Sunday, January 15, 2012

This is Part 2 of a review of Skip Aksland's career, so if you haven't seen the first part, you might want to scroll down and read it first.
In 1977 Skip's career really took off beating a World Champion, first racing over seas and first AMA National win.


The '77 season started with the Houston Astrodome and Skip won the Trophy Dash on a bike powered by a Yamaha 250 MX motor

At Daytona, he only qualified 15th, but was up to 4th when his clutch failed and he was a DNF. Then, immediately on to the Charlotte roadrace where he finished 2nd to Kenny Roberts. Two weeks after that, he raced at the invitational bike race at the Long Beach F-1 car race. There he won, beating among others, Barry Sheene, the reigning 500 World Champion. In less than a week he did his first Transatlantic Match Race series in the U.K. At Brands Hatch, he finished 3rd & 3rd; at Mallory Park 6th & 6th; and at Oulton Park 5th & DNS? DNF? This ranked him 6th overall individual points scorer. At Loudon, Skip was 3rd behind Roberts and Nixon. At Sears Point, Skip won the Lightweight race and finished 2nd to Kenny Roberts in the 750 race. Pocono he was again 2nd to Kenny Roberts. At the Laguna Seca round of the Formula 750 World Championship, Skip won the first 100km leg and was 2nd in the second leg, beating Steve Baker's 3rd and 1st and winning $8185.


Skip leads Steve Baker through the Corkscrew on his was to winning the F-750 World Championship race a Laguna Seca 11 Sept. '77









Kenny Roberts was at the Syracuse Mile trying to win the Grand National Championship for Yamaha. The season ended on a down note at the Riverside AMA roadrace. In practice, Skip was following Roberts with a camera on his bike, filming for a Yamaha promotional piece. Skip crashed and broke his clavicle and wrist and missed the season finale at Ascot.



Skip at the San Jose Half Mile, 2 July, '77 on an XR 750 H-D











Skip in the 23 July, '77 Ascot TT on an XS 750 Yamaha






Skip made big progress on the dirt tracks side in '77, also. He started racing an XR 750 H-D in the Miles and Half Miles, while continuing to race Yamahas in the road race, Short track and TTs. This culminated with Skip winning the San Jose Mile in Sept., beating all the dirt track greats like Springsteen, the Scott brothers, Mike Kidd, Steve Eklund, Gene Romero, and Kenny Roberts.






Skip inside his old sparring partner, Kenny Roberts, on his way to winning the 25 Sept. '77 San Jose Mile





While Skip had missed some of the '76 season due to injuries sustain at a non-National Ascot race, his injuries at Riverside foreshadowed worse to come. Despite this, Skip finished the 1977 season 9th in the Grand National Championship and 2nd in roadrace points to Kenny Roberts.

In 1978, with Roberts going off to Europe to contest the GP's, it was thought that Skip had a good shot at winning the AMA Grand National championship. The season started well with a 6th in the Astrodome Short Track and a 3rd in the Daytona 200 behind Roberts and Johnny Cecotto (after qualifying 4th). Then it was off to the Transatlantic Match races again, which wasn't as successful as the previous year. With a 8th & 5th at Brands Hatch, a 13th & DNS?/DNF? at Mallory Park, and a 6th & DNS?/DNF? at Oulton Park, Skip was 11th overall on individual points. From England it was immediately off to the Formula 750 World Championship round at Imola where Skip had a flat tire in the first leg and finished 6th in the second. Next weekend was the next F-750 round at Circuit Paul Ricard, but ignition failure meant he didn't finish either leg. Four weeks later, it was back to the AMA GNC at the San Jose Mile where Skip finished 2nd to Garth Brow. The next weekend it was 2nd again at the Ascot Half Mile, this time to Alex Jorgensen on Ron Woods Norton twin(the last Norton to win a AMA National). This put Skip in the lead for the Grand National Championship with 54 points to Springsteen's 51. While Springsteen took the lead back with his win at the next race, the Denver Half Mile, Skip stayed 2nd in points through the next several races, which included his win at Loudon. Then, the championship drive went off the rails when he broke his clavicle again at the Santa Fe Short Track. Skip missed the next four Nationals including two he had traditionally done well at: the San Jose Half Mile and Ascot TT. He came back for the Sears Point road race, but crashed and separated and/or dislocated his shoulder. This puts him out for the next 11 Nationals. He came back for the Canadian round ot the F-750 World Campionship at Mosport and was 4th behind Mike Baldwin, Kenny Roberts and Yvon DuHamel. In the last two AMA Nationals he got an 8th in the San Jose Mile and 11th in the Ascot Half Mile. Again, he finished 9th in the Grand National Championship, and 5th in the roadraces, despite missing much of the season. He finished up the season by going back to Imola for the AGV Nations Cup where he finished 3rd in the USA vs Rest of the World, 4th in USA vs Rest of World?, and 4th in USA vs UK, for a 9th overall in individual points. The only photo I have from '78 is this one from the AGV Nations Cup program.

