Dave Roper, the first American ever to win an Isle of Man TT, will be riding a restored 580cc Indian TT model v-twin in the 2011 TT. Roper has a lifetime of achievement in vintage racing, including more than 20 AHRMA national championships as well as his win of the 1984 Senior Historic TT on a G50 Matchless. Support the first motorcycle to ever win the Senior TT on the Mountain Course, the only American marque to win at the event and the only American racer to ever win the Senior Historic TT!
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.