The motorcycling world lost a legend along the lines of NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Senior yesterday. AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame member Skip Van Leeuwen died June 21, 2017. The world of motorsports sends its condolences to the Van Leeuwen and AMA family.
Van Leeuwen Was One of the Best Tourist Trophy Riders Ever
Skip Van Leeuwen, according to the American Motorcycle Association, was one of the best Tourist Trophy (TT) riders of all time. One of the most famous TT races of this era is the renowned Isle of Man race. Van Leeuwen dominated TT during the Sixties, winning four nationals on the tracks, which at the time were mostly small dirt tracks featuring a single jump and several left- and right-hand turns. Some of the tracks at which he won AMA national TT races were in Houston’s Astrodome, Castle Rock, Washington, and his home track at Gardena, California’s Ascot Park. Van Leeuwen was also the winner of numerous West Coast regional championships during his career as a racer.
Van Leeuwen’s Career Began on a Used Triumph 650
Right after they graduated high school, Van Leeuwen and his buddy Dick Hammer (also a motorcycle legend) bought a pair of used Triumph 650 bikes and started racing at the tracks and speedways around Gardena. They would both start building their legends on those Triumphs.
Also Well-Known and Respected in Other Types of Motorcycling Disciplines
Although Van Leeuwen was absolutely legendary in TT racing, he was also well-known and respected by his competitors as a motorcycle road racer. He never became a dominating force there, but he was able to take a fourth place finish at the old road course track in Carlsbad, California in 1967.
Van Leeuwen Built a Successful Motorcycle Accessories Company After Retiring
Actually, Van Leeuwen opened his motorcycle accessories company before he retired from active racing in 1972. His company, Van Leeuwen Enterprises became one of the largest companies providing motorcycle accessories to the two-wheeled crowd after only a few years in operation. Van Leeuwen grew the company to the point where they don’t sell directly to the public, only to dealers.
Started from Humble Roots in Iowa Before Moving to California
Mr. Van Leeuwen was born in Iowa in 1938, but his family moved to Los Angeles in 1940. Skip and Dick loved motorcycles and motorcycle racing while they were in high school and would frequent the local tracks, even venturing as far as races held on Catalina Island. Their excitement would build during these races to the point that they would race each other all over town once the races ended. Over time, they built their skills to the point where they able to be competitive in the AMA Expert division races. The rest, as they say, is history.
Racing Junk extends our condolences to Mr. Van Leeuwen’s family and the AMA as a whole for the loss of this legendary racer who helped make the sport of motorcycle racing what it is today.