This past Saturday, October 12th, several of the world’s most ancient motorcycles took to the track at the 9th annual Barber Vintage Festival, in hopes of becoming the newest champion of the race for America’s oldest bikes. For just under a decade, the Barber “Race of the Century” has been one of the most anticipated vintage motorcycle events of the fall, pitting 100+ year old machines against each other on the world-class 2.3 mile road course at the Barber Motorsports Park.
The race annually takes place during the Barber Vintage Festival, America’s largest and fastest growing antique motorcycle event. This year, over 75,000 attendees were on hand for the three-day event, which is regarded as the most comprehensive celebration of vintage motorcycles on the planet. The event boasts a full schedule of road-racing, motocross, and trials events, as well as swap meet, numerous bike shows, a motorcycle auction and more.
This year’s “Race of the Century” fielded almost a dozen rare machines dating back to the earliest days of motorcycling. Machines had to be at least 100 years old to compete, and this year many new entries were brought out to take advantage of the eligibility of the 1913 model year. WTT’s Dale Walksler was aboard one of the oldest machines in the race — a 1912 Indian Twin — aboard which he claimed victory in 2012. Matt Walksler also represented WTT on a 1913 Harley Twin, and rival Joe Gardella came prepared with another 1913 Harley. John Manifee rounded out the Twin Class with his 1912 Indian Twin
Dale poses for a picture with his 1912 Indian Twin. He captured victory on this machine in 2012.
When asked about whether he was nervous about the “newer” competition in the race, Dale offered only a smile, as if he had a trick or two up his sleeve for the Indian.
At the drop of the green flag, the twins roared ahead, leaving the much slower Single cylinder machines behind. Dale’s son Matt took an early lead, but failed to complete the first of two laps with fuel delivery problems.
Joe Gardella aboard the 1913 Harley and Dale aboard the 1912 Indian battled for the lead much of the race, until Gardella’s machine began to develop a misfire. Rider John Manifee was able to gain ground during the battle for first, eventually overtaking Dale on the backstretch.
As Manifee and Walksler emerged from the final turn onto the finish line straight away, the race was neck and neck. The finish came down to the wire, with Dale pulling ahead in the nick of time, winning by less than a bike-length in a photo finish and certainly the closest “Race of the Century” to date. “When racing one of these 100-year old bikes, literally anything can happen,” said Dale. “Luckily, my machine had a little extra speed in store for the finish.”