A mini motorcycle track day with Southeast Mini Moto
I’m hard on the throttle exiting the wide sweeping curve known as “The Bowl”, trying to click up through the gears as fast as possible before the brake/downshift zone and the left hairpin that is turn 1. As I drift wide so as to dive deep into turn 1’s apex, an 11-year old named Cooper undercuts me on the inside, passing me on a 110cc Ohvale like I’m standing still. “That kid’s good,” I muse to myself as he rockets away down the back straight.
Circling turn 1 at Lamar County Speedway. Photo by ScottieE.
I’d been invited down to Lamar County Speedway for a track/race day by Southeast Mini Moto, one of only a few outfits that host track days and sanctioned races for motorcycles and minibikes under 200cc on the right side of the US of A. Josh Pitts, the chief event organizer for SEMM, had reached out to me via MotoAmerica racer Trevor Standish, asking if we’d be interested in doing a story on “mini moto” road racing. When he added, “Bring your track gear, and we’ll put you on track with one of our bikes,” I didn’t hesitate.
C’mon, who wouldn’t find this to be crazy fun? Photo by ScottieE.
So here I was down in Barnesville, Georgia on a hot and humid Saturday in August, turning laps on Lamar’s rather tight and twisty kart track with a 2001 Honda XR80 kitted out with track racing slicks, getting smoked by a quite skilled 6th grader named Cooper. And cheering him on even as he and others make short work of me, lap after lap.
“Dang, this is fun,” I exclaimed in my helmet.
All kinds of minis out on the track, with all types of riders. Photo by ScottieE.
Mini Moto racing is huge in Europe and has been gaining traction on the American west coast over the past 20 years or so. It is essentially small-displacement, mini bike and “pocket bike” racing on dedicated kart tracks. No motorbikes over 450cc are allowed on track, for racing or just turning laps. In SEMM, they race four classes- Monkey Bike (Honda Grom, Kawasaki Z125, Benelli 135, etc.), Stock 100 (dirt bikes with track tires, 100-125cc), F1 (125cc 4-stroke mini race replicas like the Ovale and others), and Super Mini (highly modded, up to 200cc 4-stroke).
Those little dudes are stupid fast. Photo by ScottieE.
Josh and company took over Southeast Mini Moto about 3 years ago, and aspire to grow participation in this unique and enjoyable form of motorcycling across the south. Josh told me, “We want to fill our grids in every race class, expand the number of tracks we use, and invite more riders to just come out on their small bikes and rip a few laps with us. The fun factor and risk-to-reward ratio is hard to beat!” In walking the paddock at Lamar Speedway, I noticed the wide variety of attendees on hand. Entire families with tents set up for the weekend, kids and parents on minis, young and older, men and women, multiple ethnicities, from across the southern states, all enjoying time on track and off with each other. Motorcycling has a way of doing that, at all levels.
Rob rolling back out on track, as other riders cycle in and out. Photo by ScottieE.
I met a Mini Moto racer named Scottie Elkins, who also serves as the SEMM photographer. Scottie is a professional photog for several automotive track day and road racing enterprises, but Mini Moto racing is his hobby/passion when he’s not behind the lens. “Where else can you have this much fun with so small a motorcycle?” He quipped. I’m inclined to agree with him.
A rider entering turn 1 off the front straight. Photo by ScottieE.
I talked with Cooper and his father Rick, up from Florida where they race in a couple of series, and Coop told me, “I’ve been racing since I was in the 2nd grade, four years. It’s just a really fun time, hanging out with my friends. I love everything about it.” Rick enjoys the quality time with his son, loves helping him improve and encouraging him. Rick rides and competes in an “Over 40” class in Florida, and the two travel the south during the summer months, riding and racing with SEMM and other outfits hosting mini events. Now that, is some quality family time.
My fast little friend Cooper, his father Rick getting him ready to head back on out track. Photo by ScottieE.
They were but one of several families I noticed who all took to the track that day- moms, dads, kids, all on their own bikes, ripping around the track together during the “open track” sessions of the morning and early afternoon, and entered in the race classes as evening approached. I throttled out among them all on the little XR80, wringing its neck on the two short straights, and diving through the tight corners around Lamar. I’ve never had so much fun on so small a motorbike, I must confess.
Some of the early evening racing. “And a child shall lead them.” Photo by ScottieE.
I talked with Trace Atchinson, one of the SEMM crew who told me, “The whole thing kind of evolved from riders who wanted an affordable, lower-risk way of racing and riding track days, without having to pay for large powerful race bikes and expensive track fees. They started throwing street tires on dirt bikes, and it just grew from there.” Mini Moto racing is proof you don’t need massive horsepower, triple digit speeds and deep pockets to have fun riding and racing motorcycles. Throwing that little XR80 through the curves and pinning it down the straights, I’m sure I never exceeded 40-50 mph, but it sure felt fast, and it sure was fun.
Mini motorcycles, big fun factor. Photo by ScottieE.
I want to thank Josh for inviting me out to spend a day with the crew and participants of Southeast Mini Moto, Jesse who entrusted his XR80 with me, Scottie E for his outstanding photography, and the whole Mini Moto community who welcomed me among them. May you all “stretch out the tent pegs” and grow the sport.
For more on Southeast Mini Moto, visit their Facebook page at:
For more photos, check out the work of ScottieE:
*Check out this fun track video from the day, without ever leaving this page-