“Why Wouldn’t You Do That?”
By Michael Gougis
Mark Mitchell got his start on two wheels doing moderately crazy things on a minibike. These days, he’s most often found on a Ducati Multistrada, and he’s giving back to those who are laying it all on the line for glory, fortune, and the entertainment of the fans.
“I was at Laguna Seca visiting one of the World Superbike events. I used to ride up there quite often from SoCal with friends,” says Mitchell, a wealth fund manager and contributor to the Roadracing World Action Fund. “I remember thinking that, being a motorcycle rider for so many years, I was aware of the risks that (racers) face while we enjoy the entertainment provided by these warriors who are competing on the race track.”
When given the opportunity to help make the sport safer by increasing the amount of inflatable barriers available for deployment at tracks around the nation, Mitchell says he thought, “Why wouldn’t you do that?”
Mitchell serves on the board of a nonprofit with Gordon McCall, who oversees The Quail Motorcycle Gathering, and through McCall found out about the annual “Rainey’s Ride To The Races” event. The ride, held prior to the MotoAmerica round at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, offers participants a chance to help raise money for the Action Fund, in part by purchasing a section of Alpina inflatable barrier.
Mitchell attended, and he purchased.
“I thought, let’s kick this off, so I bought a section,” Mitchell says.
Mitchell has raced amateur motocross and the occasional desert race, competing once in the famous Barstow to Vegas event. He has ridden in events across the nation and in Europe, a long way from his start as a seven-year-old ripping around on the streets of Carson in Southern California in the late 1960s.
“My first ‘legit’ motorcycle was a Yamaha, a JT1, a 60cc mini-enduro,” Mitchell says. “But before that, I had a Taco minibike. The thing to do when you wanted to go faster was to reach under the gas tank and get your right hand on the governor and press down. You’d try to get it to move a millimeter or two to get a little more speed. So you’d be trying to go faster and then increase the risk factor by taking your hand off the bar. It made perfect sense back then!
“My mother knew I was hooked. I was so fascinated by the speed of these two-wheeled rockets. So she got me the JT1. She was so supportive. And I started riding with my friends, and it all went from there.”
Mitchell says tracks and race organizers shouldn’t be in a position where they are trying to prioritize which sections of the circuit gets soft barrier protection, so it is crucial for rider and racer safety to ensure that they have all that they need on hand.
“All too often, (crashes) happen where you don’t expect it to happen,” Mitchell says. “In a perfect world, there would be (soft barriers) everywhere it was needed, all around the track.”
To make a tax-deductible donation to the Roadracing World Action Fund, go here.