The second Bagger Shootout!
The Bagger Party Race on the Ems river in the former Speedway / Long Track Mecca Harsewinkel: The second ” Bagger shootout” saw spectacular race action on the Super Moto / Kart track in North Germany!
For many visitors, the visit at Harsewinkel Stadium was also an nostalgic-trip into the past of German motorsport heritage: Back in the 70s and 80s, Speedway, Long Track and Grass Track Racing attracted massive crowds of spectators to the then widespread Speedway stadiums all over West Germany – Track Racing ranked third in popularity among all sports in terms of visitors. Exciting races and an inexpensive start to the sport were guaranteed at the time, there was massive interest by locals and specialized magazines for the sport. The huge dimensions of today’s “Emstal Stadium” still give an idea of the popularity of the sport at that period: Built as late as 1979, the Speedway oval has the dimensions of a horse racing track and was one of the most modern facilities of its time. Already in the 80s, the asphalted Kart Track was added to the infield, which later could also be used in many variations as a Super Moto and Pit-/Minibike race track or as a training area for driving schools and private practice. Encircled by a massive earth wall and therefore noise-damped, an ideal venue for the “Bagger Race Party” series. The site was elaborately prepared for the event by members of the MSC Harsewinkel, which was rewarded for the effort: Another top party with exciting races, many visitors and lots of unique motorcycle action of the participating brands BMW, Indian and Harley-Davidson.
Set-up time on Friday was already accompanied by engines roaring, albeit from much smaller displacements: While the Bagger race teams arrived all day and erected tents and displays, the local MSC Harsewinkel used Friday afternoon for training runs of Mini- & Pit-Bikes, alternately rotating with with screaming Race Karts “warming up” the asphalt. For many motorcyclists of neighboring countries that still enjoy some liberty for their sports activities: Motorsport in Germany is not any longer welcome, at least not by a loud minority that seems to have been given to power to block almost everything they dislike: Due to current environmental and noise regulations, the formerly well-booked arena can only be used on 9 (!!!) dates a year. Germany today: There is always someone somewhere who finds something too noisy. In fact, the “Bagger Party Race” in Harsewinkel is only the second Harsewinkel event date this year – and on Saturday evening – after the successful Bagger premiere – the 1st chairman of the MSC, Hainer Flasskamp, recalls what happened to this former legendary German Speedway racetrack. “Some high-profile racing events flopped due to weather, rained out completely,” remembers Flasskamp, “with corresponding result in the club’s purse.” Add the lack of support from national and local motorsport associations to compensate the losses and keep the sport’s locations alive and add todays increasingly excessive requirements for safety, security and health, you have a problem.
Nevertheless, with much enthusiasm, the club members started the preparation of the terrain, because at this Bagger Party Race, paddock, party mile and race track formed a compact unit: all action within the perimeter of the former Long Track/Sand Track race course, which, with a track length of 0.8 km (0.5 miles), can certainly be compared with many US dirt tracks, if not used as such. The asphalt Kart Track for Bagger and Hooligan classes is 0.82 km (0.51 miles) long and can be completely viewed from grandstands and set-up barriers. The “valley” of the Ems here is the so-called “Emssand plain” – and the low hills of the historic Teutoburg Forest start about 15 km to the north. The highest elevation here is the “Wall” of the former speedway stadium and an artificially raised hill on which a modern harvester machine is parked: Harsewinkel is the home of “Claas”, THE harvester manufacturer. Founded in 1913, Harsewinkel is home and headquarter of the fifth-largest agricultural machinery manufacturer in the world – and in the shadow of the harvester monster, event commentator Frank Sander has a perfect “field commander’s hill” with panoramic view on the race action unfolding in the arena.
Best conditions also for racers and visitors, the latter arriving in large numbers Saturday morning: With the motorcycle parking lot in the old Speedway paddock, the way to track and party is very short. Demo rides of all three brands are “ready to rock” and ride out into the rather flat and not very “curvy” plain left and right the Ems river. Although the demo rides are well booked, the racing action is the main focus of interest: just like at the Speedway in the past, visitors can get close to the riders and bikes. Very close. The Bagger Party Race is not a sterile racing event: all three manufacturers – plus the local dealers of Indian, BMW and Harley-Davidson are present and happy to answer visitors’ questions.
