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HISTORY

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THE EMDE FAMILY…SAN DIEGO’S FIRST FAMILY OF RACERS

By Norm DeWitt

Note: the following story appeared in the August 2007 issue of Classic Racer Magazine.

Don Emde is the best known of San Diego’s Emde family, his biggest day in racing winning the Daytona 200 in 1972. However, few know the long storied family history in motorcycle racing that has spanned almost a century, and that Don and his father Floyd are the only father-son combination to win the Daytona 200.

In the early years of motorcycling, Don’s Grandfather Joe Emde raced on the local dirt tracks of Southern California, while owning “Emde’s Garage,” a motorcycle and car repair shop in El Centro, California. He also became the first motorcycle policeman in Imperial County. Eventually he moved to the National City area, just south of San Diego, and became the first motorcycle policeman for the neighboring City of Chula Vista in the 1920s. One time his son Floyd was caught trying to outrun the police on his motorcycle, who wanted to issue him a speeding ticket. It made the local newspaper, and Floyd was in big trouble at home.

Floyd Emde was born in 1919 in Seeley, California near El Centro. By the 1930s, Floyd was racing on the various TT, flat track, and road racing courses scattered about the Southern California area. His plans to ride professionally were put on hold by World War 2. Post war, Floyd was immediately back on the pace, racing Speedway bikes, and winning the 1946 Pacific Coast TT Championships at Box Springs Raceway in Riverside. At that race he beat Ed Kretz, launching his professional career. The following year he made the major commitment, selling his house and with the Grandparents watching the kids, he and his wife Florence went on the road to race the AMA circuit. Floyd had a big wreck at Springfield, but one week later he won the Milwaukee Mile’s AMA national championship race. All of this was to pale in comparison to what Floyd was to achieve in 1948. At Daytona he was one of 153 to start the Daytona 200, run on the old beach circuit. Leading start to finish, he held off some of the biggest names of the day, including former winners. A highly versatile rider, he had achieved Indian’s last win at Daytona, and was the first to have led the entire event from start to finish, setting the course record. It was a dominant performance.

Floyd retired in the 1950s to open his motorcycle shop in the San Diego area. Soon it would be time for the next generation of Emdes to begin racing. Bob Emde, the oldest of his 3 sons, won the 1967 Amateur class National flat track race in at Ascot Raceway in Los Angeles. Bob rode in the Daytona 200 once, running mid-pack. Meanwhile, Don was beginning to learn his chops on the treacherous race tracks that made up the west coast circuit.

It is hard for people today to visualize the twisty, narrow and dangerous road racing tracks being used in the 1960s, as Don recalls – “ I not only rode Carlsbad, but some great other tracks like Vacaville and Cotati that are in this league. The latter probably being the most dangerous place ever I ever rode. An old airstrip up by Santa Rosa and you had to pick your own line down the super wide straight, lots of gravel (deep in spots) and pot holes. Guys like Ron Grant and Art Baumann showed me a kind of “S” curve line through there. It’s hard, I’m sure, for a lot of the new folks in the sport to even think that serious race machines, 2 & 4 wheel, went around that little Carlsbad track. In the few years that they ran an AMA National there, some history was made such as Rayborn’s first ever AMA National win. My favorite tracks in my club days were Riverside and Willow Springs.”

In 1968, Don was riding his father’s Suzuki X6 flat track bike and a Suzuki road racing bike, but Don’s early road racing success was mostly on privateer Yamaha racers. All of his Yamaha bikes were obtained through Mel Dinesen, a Yamaha dealer from Bakersfield. Don – “While he got lots of technical and parts help from Yamaha, he did all the work and tuning. I won the AFM 250cc and 350cc Class Championships and the AFM #1 plate in 1969 on his Yamahas as a well as a little 100cc Hodaka he had. That was a good year for us, as well as 1970 when I won the Talladega 250cc race ahead of Nixon and Rayborn. Mel’s Yamahas were as fast as anything out there, and super reliable.” Don had also won the Novice National at Indianapolis, but the #1 plate had come against many of the top riders of the day, such as Ron Grant, Art Baumann, Steve McLaughlin, and Jody Nicholas. Don was the first to have a split rating on his AMA competition license, being an Amateur in 1970 for dirt track racing, and rated an Expert for Road Racing.

