By Lyle Carter - Gary McKinnon has been racing motorcycles for more than 40 years.
Gary McKinnon, riding his Suzuki SV 650, goes into a turn at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Shubenacadie. Submitted photo
And rain or shine, the Truro man will be on the track when the final round of the Atlantic Superbike Championship takes place today and tomorrow at Atlantic Motorsport Park in Shubenacadie.
“It’s a very exciting sport,” said McKinnon, 61, a truck salesman with Nova Enterprises Ltd. “It’s a thrill from the time the flag drops. You are pushing to the limit, you’re looking for traction.
“It’s almost like an addiction. Hockey players can’t wait to get back on the ice the next time. I can’t wait to get back on the race track. I guess being competitive is also part of it. My personal goal is to get 50 years of racing in.”
Action begins today at 9 a.m. and again Sunday at the same time.
McKinnon rides a Suzuki SV 650 and despite competing against younger riders (many are in their 20s and 30s) he holds down second place in the points standings in both the Thunder Class and the Sportsman Class while sitting third in the Formula 46 class.
On July 21 at Atlantic Motorsport Park, MacKinnon even pulled off one of the most amazing feats of his 43-year racing career. It occurred in a Thunder Class race during which he completed his fastest lap ever in 1:11:910 on his way to victory.
“This would be an average speed of 125 km/h,” McKinnon said. “The course is 1.6 miles long, it has 11 turns and there are 12 laps in a race.”
“It’s quite a thrill for a rider when he reaches the backstretch. With my bike I’m probably hitting 130 mph. I’m wide open in sixth gear. Your mind is on finding a way to get around whoever is in front of you.”
Growing up in Central Onslow as part of a motorcycle racing family, McKinnon’s twin brother Glen raced for a number of years and in 1988 his younger brother Trent was the junior road racing champion.
“I was riding motorcycles from the time I was 12,” McKinnon said. “In May of 1971 I entered my first legal road race at the old airport in Debert. I finished fifth in my first race, I crashed in the second and I blew my bike up in the third race.”
McKinnon carried on and overcame many obstacles during a stellar career, including more than 30 crashes, broken collarbones and broken bones in his feet.
He won the rookie of the year award winner in 1971 and was the Maritime Roadracing Champion in 1975, 1976 and 1984.
During the 1990s, he dominated the vintage racing scene and in 1999 won the Canadian Heavyweight Vintage Championship.
“First of all I’m grateful to a number of friends, sponsors and supporters,” McKinnon said. “There are so many people I’d like to be able to thank who contributed to my racing over the years.”
One of those supporters is his daughter, Marley McKinnon.
“I grew up at the racetrack with my dad,” Marley said. “It’s a common interest that we share and an important part of my life.”
A weekend pass for Atlantic Motorsport Park is $20. Further information is available by visiting the website www.atlanticroadracing.com
Lyle Carter’s sports column appears every Saturday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.