Watching pro motorcycle racers duel elbow-to-elbow at 140 miles per hours, degenerative disease is probably something most spectators aren’t thinking about. Trumbull resident Chris Speights is hoping to change that.
Speights, 43, who by day is an engineer at Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Helicopter Division, will make his debut on the national pro racing scene Saturday in the MotoAmerica Twins Cup Class at Virginia International Raceway. Speights is also entered in races in Pittsburgh and at New Jersey Motorsports Park later this summer.
“For the past 13 years, off and on, I’ve been racing in amateur level club racing,” Speights said. “When the national pro series created this class, I applied for a license.”
Getting a pro racing license requires submitting previous results and Speights, who has been a championship level rider on the local amateur level locally and in his home state of California, got the green light to try his hand against professionals. He said the increase in competition level would be significant.
“To be honest, I’m pretty sure I won’t be standing on the podium, and I’ll really need to do my best to even qualify for the race, but just getting out on track and being seen is a win,” he said.
Speights’ one-man team SP8S Racing, will be competing in honor of Team Truman, named after his neighbor Amy Truman who was diagnosed with ALS in 2014 and succumbed to the disease in November 2018. Team Truman in the past five years has raised more than $100,000 for the ALS Therapy Development Institute (TDI), a non-profit biotech organization based in Cambridge, Mass.
“I put the ALS livery on the bike and the plan is to have people see it, these national events usually draw between 10,000 and 20,000 spectators,” Speights said. “Plus we have social media so there will be opportunities to make connections and make people aware of this group. The ultimate metric will be how many people are supporting TDI.”
Speights said he hoped people would see his bike during race sessions and then research the organizations. But they had better look quick, as despite being the lowest rung of pro racing, Twins Cup class motorcycles can reach speeds of 140 miles per hour.
In the national MotoAmerica series, the top class is called Superbike and the riders reach speeds near 200 mph in races that are televised on Fox Sports and various international outlets. Below the Superbike class are five lower classes, with Twins Cup being the most competitive and diverse, Speights said.
“In Twins Cup, the riders range in age from 16 to 55, and the average participant is in their 30s,” Speights said. “With 43 riders it’s the largest class in MotoAmerica.”
Twins Cup motorcycles start life as a stock sport bike, sold through normal dealer networks. Racers are allowed certain modifications to make them race-ready. Speights will campaign his 9-year-old Kawasaki 650R, the only Kawasaki in a class dominated by Japanese rival Suzuki. Speights said he was confident his ride, which he disassembled and rebuilt to fit the new class rules, was up to the task.
“It’s the bike I have, and it’s legal for the class,” he said. “It’s not the preferred bike, but I guess we’ll see. I put a lot of effort into putting it together and when I tested it the engine actually makes more power than the defending class champion’s bike. So I’ll have the speed, and it will be up to me to corner and brake.”
In addition to racing in the MotoAmerica Twins Cup Championship, Speights will also ride a pedal powered bike for Team Truman in the 3-day, 270-mile ride from Boston to Stamford. This Tri-State Trek occurs in June and has raised more than $8 million dollars to fund ALS TDI research and treatments over the last 15 years. Tax deductible donations of any level can be made at: https://tst.als.net/donate/teamtruman.