Sound and smoke.

Customising is taken to the extreme at Glemseck 101.

Classic boxers, period-correct café racers, unusual custom builds: At Glemseck 101 in Leonberg, the custom motorcycle scene celebrates its fastest and best-looking bikes for the eleventh year in a row.

You're not always sure where to look first when you finally secure a spot in the grandstand overlooking the legendary 1/8 mile strip. Then Laura waves the starter's flag, and the sound and smoke of the sprint racers take you back to a bygone era at the Solitude racetrack.

A gentleman in a suit and tie and bowler hat carrying a small brief case frantically makes his way through the crowd of air-cooled two-cylinder bikes. He stops in front of the sprint beemer with an aerodynamic full fairing, taps the rider on the shoulder and points insistently at his watch. Four mechanics gather around the eye-catching BMW custom build, push it straight across the paddock until this unique creation from the Lucky Cat Garage in France starts up and purrs like a kitty cat. The bike does a burn-out to warm up and then shoots out onto the dragstrip. Ferdinand the Sparrow, a tricked-out classic dragster, takes flight to its left. Sparrow versus cat. The bird quickly sheds its feathers: The black wings that rider Marco stuck to his grey suit fly off in the first few seconds.
The sparrow sprints onward without wings. Totally unexpectedly, the bird devours the cat at the last moment. Back at the starting line, the Young Guns jump for joy, absolutely ecstatic as their loose Hawaiian shirts flap in the wind. The crowd of customisers celebrates with the Young Guns, whose bird machine snatched victory from the great Seb "The Lucky Cat" Lorentz. Next, all 16 riders in the "Sultans of Sprint" start their engines and take off with a loud roar and plume of smoke. The dragstrip is now clear for the next race. For next group of motorcycle fanatics. For the next sensational custom builds that no one can get enough of this weekend at Glemseck 101.
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Cat versus bird: Seb "The Lucky Cat" Lorentz goes up against sprint beemer "Ferdinand the Sparrow".

Heritage on the old Solitude track

Old friendships are cultivated during the drag races on the former racetrack.
Forget about solitude.

When amateur and professional customisers come to Glemseck 101 to race their latest creations, the last word that comes to mind is solitude. The old final straightaway of the Solitude racetrack is immersed in sound and smoke on the first weekend in September. Today, cows leisurely graze directly next to the dragstrip and nearby shopping strip. Their pasture extends down to the Glems river and over to the stage where punk, rock and blues bands perform in the evening.

On the other side of the racetrack is the jam-packed grandstand, and behind it the forest that extends almost all the way to Castle Solitude three miles away. The former racetrack is named after this Swabian palace. The site was used for hillclimbing competitions as early as 1903. Until 1965, the track hosted countless motorcycle races, including the Formula One Grand Prix, which was held on the scenic racecourse in the swinging sixties. Today, the rural road serves commuters travelling between Leonberg and Stuttgart, at least most of the year.

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Full speed back in time.
Back to the swinging sixties.

That old-time racing feeling has been returning to Solitude each September for the past eleven years. The track's final straightaway is used for 1/8-mile drag races at Glemseck 101. It's a one-on-one (hence 101) single-elimination tournament. Word of the festival has been spreading in recent years. The festival is now a must for customisers and lovers of classic motorcycle culture. Visitors ride here on their production and custom bikes and park right on the shopping strip, which is quickly transformed into an open-air museum. Talented amateur builders go up against renowned customisers on the 1/8 mile track.

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It's a level playing field with a focus on a passion for motorcycles and friendship – and of course pride in showing off custom builds, which include café racers, classics, boxers, street trackers, bobbers and scramblers. Some are adorned with every part imaginable from motorcycle history. Others are stripped down to their essence: two wheels, a frame and an engine. Glemseck 101 takes you back to the sixties, when then café racer movement began in London and a country road outside Stuttgart attracted the attention of the motorcycle racing world.

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Darting down the dragstrip

A full line-up of racing giants: Racing celebrities compete in the "Sprint International" event.
A tour de force of drag racing

The storm fronts have cleared off. After the rainy drag races at Wheels and Waves in Biarritz, BMW Motorrad Days in Garmisch and the Café Racer Festival in Monthléry south of Paris, custom bike enthusiasts in Leonberg can expect 25 degrees Celsius and slightly overcast skies. It doesn't get any better than this. Eleven drag races have been scheduled at Glemseck, including a repeat of the Boxer Sprint from BMW Motorrad Days. The racers take off across the dragstrip one after the next. A barrage of barely muted roars.

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Maria Costello concentrates at the starting line.

The Sultans of Sprint contest described earlier wasn't the only attraction for heritage enthusiasts. Other thrilling races included the Café Racer Sprint, the original 101 drag race for air-cooled engines, or the StarrWars Sprint for motorcycles with a rigid tail section. These bikes trace their lineage directly back to the early days of motorcycle engineering.

