Too Much Speed On The Speedway?

The long record of no accidents falls as some of the leading riders are injured

By Chet Billings

From the September 1933 Issue of Motorcyclist Magazine.

Talking about too much speed on a speedway may sound like grandma’s reaction to the races. Undoubtedly it will seem funny in the face of two years’ prayers on the part of fans, promoters and riders for faster equipment and more speed. But, on the west coast, the point of diminishing returns in the matter of speed was reached before anyone realized it. And now the red flag is out.

Improvements in upkeep of the tracks, faster equipment and nerves hardened by a little more experience led western riders to faster and faster time. The promoters and officials recognized the fact first for the style of riding became less spectacular as the speed increased and the boys did less broadsiding. The riders knew they were going faster, but with two years experience under their belt they began to think that they could handle themselves in an emergency.

True, they sometimes wondered just what would happen in the event of a crack up at the higher speeds, but they accepted the danger with a shrug of their shoulders. They told themselves that in any kind of racing there is a certain element of chance and with that “merrily we go to hell” spirit they traveled the circuit and “screwed it on”.

At White Sox F. Zimmerman did a wing ding. They picked him up and took him to the hospital. Back came the report that he had a fractured skull and a lung punctured by three ribs. Zimmerman was not quite such an old head as some of the other boys and everyone was prone to charge his misfortune to his lack of experience.

Shortly thereafter Bob Keller, hero of many hillclimbs, an ardent sports enthusiast in every branch of motorcycling and lately a hot shot on the speedways, took the count after a mix up with other riders. He is convalescing in the hospital nursing a jaw broken in two or three places, a broken arm and a broken leg. He had other injuries. Even in his case was inexperience mentioned.

Then at Emeryville Ray Grant figured in a crack up. One rider bounded off the crash wall, tripping another who fell in the path of Grant. Ray might possibly have put his motor down, but his reasoning or his reflexes told him to try to keep going. He seemed to tangle with his motor in midair. One moment he was the ultra broadsider riding that beautiful style for which he was famous up and down the coast. The next he was a huddle on the track.

A veteran of the sport in this country, Ray may never ride again. He lay unconscious for nine days. His brain is separated from his skull and constant attention and frequent operations are necessary to drain the area so that the two may grow together again.

Ray is married to Putt Mossman’s sister, Dessy. She traveled the circuit with Ray. Every night she sat in the stands and rooted for him. Hundreds are the fans who have seen her eyes sparkle as she watched the field and cried, “Come on, honey. Take ‘em honey.” She is at his side in the Oakland hospital rooting for him in the closest race Ray has had. When Ray can talk she plans with him toward the time when he hopes to race again.

Inexperience? That couldn’t be charged to Ray. Nor could it be charged to Cordy Milne. At Bakersfield he tangled and came out with a broken collar bone. It couldn’t be the case with Lammy Lamareaux, who chilled 5,000 spectators at Loyola when his foot rest went nearly through Slim Meyers helmet in an accident which landed Lammy face first on the crash wall. Lammy is riding again, though without the same teeth figuring in his sunny smile. Cordy is soon to restart.

By Chet Billings
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