Crystal Weaver

It’s 100 degrees and the Mojave Desert is breathing fire. The hot wind is blowing sand across the valley and into every sweaty face. That doesn’t matter, though. The only thing that matters at this moment is the dozen motorcycles roaring down the front straight, mere meters away, at over 100 miles per hour.

As several bikes simultaneously dive into turn one, the battle begins. Dragging knees are answered by the cheering crowd and at the exit of that first left-hander, a leader is established. Eight heart-pounding laps, and several lead changes later, it is the final fight for victory as a couple bikes, practically on top of one another, exit the famous last turn at Willow Springs International Raceway and fly toward the finish line. This is motorcycle road racing at its most intimate and passionate.

Back at the pit, the racers are welcomed home from the battle by a group of family, friends and fans. The cheering crowd makes way for No. 221 and No. 870 to proudly take their positions in the shade under the tent. Ernie Snair and Mario Vindeni are in their own personal heaven, one they get to visit on the third Sunday of every month. The local men proudly ride for the race team of Glendale Harley-Davidson/Buell. Their playground is Willow Springs International Raceway, “The Fastest Road in the West” in Rosamond, Calif.

The racing tradition at the local Glendale Harley shop began in 1986 with a small fleet of 883 Sportsters. With some extra support from Bartel’s Harley-Davidson in Marina Del Rey, the team enjoyed four years of racing. In 2004, after a fourteen-year hiatus, the Glendale team returned on a new fleet of bikes. Harley-Davidson had recently acquired Buell, a small American sport bike company, and with the new agile machines, built for racing, the local team never looked back.

The Glendale Harley-Davidson/Buell race team has seen several changes over the years, with racers coming and going, but Ernie Snair was there at the beginning as a passionate racer and is now also the consummate leader and team manager. There are three bikes displaying Ernie’s No.221. He pilots a Buell XB9R in the Middle-Weight Twins class and a Buell Blast in the 500 Singles race at Willow Springs. He also races a 1965 Aermacchi Harley.

During the years of the team’s hiatus, Snair still raced occasionally on his 1965 Aermacchi Harley at vintage races sponsored by the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA).

When the Buell team developed, Snair became the team manager. After a few years of leading the team, he decided it was time to start racing again on a more regular basis. When Snair was asked what caused him to “get back in the saddle,” he said, “There were a bunch of us standing around watching the races and we decided we should get together and race the Blasts.” The Blast is the smallest of the Buell bikes, a single cylinder 500 (half a Sportster motor).

It is an inexpensive bike to own and race, and many of the Buell fans already owned one, so the men began entering the 500 singles class. This desire to race with friends grew into much more. Not only did the “fun” races reignite Snair ‘s passion as a racer, they opened up the possibility of racing to many who hadn’t considered it before. The “Blast class” now has many regulars, all friends, and past members, of the Glendale race team.

Once Snair was back on the track on the Blast, he expanded No.221 to include the Buell XB9R and is now the mainstay of the team, regularly competing in two race classes. “I just enjoy it. I love it. Believe me, it’s a lot of work to get out there and do eight laps. It’s living, it really is. All you’re thinking about when you’re racing is what you’re doing. You’re not worrying about the mortgage, the wife, the job. You’re in the present.”

One of the friends of the Glendale race team that entered the new Blast class is Mario Vindeni on No.870. He was a member of the new Buell team in the beginning, “I was doing track days with Ernie and some of the guys went on to the next level and started racing and we morphed it into the race team.” He raced pretty consistently for two years before having to take some time off. “When the Blast class started blossoming, I came back to support Ernie and the dealership.”

Now, in addition to the Blast, Vindeni also races the new Buell 1125R, his daily rider, in the Heavyweight Twins and Formula Twins classes. “The Blast class is a lot of fun because it’s a bunch of guys on relatively slow street bikes battling it out tooth and nail and having fun. But I really enjoy racing the big bike because it is a race bike in its element. When everything is working the way you want it to, the performance, the precision, the speed and the competition provide an exhilaration that just can’t be duplicated anywhere else.”

When Vindeni was asked what makes him get out there and race every month, he echoed what Snair had said. “It’s just phenomenal. I can’t think of anything else I do in my life that I’m so focused on the moment. All you can think about is that immediate second, without any of the worries about rent, or work or stress or whatever human drama people are going through. Its just complete focus and I find it refreshing.”

Even though Snair and Vindeni are the heart of the Glendale team this season, the newly established Blast class sees many men putting on the orange and black leathers of Glendale Harley-Davidson/Buell for one competition every race weekend. The new class has made it possible for fans to become racers and has brought past Glendale team members out for some friendly competition with their former teammates. Some of these returning racers include Jim Chaconas, Patrick McGinley and Dave Ortiz.

Race weekend is so much more than a few men getting out on the track and having fun. It is serious business that requires many long hours and helping hands. Other than the racers, the Glendale Harley-Davidson/Buell team is composed of a handful of volunteer mechanics and pit workers. This behind the scenes team includes Danny Hildago, Steve Alvera, Eric and Crystal Weaver and hospitality provided by Alex “Mamma” Alvera.

The weekend starts with Saturday practice where the teams get the bikes set up. Then Sunday is a long, exhausting day for everyone involved. The team arrives at the track by 7:00 a.m. to set up the pit and get the bikes ready. After the bikes are checked out by a technician, racing begins at 10:00 a.m. Even though the Glendale men only race in a few races, the day is filled with seventeen races and doesn’t end until 5:00 p.m. At the end of the day, everything has to be torn down and packed up. With regard to the long day, Snair says, “We have fun out there. We wake up early, we work late and it’s exhausting but I wouldn’t change any of it!”

Are you ready to experience the excitement of local motorcycle racing? Snair says, “The excitement is contagious! And the way Willow [Springs] is set up, you can get into the pits, meet the racers and feel like part of the family.” “If you have any appreciation for motorcycling, adds Vindeni, “you can’t help but be awestruck by what you see out there. These guys are masters of these bikes, it gives you goose bumps and you can feel it in your stomach. For that type of experience and the $10 price of admission, I can’t think of a better way of celebrating the sport.”

And for those riders out there who are ready to take on a new challenge, the Blast class is a perfect opportunity to get involved in racing. According to Vindeni, “When you watch these guys on TV in Moto GP or World Super Bike or AMA (American Motorcycle Association), most of us can’t aspire to race at that level but what the team and the [local] series offers is the opportunity to feel the excitement and in a way make dreams come true. We are all fulfilling dreams out there in that regard.”

Ernie Snair and Mario Vindeni, when they are not on the track, can be found at the Glendale Harley-Davidson/Buell dealership located at 3717 San Fernando Rd,
Glendale, CA 91204. Snair is a Buell specialist and salesman and Vindeni is the operations manager of the shop and a Riders Edge instructor.

The team races on the third Sunday of every month (except December) at Willow Springs International Raceway, 3500 75th Street West, Rosamond, CA 93560. A $10 admission allows full access to the entire spectator experience.

In addition to Glendale Harley-Davidson/Buell, our local heroes are also sponsored by: Milwaukee Tools, Pride Printing, Sanitec Engineering, Lyndall Brake Pads, Bell Helmets, Catalyst, All Industries Performance, Tomahawk Tire Warmers and STD Headwork.