For the 1971 season, BSA-Triumph was pulling out everything they had in an attempt to win Daytona, running 10 bikes (5 BSA, 5 Triumph). Although he was running his Yamaha in road racing, Don was also a BSA dirt track rider, and that relationship resulted in him being offered the open BSA seat. At Daytona, the US team was completely unaware that upgraded bikes were coming to Daytona, expecting more of the same 70 spec racers. The 1970 bikes were prepared for the established American BSA factory riders (Mann, Aldana, Rice) and Don was to be assigned one of the 4 newer bikes once they arrived, the others being for BSA’s Mike Hailwood, and Triumph’s Paul Smart and Gary Nixon. As it turned out, the ‘low boy’ Triumph /BSA bikes that showed up were a revelation. Lower and lighter, they were a much more compact package than the 1970 machines. 

Don recalls – “So there I was on that Saturday morning in the garage sitting on the bike with my name and number on it, an all-new Rocket III fitted with disk brakes front and rear and many other obvious improvements to the old bikes. So compact was the whole package that the oil cooler was stuffed into the front of the fairing with a thin "mail slot" in the nose of the fairing to allow the air to flow to it. Over on the Triumph side of the garage, Gary Nixon had that same “new bike for Christmas” grin on his face that I did as he inspected his new Triumph “Low-Boy.”

Don’s feelings of having won the lottery, was soon replaced by disappointment. The team management needed their top riders on the best bikes. Don- “I saw a meeting going on in the corner of the garage with Dick Mann and Gene Romero conferring with Doug Hele from England, BSA America’s VP of racing Pete Colman and the race manager Danny Macias. A few minutes later, Danny came over and explained that they did not know how much the new models were going to be improved and that the team’s goals were not only to win Daytona, but to also capture the AMA's #1 plate for the season.” Don ended up with Hailwood’s 1970 bike, and Dick Mann got Don’s new ‘low boy’ model. Defending National champ Gene Romero, was similarly assigned the Triumph version at Nixon’s expense.

Another revelation was regarding the tires. BSA/Triumph were the US importers of Dunlop tires and wanted the riders to try the new “triangular” tires. Almost universally, the American riders did not want to leave Goodyear, with their Blue Streak racing tires being the only tires that most had ever run on. Also important, given the salaries of the time, Goodyear had a contingency program where Dunlop did not. Dick Mann tried the Dunlops, so Don asked his opinion… “After the first morning of practice I cornered Mann and asked him what he thought of the Dunlops. His response was ‘I don’t think I’m going fast enough to tell.’ I thought to myself, “Yeah, right.”

Don next approached Mike Hailwood to ask his opinion of the tire situation, although he knew Mike hadn’t run on the Goodyears. “I commented that Goodyear had a contingency program but Dunlop didn't. Mike reply was ‘I’d rather win the race on Dunlops than worry about that.’ I think I never felt more like the rookie I was than the moment I heard Hailwood say that.” As it turned out, the Dunlops were a big advantage and made the big triples handle much better. Don stayed with the Goodyears for the Daytona race, but by the time of the Trans-Atlantic Match races, the entire team had switched over to the superior Dunlops. Despite the handicap of the old bike and inferior tires, in qualifying the California rookie was to provide a surprise for the team.

Daytona had changed the qualifying format for 1971 to what is now considered normal, running around the full race course (previously, the grid was decided by flying laps around the oval – No Chicanes!). Don had qualified his bike fourth, with only Paul Smart on the Dunlop/LowBoy Triumph (pole), and the 2 Harley Davidsons of Brelsford and Rayborn ahead. 5th on the grid was Mike Hailwood, with a similar machine to Smart’s. Bringing a knife to the gunfight, newcomer Don had out-qualified 8 of his 9 factory sponsored teammates.

At the start of the race in 1971, the field took the green and completed a full lap of the banked oval before heading down into the infield turn 1 to start lap 2. The ‘low boy’ Triumphs and BSAs had a huge aerodynamic advantage, and Don’s infield prowess could do little for him on that first lap around the banked oval at top speed. Don was swarmed by the more aerodynamic bikes, leaving him in 8th or 9th by the end of the 1st lap, heading into the infield turn 1. While Don was taking a conservative entry into turn one, Rusty Bradley on the Kawasaki behind misjudged the turn, flying past Emde and slamming into Kel Carruthers just ahead. Bradley was one of the promising rookies racing that year, but sadly he did not survive the head injuries received in the crash.