1979 started with a 5th in the Astrodome TT. Great things were expected at Daytona where Skip had been given Kenny Roberts bikes, as Kenny was recovering from breaking his back in Japan testing. Skip won the Lightweight race ahead of the young upstart Freddie Spencer.



Skip on his way to winning the Lightweight race at Daytona in '79







Skip qualified 2nd for the 200, but the bike seized starting the 2nd lap putting him out. He next went to the San Jose Mile and won his heat, but only got a 12th in the final. The next weekend at the Ascot Half Mile, Skip broke his clavicle again. But, four weeks later, he finished 13th at the Middletown, N.Y. Half Mile. Once when I was marveling to Dick Mann about Eddie Lawson winning the '86 French GP at Paul Ricard a week after breaking his collarbone at Laguna and Scott Russell finishing on the podium Sun. after breaking his collarbone Thurs. at Loudon, he said it's not too bad before the bone has knitted at all. It's when the bone starts to knit one has to watch it. The next weekend, now five weeks from breaking his collarbone, Skip won the Loudon roadrace again. In July, Skip again went to Imola for the AGV Nations Cup and was 4th in France vs USA; 4th in Rest of the World vs USA; 2nd in UK vs USA; and 3rd in USA vs Italy. The next weekend, Skip finished 2nd to Roberts at Sears Point. Then 8th at both the Ascot TT and the DuQuoin Mile, the next two weekends. At Laguna Seca, his bike seized on the last lap of he first leg and he didn't score any points. In Sept., he got an 8th in the Indy Mile and a 2nd in the San Jose Mile. Skip ended up out of the top ten in the GNC points, but was 4th in road race points because there were only three road races that year.
Skip shoulder had become a huge problem, with him being able to throw it out of joint with the least provocation. At the 1980 Daytona 200, he was running 2nd or third, but faded to 4th because of his shoulder.





Skip on the grid for the '80 Daytona 200




He went to the Transatlantic Match races again in '80 and got a 6th & 7th at Brands Hatch; 12th & 9th at Mallory Park; and 6th & 5th at Oulton Park for 4th highest scoring American behind Roberts, Spencer and Mamola. Six weeks later, Skip contested the 500GP World Championship round at Jarama, Spain on Serge Zago's Yamaha, but crashed and broke his knee cap. That was the last straw and he decided to pack it in.
Skip went back home and started working for Fed-Ex. After delivering packages for sometime, he started his own delivery company in Modesto, which was a big success. He sold the company and retired some years back. He plays with bikes a bit, but can't ride sport bikes with low bars because of his shoulder. He's built a couple of XT/SR 500 Yamahas for his son and himself and plays in the dirt some.
All told, a very impressive career in the 'all rounder' tradition of Dick Mann and Kenny Roberts, possibly cut short by a some what fragile upper body. Or maybe just bad luck, a huge part of racing.

