“I Am Sold…”
By Michael Gougis
Robb Talbott was sitting at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca about four years ago, right above Turn Three, when he saw it all go wrong for a racer.
“I got to see a rider in one of the literbike classes go off at full speed and across the gravel and straight into the Airfence right in front of me,” says Talbott, owner of one of the most celebrated vineyards in California’s Carmel Valley as well as the Moto Talbott Museum. “He went straight in! Dust flew up, and he landed on the Airfence. He jumped off the Airfence, got back on his bike, fired it up and rode back onto the track. I was blown away. And then I said, ‘This works. This Airfence really works.’”
Talbott has become a regular supporter of the Roadracing World Action Fund (RWAF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded by Mr. Editor John Ulrich in 2001 to improve racer safety by buying and deploying soft barriers at events and tracks across the country. Over several years now, Talbott has donated enough for the RWAF to purchase five Alpina-brand soft-barrier sections deployed at MotoAmerica races.
Talbott got into motorcycling at the age of 14 on a borrowed bike, then went to a college where first-year students were not allowed to drive cars. The rules said nothing about motorcycles, so Talbott got his first motorcycle, a Honda. Watching his friends race motocross got him into motocrossing as well as hillclimbing, including competing at the storied Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
“By that point, I was hooked. It became part of my DNA,” Talbott says.
Talbott rode mostly on dirt, but developed an interest in street machines as well. The Art of the Motorcycle exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum inspired him to see motorcycles not just as transportation or sporting devices, but also as art. He started collecting and then displaying bikes in the tasting room of the his vineyard. Today, the Moto Talbott Museum houses more than 170 machines from 17 countries.
Inevitably, Talbott was drawn to riding track days. Focusing mostly on the tracks closest to his Northern California home, he settled on a 1998 Ducati Supersport for track duty at Laguna Seca as well as Sonoma Raceway. Riding mostly at Reg Pridmore’s C.L.A.S.S. events, he racked up hundreds of track miles–and had a crash along the way.
Talbott is convinced of the need for increasing rider safety, and says he is happy to write a check for sections of soft barriers each year. To date, the Talbott Foundation has donated $50,000 to the Action Fund.
“I don’t go to tracks to see injuries and death. I go to see racing. And this helps us all,” he says.
To make a tax-deductible donation to the Roadracing World Action Fund, go here.