Exclusive Interview With Billy Lane About The Inaugural Sons Of Speed Board-Track Racing


smyrnaspeedwayI spent this Tuesday afternoon at the shop of Billy Lane in Ormond Beach, Florida for the interview below. As soon as I arrived Billy informed me that unfortunately he had to take the decision to postpone the inaugural Sons Of Speed Race due to the effects of hurricane Matthew (see today’s picture of collapsed stands at the Smyrna Beach Speedway). The race is now scheduled March 17-18 during the 2017 edition of Daytona Bike Week. Ticket holders can keep their tickets for access to the race in March or will be refunded if they don’t intend to participate to the coming edition of Daytona Bike Week.

billy-lane-cyril-huze-1Billy Lane’s inaugural Sons of Speed vintage motorcycle racing, now scheduled in March 2017, will be a major highlight.

Riders astride hand-built chassis holding pre-1925 American v-twin engines are going to fight hard in several heats to advance to the championship round. A great show not to miss in the pure tradition of the 20’s and 30’ board-track racing.

crockerCyril. About 8 years ago, in a private conversation, you told me about your concept of organizing races inspired by early twentieth-century board-track racing on old banked racetracks. Your inaugural Sons Of Speed event that should have happened a few years ago is going to take place in a few days during Daytona Biketoberfest, October 15 (with practice the day before) at the New Smyrna Speedway. During the last 18 months, AMA pro-flat track racing has been successful in attracting a new public to the sport, to the point that AMA is establishing new rules making each event easier to understand by spectators. At the same time Indian has been successfully sponsoring the Scout Sixty Hooligans dirt track racing with about 10 events around the US. And now, with its new FT 750 bike, Indian is returning to the track, ready to challenge Harley-Davidson after a 60-year absence. Although these events are different from yours, you anticipated by quite a few years the trend towards old school and vintage racing. How do you explain this renewed excitement for the sport, and why now?

Billy. The bikes we ride today are all derived from century old racers.  Motorcycles surely would not have advanced as far or as quickly as they have, without board-track and flat-track racing.  I think companies like Harley-Davidson and Indian must each rely on the strength their heritage to compete with modern cycles from abroad- and of course with each other.  Both companies’ heritage is deeply rooted in racing. Flat track is becoming popular because it is relatively inexpensive to do, and it is a lot of fun.  Board track racing has not blossomed, but the bikes themselves are wildly popular.  I believe this is because of the expense of a banked speedway, the frailty, rarity, and high value of the original machines- combined with a lack of information regarding how to keep one running long enough to enjoy it.  But, this will change.  Nothing is more gorgeous than seeing a board track racer on a slant.  You and I did talk about this years ago.  Indian Larry and I talked about it. We both loved the raw, mechanical simplicity of early gasoline engines.  Watching them run is mesmerizing.  Indian Larry would be on the track at Sons of Speed, if he were still physically here.  And, damn, I wish he was. The OEM’s have, for years, mimicked what is happening in the custom & aftermarket world, with a significant amount of lag time…  What is happening with them now is no different.

1913_prymack0009Cyril. We all know in the industry that to find old motors to be rebuilt is relatively easy if you are ready to spend a lot of time looking for them…and a lot of money. And you own quite a few of these pre-1925 American engines. But we also know that it’s much more difficult, and most of the time impossible, to find the original genuine parts to rebuild the bikes where these motors were cradled. So, explain how were built the bikes that will be raced in Smyrna Beach. How many of these bikes did you build yourself?

Billy. It used to be that these early engines were mainly a novelty to most, and only coveted by a small circle of collectors and enthusiasts. The World grew a little smaller, and it got to the point where engines were relatively abundant, and price might be the only reason to pass on one.  Demand, now, is so high that we seldom see a complete, quality engine for sale. There just aren’t that many old engines left to pick.  And those who are holding, are holding on to what they’ve got.  Now, they’re highly priced commodities.  All of this happened in a very short span of time.  Complete bikes, pre-1935, are a rarity.  So many of them were scrapped during the Great Depression and to arm and armor World Wars I & II.  Motorcycle construction was frail, roads were rough, information was scarce, and obsolescence ran in step with time.  Motorcycles didn’t survive, but owners would sometimes keep the engines for use in another machine, as a source for parts, or as a power source for some sort of implement.  Which left us with a surplus of engines and a shortage of motorcycles to put them in.  I’ve solved this problem with Sons of Speed.  Rather than scour the Earth in search of old parts, I decided to make modern versions of the century old motorcycles that used to cradle these amazing engines.  Modern materials and construction allow me to build a lighter, faster, more affordable version of the spectacular board track racers that thrilled crowds from 1909-1930.

1910_hd_0007Cyril. How were chosen the first 8 racers belonging to the inaugural race, and what specific qualities they must own to race on a steeply banked racetrack? Who are they?  And what machines they are going to ride?

