Spotting the Hooligans in the pit area is a simple task. The Hooligan bikes and assortment of characters that come along with them look more at home in a bar parking lot than at a professional race. It’s the Superprestigio in Las Vegas, the Super Bowl of flat track races, and world-class racer and motorcycle designer Roland Sands has personally invited a crew of Hooligan riders to participate in the event. The race brings in thousands of spectators from across the nation, some in attendance for the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) finals and some for the kicks of the Hooligan races. It’s a form of validation for the motley crew of Hooligans to be supported by a leader in the motorcycle industry like Sands and included in an AMA sanctioned event.
Who are the Hooligans?
Hooligan racing embodies a different kind of rider and a different kind of machine from what is normally seen at a flat track race. These are motorcycles that are more at home eating up highway and city miles than a dirt track. They are street and cruiser type bikes that have been highly modified to tear up dirt tracks. The rider’s backgrounds vary from freestyle motocross pros to vintage bike builders. The common thread is a love of motorcycles.
The characters racing the bikes are just as unique as the bikes they are running. A typical Hooligan bike has had weeks of work put into it by its owner. They are the epitome of DIY people and stand in stark contrast to the AMA pro riders on the track.
“What makes this event special is that we’re just regular dudes out here on bikes that we basically already had, says rider Shaun Guardado. “We’re on bikes that are, no bullshit, under $5,000. Stuff that you can find at the swap meet and make yourself.”
Alternating between the polished pros and the colorful Hooligans, the Superprestigio is a showcase of a wild and different type of motorcycle event—something a little less cut and dry and a little more rock ‘n’ roll.
The Hooligans speak out on keeping it real, keeping it fun and tearing it all up.
“I walk both sides of the fence, I grew up in the custom world and I grew up in racing, so I know what pro racing is about and I know what building motorcycles is about. To try and put those two things together is a unique puzzle, it’s funny, but it’s my whole life.”
“I’m the only guy here on an old bike. It’s killer. It’s not the fastest bike in the world but it’s the funnest. I’m doing it because it’s fun. I’m not here to beat anybody; I’m here to have a good time. This kind of stuff is my true love. This is what got me into the bike world 25 years ago.”
“I didn’t think I really belonged here. A lot of these guys have put in time and been here for years, but I guess that’s what the hooligan aspect of it is - it’s just anybody. There’s motorcycle builders, there’s clothing designers, photographers, but we all like to wreck shit.”
“If you look at us, we’re not your clean-cut racer. We don’t really abide by all the rules. We’re just an eclectic group of guys. A lot of us are heavily tattooed. We come from all walks of life. We party hard. We take it serious, but it’s not serious to the point where we’re not friends with each other the day after the race. After the race we’re drinking beers with each other no matter who wins, who loses or who crashes.”
“There’s definitely a difference with the Hooligan Class, and it has its stigma where people are like, “Ah! The Hooligans!” but it’s such a perfect name for it. I mean, I’m racing in a t-shirt tonight. I don’t have a leather jersey. These guys [AMA racers], they train and stretch while we drink beer.”
I asked Gabe if he thought Hooligan Racing is the most punk rock version of racing currently happening. He responded: “Yeah, I would. It’s definitely balls-out. We heard some comments from the pros saying, ‘Those guys are crazy, I’ll never f*cking run that bike out there, are you kidding me? 500 lbs.? They’re nuts!’ And they were just so stoked we were there, pushing those 500-pound bikes around.”
“I landed here at about three in the morning today. Now I’m about to race a bike I’ve never ridden or seen, and I’ve never raced flat-track so this should be interesting. These bikes are huge though, you don’t really know what to expect when racing them on such a small track. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be chaos.”
“All these guys have a background of raising hell in the street and doing some crazy stuff here and there and getting chased by cops. This is next level. We are just a bunch of morons riding around on these beater bikes. So, to be put in the spotlight along with the Superprestigio, it’s pretty amazing. There are world champions at this event and we’re going to go on right with them. So that’s kind of nuts!”
“I think as men today, we’re searching for things that are authentic to us. I want to build a custom bike and come out and race it. That’s like the top echelon of motorcycle building and being a motorcycle builder, it’s to go out and race the damned thing.”