Early in November, eight men were called to the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Who were these awesome people?
Religion and politics should never be brought up in polite company, so it’s been said. Add one more taboo topic. Greatness. Never bring up “Greatness” if you plan to leave a social setting with all your friendships intact. No two people will ever agree, and the other guy is always wrong. Really wrong.
Greatness was on the agenda in early November when the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame convened in Mississauga for its eighth annual induction ceremony that saw eight individuals and the Corduroy Enduro honoured for their contributions to Canadian motorcycling. (Read, ‘Circuit’ this issue for more about the Cord.) There should be no confusion or room for debate about the merit of this year’s Hall of Fame class. Each is deserving of their place in the hall, and in the memories of Canadian motorcyclists. But who were these individuals, chosen for their lifetime achievements? Let’s take a closer look at the names.
With five No. 1 plates, and 21 national and 32 provincial titles, John Parker is one of the most successful riders in Canadian dirt track history. The year 1999 brought spectacular success when, at age 40, Parker became the most dominant rider in Canadian dirt track history by winning 12 nationals including 10 in a row. He won the CMA No. 1 plate in dirt track, received the White Memorial Trophy; was CMA national champion in the 600cc and open expert class, CMA provincial champion in both classes and CMRC national champion in both classes.
Named by Ontario as executive of the year in 1994 for his sports promotion in conjunction with the Welland County club, the City of Welland has also frequently recognized Wes Pierce for his volunteer contributions to community life. He was an avid off-road rider and former Canadian junior enduro champion in his youth. This experience led him to create the Massassauga Enduro, an event that gained national championship status and was a notorious test of rider and machine. Prior to 1970 speedway racing was defunct in eastern Canada until Pierce and Stan Bradbury united to revive it at Welland and nurture it to health. For 10 years, Pierce and his wife Iris leased the Welland track and promoted speedway and other events.
Known as the “Flying Canadian,” Ken Hatton was an ambassador for motorcycling who launched his career across the border as early as 1950, when he became the first Canadian to enter American Motorcycle Association professional hillclimb competition. In 1954, he won five different classes at Mt. Kuhn in Heidelberg, near Kitchener and continued to dominate the course over the years. Several of his trophies are now in the possession of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Museum in Brantford, Ontario. Hatton died of cancer in 1988 at the age of 62.
By age 20, dirt track rider Peter Grant had earned two provincial junior championships and placed second in the national series. In 1975 he gained the 750 senior class national and provincial championships riding in Ontario. He went on to 250 class championships in Canada and multiple top-10 finishes in AMA regional competition. The No. 1 plate for the 750 expert class was claimed by Grant in 1979, and again in 1980.
First in Canada as a privateer and then in the US on the Harley-Davidson factory team, for a few shining years Dave Sehl ruled the half-mile dirt tracks like few others. His first success came in ice racing in 1966 when he won the CMA junior 500 national championship. In 1967 he was Canada’s top half-mile dirt track competitor in the senior class, repeating the win in ‘68 as an expert. He topped that in 1969, winning on the ice again as an expert and taking the CMA No. 1 plate in dirt track. His dominance of Canadian racing continued and Sehl took the CMA championships in 250 and 750cc half-mile dirt track in 1970 and 1973.
He was the pride of Belleville, Ontario and one of Canada’s most naturally talented motorcycle racers of the prewar era. George Pepper was an exceptional rider with successes in Canada, the United States and England, riding before crowds of up to 60,000 race fans. With the outbreak of the Second World War he became a pilot in the Royal Air Force and was decorated for bravery before his life was cut short by a plane crash on a test flight in 1942.
At the age of 26, Don Haddow bought a new Triumph T100R and was rewarded with the 1957 Canadian championship in the expert class at Harewood Acres, near Jarvis, Ontario.
A few weeks later he placed second in the 25-lap final of the BEMC Indian Summer Trophy Races. These wins launched his career. Late in the season in 1961, Haddow rode Oscar Liebmann’s hand-built BMW Rennsport special at Harewood and narrowly beat Al Johnson on a Norton Manx to win the Indian Summer Trophy Race.
In this world there may be tens of thousands of motorcyclists who owe their lives to Stuart Munro, the recognized godfather of rider training in North America. He was passionate and relentless in his campaign to introduce a comprehensive training program to a rapidly growing community of novice riders. Thanks to his initiative, classes that began in a parking lot in Ottawa in 1967 have spread from coast to coast in Canada and throughout the United States.
In 1974, after much lobbying on Munro’s part, Transport Canada agreed to provide seed money of $750,000 for the Canada Safety Council to fund the development of a national rider training program. Known today as Gearing Up, the course is currently operated from coast-to-coast and trains 20,000 novice riders a year.
(With Motorcycle Hall of Fame files.)