the last minute my plans did come together. Getting from the West coast to the East coast is expensive and requires pre-planning, two things that I was caught short on. At the 11th hour Ari Henning had to back out, which opened up a sacred spot in the van with Stephen and Kevin Hipp from the legendary racing family 2HippRacing. The father/son duo was making the journey from California to Alabama together and offered to take 555. From the first moment I laid eyes on the illustrious Hipp Family’s pit at Corsa Motoclassica 2010, I’ve admired the exuberant methodology and mysterious acumen that seemed intangible. One of the highlights of Barber 2016 was having the opportunity to pit with 2HippRacing. It felt like Smokey and I had been admitted into an illusive inner circle of vintage racing, and felt comfortable and supported.
Rather than fly into the small airport of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, which can get pricey because there are fewer flights. It turned out it was penny-wise to fly into Jackson, Mississippi, which also allowed for some quality time with our Mississippi racing family, Kim and Steve Sharp (thespeedstable) and their three daughters, who were also planning to drive in. Steve and I have had some good and close battles on the track in the past and last year was par for the course. When your friends are upping their game just to gun you down, you and your equipment really need to be on point in order to stay in the game. Everyone starts the weekend with high hops and goals for the weekend, mine was to race hard, laugh hard, and complete my racing program of four races with the rubber-side down.
Barber 2016 was also the last event my good friend and mentor Ron Perconti would attend; he passed away in his sleep the night he returned home from Barber. There are so many ups and downs on any given race weekend and the bonds that form from going through them together is unique and profound. Racing these vintage machines attracts some real characters with encyclopedia amounts of stories and knowledge. There is magic in the paddock as we all work hard together to get our bikes onto the track, after the races we play and laugh even harder, and the stories and sharing of knowledge goes on into the wee hours of the night. Barber 2016 was no different, but it is the last one we will have with Ron. So I’m very grateful to have these memories and others that I would have missed had I not made the pilgrimage to Barber 2016.
CL: What goes thru your mind before you race?
SBL: Before I race my mind slows down and I stop thinking in words. Language begins to slip away and transforms to feelings and impulses. Motion around me crystallizes and my senses intensify so that I’m even more aware of the sound my breath and the beat of my heart. Acute focus consumes me as first call clicks to second clicks to third as I complete the final preparations, jump on and 555 starts up with a roar, and we head in the direction of the other rumblers, waiting to enter the track. As I complete my warm-up lap and approach the grid the rhythm of the engine oscillating as my hand pulses the throttle keeping the engine primed helping to contain the adrenaline that’s coursing. Waiting for the flag to drop is a delicate balance between the complete saturation from the buzz and resisting the compulsion to let the acceleration and the power of the moment consume you. This threshold of tension is a golden moment, when all the elements are charging together, your heart is pounding in your ears to the vibrations of the engine underneath and all around you, and all you can do is force your breathing to slow down and focus on the flag about to drop, and then everything goes silent and then full blast.
CL: Can you walk us thru your pre-race rituals?
SBL: My pre-race rituals start as soon as I complete my last race of the weekend. As soon as I come off the track, I’m already thinking of what I need to do before I get back on. That’s how all-consuming racing is. As soon as I’ve completed my racing program for the weekend, I dump the oil from the bike and give it a rub down. Cleaning the bike not only makes it look nice but it also allows me to see where oil leaks might be, see if anything has come loose, is broken, or come off, and let’s me know what needs to be done once we get home to the shop. It’s way nicer to do prep at the shop than in the pit. Often working on the bike in the paddock is unavoidable, but it’s still nice to try.
Once back at the track, its nice to have certain foods and drinks that help get the body and mind ready for the competition. Everyone has their own rituals, but I like getting up early and walking around the paddock while everyone is still asleep. Getting my blood flow going in my body helps me to wake up and get my head in the game.
If I have a bicycle at the track then it’s also really nice to ride around with the sun still rising and watching the track wake up. I’m nervous before races, so eating light for me is key and then getting in my leathers so I am ready for the first round of practice. Practice starts at 8am sharp so often the first round is empty and its incredible to have the track to yourself while you’re still trying to wake up. I really look forward to Saturday morning practice, with all the anticipation and excitement and a full weekend of racing still in front of us.
