Notes From the Blue Groove: The Lloyd Brothers' Good Deed

The Lloyd Brothers Do a Good Deed

Last year, Lloyd Brothers Racing fielded a Ducati for Joe Kopp on Mile tracks, and Kopp wrote a paragraph for the flat track history book by winning at Prescott—the first non-Harley win on a Mile track in decades. Kopp fought off some mid-season bad luck and was a contender for the AMA Pro Grand National Championship right up until the final race. At the end of that season, he announced his retirement.

Lloyd Brothers went on to swap a wily Washington-state veteran for a talented rookie from Washington when they signed 2009 Pro Singles champ Brad Baker to race their Ducati. (Kopp rode the Lloyd Bros. Ducati on Miles only, preferring to race his Latus-backed XR-750 on the half-miles. Baker will race the Duc at all of this year’s Twins venues.) And in addition to retaining returning sponsor ENI/Agip (an Italian specialty lubricant company), Lloyd Brothers have also secured sponsorship from Team Hurt By Accident and Foremost Insurance.

Maybe the process of pitching sponsorship to lawyers that specialize in accident cases, and to an actual insurance company, have made Dave and Mike Lloyd extra-sensitive to the fact that motorcycle racing is inherently risky—no surprise to any of us who’ve spent a few years racing and have the scars and limps to prove it. Instead of just accepting the risks, however, the Lloyd brothers decided to do something about it. All season long, they'll be promoting the sale of raffle tickets; the ultimate winner takes home a Buell pace bike that was custom built for use at 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing events. Proceeds from the ticket sales will be used to buy additional sections of air fence for use at flat track events.

Air fence is one of the best safety innovations to come along in years. The stuff really works. I vividly remember the first time I saw these low-pressure air-filled “cushions'” protecting motorcycle racers from hard walls. It was Portland International Raceway, a road racing track up in Oregon, back in the early '90s, when inflatable soft barriers were still a new idea. While most of the PIR circuit was safe for racing, the final turn led onto a dragstrip where a massive concrete wall sat right on the outside of the track, with about six inches of runoff. Luckily, they had a couple of the newfangled soft barriers from Airfence Safety Systems, out of Australia. In one race, I watched a rider in front of me lowside into it at about 80 miles an hour. Thanks to the Airfence, he walked away from a crash that otherwise would have ended in a certain ambulance ride.

Racing's come a long way since then, when tracks had one or two sections of air fence they'd deploy in the very worst potential impact areas. Now, at some races, it seems like there's hundreds of yards of fencing, protecting racers from almost any potential wall impact. A lot of credit for that goes to John Ulrich, who publishes Roadracing World magazine and runs one of the longest-standing privateer teams in AMA Pro Road Racing. Ulrich set up a charitable foundation, the Roadracing World Action Fund, to collect money that's used to buy and deploy air fence.

If anything, air fence is even more beneficial in flat track racing, where almost all tracks are lined with fences or walls. AMA Pro Racing already deploys air fence at flat track races, where it has definitely prevented injuries and maybe even saved lives. Although it's a big improvement over hay bales, it presents its own logistical challenges. It costs more than bales (initially); it needs to be trucked from event to event, and you need people trained in its installation and maintenance. Although any pro flat tracker would like to have more, the money has to come from somewhere.

That's where Lloyd Brothers came in. Dave Lloyd got together with the Roadracing World Action Fund and AMA Pro Racing, and offered to organize and administer the raffle. "They say that no good deed goes unpunished," he told me as he described all the red tape involved in holding a raffle…. In order to keep the books completely open, he'll be setting up a website where people who buy tickets can see exactly who's purchased them and how many have been sold. Fans and members of the flat track community can buy tickets at all 2011 AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track events for $20 a pop, and at the end of the year, a winner will get one of the (now collectible!) Buell pace bikes.

All of the money raised (except for a small amount of withholding tax mandated by the IRS) will go toward acquiring more air fence for flat track events. Lloyd Brothers will transport and display the Buell at AMA Pro Racing events, organize volunteers who'll sell raffle tickets, and they've even made up display banners, all at the expense of their race team.

I ran into Mike Lloyd at Du Quoin, where he'd gone through the bleachers selling tickets. He told me, "I think we'd sell more tickets if we had a cute blonde handling this part of the job!" I'm sure quite a few women think Mike is a cute blond, but given the predominantly male flat track crowd, that’s probably not what he meant. No matter who you see selling raffle tickets at AMA Pro Flat Track events this year, though, please support the Lloyd Brothers/Roadracing World/AMA Pro effort.