Friday, January 13, 2012

At the Indianapolis MotoGP I ran into Skip Aksland. Skip and I had both been AMA Novice roadracers in 1974 and, while I was well aware of him, we hadn't really know each other, living on opposite coast. Skip was there with his son Dustin, who's a photographer who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. We had a nice chat and, two months later, Skip and his wife came to Brooklyn to visit Dustin. We all got together and I gave Skip and Dustin a tour of Team Obsolete, then we met Dustin's mother and girlfriend at Bar Matchless to watch the Sepang MotoGP.

Skip Aksland and me in the Team Obsolete shop on 10/24/2011
Dustin Aksland photo

I had known that Skip went on from those novice days to become a great roadracer, but I didn't realize he had been a great dirt tracker, too. I got curious about his career and started researching it. In this day of the internet, if I have a question, I've become used to just Googling it and getting an answer. But, I found that a lot of this information is not archived, and results could only be found by going through old magazines and annuals of the time, like Motocourse. Even Skip wasn't too helpful for much of this as he hadn't kept a log and didn't remember a lot of details.
The rough outline is that Skip's older brother, Bud, was partner in a Suzuki shop in the Modesto area. They started sponsoring a young hot shoe, Kenny Roberts. Kenny and Skip became friends and started riding together, though Kenny is more than five years older than Skip. Skip's dad owned a trucking company and built a dirt track behind the truck yard, and Skip and Kenny would practice there most afternoons.
Skip started his pro career as a dirt track novice in 1973 (I was a roadrace novice in '73)and made many trips to Ascot Park. He won the novice main the first night out and finished season #1 in the series.

This is a picture of Skip on TD-3 Yamaha powered dirt tracker in '73 at Ascot. The motor was one Kenny Roberts had used road racing that Kel Carruthers gave Skip.

In 1974 Skip started roadracing as an AMA Novice, but was a dirt track Junior. In roadracing, Skip was 2nd at Daytona, crashed at Road Atlanta, then won the final four roadraces of '74: Loudon, Laguna Seca, Talladega, and Ontario, Ca., making him the Novice roadracer high points scorer for the season with 98 points.

Skip at Ontario, Ca. in Oct. of 1974 on his way to winning the AMA Novice race and wrapping up top Novice roadracer for the season.

I haven't found many of his individual Junior dirt track results, other than winning the Ascot TT Gold Cup, beating Jay Springsteen. But for the Junior season points, Skip was tied for 5th in Miles, 4th in Half Miles.

This is from the 20 July, '74 Ascot TT. #72y is Skip on an XS 750 Yamaha ahead of Jay Springsteen, #65x on an XR750 H-D

In 1975, Skip becomes a Junior roadracer and Expert dirt tracker. There were only three AMA roadraces in '75 and Skip was 4th at Daytona(winning $280), 3rd at Laguna Seca(and 13th in the Jr/Ex Lightweight race on a TZ 250), and won at Ontario riding a TZ 750 Yamaha.

Skip on his way to winning the AMA Junior race at Ontario Motor Speedway on 5 Oct. 1975 on a TZ750

I don't have too many dirt track results, but high points to his rookie expert year were winning his heat at the 18 May San Jose Mile and finishing 9th in the final on an XS 750; racing one of the six TZ 750 dirt trackers at the Indy Mile and (the 2nd) San Jose Mile, finishing 18th and 13th respectively; and finishing 2nd behind Kenny Roberts at the season final Ascot Half Mile, after qualifying 9th and finishing 2nd in his heat.

Skip on a TZ 750 dirt tracker, one of six built, at the 21 Sept., 1975 San Jose Mile.

In '76, Skip's number changed from 72 to 27. There were four AMA roadraces that season. At Daytona, Skip qualified 5th, but crashed when he tangled with a lapee. He was 8th at Loudon. At Laguna Seca he was 4th in the lightweight race and finished 7th and 8th in the two legs of the 750 race, resulting in an 8th overall. At Riverside he was 3rd in his heat and 6th in the final. This made him tied for 7th in roadrace points with Yvon DuHamel and Gary Scott. Skip had a number of decent placing in the dirt track Nationals with a best finish of 5th in the 10 July San Jose Half Mile and ended up 12th in the Grand National championship.

Skip on his way to 5th in the 7/10/'76 San Jose Half Mile on an XS 750 Yamaha.

That year Kenny Roberts, Gary Scott and Jay Springsteen were contenders for the Championship and Skip was involved in some drama in the penultimate race of the year at Riverside. Skip protested Gary Scott's result (for Roberts/Yamaha) as Gary was late for his heat. That protest was denied, but in reprisal, Scott claimed Robert's winning TZ 750. It was all moot as Springsteen blew everyone away at the Ascot Half Mile final (after crashing in practice) and won the championship.
To be continued...

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