The StarrWars rebellion includes Sebastian Gutsch from BMW Group Classic, who rode an 1928 R 63, by far the oldest bike on the track, and the only one with a manual gearshift. Sebastian Gutsch wins the first round before losing to the ultimate winner of the race. He takes to the track a second time with his spectacular vintage bike during the Flashdance Sprint, where ladies compete against gentlemen. But he's no match for racing icon Maria Costello and the R 50 S Kaczor, another highlight from BMW Group Classic.

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An English duel: Maria Costello takes on Carl Fogarty.

A rarely seen posse of highly respected racing celebrities turn out for the Sprint International event. There's Maria Costello, the first lady of the Isle of Man TT, with BeachBitch, her R nineT Scrambler build. Her rival is none other than super bike legend Carl Fogarty with his "Bloody Hell Fast Triumph". A true premiere league line-up. Bavarian icon Karl Maier is also competing for BMW Motorrad. The four-time longtrack world champion already stirred up dust with his "Flat Tracker" R nineT build on the sand track at Wheels and Waves in San Sebastián last June. Glemseck 101 is his first drag race.

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No one does burnouts with as much passion as Karl Maier.

This veteran racer still has a thirst for victory even 20 years after he ended his professional career. CCS champion Nate Kern travelled from the USA just to blow his competitors off the road with his brand-new "Gold Rush" R nineT build. The pros deliver a thrilling show. Especially Karl Maier and Nate Kern, who are clearly having fun on the racetrack, captivating spectators with their easy, carefree style. But in the end it's not enough to take the BMW pilots to the finals. The underdog "Shiny Harry" from Berham Customs beats "FatMile" from Suzuki after eliminating Carl Fogarty from the race in the semi-finals.

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This catwalk is 201.17 metres long.

The dragstrip turns into a catwalk when the 16 beauties in the Essenza Sprint ride past the grandstand at a walking pace. Customiser Winston Yeh has flown in from Taiwan with this "Bavarian Fistfighter" custom build based on the R nineT. The award-winning industrial designer also pilots his fistfighter in the races. US racer Nate Kern is competing this time with "Church of Choppers" from US customiser Jeff Wright.
The BMW quartet is completed by the R 1200 R "Goodwood 12" from VTR Customs, piloted by Amelie Mooseder, and the "DA#4" from Diamond Atelier, with Jens Kuck in the saddle. This challenge is not just about winning the sprint, it's also about the best design. Spectators and a jury share the task of nominating a design winner. Glemseck 101 is only the first stop for the Essenza riders. A few weeks later the bikes will compete again at Intermot 2016 in Cologne.
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Boxer Sprint: a second chance.

Duel of the flat-twin motorcycles: the BMW Boxer Sprint.

Boxer Sprint: a second chance.

The race was cancelled at BMW Motorrad Days because of pouring rain, and now it's going to happen at Glemseck 101 thanks to Essenza: 16 BMW flat twins line up for the Boxer Sprint, ready to put their skills and strength to the test. The riders, all non-professional customisers, have shined up their masterpieces, many of which are café racers. But before the race kicks off, someone takes the stage who has become a favourite among fans at Glemseck 101 in a very short time: Nate Kern. Spectators cheer as Nate gets ready to take on Dr. Ralf Rodepeter, Head of Marketing and Product Management at BMW Motorrad: "Should I let him win? Noooo," says Nate before the race begins. He then tears onto the track and bolts out of the gate, striking the rear of the bike with an imaginary jockey's whip. Victory.

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The winner's podium for the Boxer Sprint (left to right): Steffen Wittig, Ulrich Beppler and Norman Senger.

Next, the actual Boxer Sprint begins. Ulrich Beppler from Ramberg beats the 16 riders in this single-elimination tournament with his R 80 GS. He won the Boxer Sprint last year and has securely defended his title this year. Rüsselsheim native Norman Senger comes in second with his 100 RS café racer. Steffen Wittig also makes it to the winner's podium with his BMW R 50/2. You can sigh up for the next Boxer Sprint at BMW Motorrad Days 2017. Registration is scheduled to begin in May through MO magazine. All you need is a BMW flat-twin motorcycle.

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All set for Glemseck 2017

The last drag race is in full swing late Sunday afternoon when the wind picks up and rain clouds starting encroaching. The event is almost finished but has to be postponed until next year at the last minute. Nevertheless: The turnout for the drag races is huge compared to last year. 101 organiser Jörg Litzenburger finally switches off the microphone he used to announce the events almost non-stop for two days.
He's hoarse and exhausted, and hardly has another word left in him. But happy. Just like many other festival-goers who have spent two nights camping out and two days getting a full dose of motorcycle lifestyle. They're already missing Glemseck 101 as they make their way home. The date for next year is set: 1 to 3 September 2017.
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