Fun Times At Rio Bravo Vintage MX 2015

It’s easy to dismiss vintage racing as just a bunch of old guys riding around on old bikes, but that’s an overly simplistic view and one that doesn’t really explain its appeal. To really appreciate vintage racing, one has to attend an event and the 11th Annual Old School MX Reunion/5th Annual AHRMA Vintage Nationals at the Rio Bravo MX Park in Houston proved the perfect opportunity to witness this facet of the sport.

If you’re looking for huge numbers of participants, vintage racing isn’t for you.

But after a weekend at this historic track (it’s claimed to be the first place that an American motocrosser beat the Europeans, way back in 1973, and is very vintage-friendly), the big picture becomes clearer: It’s not about the racing so much as it is about spending time with other dirt-riding enthusiasts both on and off the track as well as admiring the huge variety of machinery in various states of restoration. There aren’t a lot of spectators at the edge of the track in each moto, it seems, because most participants enjoy chatting with their buddies in the pits instead. The post-race feed and activities also made it a most warm and welcoming race where the emphasis isn’t on winners and losers, as at most races, but where socializing is the priority.

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Former pro MXer Trey Jorski remains a top racer in vintage events, winning three classes and getting second in a fourth. After a 12-year hiatus from racing, he started again eight years ago in both modern off-road events as well as vintage MX. Though he’ll wear goggles, he prefers nothing, insisting, “The older I get, the worse my vision gets and the lens of the goggle impairs my vision.” (After finishing seventh in the Harvey Mushman 100 at the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix one year, he remembers going to pick up his money and the official thought he was picking it up for his son.)Photo by Mark Kariya
Heinrich “Henry” Gref celebrated his 74th birthday at Rio Bravo by winning both motos of the Post-Vintage 70+ Expert class. A former enduro and motocross racer in his home country, he emigrated to the U.S. from the former Czechoslovakia in 1969 when he was 28 and eventually landed jobs in the motorcycle industry, wrenching for guys like Barry Higgins and the late Marty Moates in his Ossa days. Though he’s raced regular bikes for a career that spans 57 years, he didn’t start racing vintage MX until 2000 and now competes both in the U.S. and in Europe, where he says the scene is bigger. How much? Up until a few years ago, the oldest age group was 66+, but there were so many entrants that even with two gates, it was too crowded so there’s now a 70+ class that regularly draws 29 guys from more than a dozen countries.Photo by Mark Kariya
On the other end of the age scale is 18-year-old Kaitlyn Morrow, a Texas native who won the final round of this year’s Women’s Motocross Championship, her first year as a pro. Having raced MX almost continuously since she started 14 years ago on a Suzuki JR50, she won both motos of the Marty Tripes Post-Vintage 125cc class on both days at Rio Bravo after some spirited dicing with eventual runner-up Tommy Cannon. Having started vintage racing as soon as AHRMA rules allowed (16 is the minimum), Morrow shares, “Terry Gerber, one of my main sponsors, has really motivated me to get more into the vintage scene. All the men and even guys [my age], anyone that rides is always super-nice around the vintage racing. They’ve just kind of helped me and I’ve always wanted to come back and hang out with them and just have some fun. It’s a laid-back scene. Vintage racing is some of my favorite racing today.”Photo by Mark Kariya
Back in the ‘70s, Kevin Brown was part of the H&H Music Company Racing Team, which was a powerhouse in Texas motocross. But he quit racing to concentrate on work and raising a family until this weekend at Rio Bravo where he took to the track for his first race in 45 years. Though arm pump plagued him in practice, he found a way around it to win both motos of Vintage 60+ Intermediate on Saturday on his very clean 1973 Honda CR125M Elsinore.Photo by Mark Kariya
He might not look like it here (or maybe he does), but “Diamond Don” Rainey (checkered headgear) is also a racer, claiming a 4-3 fourth overall in Vintage 70+ Expert on Saturday aboard his CZ after helping with the fish and oyster fry provided for everyone on Friday night. (He also promotes one of the biggest vintage races in the country on his ranch in Jefferson, Texas, in April.)Photo by Mark Kariya
During Sunday’s intermission, Rio Bravo officials presented local racer Lyle Lovett (black cowboy hat) with the Richard Sanders Lifetime Achievement Award for his support of the motorcycling community in general and Rio Bravo MX in particular. He’d just returned from his latest months-long concert tour on Thursday night so he didn’t feel prepared enough to race, but he came out both days to support his old H&H Music Company Racing Team teammates who shared the stage with him at the presentation.Photo by Mark Kariya