FLYING HIGH: Motorcycle Days at Donner Summit a one-of-kind showcase
The 3rd Annual Buell Old Highway 40 Motorcycle Days brought some of the most unique two-wheeled machines in the nation to Donner Summit Aug. 12 and 13.
The event drew roughly 5,000 spectators, more than 350 participants and brought countless high-performance machines into the area.
Motocross motorcycles, high-performance go-carts, side-cars, Harleys and Buell road bikes raced along Old Highway 40 on Saturday and Sunday in the oldest event in the competition, the fifth annual uphill-pavement climb.
Spectators lined the rocks on Donner Pass. Some rode in the back of a flatbed truck to the bridge above Donner Lake and watched the exhibition machines make the hair-pin turn toward Donner Summit.
“The event is not so much about the motorcycles… it’s about the personalities that engage in activities like this,” said Reg Kittrelle, who was busy announcing for the Battle Trax race in the parking lot of Donner Ski Ranch Sunday. “There are so many colorful people here.”
Norm Saylor, owner of Donner Ski Ranch, created the event by racing cars up Old Hwy. 40 in the ’70s. Mike Fenner, a motorcycle promoter with Starman Productions, organized the first motorcycle event in 1995.
“At the time, the event was a showcase for vintage bikes, and drew roughly 20 to 40 participants,” Donner Ski Ranch Marketing Director Todd Repsher said. “When I came on I said, ‘hey, we can make something out of this.'”
Repsher, who is on the board of directors for both the Clayton Memorial Fund, the largest non-profit agency for injured motorcycle racers, and Directors for Dirt Diggers North Inc., which promotes the Hangtown Motocross Classic, put his connections to work.
“The first motocross event took place at Soda Springs three years ago,” he said. “The first year it was a 12-event weekend. We trimmed the event down last year because of the number of bikes around.”
Now in its third year, the motorcycle festival draws event organizers, retailers, spectators, professional riders and mechanics from around the nation.
Kittrelle explained that the event is significant for a number of reasons.
“It hearkens back to the way motorcycles used to be, by celebrating the skills that every rider possesses, no matter what brand of machine they choose or where they choose to ride, and by enjoying the various aspects of riding motorcycles together,” he said.
“Seldom do you find these disciplines together in one spot,” he said. “That’s the beauty of Donner; it brings people together.”
Kittrelle publishes Battle2Win and Thunderpress magazines, publications which promote Buell and Harley Davidson motorcycles. The 57-year-old publisher has been riding bikes for 40 years and has owned more than 50 motorcycles.
In addition to the Old Hwy. 40 uphill race, Battle Trax, the Super TT and the dirt-hill climb, the motocross demonstration brought crowds to the main parking lot every hour.
A new event this year, the motocross demonstration brought riders such as Matt Bouyton from Carson City. Bouyton performed feats such as “superman,” where the rider leaves the seat of the bike at the apex of the jump, grabs the guard over the back tire, and pulls the bike back for the landing.
Event promoters awarded approximately $8,000 in prize money for the uphill dirt climb and $2,000 in prize money for Buell motorcycle participants in the pavement uphill climb.
For more information on next year’s Motorcycle Days call Donner Ski Ranch at (530) 426-3635.
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