Soon the leading Honda and Harley Davidsons had retired from the race, and the leading group with Hailwood, Smart, and Mann on their ‘low boy’ Dunlop shod triples were running away. However, the development high compression heads on the bikes ridden by the 2 English riders caused center cylinder overheating and failure, ironically the same failure that put Hailwood out the previous year. At the finish it was Dick Mann winning, followed by Gene Romero on his ‘low boy’ Triumph. Don managed to get by Roger Reiman after a long passing and re-passing battle for 3rd, securing a 1-2-3 sweep of the podium for BSA-Triumph, with Mann’s win being BSA’s first at the Daytona 200 since 1954… on the bike that was originally meant for Emde. 

On the Wednesday before the Daytona race, one of the girls from the PR trailer in the pits told Don to be sure to go to the trailer and get the information on the trip to England. “We knew nothing about it, be sure to bring your leathers and everything…we thought it was just an exhibition or a photo op seeing the factory sort of thing. On the plane ride over I found out that this was going to be a full-on race against these guys. When we got there the British papers were all full of the ‘who will win’ kind of stuff.” Don had received similar treatment to Daytona upon arriving in England for the Trans-Atlantic match races, finding that the new ‘low boy’ bikes had been assigned to others, and he was again relegated to the slower 1970 version, with the big Daytona tank… “We were told it was some kind of exhibition. When we got to England, it was really more like Custer’s Last Stand. Smart, Pickrell, Cooper… they were just gone.” Smart had his high compression special low boy from Daytona, and the similar bike Hailwood had run at Daytona was used by Ray Pickrell. Where they had overheated and failed at Daytona, they didn’t have these problems on these slower circuits. 

Finishing 3rd at Daytona and taking 11th in AMA points for the year had certainly surpassed any reasonable expectation, so at the season finale at Ontario BSA informed Don that the same team was continuing into 1972, and that the contract would be in the mail. When the expected contract arrived after Thanksgiving, it was instead a notice that BSA-Triumph was reducing its support to only 2 riders, Mann on the BSA, and Romero on the Triumph. Don was told that he was ‘free to find his own arrangements.’ Less than 100 days before Daytona, Emde had been released. It was time to revisit his old arrangement with Mel Dinesen.

Don felt that his Dinesen Yamaha was obviously not the fastest bike going to Daytona, but it would likely prove to be the best. Although it was optimistic to expect a 350cc bike to defeat the much larger multi-cylinder racers, the Yamaha TR2B was an excellent handling machine and was reliable. Still, the concept of successfully racing a privately entered and dealership maintained/built Yamaha at Daytona, where no 2 stroke bike had ever won the 200, would seem to make the prospect of success unlikely. Factor in that the Yamaha was at less than half the allowed engine displacement and one must conclude that they were not the favorites. Despite all these facts, Don remained confident. The new Suzukis and Kawasakis were amazingly fast, but unproven. The winning BSA/Triumph triples from the previous year were always a threat to repeat as well. Adding to the difficulties, Don had highsided a Yamaha 250 in turn one the day before, battling in a pack with Kenny Roberts and Kel Carruthers. Landing hard on his shoulder, Don thought that he had broken it. It turned out that nothing was broken, but he managed to get through the next morning check-up at the infield hospital to get his clearance to ride. “It would have been impossible for me to ride flat track, but tucked in there isn’t a lot of motion, so it wasn’t too bad.”

In the race, Don got a good start running with all the Yamaha guys. “On the 3rd lap going around the east banking, the tach started moving around and the bike was acting weird. I thought it was seizing up, and I could start to see the pit lane coming up. I clutched it, looking at the pit lane thinking ‘if I go in, I’m not winning the race’, so I just let the clutch back out and it started running. After the race, we found that a circlip had come off one of the pistons and it was auguring its way into the piston side, until it fell out one of the ports.” Essentially the race came to him, as attrition to the leaders moved him further up the standings. When the chain broke on Geoff Perry’s Suzuki 500 twin with a few laps to go, Don swept into the lead, which he held to the finish. There was more to the story… “What happened was just before the start Geoff’s bike fouled a plug and they pulled him off to the side. We take off and we go around the oval for a lap, and then they got Geoff’s bike going just as we came by (into the infield turn one to start lap 2), and he joined the field in the back. Where the scoring tower was on the outside of turn one, and initially the scorers didn’t notice that Geoff had missed that first lap around the oval. He quickly started working his way through the field. Meanwhile, I was having a big race with Ray Hempstead. Geoff caught up, passed me and started to inch away, and I was thinking… there goes my win, my victory going away. It was good for the sport, for me, and Geoff and everyone that Geoff had that chain break. He had missed 2 and a half miles, but the scorers didn’t know it until later. The AMA figured it out later and gave me the lap leader money that I didn’t get credited for, those laps that Geoff led.”

