The fastest qualifiers earned the pole positions in the eight heat races that began the evening card. These heats were followed by semifinals, consolation races, demonstration races, pickup races and finally—fanfare, please—the climactic dash for the Yamaha Silver Cup, a three-foot addition to the ranks of sporting memorabilia. By now it was midnight but nobody seemed to mind, for the crowd had long since realized it was being taken for a ride. It clapped enthusiastically for Yamaha on the proper cues, for itself when informed the race was a sellout and for the promoter, who decided to celebrate his birthday, right down front with a two-foot cake and a telegram of congratulations from his Mum and Dad.
As novice appreciators of indoor motorcycle racing, the fans needed a hero or villain—either would do. He turned out to be a villain and emerged in the second heat, an Englishman named Barry Briggs. It was easy to pick him out of the crowd of racers since he had a sizable Union Jack stitched to his chest. As the field lined up for the start, Briggs cockily tried to beat the flag. The starter banished him to the penalty line, six cycle lengths to the rear. The crowd cheered approvingly. Not a bit chastised, Briggs blitzed his way into the field when the flag fell. He caromed through on the inside and scrambled into third place before someone put a wheel into him and flipped him off his bike—an emphatic and familiar strategy in the sport. The crowd was on its feet roaring its fond approval. If there is an accident on the first lap, the starter signals a recall. The cyclists lined up in the same order, and on his second attempt Briggs tried the same headlong dash, but this time he came a cropper on the second turn. The third time Briggs succeeded in going several laps without getting bumped off, but in his frantic effort to catch up his motorcycle went out of control and pitched over in a shower of sparks. So the instant villain/hero had been eliminated. As a Yamaha publicity man put it later: "Something should have been arranged." Thereafter the crowd adopted as its favorites the drivers who baited the starter, but none could quite match Briggs' cheeky performance.
The final, over 20 laps, was something of an anticlimax. The shenanigans were limited, and the driver in the pole position—one Allen Kenyon—was able to spring away from the field. Since machines do not tire like racehorses, the pacesetter is usually the winner. There seldom is a breakdown in these abbreviated indoor events. So, having gotten the lead, Kenyon just went round and round until the checkered flag was waved. He is a chubby, fair young man from Cupertino, Calif. who had been noticeable all evening because of his sartorial nonsplendor. He had recently split his only set of leathers, and showed up for the Silver Cup competition in a red nylon windbreaker with his number crudely painted on the back. AMA officials shook their heads disapprovingly but allowed him to start. On hand to greet the 20-year-old winner and bestow both the trophy and ceremonial kisses was 48-year-old Carol Channing. It was a long bestowing; Yamaha wanting to be sure ample photographs were taken, and at the end Kenyon was marked with great welts of lipstick. He was last seen, the uneasy rider, hastening off with his bike, a Bultaco from Spain.
And the house lights dimmed.