Billy. Choosing riders for this inaugural race was complicated.  Diversity in the riders was a must, because motorcycling attracts such a diverse crowd.  I wanted people I know personally, because dependability and trust are built-in. I also sought out enthusiasm for this type of racing.  The biggest challenge was to find motorcycles to race.  Most of the board track racing motorcycles we’ve all seen are highly expensive and collectible static displays, either in books, collections, or in museums.  They will never be run or ridden. I was initially prepared to build twelve complete racers, myself- with my own money, on my own time- and hand pick riders for them.  Too many people, however, were a disappointment and let me down… I regrouped, and we have eight riders ready for the October 15th Sons of Speed race.  Our racers are; (1) Shelly Rossmeyer-Pepe, riding her 1915 Harley-Davidson powered Sons of Speed racer, which I built completely. (2) Warren Lane, riding his 1920 Indian Powerplus, in a Sons of Speed chassis I built for him. (3)  Matt Walksler, riding his 1922 Harley-Davidson 1/2-mile racer 4) Rick Petko, riding his 1919 Indian Powerplus, in a Sons of Speed chassis I built for him (5) Buzz Kanter, riding his 1915 Harley-Davidson powered Sons of Speed racer, which I built completely (6) Jay Allen, riding my 1912 Flying Merkel powered Sons of Speed racer, which I built completely (7) Brittney Olsen, riding her 1923 Harley-Davidson 1/2-mile racer  (8) Me, riding my 1913 OHV Perry Mack powered Sons of Speed racer, which I built completely.  Moving forward, I’d like to open the event up to the public, so that anyone with a suitable machine and riding skills may race in Sons of Speed.

1915_hd__0005Cyril. Please explain the Sons Of Speed racing rules and can we imagine one day a Billy Lane team competing against other builders’ teams like in pro-flat track racing?

Billy. Rules are simple for Sons of Speed, and these rules resemble the rules used a century ago.  New Smyrna Speedway is a 20-degree banked, 1/2-mile asphalt track.  Engines must be pre-1925 1000cc twins. Machines must be single-speed, with no clutch, and no brakes.  Riders will draw straws for track position.  Riders will begin the race in line, behind a pace motorcycle, which will exit the track before the green flag is waved at the starting line.  Racers will accelerate into turn one, and compete for the checkered flag.  We will hold two five-mile heats (ten laps), each heat with four riders on the track.  The first and second place riders from each heat will advance to the final championship heat, which will be four riders in a ten-mile race (20 laps).

1934_cac_pea0003Cyril. What is your future plans ifor Sons Of Speed? Associated, for evident reasons, with major motorcycle event like Daytona and Sturgis?

Billy. It is looking like Sons of Speed will be a success.  Right now, our only sponsor is Rossmeyer’s Destination Daytona Harley-Davidson, so most of the expenses of the event is self-funded.  After March, I plan to run Sons of Speed again in Sturgis.  My goal for  is to have 16 Riders and machines, so that we may have four heats and a final championship heat.  I’d like to have more riders come in with their own machines, even if that means I have to build these machines for them.  If I were to secure some viable sponsorship, I would like to build a racer for each of our United States Armed Forces Branches, and have an online selection process whereby a sponsored veteran from each branch may participate as a rider, and represent his or here respective uniform on the track.  I’d like to hold a custom bike show in March, as well as offer affordable vending and onsite camping.  Eventually, I’d like to open the racing classes up to 500cc single engines, 1200cc twin engines, while adding a 45-cubic inch side valve class.

1915_hd_0010(top photo of Billy Lane on Buzz Kanter’s hand-built Sons of Speed racer, powered by 1915 Harley-Davidson 1000cc engine, courtesy of Jim Arbogast Photography. All other pictures @ Horst Roesler for Cyril Huze)


Billy Lane’s Sons of Speed board track racing will take place March 17 (practice) and March 18 (race) at the New Smyrna Speedway’s half-mile, paved, banked racetrack (3939 Florida 44 New Smyrna Beach, FL)


24 Responses to “Exclusive Interview With Billy Lane About The Inaugural Sons Of Speed Board-Track Racing”

  1. 1 Rick petko Oct 11th, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    This is gonna be a awesome event, personally can’t wait to roll these machines around the track, damn the waiting sucks…lets race!

  2. 2 bean're Oct 11th, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    Saddened that it had to be postponed but looking forward to March. It will surely be the most impressive show of 2017! I can’t wait!

  3. 3 Gene Rousse Oct 11th, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    Single speed, no clutch no brake. Exciting but very dangerous. Serious accidents and serious injuries. Repeat of early motorcycle racing history. My prayers go out to all riders and wish you all the Very Best! But consider the Heartache from any injured racer, friend or foe. Especially the women. Beautiful and crafty machines tho Billy.

