Former AMA Pro racer passes away

 

We found out over the weekend that retired AMA Pro road racer Ron Mass died last month from complications of COVID-19 pneumonia. Ron was 74 years old.

The news has largely flown by under the radar of most motorcycle and racing publications, save for a short article in Roadracing World magazine (link here). Ron died at a hospice care facility down in Milner, a small map dot of a town in north central Georgia, about 60 miles south of Road Dirt HQ. He is survived by a sole stepson, Zeke Shohfi.

Ron Mass at speed in Riverside Raceway’s high speed Turn 2. In 1977 Ron rode with #96 on his Yamaha TZ750 in the AMA Formula 750 National. Ron was a privateer from Atlanta, GA, and in 1977 was sponsored by Street & Trail Yamaha and Ocelot Engineering. Kenny Roberts won the race while Ron finished in 7th place, ahead of Gene Romero, John Long, Dale Singleton and Wes Cooley. Nickless Photos.

I vaguely recall Ron’s name from my childhood and teens in the 1970s, as he competed against more familiar racers like Kenny Roberts, Gene Romero, Wes Cooley and Dave Aldana, to name a few. Yet from what little we’ve learned, Ron was a tough, top 10 AMA Pro Nationals competitor, piloting a Yamaha TZ750 in the AMA Formula One (then called Formula 750) class.

Mass was also a U.S. Air Force veteran, as was my own father. After his years of military service and racing, Ron earned a degree in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle and went on to fly for the airline industry. From the racetracks to the skies. What a life.

Ron on his familiar #40 exiting Turn 4 at the 1978 Sears Point AMA National in April. Ron finished 6th on his Ron Mass Ent. TZ750, in a field of 52 Expert riders. Nickless Photos.

It’s a shame to me that such an accomplished racer and individual died with so little recognition and remembrance. Were it not for Roadracing World and Road Dirt contributor Geoff Nickless, who captured Ron in his racing years, we’d have learned nothing of his passing.

Geoff called me over the weekend about Ron’s untimely death, and I was stunned to learn such a notable AMA Pro racer lived so close by. I would have loved the chance to go visit with him at some point prior to his illness and interview him about his life, racing and beyond. Geoff gathered some photos he snapped of Mass back in his racing heyday, and wrote some details he recalled of each. We decided a short tribute piece was in order.

Ron battles with #34 Wes Cooley in the 1978 Formula 750 World Championship race at Laguna Seca. They are side by side in Laguna Seca’s old Turn 7 (now Turn 9 “Rainey Curve”). Ron and Wes are both Yamaha TZ750 mounted. Ron was sponsored by Performance Research. Nickless Photos.

“What is your life? You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes,” I’ve read before in the Bible. So true. Here’s to living each day we have to the max, and leaving a legacy of love and goodness for those who come after us.

RIP, Ron Mass. 12/22/1948- 1/6/2023

Rob and the Road Dirt crew

*Photos by Geoff Nickless

Four riders entering Sears Point’s Turn 7, at the 1978 Sears Point AMA National. Ron is on the outside of #37 Jim Allen (Dunlop Tires Road Racing Senior Manager 1979-2010), #26 Randy Mamola followed by #97 Ron Pierce (hidden). Ron Mass finished 6th, Jim Allen 9th, while Randy retired with excessive engine vibration and Ron Pierce crashed out with neck and rib injuries. Nickless Photos.

 

Cycle World Athens

4 Comments

  1. Rjm

    Thanks

    Reply
  2. Tom Gonter

    I first met Ron in 1976 when I attended Continental Motorcycle Institute. There were two instructors, one Harley guy and a Racer. I picked Ron as I was racing amateur motocross at the time. We became fast friends and I soon began helping him with his TZ. He was a great mechanic and taught me so much. I pitted for him a couple of times at Daytona, Laguna Seca and Loudoun. I went on to work in local motorcycle shops around Atlanta and in 1985 started my 14 year career with Cycle News. Ron and I kept in touch over the years and I went down to Milner in later March of 2019 for a visit and ride my KTM on Ron’s property with my son Jimmy. He was batting cancer and was weak but Ron never quit. He continued to teach at a trade school in the area. I’ve got a great story about him and Dale Singleton from Laguna. Godspeed Ron, love you.

    Reply
  3. Michael Roach

    Ron was an amazing pilot as well. I flew with him for years at ASA (Atlantic Southeast Airlines). After pestering him to sell me his 1979 Honda CBX, he finally called me one day and said to come get it if I still wanted it. He told me that bike was bought by his mother for him to get out of racing. It didn’t work of course. Ron was out flying and told me where the key was for his amazing shop and for me to come pick up the CBX. His only stipulation was that I change the oil in it first before taking it. He then explained how to turn on his 8-track player so I could listen to his Beach Boys tape while alone in his shop. Unbelievable guy. Mike Roach.

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      What a great story, Michael. Thanks for sharing, and keeping Ron’s legacy alive.

      Reply

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