ROSAMOND, CA -- October 14, 2003 -- Kenny Eggers, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey; three Motorcycle Hall of Fame recipients spanning the half century of Willow Springs existence will serve as Grand Marshals of the track's gala 50th Anniversary ...
ROSAMOND, CA -- October 14, 2003 -- Kenny Eggers, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey; three Motorcycle Hall of Fame recipients spanning the half century of Willow Springs existence will serve as Grand Marshals of the track's gala 50th Anniversary Weekend, October 17th through 19th.
Kenny Eggers, the first person ever to win a motorcycle race at Willow Springs in the early 50's will bring a historical perspective to the celebrations. Eggers, a native Californian, learned to ride at 12 and continues to restore classic cycles. He paid $40 for his first bike, which soon led to a job at a local San Jose motorcycle shop and after a stint in the army, to serious racing.
Eggers cut his teeth riding with the "San Jose Bunch" headed by hill climbing legend Sam Arena. Throughout the 50's Eggers made a name for himself as a determined and knowledgeable racer. In 1954, Eggers raced in the AMA Grand National Series that included a stop at a new track in the California desert -- Willow Springs.
"The track was quite crude in its early days, the racing surface wasn't pavement, it was oiled dirt," recalls Eggers. "Cars had been using it before our race and it was pretty rough."
Despite the conditions and a flooded carburetor at the start, Eggers endurance experience paid off as he quickly worked his way through the field to win his place in Willow Springs history.
Eggers and his wife Kaye, live in San Jose where he continues to tinker with motorcycles. His current project: restoring his original bike to racing condition.
Four time 500cc World Champion Eddie Lawson has been riding since the age of seven and was racing by age 12.
"We rode tracks like Corona and Ascot, and I didn't do very well," admits Lawson. But by the early '70's he was dominating SoCal dirt tracks.
As the decade wound down, Eddie shifted to road circuits and by age 20 was considered one of the top contenders in West Coast club racing. The early '80's saw Lawson become a star on the superbike circuit while also dominating AMA's 250GP series, where he won two straight national championships.
In 1983, Lawson went international, racing for Yamaha on the GranPrix circuit. It was a difficult time. "I was away from home for the first time, I wasn't having much success and at the time wondered what I had gotten myself into" Eddie admits.
But the 1984 season was markedly different. Lawson began winning -- a lot. He won the 1984 World Championship, his first of four such titles over the next decade. By the end of the 1992 season, Eddie has scored a total of 31 victories in GP racing. In 1990 Lawson won Japan's prestigious Suzuka Eight Hour race with teammate Tadahiko Taira and won the 1993 Daytona 200.
Today, Lawson lives in Lake Havasu, Arizona.
Motorcycle Hall of Fame recipient, Wayne Rainey also got an early start to his racing career. Born on October 23, 1960, Rainey grew up in a racing family. By the time he was six, Wayne was riding a Honda 50cc minibike. Within three years he was racing on amateur and junior dirt tracks and by age 18 had turned pro.
After a rocky rookie season, Rainey earned six top-ten finishes in 1980 and the following year won the novice 250 GP in Loudon, New Hampshire. In '82 Rainey moved up to Superbike class and teamed with former rival Eddie Lawson. He finished his rookie Superbike season in third place after teammate Lawson and Mike Baldwin.
His second season on the big bikes proved even more fulfilling with his six wins allowing him to best Baldwin's points total for the championship.
In 1987, Rainey won his second Superbike title, in a season-long battle between himself and Kevin Schwantz. 1988 brought Wayne new kudos as he competed in the 500cc class, earning a World Championship victory in Donington Park England.
But after a decade of racing professionally, Rainey was just coming into his prime. For the next 3 years straight, ('90,' 91, and '92) he won world titles with 24 wins in world championship races.
The 1993 season looked just as promising until a crash at Misano, Italy sidelined the champion for the remainder of the season. Back in '94, he headed up his own racing team and continued to be active on the circuit until 1998.
Rainey calls Monterey, California home. He and fellow grand marshal Eddie Lawson continue to compete on the track today -- now days in superkarts, those go-carts on steroids that top out at 150 mph.
Just like Willow Springs itself, they show no signs of slowing down.