CL: How does the Barber track compare to others?
SBL: As we all know, racing at any track any day of the week is always a great day. One of the coolest things about AHRMA is that it’s a national circuit that races at some of the best tracks in the country. I've had the opportunity to race at Willow Springs, Sonoma (Sears Point), Utah (Miller), Road America, Grattan, New Orleans Raceway, New Jersey Motorsports and Barber. With other clubs I've raced at Chuckwalla, Adams, have done two 24-hr endurance races at the Willow Springs Go-Cart Track, and even got in a few laps at Laguna Seca with my BMW on the Quail Ride. However, racing at Barber Motorsports Park is an extraordinary experience.
If Barber Motorsports was only a 17-turn track with a perfectly maintained surface through a woodland landscape interwoven with sculptures and modern architecture, it would be super cool. If Barber Motorsports was only an event that attracted a few hundred people instead of the 80,000 spectators, it would be super cool. If Barber Motorsports was only an event where the grids included a few of your racing family instead of the 50 that all race towards turn 1 together, it would be super cool. If Barber Motorsports was only a fun and technical track with both long straights so everyone gets up to speed and tight corners that are challenging for the small bikes instead of also including the largest vintage motorcycle museum in the world, it would still be super cool.
If Barber Motorsports was only attended by a few east coast friends that its nice to catch up with once a year, instead of all the folks that make the pilgrimage from Canada, Europe, and Nationally, it would still be super cool. Barber Motorsports is an incredible track, however once all the other factors are added up it equals a bar none racing experience on and off the track. Barber Vintage Festival is difficult to describe because the experience is so unique and individual, however the energy is intoxicating and impressive. It’s impossible and unfair to compare it.
CL: We've been keeping an eye on your Instagram feed and noticed you wrenching on a particular Harley. Can you let us in on the secret?
SBL: I am beginning my LSR program for the 2017 race season. Last year after winning Lady Road Racer of the Year it seemed like the perfect time to put my road racing on pause in order to start my land speed record hunt. Focusing on land speed racing with the SCTA (Southern California Timing Association) also means that can get in a little more action with the Bultaco and flat track. As a national circuit AHRMA Road Racing can be an enormous time commitment if you let it and will absorb as much as you gladly give it, until it slowly gobbles up all your “free” time. STCA starting in May competes once a month at El Mirage Dry Lake. So I’m looking forward to only racing once a month and only traveling 1.5hrs in order to do it. Then in August is Speed Week at Bonneville Salt Flats and my salt fever is already brewing.
I’ve been going to SCTA events for the past four years and helping on Ralph Hudson’s LSR team. After last season when Ralph became the fastest sit on motorcycle at El Mirage (and probably the world) with his 266mph record, we had time to take a serious look at the rulebook to determine which class and bike to begin my LSR record chase. The 250 Push Rod classes seemed like the best bet and a 250 Aermacchi (Harley Davidson) fit the bill. After scouring the interwebs, talking to Aermacchi racers and builders across the country, and getting the word out, I found the perfect bike and I discovered I only needed to drive to San Francisco to a friend’s garage to acquire it. It’s so great when a plan comes together.
I did not know, but as it turns out, another very fast racer and good friend Jim Hoogerhyde also has a fondness for these obscure Harley Davidson Italian imports, and even has LSR records with an Aermacchi. Once Ralph told Jim that I was after one, all bets were off. Jim had sold his stock of “Small Harleys” to a mutual friend and fellow 160 racer John Regan in order to invest into his expanding LSR racing program. A few texts and emails later and it was ascertained that John was happy about making room in his garage for other projects as long as the bike was going to the right home, which it clearly was. So a deal was struck for the 1967 Harley Davidson (Aermacchi) 250 Sprint SS.
Below are a series of shots taken by Kel Pritchard, Christopher Wood and Jean Laughton of Stacie aboard her vintage 250 Aermacchi where she was only 1.4mph away from the record held at el Mirage. See more of Stacie by following her on Instagram at @triplenickel555.