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That's Italian!

PIR Holds It's Annual Italian Day

By Simon-Pierre Smith

With the Oregon Motorcycle Road Racing Association, just about every race day has a theme. 

For BMW day, the crowds go for 1,000 mile rides before getting to the track. They then strut around the pits showing off their electric clothing. 

Above/left: Brent Prindle on an Aprilia. Real Italian race bikes have scratches.

On Triumph day the fans have a big breakfast of "bangers and eggs" before heading to the track, where they complain that it doesn't hold a candle to Donnington, Snetterton, or The Isle of Man. 

On vintage day, if the riders make it to the track without breaking down, they tour the pits admiring new chrome on old machines. Some wander off to the swap meet to see how much rusty junk can be purchased for $10.

The most popular theme day, the day for those who ride hard or just pose hard, is Italian Day. Held in the pleasant sun of August 17 this year, the crowds cruised in on well polished hardware. They were dazzling in their carbon fiber splendor, all riding machines ending in I, A or O. In the pits are riders rich enough to afford replica Ducati Superbike leathers. On the track are racers fast enough to need them. There are spectators young enough to think MV Agusta is a new brand and others old enough to have watched Giacomo Agostini race. Great lengths are taken to give the day an Italian feel. The Italian flag flies alongside the US and Canadian flags. The corner workers are given a lunch of spaghetti and meatballs with lasagna. In the pits, an area is cordoned off for exclusive Italian bike parking. It feels as if one is floating in a sea of sand cast and polished swingarms.

Above: Chris Kerber's nicely prepped Aermacchi 350.

The local big name dealer, Ron Tonkin, brings out a slew of new Ducatis, MV Agustas, and Aprilias for the crowds to drool over.

At lunchtime the Italian bikes are released onto the track for a parade lap. First the scooters are sent out with the ripping hum of Vespas, Lambrettas, Aprilias, Piaggios, and even an old but immaculate Moto-Guzzi two-stroke. Then the bigger bikes are released, the ever present Ducati, the amazingly prolific Moto-Guzzi, the sexy Aprilia. Parade laps are touted as low-key demonstration drive-arounds, so technical requirements are minimal for bikes and gear. This was unfortunate for the Moto-Guzzi rider who tumbled through turn seven, keeping the ambulance crews away from their meatballs and lasagna.

Enough of pits, posing, and leather tank tops so tight you have to soak them to get them on. What about racing? Things weren't quite so stellar in that department. It seems Ducati can't maintain the same level of class dominance today that they had in the 60s. Even the team from Idaho, with Aprilia power, couldn't score a win. The only Italian bike victory was Damon Clegg in 250 Vintage on a Ducati single. Craig Echols brought home a strong second place in Open Vintage on his early Ducati twin. Italians put in a decent showing in the battle for traction. Chris Blythe and Matt Zurbuchen took wins in Open Classic Superbike and 600 Superbike respectively, both riding on Pirelli tires.

Above: Craig Echols displays his street Ducati "Pebble Beach" style by parking in front of a Rolls.

In the final analysis, the essence of Italian day doesn't lie in the details of racing, or the accounting of points. Italian day is a time to relax and enjoy the influence of a country with a true passion for racing. So wander the pits, enjoy the beautiful bikes and beautiful people, eat some Italian food, and at day's end hoist a glass of IPA, which for one day a year stand for "Italian Pale Ale."


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