1974 Novice roadrace, Junior dirt track



3/8 Daytona rr 2nd Yam
6/2 Road Atlanta rr DNF crash Yam
6/15 Loudon, N.H rr 1st Yam
7/12 Ascot tt ? Yam, XS 750
7/27 Laguna Seca rr 1st Yam
8/31 Talladega rr 1st Yam
10/6 Ontario, Ca. rr 1st Yam
10/12 Ascot hm ? Yam

1975 Junior roadrace, Expert dirt track

3/8? Daytona rr 4th jr. Yam won $280
3/8   Daytona Am/Ex L.W.  13th   Yam TZ250
5/18 San Jose m 9th Yam 1st in 2nd semi
7/26 Ascot tt 14th Yam
8/3 Laguna Seca rr 13th jr/ex LWYam
8/3 Laguna Seca rr 3rd jr. Yam
8/15 Hindsdale, il st 16th Yam, MX 250 2nd in Trophy Race
8/23 Indianapolis m 18th Yam, TZ 750 one of six built
9/21 San Jose m 13th Yam, TZ 750, 1st in Semi
9/27 Ascot hm 2nd to K.R Yam qualified 9th, 2nd in heat
10/4 Ontario, Ca. Am/Ex L.W.  9th Yam TZ250
10/5 Ontario, Ca. rr 1st jr. Yam

1976 Expert roadrace & dirt track

1/24 Houston st 8th in Yam, MX250 qualified 6th, 2nd in Semi
Trophy dash
3/6 Daytona Am/Ex L.W. 80th (1 lap) Yam TZ250
3/7 Daytona rr 66th, crash Yam qualified 5th, tangled w/lapee while in 4th
"Skip missed part of the 1976 season due to injuries sustained in a race at Ascot early in the season…", apparently a non-national
6/4 Pontiac stadium tt 6th Yam
6/20 Loudon rr 8th Yam
7/10 San Jose hm 5th Yam, XS750
7/31 Laguna Seca Am/Ex L.W. 4th  Yam TZ250
8/1 Laguna Seca rr 7th & 8th=8thYam
8/28 Indianapolis m 8th Yam
9/5 Talladega st 10th Yam, MX250
9/12 Syracuse m 12th Yam
9/26 San Jose m 7th Yam
10/3 Riverside rr 6th Yam 3rd in heat, protest G.Scott
10/9 Ascot hm 3rd Yam 1st in heat
12th in championship points for season

1977

3/13 Daytona rr 48th, DNF Yam qualified 15th, up to 4th,clutch
3/20 Charlotte rr 2nd to K.R. Yam
4/3 Long Beach rr 1st Yam non-AMA invitational, beat Sheene
4/8 Brands Hatch rr 3rd & 3rd Yam Trans Atlantic Match Race
4/10 Mallory Park rr 6th & 6th Yam series,
4/11 Oulton Park rr 5th & DNS? Yam 6th overall individual

5/15 San Jose m 8th H-D Storme Winter XR, first points with XR 750 despite 'a major carburetion issue'
6/19 Loudon rr 3rd Yam behind K.R. & Nixon; 2nd in heat to Nixon
6/26 Columbus hm didn't make it to the Main, not one of his favorite tracks
72 San Jose hm 14th H-D John Apple XR
7/16 Sears Point rr 1st L.W. Yam
7/17 Sears Point rr 2nd to K.R. Yam
7/23 Ascot tt 9th Yam, XS750
8/12 Hindsdale st 9th Yam, MX250
8/14 Terre Haute hm 8th H-D
8/21 Pocono rr 2nd to K.R. Yam
8/27 Indianapolis m DNS blew up motor in heat, 'found valve guide in air cleaner'
8/28 Indianapolis m 8th H-D rode Romero's spare bike, 1st fastest heat, wore hole in primary cover in final
9/4 Middletown hm DNS? H-D
9/11 Laguna Seca rr 1st & 2nd=1stYam F-750 world championship, K.R. at Syracuse
9/25 San Jose m 1st H-D Storme Winter XR, 1st in slowest heat
10/2 Riverside rr DNS Yam crashed in practice filming w/K.R. (for Peter Starr film 'Take it to the limit') breaking clavicle and wrist
9th overall in AMA championship points

