“Racing Motorcycles Is Rock n’ Roll…”
By Michael Gougis
Leslie Stretch is the now-retired former CEO of Medallia (which sponsors the MotoAmerica Superbike series), who describes himself as “a huge motorcycle nut.” He’s putting his money where his mouth is, so to speak, to make the sport of racing motorcycles safer. He’s investing heavily in supporting the non-profit Roadracing World Action Fund (RWAF) and its mission of putting soft barriers made by Airfence and Alpina between racers and hard objects at tracks across North America.
“Motorcycles have been bigger for me than cars,” Stretch says. “These are hugely courageous warriors, and the skill involved in what they do is off the chart. It’s different than racing a four-wheel vehicle.
“I think the key to the sport’s success is keeping these guys safe as they entertain us. I think the Airfence initiative was very important. I think they need every sponsor and every fan to be invested in the sport. That’s how I got involved.”
Stretch started helping increase the safety of the riders a couple of years back, and has participated in all three “Rainey’s Ride To The Races” fundraisers headed by three-time 500cc World Champion (and MotoAmerica President) Wayne Rainey, held preceding the 2021, 2022, and 2023 MotoAmerica rounds at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Stretch tops the individual donor contribution list from the three rides with a total of $175,000 in donations to the Roadracing World Action Fund. That’s almost enough to cover half of RWAF’s latest two orders totaling an additional 36 Alpina soft barriers for use at MotoAmerica events. The new sections are linked to air pumps powered by Honda generators, forming a system which automatically maintains the ideal internal pressure for maximum energy absorption.
Safety, Stretch says, is critical to expanding the attraction of racing beyond the existing dedicated fans. “It’s key to broadening the appeal and increasing the audience, both at the track and digitally. It’s critical for people to know every possible effort has been made to keep the riders safe. It changes the engagement of the fans, especially the casual fans–people don’t want to see the consequences of crashes,” he says.
“Motorcycling and racing motorcycles is rock n’ roll. That is what is exciting about it. It’s good for the brand, it’s good for racing, and we’re on the verge of a renaissance beyond the hard-core fan base.”
Nowadays, Stretch can be most often found on his Ducati Multistrada or his Triumph Rocket 3, which he loves. “I’ve ridden it around Laguna Seca; (it’s) way, way better than you’d expect,” he adds.
Stretch’s two-wheel journey started when he was 15, the son of a single mom, in a family where affording a car was out of the question. “I got a Vespa, a moped. It cost me 15 pounds. And then my first Honda, a 125 four-speed, was my first proper motorcycle.”
Stretch was hooked, and his next bike was exactly what he wanted–the oh-so-desirable Honda CB400F, a high-revving four-cylinder with a chromed 4-1 exhaust that to this day is an icon of mechanical art. “That was my dream ride of the day,” he says. “I remember riding it and I just felt–free.”
To make a tax-deductible donation to the Roadracing World Action Fund, go here.