Sunday morning after breakfast, I was walking along the main drag in Avalon and saw three older men sitting by the fountain. I said to myself, ‘These guys look like they know a thing or two about racing here on Catalina.’ So I went and said hello. Turns out it was none other than Dave Schuler, pictured winning his class on the MV Agusta in last week’s photos.
Dave is wearing the jacket, Lyle Ottele is the one in the middle and their friend Walter who lives on the island is on the right.
We chatted a while and Lyle told me the story of the 1958 race. Turns out Dave called him a few days before it because he didn’t have a bike to ride. Lyle was riding for the MV Agusta importer at the time an had a specially-prepared DOHC race bike especially for the Grand Prix. He called them up and got a hold of a brand new street bike for Dave.
The day before the bike was shipped to the island they worked together to strip the lights off, prep it for the dirt and mount knobby tires. In the end though, all they really had was a street bike with dirt tires on it.
Race day dawned, the race started and Lyle failed to finish on his fully-prepped racing machine. Dave, on the other hand, ran away and won his class. He says that bike would jut run and run.
No dirt-prepped street MVs from the ‘50s showed up this weekend, but there were plenty of Triumphs, at least one Velocette, two ’58 Yamahas (one ridden by Yoshi from Garage Company in a vintage 1958 equestrian helmet) and one BSA Catalina Scrambler. There were at least two Harleys; a 1929 hardtail and a 1980s Sportster-based Baja bike. Two BMWs turned up, one in WWII-era camo with plunger rear suspension and on brand-new 450 enduro.
Dave told me a little anecdote from the 1958 race. Know the famous Yamaha promo film? What it doesn’t show you is that Fumio Ito somehow got turned around and ended up riding the course the wrong way. They had to restart the race because of that. Dave told me this himself.