Thor Drake, you know him, the co-founder of See See Motorcycles, the man behind Portland's superb One Motorcycle Show, race promoter of The One Pro Races, Dirt Quake USA and The Wild One, and, if that weren't enough, the winner of the first ever Super Hooligan race (that took place at the 2015 Grand National Championship (GNC) Season Finale in Las Vegas), and creator of the world's biggest rollerblades.
Well, not content with all that, he's spearheading the race promotion of this year's Castle Rock TT, American Flat Track's return* to the Pacific North West, the first race in the region since 2014. The photo above is from the 2013 Castle Rock race, when the elite class could still use singles on short tracks and TTs (Photo courtesy of AMA).
Eight years without a national for the whole Pacific North West is a long time, and now Thor and his See See team are bringing it back on 13 August 2022. It was time for me to interview him about the Castle Rock TT comeback. Gary Inman
SIDEBURN: You told us you were trying to bring the GNC back to Castle Rock and now it's been announced. Firstly, why is it important to you personally to do that?
Thor Drake: Well, maybe it's not that important that it's me specifically, but I think it's important to future generations and motorcycle racing as a whole that someone steps up to host big professional-style events. To my credit I do have a unique level of experience that maybe makes me the top choice as a promoter in this area. I have raced flat track, I host large motorcycle events and I care a lot about motorcycles because of what they have given me over the years. Partnering those things with the facts I have good relationships [with the moto industry] and a lot of drive. Ultimately I think to help flat track continue, tracks need to host top level racing to lead the next generation of racers. Show them the height of it so they have something to aspire to be.
Fans can expect high-flying twins, like this Vanderkooi at Peoria TT (Photo: AFT)
AFT has had a policy of wanting to go to tracks with good facilities for sponsors, teams and fans. From my experience, Castle Rock is a very grassroots track with very limited infrastructure, what convinced AFT it was right for them?
Yeah! Who wouldn't want perfect facilities with a perfect track and clean bathrooms. Pipe dreams, ha, ha. You can have a good track and overflowing porto-toilets or clean restrooms, grandstands, etc, and a less than ideal track. I think there are some exceptions, but when it comes down to it we want to provide a good track that has a history of motorcycle racing so we can host a good show of motorcycle racing.
Strangely enough I was inspired by Washougal MX track. It's a motocross track that has stood the test of time, adding bits of infrastructure but staying very much the same as far as the track goes. It's like conquering a legendary beast for a racer. These places keep the soul of racing alive, and it's also good to add new tracks too. I guess the hope would be to make a PNW track that has it all someday, but for now let's do something.
Former GNC #1 Brad Baker has been mentioned as your co-promoter, can you give more details about his role?
This is Brad's home track believe it or not. His dad used to help with the facilities, and Brad remembers being 10 years old (maybe younger) driving his dad's truck around the track to help pack it in before race weekends. Brad is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to racing. He has a lot of opinions on how to make it better, so we got to talking and I just blurted out, 'Want to help me?' He said 'Sure' so we are doing it. He will maintain decisions around the racing side of things and I'll maintain the whole picture with my production team. The shared goal is to host a true blue awesome racing event for the sport's top racers.
Thor, and wife Tori, on a parade lap of Castle Rock at the 2021 Wild One event he promotes
You've been very successful not only organising the One Motorcycle Show, for over ten years, but also Dirt Quake USA and The Wild One races, at Castle Rock. Does this feel a step up or what?
This feels like it's in line with progression. Dirt Quake USA was amazing, the things I have witnessed over the four years we did it will go down in legend. The Wild One was a continuation of Dirt Quake USA/ Last year I stated that if we had a successful event I would push for it to transform into a national, and, well, I guess that's what happened. I think it's a really big opportunity for me as an event promoter to host a national level race, so I'm feeling honoured and want to make it as good as I can.
How many fans do you need to get through the gate to make it work?
I'm guessing around 5000 general admission tickets need to be sold to make it pencil out. That's going to be a lot of smart marketing to accomplish. We have the northwest corner of the United States, [because] the closest other race is the Sacramento Mile. Hopefully folks will travel from our neighbouring states and over the border from Canada.
Running an amateur race on the Sunday might spread the investment and attract a lot of entries, have you considered that option or do you have to leave a rain date open?
My goal is to run amateur on Thursday and Friday. Doing Short track Thursday and TT Friday. It will be cool for amateurs to get in front of the pro teams too.
You can't get more grassroots than Castle Rock. It's race fans role to fill these bleachers
How can fans and volunteers help make the GNC's return to the area a success, beyond buying a ticket?
We need everyone to take ownership of this opportunity. Even people just coming for a good time are on the hook. I have tried to beat it into folks that this is their track. Treat it with tender loving care because when it's gone, it's not coming back. Outside of buying a ticket, tell a friend who has never seen flat track to come with you, buy a beer, purchase an event tee, pick up a piece of trash on the way out the door. If people are supportive it will continue to thrive in all ways.
What feedback or contact have you had since the announcement?
All really great. Riders say we need more TT's. Race fans get to see the best of the best on a legendary racetrack. Amateurs are excited to race alongside the big boys. Even my production team is excited. I want to put on a historic event that builds American-style motorcycle racing. Full steam ahead!
Good luck Thor and See See. We will share more news and details in the run-up to the event.
The penultimate time the GNC raced at Castle Rock was 2013, and it happened to be Jeffrey Carver's first elite class win. Jared Mees was second, Stevie Bonsey third.
* We know it's not really AFT's return, because races were rebranded as that until 2017, but you know what we mean.