Knoxville area Vintage racer Ray Hickman won his first National Championship last October at the Western Eastern Road Racing Association (WERA) Grand National Finals (GNF) held at Road Atlanta. He won the Vintage 6 Heavyweight Class on his 1989 Suzuki GSXR 1100.
Hickman won his first trophy racing motocross in 1973, but he didn't begin road racing until 1989 when he and riding buddies Mitch Lakey and Russ Townsend formed the "129 Race Team," an endurance racing team that raced in the WERA National Endurance Series. The team now concentrates on sprint racing with Hickman and local racers Ed Vigluicci and David Hurst.
In 2000, Hickman began to focus on the vintage V6 class, riding his 1989 GSXR 750. Over the years his bike has "grown" into what Hickman calls a 7-1186. "It's a 750 frame, with a 1186cc motor," he says, which puts out 131 horsepower at the rear wheel.
The WERA National Vintage Title is based on each racer's six best finishes of the year, plus their results at the Grand National Finals. Going into this year's GNF, Hickman had to be considered the favorite, as his best six finishes in 2008 were all 1st places, earning him the Southeast Region V6 championship for the second time in three years.
In his previous three trips to the GNF, Hickman finished third in 2005 and second in 2006; in 2007 his motor blew up before the event. This year there were no mechanical issues to derail his effort, and he led his race from flag to flag to capture his first National Vintage Class Title. " For a change I got a good start, and was able to lead the whole race," Hickman says.