Sound and smoke.
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.
Heritage on the old Solitude track
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.
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.
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.
Darting down the dragstrip
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.
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.
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.
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.
This catwalk is 201.17 metres long.
Boxer Sprint: a second chance.
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.
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.