  4. 4 New York myke Oct 11th, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    This is going to be awesome for riacing, riding and the ‘sport’ of motorcycling! Thank you Billy Lane, congratulations to the Rossmeyers for getting on board so quickly and here’s hoping that you guys also have a great Biketoberfest in spite of Mathew! Working hard here in SanDiego and up to eyeballs in the ‘election’ but hope to see you in March and especially with the excitement ‘Sons of Speed’ will Bring!

  5. 5 P. Hamilton Oct 11th, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    As always, a great interview by Cyril Huze with the excellent Billy Lane. Beautiful bikes..

  6. 6 Chris Delgado Oct 11th, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Great for me because I am not going to Biketoberfest, but will be in Daytona in March for Bike week. Want to watch this.

  7. 7 Dan Oct 11th, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Wishing success to Billy.

  8. 8 Greeko Oct 11th, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    Bad luck, but it will happen in March. Cyril, what about a feature on each of these racers?

  9. 9 Tim Geoffrey Oct 11th, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    This event, when launched, should grow very fast. Love these dangerous sleds…

  10. 10 hacksaws garage Oct 11th, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    this is spectacular. wish i was around where these races will take place.

  11. 11 Tom Ryan Oct 11th, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    If this sport really wants to grow like some of the commenters want, someone should start manufacturing these pre-25 and pre-35 motors etc.to old day specs, but with newer materials. This would allow new people of all age ranges to take part in the future competitions. Kinda’ like building your own machine and taking part in a soap box derby.

  12. 12 Jack 1340 Oct 12th, 2016 at 5:33 am

    Après l énorme travail et la peine qu il c est donné pour créer cet événement. Je suis vraiment désolé pour lui. Je suis venu spécialement de Paris . Mais personne ne peut prévoir un ouragan. Asta la vista ! Je reviens en mars et bravo à Billy !!!!

  13. 13 Dave B Oct 12th, 2016 at 5:42 am

    Foolish- the body count will go up- rapidly.

  14. 14 Tommy Oct 12th, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Great show for spectators but a dangerous one for participants. But let’s support Billy’s efforts.

  15. 15 JohnnySpeed Oct 12th, 2016 at 7:15 am

    So where’s the board track? From what i read this will take place in an asphalt track which is a completely diffeent type of racing. If you’re not going to do the real deal, then save those precious engines for others to enjoy.

  16. 16 boston jim Oct 12th, 2016 at 7:28 am

    What’s “Old is New”, AGAIN, I love the concept ! The Bike Shop Owner, who built the bikes for “Harley & the Davidson’s”, TV show, should get involved, my understanding is he built 80 Bikes ! I can’t make Oct., because of eye surgery, but, I’ve put March on my calendar ! I’d be willing to Sponsor Buzz or Matt with AMSOIL ! Good Luck Guys, Thanks Billy !

    PS, I’ve watched the races at Gunstock for years, that’s what put Laconia on the map ! Met Ben Campanale at Gunstock, Ben won the 1938 Daytona as a Private Racer & again in 39, riding for H-D ! I was his Head Pallbearer, Great Guy, Great Racer ! I think “old Benny” would endorse this kind of racing !

  17. 17 Pat Dimon Oct 12th, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Race or not, Billy shows his extreme building skills. Great interview. Awesome motorcycles.

  18. 18 Daytona Donnie Oct 12th, 2016 at 8:10 am

    Mother Nature ..strikes again..and yes the New Smyrna track took a hit .. I was at Billy’s a few weeks ago ..and these machines are awesome ..Billy’s concept of the Modular frame that allows the various motors to be implemented is just one more example of getting all those “Oldies ” on to the track ..I would expect to see a few more surprises from Billy as well a possible participants jumping on board with this getting moved to March Bike Week …..( can’t wait to see the Merkel on the track )

  19. 19 rebel Oct 12th, 2016 at 9:45 am

    couldn’t make October anyways, WILL be there in March!

  20. 20 Hillbilly Jim Oct 12th, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Hey Warren Lane if you see this, you should use that Indian girder that I traded you for the 72 juice brake set up. That would look sweet on your Sons of speed racer!

  21. 21 burnout Oct 12th, 2016 at 10:38 am

    This. Is. Cool. I will be there to see it! peace

  22. 22 Ben Richter Oct 12th, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Very explicative answers to Cyril’s questions. I am 29 yo and didn’t know much about this type of racing. I am interested.

  23. 23 nicker Oct 12th, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    Exciting…. -YES- But with full throttle only, VERY dangerous…


  24. 24 Rockrr Oct 14th, 2016 at 9:53 am

    This is an Awesome concept, fitting in perfectly for any true enthusiast and I’m sure will be a crowd pleaser. Along with filling the gap for motorcyclists who are interested in preserving the history of our sport…Bravo, Billy and to all participating…we’ll be there for sure and I’m a local…! Hope your shop is open for a visit during Biketoberfest…!

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Cyril Huze