The one thing missing from Don’s victory, was his friend Cal Rayborn (Daytona winner in 1968 and 1969). “The Harley team skipped the 1972 Daytona entirely since the new XR750 was not ready to go. That’s how fed up with the iron barrel model that Dick O'Brien was. For me, that’s actually one of the regrets I have about my win that year, Cal wasn’t in that race. It was a big win for me, obviously, but I wanted to feel like I beat all the factories and all the top names that year, but without Cal there is that little missing link in my mind. The Harley team riders did not get to ride their new alloy XRs until they got to the Colorado Springs Mile which was after Cal and I got home from England. I was the first non-factory rider to get one and I rode mine at the San Jose Mile, the next National.”

Being a San Diego rider, Don felt that winning Daytona was just something that was expected. “That’s what San Diego was all about. When I grew up, my Dad had won Daytona, some of his best friends had won, there was Ben Campanale (2 wins), and Ed Kretz (the first winner). Around San Diego, Leonard and Brad Andres had a shop one block up the street (Brad – 3 wins). My Dad was a sponsor of Ralph White (winner) when he got started. Don Vesco didn’t win the 200, but he had won the Grand Prix there. Joe Leonard (2 wins) was from National City, he grew up there when he started riding the bikes. Cal Rayborn won it a couple of times, if you were going to be anybody in San Diego you had pretty much better have won Daytona.”

Soon after Daytona, Don was off to the Trans-Atlantic match races for the 2nd year, with the extensively revised format of F750 bikes from numerous manufacturers, the all BSA-Triumph format having gone away with the financial demise of the company. Don - “Gavin Trippe said the promoter in England didn’t want anyone on 350s. They were trying to get the Formula 750 concept going in Europe and they wanted everyone on 750s. Gavin contacted a Norton dealer in London named Gus Kuhn Motors and the head guy Vincent Davey agreed to provide a Seeley Norton 750 if I would ride it. I wanted to go back, so I agreed. Once we all arrived in England, the Gus Kuhn guys took me under their wing and I spent my whole trip with them. We all had things to do about the bikes on a day to day, and in some cases, night to night basis and I was busy all the time. The 1972 Seeley Norton I rode was fantastic, but they also had an older model that was not as much fun to ride. Every time the new bike would die, they would drag out the old one and I was probably one to two seconds a lap slower on it. It was the electrics that killed us in that series, not even Lucas stuff! They had some trick (at the time) electronic ignition and a battery system that would put burn out soon, and often.

“By the end of the first day of practice at Brands Hatch, Vincent Davey told me I cut a faster lap around Brands than any rider they ever had ride their bikes. It really worked well and only in my mind can I enjoy now what may have been. I don’t know how I would have measured with the Rayborn-Pickrell battles, but I know I could have been close. In the first race at Brands, I think I got sixth. In race two at Brands, we went off the line and Cal, Pickrell and Phil Read (John Player Norton) were all lined up tight in line going into the first right hander. I went in 4th and took an outside line around Read and then when we banked left to come down the hill I had the inside on him and took 3rd. I stayed right with Cal and Ray all the way across the finish line of the first lap, into turn one and again down the hill and then, in a split second the motor died out. No sputter, nothing… it just died. At Mallory Park, I set the fastest lap in practice, then the battery died right on the line before the start of the first race, and they quickly dragged out the older bike for me to ride, but it wasn’t as competitive. In the second race I was going back and forth, dicing for position with Phil Read on the JP Norton. When I got off the bike, his wife Madeline was right there telling me ‘YOU were cutting my husband off…’ well, where we come from if you are in the lead you take your line… and then I crashed at Oulton Park. GRRRRRR! That’s what my Match Races was like. Cal Rayborn… almost nobody goes somewhere for the 1st time and does something like that, he used to ride the highways out near Tecate, riding fast on curvy up and down roads that he didn’t know, he learned to adapt.” An understatement to be sure, as Don’s friend Rayborn tied Pickrell for individual honors on the older iron barrel Harley-Davidson.

“I also rode that bike at the Imola 200 a month later and gremlins messed me up there too. After chasing Agostini around in practice I felt ready to do well at Imola, then the carburetors got an air bubble about ten seconds before the start of the race and I lost about seven laps getting going. Dang it.”