1978

2/4 Houston st 6th Yam, MX 250
3/12 Daytona rr 3rd Yam after crashing twice in turn #4 in practice, including Sun. morning
3/24 Brands Hatch rr 8th & 5th Yam Trans Atlantic Match race
3/26 Mallory Park rr 13th& DNF? Yam series.
3/27 Oulton Park rr 6th & DNF? Yam 11th overall individual
4/2 Imola rr DNF & 6th Yam F-750 World Championship, flat tire is 1st heat
4/9 Paul Ricard rr DNF Yam F-750 World Championship, ignition failure
5/7 San Jose m 2nd H-D qualified 5th, 1st in 1st heat
5/13 Ascot hm 2nd H-D leads GNC points
5/27 Denver hm 3rd H-D
6/4 Louisville hm 14th H-D
6/10 Harrington, De. hm 8th H-D
6/18 Loudon rr 1st Yam
6/23 Hindsdale tt DNS? DNF? Tri Terry Sage bike. Broke clavicle?Separated shoulder? Misses next 4 races
7/16 Sears Point rr DNF crash Yam while in lead. dislocated shoulder. Misses next 11 races.
9/24 San Jose m 8th H-D
9/30 Ascot hm 11th H-D
10/8 Imola rr 3rd, USA v rest of world AGV Nations Cup
4th, USA v rest of world? 9th individual overall
4th, USA v UK
9th overall in AMA championship points

1979
2/2 Houston tt 5th Yam, TT500
3/10 Daytona rr 1st L.W. Yam ahead of Spencer
3/11 Daytona rr 68th DNF Yam Qualified 2nd, siezure 1st lap
5/6 San Jose m 12th H-D 1st in heat, Lawill H-D
5/12 Ascot hm DNS?DNF? H-D Breaks clavicle
6/10 Middletown hm 13th H-D John Apple XR, won trophy race
6/17 Loudon rr 1st Yam
6/22 Hindsdale tt 8th Yam, TT500
7/10 Imola rr 4th France v USA
4th rest of world v USA AGV Nations Cup
2nd UK v USA
3rd USA v Italy
7/15 Sears Point rr 2nd to K.R.
7/21 Ascot tt 8th Yam, TT500
7/29 Duquoin m 8th H-D Lawill XR
8/5 Laguna Seca rr DNF & DNS Yam Seizure on last lap of 1st leg
9/1 Indianapolis m 8th H-D Lawill XR
9/23 San Jose m 2nd H-D Askland XR
9th overall in AMA championship points

1980
3/9 Daytona rr 4th Yam ran 2nd, dropped back to 4th, shoulder
4/4 Brands Hatch rr 6th & 7th Yam Trans Atlantic Match race
4/6 Mallory Park rr 12 & 9th Yam series
4/7 Oulton Park rr 6th & 5th Yam ? overall individual
5/18 Jarama rr DNF? DNF? Yam 500 world Championship GP
Serge Zago bike, crashed and broke kneecap. Last professional race


5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the ride, I enjoyed that.

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  2. Dave - You're a great chronicler! What a determined competitor Skip Aksland was on dirt and road, here and abroad, and in a short time span, '74-80. Thanks for the narrative and photos of him and those he raced with--insightful... and nostalgic. h

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  3. You give a great picture of an impressive career. Writing style is great - as are the pictures. Thanks for taking the time!

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  4. Dave, Thanks for sharing an important but almost forgotten racer's career in this country's motorcycle racing history. Much appreciated to read as this is a man whose will to win so obviously lead him to give his all in the face of multiple physical injuries during his wins and losses. To me, the pursuit of excellence is the nobilist of causes no matter what endevour one choses in life.
    Dr. Hate McDead

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  5. Skip was my favorite as a kid. Best race i ever saw was ,i believe, well im not sure of the exact year but it was san jose mile and the final 25 laper.it was skip ,eklund and Springsteen out front the whol race swapping the lead every lap. Eklund won but wow! What a race! I still have pictures. And me being friom modesto he was nearly my home town hero.- L. Farris

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