The schedule follows a tight plan – and for the second event has become almost routine. On set-up day, a heavy thunderstorm downpour had prevented “pre-testing” of the track and planned photo shoots alike – only Harley-Davidson race director André Jaeger did a few laps on Friday on a spontaneously borrowed Pitbike – so rider introductions and the practice runs on Saturday morning were very much in demand. For the spectators a welcome start to see the different racing classes together on the track, even if the driving styles between “Hooligan” and “Bagger” classes are clearly different. The Harsewinkel Kart Track is demanding: Fast track sections after the start alternate with tight hairpin turns close to the spectators that have floorboards sparking and screaming. Even the “Hooligan” footpegs don’t come out of the race heats “unpolished”! There is no “banking” in the turns and extremely slippery stonework in “lawn grid” style (including growing out grass) in some turn extensions. In other words: the asphalt strip is the limit, overshooting is almost impossible, if not associated with crashing. And that on the almost 400 kg heavy touring monsters…
The successful premiere in Amfing/Bavaria has attracted new players to Harsewinkel: The “Hooligan” class now lists seven bikes on the starting grid, including two flat-track tested FTR’s prepared by Indian Karlsruhe/Team Buschkönig, the “Speed Hog” of Harley-Davidson Wuerzburg Village and the lap record breaker of Oschersleben, a 209 kg lightweight Sportster-S as a joint project of numerous manufacturers who are also present at this Bagger Race Party. The “Plan B” Pan America of Andre Jaeger, mutated into a stylish Super Moto, inspired the Schweinfurt-based BMW dealer Witzel to the BMW “counterattack”: A “Super Moto” version of the current GS had rolled off the workbench on Thursday and complemented the fast R-nineT of Motorradhaus Ebert from Würzburg.
Bagger Race - Stock Class
In the “Stock” class, the field of 6 remained with two BMW R 18, two Indian “Challenger” and two Harley racers, based on “Road Glide” and “Street Glide”. As only minimal changes are allowed in “Stock” class rules, the bikes can easy be identified as stock origin. Only at closer look, customized details become visible, as exhaust systems come from main sponsor Dr. Jekill & Mr. Hyde, for whom Peet Gerads is also piloting the “Heavy Metal Road Glide”. During some of the individual runs the bikes are operated by “guest riders”, it is not easy to keep track of who is sitting on the bike, but that does not really bother the audience.
Bagger Race - Performance Class
“Performance Class” is THE definite top class of the series – and for Harsewinkel it almost remains home of “the usual suspects”: Yves Grund rides the Harley-Davidson Rhein-Neckar/R&N Racing-built “Road Glide” named “Lil Baggy ” – solid and fast – while Thilo Günther drifts the Indian-Freiburg-built “Challenger” spectacularly through tight corners, showing his outstanding riding skills when braking the beast into the corners as well as when accelerating out of them, the bags wiggling wildly while the rear rubber leaves black stripes on the asphalt. The Harsewinkel track layout probably favored the BMW Ebert/Witzel-built R-18 at this Bagger Party, as it often had the pace due to continuity and fast riding, with the occasional “sprint” on the last straight homing for the chequered flag. Boyke Thiessender on the R18 of BMW Team Witzel at the handlebar nevertheless had to fight it out with bike and track, as in sharp left turns the footrest touched the gearshift lever. Whoever thinks that three motorcycles on the track is not much race action has not experienced this “Trio Infernal”.
Not a single second of the Pro class is boring, constantly changing positions and the tight-cut overtaking maneuvers of the Big Bikes are often breathtaking. The same applies to the Stock class where the number of riders compensates for just slightly slower speeds – and for the “Hooligans” the historic rivalry between Indian and Harley is relaunched. Hooligan racing at Harsewinkel certainly was “with a knife between the teeth”! Thilo Guenther – all-round racer that he is – pilots the record Sportster-S in footrest-shredding angles against the newly arrived Indian competition of Tobias and Patrick Buschkönig, who have already performed numerous race fights on their FTR-based racers. The side-by-side mega-spectacle continued “full throttle” through all three “Hooligan” heats and ended in a photo finish of the three top Hooligans in almost every race.
Crossing the Finish line
1. Indian FTR (87) Patrick Buschkönig – HD Sportster-S (10) Thilo Guenther – Indian FTR (86) Tobias Buschkönig
2. Indian FTR (86) Tobias Buschkönig – HD Sportster-S (10) Thilo Guenther – Indian FTR (87) Patrick Buschkönig
3. Indian FTR (86) Tobias Buschkönig – Indian FTR (87) Patrick Buschkönig – HD Sportster-S (10) Thilo Guenther
Category Bagger Stock
1. HD Road Glide (19) Peet Gerards – BMW (69) Stephanus Richter – HD Street Glide (3) Andre Jaeger
2. HD Street Glide (3) Axel Schermer – HD Road Glide (19) Peet Gerards – Indian Challenger (23) Fritz Doser
3. HD Street Glide (3) Andre Jaeger – BMW (69) Stephanus Richter – HD Road Glide (19) Peet Gerards
Category Bagger Pro
1. BMW R-18 (100) Boyke Thiessen – HD “Lil Baggy ” (120) Yves Grund, Indian Challenger (10) Thilo Guenther
3. Indian Challenger (10) Thilo Guenther – BMW (100) Boyke Thiessen – HD “Lil Baggy ” (120) Yves Grund
4. HD “Lil Baggy” (120) Yves Grund – BMW R-18 (100) Boyke Thiessen – Indian Challenger (10) Thilo Guenther
Super Moto Circuit
However, one disadvantage of the Harsewinkel Super Moto circuit this weekend was the location of the start/finish line. It was far away from any spectators and even leads the “wild bunch” away from the spectators as the start flag is lowered – many sections of the huge Speedway Arena are still “re-naturalized” and therefore closed to the public. This means that the spectators not only miss out on some super-exciting final sprints across the finish line, but also on the starting procedure, which varies in each race and follows the “classic” starting procedures of “standing”, “Le Mans” and “rolling” start for races 1-2-3 accordingly. Lucky those who brought binoculars. A start/finish area, even if simply improvised with chalk, directly in front of the spectators would have been more visitor friendly – and would have moved the exciting after-start position battles directly to the most spectacular turns. In addition, each winner would have received his due audience applause immediately after crossing the finish line – because there were exciting race runs in each of the three rounds in all classes.
