Eddie Mulder's Dirt Track School

Walt James Stadium, Willow Springs Raceway

Rosmond, Calif. April 22nd & 23rd- 2006

Article  by Jamey Blunt


Flat Track, or Dirt Track, is the oldest form of motorcycle racing in the world. This type of event originated on dirt surfaces and later evolved to steeply banked board tracks, (made from lying two by fours on edge) some measuring more than a mile in distance. After numerous fatalities, the board tracks became a part of history and Flat Track once again moved to the dirt tracks, many of which are located at fairgrounds across our great country. Unlike any other form of motorcycle racing Flat Track began here in the good old U.S.A. and is considered to be the grass roots of all motorcycle racing. Given this long history is it any wonder that some motorcyclist want to give Dirt Track racing a go? Herein the problem arises; you can't just go to the local motorcycle shop and purchase a Flat Track bike. These are specialized machines developed from years of trial and error with very specific parts just for this type of racing, and unlike other motorcycle disciplines one can't just find an oval race track in a field to practice on. One savior in the Flat Track world comes in the form Eddie Mulder, who for the last eleven years has held a school for those wanting to be a part of the history, or at least see what it is like.


Eddie Mulder, a past factory Triumph racer who ran under National #12, is a multi Grand National event winner, and more importantly a die hard Dirt Tracker. Mulder also is one of the best race promoters in the business and runs the West Coast Vintage Dirt Track Series mainly in California. As a motorcycle hall of fame member he knows a thing or two about teaching the finer points of riding/racing a motorcycle. To start the season off Mulder holds a two day Dirt Track school every year in April, first to help keep the sport alive, and second to help aspiring racers learn what it takes from one of the best.


Bright and early on day one students are checked in, and given their credentials at the Ventura County Library in Rosmond Calif. Each student is also required to bring with them their personal motorcycle, which will be set up to their own custom settings. The theory being, it's better to set up the bike you'll be racing for you, than having you try to transfer all this new found knowledge yourself. Pierre Vaillancourt of Works Performance Suspension was on hand for both days of school checking each student's motorcycles not only for suspension, but weight distribution as well. Counting heads from the back of the classroom gave a tally of fifty nine, but many were friends wanting to acquire knowledge without really enrolling. So many small details like suspension, weight balance, handlebars, tires, seating, air pressure, gearing, throttle control, starting, LOOKING AHEAD all go into a successful venture of the Flat Track world. Each student was also invited to throw a leg over one of Mulder's personal Triumphs (just to sit on) to get a feel of what a correctly prepared race bike should feel like. After seven hours of  classroom (with a lunch break) including open question and answer sessions all day, and bike set up, students were eager to put these new techniques to the test on the track, but first things first, dinner at the local Italian restaurant where everyone was invited. One of the best things about Flat Track racers is the camaraderie among this elite group. It's truly one big extended family.


Sunday morning at Walt James Stadium, the 3/8 mile banked oval at Willow Springs was akin to standing outside Disneyland's front gate watching kids making their first trip to something very special. But first things first, upon the arrival of the ambulance excitement is growing, but before Mulder turns anyone loose he walks the track with the entire class in tow. Making sure students understand what he preached in class and wrote on the chalkboard. Mulder points to exact positions on the race track, when and why you should be there, or not, he even had a three foot piece of PCV pipe to remind you with should you forget your lessons. (He stands in turn two and TAPPS you lightly on the back) After the complete walk of the track students are divided into groups according to ability and experience. A few quick reminders for Mulder like Fitness/Conditioning, Tire/Air Pressure, Smoother is Faster, and LOOK UP, are brought back to their attention.


After every group had at least two sessions Mulder again meet with them to answer questions and get feedback from the riders. Most were amazed at how much difference the tips they were given really made a huge difference. Then it was time for the provided lunch which gave an opportunity to interview some of the students.


First up: Andre Ochs, the youngest rider ever to attend Mulder's school at nine years of age. Ochs a Flat Track and Super-Moto class champion many times over in just his four year racing career had this to say. "It's fun, Eddie is always trying to get me to look ahead which is what I'm supposed to do, I just forget sometimes. One of the biggest things I've learned is to get my butt on the edge of the seat, and look ahead, look ahead, I can't say that enough. I think it has helped a lot because my dad says my lap times have improved."


From Bob Harris: The oldest person ever to take the class at a young, spry eighty two had this to say: "This is my second time through the school, and every time there's always something you forgot about. Look ahead is most important, not to hang on so tightly, throttle control, I can't remember them all when you're out there so I pick a few things and try those."


Simi Valley Kawasaki's John Lundgren who brought a Stock framed Kawasaki and a Flat Track Framed Yamaha Commented: "This is my second time through the school and it brings back all the things Eddie has said before. For me though the framed Yamaha is easier to ride so I can concentrate on some of Eddies techniques. To me Eddie is the king!"


San Diego off Road's editor Steve Kukla: "I did flat track before, back in the good old days. This class has helped me a lot, I'm real rusty. Look ahead, look up is the most important thing I think I've got out of the class. I don't think I ever really realized how important that one was. I usually come up on somebody so hot I ether wipe them out or myself out, so that's important. Of course bike set up really helped, and handlebar width, also the Works guy helped a lot with my suspension."


Gary Evans who raced Flat Track twenty five years ago had this to say: "I'm just now coming out of retirement from Flat Track and thought this was a great way to get back into it. For me I know I look down at the front wheel a lot, so I definitely need to look up."


Vintage Triumph Flat Tracker Keith Speir: "The most important thing is to look up. The motorcycle won't turn unless you have the gas on. I love this new Triumph, the only one making mistakes now is me. I recommend this school to anyone who wants to do Flat Track, it's the second time I've came to the school and I learn more every time. Some of the questions the other guys ask apply to you and that really helps a lot, I like the question and answer part. I just can't keep that piece of paper I made all the notes on taped to the top of the tank though."


As you can see, most felt this was a worthwhile endeavor. By late in the afternoon (as Eddie says) their tongues were pulling their eyes shut and almost all but the young pros had, had enough and were calling it a day. Did the class get enough track time? By the looks of them, barely able to load their motorcycles, they did. Did Mulder make any new converts? Most in attendance said they would see us at Mulder's West Coast Vintage Dirt Track races when the series beings. So I guess it was a success all around.