It was at the end of a peddlefest match race with David Vantine
that saw both riders in and out of the throttle, boiling their
tires for Atco’s full quarter mile. A bright flash erupted
through the tire smoke right at the finishline in McBride’s
lane. But it wasn’t just a flash—it was a full-on fire. The
beloved bike—the first in the 5s and a continuous record-breaker
ever since—was now a rolling blaze of oil and nitromethane.
Despite laying atop an explosion that bent and ripped the bike’s
massive top frame tube clean through, and now straddling an
inferno that was burning his legs, Larry deftly brought the bike
to a safe stop next to the ambulance.
“He came past me with everything on fire,” said
Vantine, who stopped his own bike with plenty of room for the
ambulance to get to Larry. “He was jumping around quite a bit.
He was pretty hot.” Hamilton, New York’s Vantine and his Pollard
Nitrosports bike were awarded the match race victory for the
“The Atco crew did a good job of getting the fire
out quickly,” said IDBL President/Promoter Jason Miller. But the
bike is toast. Below the broken frame tube lies a motor as
comprehensively destroyed as any you can image. Completely
severed at its base, the block and head leaned back at a
45-degree angle to the rear. The blower was at a similar angle
towards the front. Below it was the crank and asphalt, around it
was blistered and burnt bodywork. “The crank looks OK,” said
Steve McBride in a state of shock—in tears for both his injured
brother and the machine that has been their lives.
Crewman Roland Stuart crouched beside the bike,
his mind calculating a to-do list as he stared into the
flayed-open belly of the beast, burnt from tip to tail. “That
bike will never go down a race track again,” said Steve.
Larry, in the meantime, was in the ambulance,
sending someone back to the trailer for a pair of shorts. The
track ambulance was met by the local ambulance, followed closely
by a fire truck and then a New Jersey State Police helicopter.
After being flown out to the ER, Larry returned
later in the day. Legs bandaged but in good spirits, he vowed to
restore Old Blue for museum retirement and get his new bike on
track ASAP. Everyone hopes that means the next IDBL race at
Maryland International Raceway.
An online fundraiser to
support the McBrides in rebuilding the iconic machine can be
Larry’s deal was just one of many whack things that happened on
Sunday, including two top end streetbike spills. Throw in rain
delays both days and large bike counts and what is billed as
“the longest running motorcycle drag race in the world” (meaning
in years) suddenly threatened to be literal—a mighty challenge
for Miller, his IDBL staff, and the Atco Dragway staff. But as
they’ve shown time and again, these guys and gals are undisputed
champions when it comes to running the world’s largest
motorcycle drag racing events.
Through it all, the famous Atco attitude never
faltered, although it did get mighty somber for a while until
the news about McBride’s relatively good health was announced to
the crowd. They knew they’d witnessed something devastating.