The proximity of the race track to the paddock and party zone was welcomed by everyone: It was a relaxing short walk from the exhibitors to the rider presentations held on the Harley-Würzburg stage, in between watching Dirk Manderbach doing wheelie training on the simulator or checking out the cool custombikes from “local heroes” Indian Melle/Bike Farm and Harley-Davidson Bielefeld, last year competing at the “International Bike Build-Off” at CUSTOMBIKE in Bad Salzuflen. Of course, sponsors and brands like Dr. Jekill & Mr. Hyde, Wunderkind and Hyperpro were also on site with their teams: Chassis tuning has become a topic not only on the race track.
Stunt action by Dirk Manderbach and Chris Lietsch on BMW entertained the audience during short breaks between the race sessions. The duo once again celebrated motorcycle acrobatics at the highest level, complemented by the choreographed “double stunt action” with both bikes in parallel stunts! Time to visit the exhibited custombikes was added by a mandatory lunch break between 12:30 and 13:30. Engines had to be shut down due to noise regulations – and one gets the idea which restrictions the resident MSC is burdened with nowadays. After the break, action “kickstarted” in fast pace: Hooligan – Stock Bagger – Pro Bagger. Saturday afternoon just flew by in no time at all! The racing action on heavy touring bikes attracted visitors from all over Northern Germany and the Ruhr area, VIP’s like Torsten Zimmer, National Manager Indian, the team of Custom Chrome Europe and SKS Managing Director Andreas Scholz on private tour included. “Special guest” at the last stage presentation was World Speed Trials organizer Ruedi Steck arriving from Switzerland: In September 2023 (21st-24th) the first European Land Speed Record event for motorcycles will be held at German Lausitzring and only a few insiders know that the origin of the American Bagger Race Series can be traced to the “World’s Fastest Bagger” records of Bonneville Salt Flats fame. Even though the races are not really registered and classified and actually are “show runs”, the riders go “all in”: turn fights to the limit, constant changes of position and chases after – the lack of experience on the heavy machines occasionally has its “advantages” for the spectators – inevitable slip-ups makes each run unique. The three winners’ trophies are rightly awarded equally to all three brands, because every visitor could see that the participants gave everything possible!
Which is why the riders return to the track together once again for a “Grande Finale”: not only to test the possible lean angles to the limit, but also to let the remaining rubber go up in smoke in true Bagger/Hooligan race style. At the Bagger Party Race, it’s always worth staying until the end – because the party continues after the race! “Initially, we were a bit skeptical about the concept and idea of the “Bagger Party Race”, but the event has also excited our club members,” states Hainer Flasskamp, 1st Chairman of MSC, happily, “if this series continues in 2024 we would be happy to be back in the party!” For this year, August 2023 will see the 3rd and final event south of Berlin: Last “Race & Party” date of the 2023 series is August 12th at the Spreewaldring. With even more participants, more action – and a “Grand Finale” for a successful race series. To quote a first-time visitor with Harley and custombike DNA: “I would never have thought that they pull the cable so hard on these rolling “furniture cabinets”,” said Uwe S. from O., “racing action was spectacular, including the cool and exotic Hooligan conversions! If the series continues in 2024 I’ll be back.” “Being there” is everything, no matter as a participant or spectator, because “Bagger Party Race” has developed into a real popular event in a very short time. Here, at the Bagger Race Party, everyone is a winner…
Text & Photos: HRF
Harley & Kustom Events 2023
Extreme Bike Messe Nürnberg
The Extreme Bike Messe in the "Ofenwerk" event location has been one [...]
Oslo Motor Show (NO)
The car & motorcycle event in Norway. With Bikeshow, Hot Rods and [...]
Biketoberfest 2023 (USA)
The fall edition of Bike Week. A bit more relaxed, but with a [...]
Veterama Manheim (GER)
The autumn Veterama - nothing like there! Over 50,000 collectors, [...]