LIMA — Motorcycle racing fans have been waiting all year for the American Motorcycle Association’s Ohio National Championship to visit the Allen County Fairgrounds.
On Saturday, it happens.
Last year’s finish was a narrow one when Sammy Halbert was able to hold off Henry Wiles for the win. Gates will open at 3 p.m. Saturday and races start at 7:30 p.m.
Owner and operator of the Lima Half-Mile, Dean Gallup, is expecting a bigger turnout of fans than years past.
“With good weather, I think we’ll have a boomer this year,” Gallup said. “We have people from Texas, California and the east coast coming in. This track produces great racing.
“This is the original extreme sport,” Gallup said. “They have to put their bike into a broad slide through the corner. They’re wheel to wheel and handle bar to handle bar, which makes for an exciting sport.”
Motorcycle racers aren’t the biggest athletes, but they might be the bravest.
“They have to be a little crazy to do this,” Gallup joked. “They’re exposed physically at all times. I think it’s one of the toughest jobs in the country. They’re a bunch of young guys who are jockey size.”
The annual Lima Half-Mile race is one that stands out for competitors on the AMA Flat Track schedule because of the high level of competition, the pea-gravel and limestone half-mile track and the county fairgrounds location.
“Lima is considered to be one of the better races because of our pea-gravel track,” Gallup said. “The riders have to throw dirt off their back wheel and use the steel toe on their left foot as a pivot point. Then they have to control the throttle while they’re on their back wheel. They are sliding halfway (through the corner) then they have to straighten it out on the apex.”
This is Gallup’s 30th year in charge of the Ohio National Championship. He has been involved with the sport since the 60s and he is impressed with the way the sport has evolved over the years.
“The biggest difference is that the motorcycles are faster, obviously,” Gallup said. “They didn’t have brakes back then. The speed and durability are better now.”
Along with watching for which rider wins, fans will also have to pay attention to the type of bike the driver is operating.
“Harley-Davidson has always been the king of motorcycles,” Gallup said. “But now Kawasaki is making a run and we even have a driver on a Ducati. It makes for an interesting race weekend.”