At the last race at Ontario on the Yamaha, Don had some problems with the bike chattering in a couple of the long left hand corners. Testing an adjustable air shock system for a couple of laps the problem initially seemed solved, until a complete pressure failure caused a big highside crash and concussion. Looking back, Don felt he was never quite the same after that crash. For the 1973 Daytona 200, Don was signed for a one race deal by Suzuki, to be teamed with Paul Smart, Ron Grant, and Geoff Perry. Don was used to setting up his bike for his own personal style, as were most of the riders. Merv Wright has often commented upon how they (US Suzuki) were forbidden from modifying the bikes as supplied by the Japanese, to the point where they were actually disguising aftermarket frames in desperate attempts to make the bikes handle properly. Confirming that experience, Don Emde was in for a culture shock when riding for Suzuki at Daytona in 1973.

“When I raced for BSA in 1971, the team bikes came to tracks pretty much the same, but then they let the riders and mechanics work together to get things working for each specific rider. What I observed going on in 1973 was the Japanese mechanics all having lots of meetings in the middle of the garage and then they would all go back and rip something apart and do the same change to all the bikes. There was one pretty big thing that happened at Daytona that I recall that the Japanese were not too happy about. After the first practice session that week, all of us came to the pits complaining that the bike would not pull too well out of the new chicane on the back stretch. The reply from the Japanese was “what chicane?” Apparently they were never told that the chicane had been added and the bikes were set up for the old track like 72 (when I won) and this was a total surprise. So the mechanics ordered all the team bikes back to the garage and they totally re-did the carbs and gearing to better work with the new layout… there is no way I would have finished the race without the chicane (I was the only Suzuki to finish). My tires had cords showing at the end.” As it turned out, Don had thought that his 350 Yamaha would no longer be competitive against the larger 750cc competition. He had miscalculated, and Jarno Saarinen won the race, on his similar Yamaha twin.

Race bike development has gone full circle, the emphasis now is on control and getting power usefully to the ground. In the mid 70s, the bikes were making huge leaps in power and displacement, while chassis development had not kept up. Hanging on for dear life to some rolling nightmare, was often the reality that riders in the 73-74 era got to explore. Don confirms the experience, saying “The 1973 TR750 was easily the scariest bike I ever rode. I was back on a Yamaha after Daytona. Having ridden both the BSA and the Yamaha, you could confidently ride them as hard as they could be ridden. The Suzuki was a big and tall bike with a wobbly hinge feel to it. The handlebars would go back and forth an inch or two in a steady wobble around the banking, which explains the tire wear problems. Normally when you get on the banking, you could relax your hands and draft along. In 1973, you were hanging on tight thru the banking, and then try to relax your hands on the infield straights.”

Adding to the mix was the miserable safety standards of the day, the poster child being the horrible crash in the 250GP at Monza in 1973 that claimed Pasolini and Saarinen. Journalists and riders had approached the organizers complaining over the unsafe condition of the racing surface, which had been oiled down by a slowly circulating Benelli in the previous 350cc race. Those who complained were threatened with being ejected from the circuit or Police arrest. Pasolini led from the start, and at near top speed at the end of the long front straight, he hit the oil in the fast Curva Grande, and crashed to his death. Saarinen was close behind and never had a chance. 14 riders were involved in the crash and ensuing inferno, many seriously injured. Yamaha withdrew its team from world championship racing for the rest of the year in disgust, publishing a booklet about the accident. 

Don recalls: “Saarinen was a Yamaha rider like I was at the time, we met first when he came to race at Ontario in late 1972. He came back to the U. S. in March for the 1973 Daytona 200 and won the race. They used to hold an awards banquet at Daytona in those days. Afterwards, my wife Tracy and I caught up to Jarno and congratulated him on his impressive win that day. He was off the next day to prepare for the upcoming Grand Prix series and we wished him well. I never saw him again. I raced in a club race at Riverside, California on May 20th that year and heard the news of the crash on radio on the way home. I have always felt that the sport was deprived of seeing his greatness fully realized. In his short career, he won a 250cc World Championship, won the Daytona 200, the highly competitive “Race of the Year” in England and many other events. There is no doubt in my mind that had he lived, the sport would know the name Saarinen as well as it does Agostini, Hailwood or Roberts. There was never a blacker day for Yamaha than that day.”

In July, former teammate Geoff Perry was lost in an airplane accident, when the commercial airliner he was taking to the Laguna Seca National, was lost in a crash off Tahiti. At Laguna, no longer riding for Dinesen Yamaha, Don was riding a privateer Yamaha 350 and was lapped. “I just didn’t have the right bike, and I wasn’t making any money at it. It was the first time that I had been lapped. When I was younger there was a rider who was once a great champion at Ascot, but he stayed around too long. Later when I was doing the Junior Nationals, he was still racing and I remember coming up on him in practice and almost ran into him because he wasn’t on the gas anymore. I don’t want to be that guy.” At the end of 1973, fellow San Diegan, close friend, and Harley-Davidson legend Cal Rayborn had signed to race for Suzuki for the following season. In December, racing on a Suzuki 500 twin at Pukehohe, New Zealand in a minor event, Cal crashed to his death. It had all become just too much.

Summing up his feelings at the time… “After my experiences on the Suzuki at Daytona and then all the bad stuff the rest of 1973, made me decide to hang it up. I figured I had gotten the best I was going to get out of the sport and decided it was time to move on to something else.” It was time for another Emde to make his mark on the racing scene.

Don’s younger brother, David Emde made a splash at the 1976 WERA Grand National Final at Texas World Speedway, battling with newcomer Freddie Spencer on his way to winning the Formula Two race. In the Formula One race, he finished 2nd which was enough to clinch the WERA number one plate in the class. David was further rewarded with their Grand Prix Rider of the Year award. 

David was also making an impression on the AMA scene, finishing fourth in the 250 National Championship in 1976. The following year, winning at Pocono and Riverside, racing against Randy Mamola and Steve Baker, he became National Champion in the 250 class, also finishing 2nd at Daytona in the Superbike class riding the factory Kawasaki, beaten only by Cook Neilson on the famous Old Blue Ducati (the subject of their recently reissued model). In 1978 he finished sixth in the Formula One standings, and third in the 250 class championship. In 1979 he was seventh in Formula One, and 8th in Superbike, taking 3rd in the Superbike race at Daytona on a Yoshimura Suzuki. David had clearly arrived at the top tier of American racing, but victory at Daytona eluded him. There was precious little success in 1980, but he won the 250GP at Kent, Washington in 1981, in a year that was primarily a Lawson benefit. Again finding success in the 250GP class, David won at Laguna Seca and Sears Point in 1982, and Laguna Seca, Mid-Ohio, and Talladega in 1983, taking 2nd in the Championship.

Despite all the success in the 250GP class, perhaps David’s best performances were in Endurance racing, where he won the 1979 Ontario 6 hour race teamed with David Aldana, and finished 2nd in the 1978 Suzuka 8 hour race teamed with Sugimoto on the Yamaha TZ750, taking the fastest lap in qualifying. David’s goal to become the 3rd Emde to win the Daytona 200, went unfulfilled. He was killed in a road accident on his motorcycle in September 2003, pleasure riding on the backroads near Ramona, California.

For decades, Floyd Emde had continued to run his motorcycle shop and work with his children’s racing efforts as tuner and mechanic. He also served as the AMA district representative for San Diego. Floyd Emde passed away at the end of December, 1994.

After retiring from racing, Don Emde moved on to be the marketing manager for Bell Helmets. He has maintained his connections to the sport through his activities to preserve motorcycle racing history. He has collected an extensive number of images from motorcycling history, and is a publisher of motorcycle magazines. Don is also an author and his recently updated book on the Daytona 200 is the definitive history of the event. He also published the history of the BMW Battle of the Legends series that ran from 1992-1997, a series in which Don raced in every race, a quality experience which he compares to his days as a factory rider for BSA. Ironically 26 years after riding the BSA in an epic battle for 3rd with 3 time Daytona 200 winner Roger Reiman in the 1971 200, Don was following Roger in a battle of the legends BMW practice session at Daytona when Reiman crashed to his death.

Nancy Emde, Don’s sister, also has a racing legacy. A flat track dirt racing champion in the ‘powderpuff’ class for San Diego in the 1970s, she still rides successfully in off-road racing at the age of 50. As the owners of Trail Boss Tours, she and her husband run riding tours into the Northern Baja wilderness. 2005 brought her a fifth place in the Baja 1000. As an appropriate bookend to the Emde story of cycling success, Nancy rode the final 70 mile leg of the 2006 Baja 1000, winning the race in the small bore motorcycle class on a Honda XR250 and becoming the first female motorcycle class winner of the grueling Baja race in it’s history. It was yet another first for an Emde, San Diego’s first family of racers.