"Like father, like son" may be somewhat of a cliché' phrase, but there is no better way to describe father and son roadracers Chris and Jamie Spencer. At age 17, Jamie embarrasses men double his age while Chris, at 50, does the same to the youngsters.
"I guess I'm in it for the competition, and also I love riding the bike to the limit," Chris says. "I don't have to win to be happy, just as long as I ride to 100 percent of my potential."
The Spencers call Chattanooga suburb Ooltewah home. While Chris has a storied past of racing, he and his son Jamie started roadracing together back in 2007, albeit on mini bikes with mini roadrace organization SEMRA. After SEMRA, this father and son duo progressed to the WERA roadracing league and began racing full-sized bikes. Although they have only raced WERA for a little over a year, they have already made quite an impact on the series.
For those of you unfamiliar with WERA, it's akin to minor league baseball or NASCAR's Busch league, just for superbike racing. The best privateer racers in the country line up to race with little to no sponsorship, and more often than not, the best racer wins. The most interesting thing about WERA racing is that the bike doesn't necessarily make the rider the fastest thing on the track as so often happens in professional motorcycle roadracing. WERA, with its limited budgets and sponsorships, allows the riders to make the difference and shine. In the Spencers' past two years of racing with WERA, they have most definitely shined.
Chris Spencer started roadracing in 1986 with WERA on a production-based Yamaha RZ350. He raced the RZ350 for a few years before switching back to his high school love of motocross. Jamie started riding at the age of 7 on a Yamaha PW50. He quickly progressed to a more powerful KTM50 and even raced in a few kids' motocross events. In 2007 Chris and Jamie tried their first outing of racing together as a team. They bought $1,600 Thumpstar TDX 125cc mini supermoto roadracers and joined the newly formed spec class with mini roadracing organization SEMRA.
The pair's WERA racing careers began like so many others, on Suzuki SV650 v-twins. Chris and Jamie travel around the southeastern U.S. to WERA races in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. The duo shared a bike for the first part of 2008 and Jamie got his own bike in mid-April. Once they both had a bike of their own, they proceeded to qualify for the Grand National Final in just a handful of races, a very noteworthy feat.
WERA's Grand National Final is held every year at Road Atlanta; in the Spencers' first race ever at a GNF, Chris scored a 5th and Jamie (only 16 years old at the time) scored a 3rd in the novice lightweight twins class. The results certainly prove that this father/son duo have no problem scrapping with each other on the track—in fact, Chris thinks that Jamie definitely has it in for his dad.
"Jamie is driven to beat me," Chris says. "That's why he had a 90 mph crash trying to pass me on the outside of turn one at little Talladega. I went in the corner as fast as possible and Jamie came in 5 mph faster around the outside and the bike didn't even try to stick. He immediately went down."
In only half of the 2008 season, both Chris and Jamie had earned enough points to qualify for an expert license. For 2009 Chris has moved up to expert status while Jamie decided to stay in the novice class due to his relative lack of full-sized bike racing experience when compared to his dad. So far, WERA's experts haven't been able to keep up with Chris, and will no doubt fear Jamie whenever he decides to move up to the expert class.
Over the 2008-2009 winter, the Spencers decided to take a stab at the newly formed E super stock class for WERA. E super stock is a class that was created to race brand new 2008+ Kawasaki 250r Ninjas. The basic concept is to take a relatively inexpensive motorcycle in the new Kawasaki Ninja 250r, allow only minimal modifications to the bike, and create a class that the average man or woman can race for a relatively small amount of money. Of course, the restricted amount of modifications on the bikes very much make the rider the deciding factor in who wins the race.
Chris set up his Ninja 250r over the winter of 2008. He bought a salvaged 2008 Ninja 250r for around a couple thousand dollars, added a race exhaust, new tires, some race bodywork, and some heavier-weight front fork oil. Those who have said, "you can't race motorcycles inexpensively," well, they must have not have ever met Chris Spencer. While some folks have spent high dollars on their bikes, modifying every allowed part, Chris' more relaxed tuning strategy hasn't hurt him a bit.
The 2009 season has been very kind to the Spencers so far. Although Jamie hasn't been able to race this season due to prior engagements, he plans on having a bike ready for WERA's next round at Barber Motorsports Park. Chris, on the other hand, is undefeated in the E super stock class and is leading the points championship on his 2008 Kawasaki Ninja 250r.
The Spencers, like most other privateer racers, are always looking for sponsors. Tires, sprockets, gas, and bodywork all eat away at their racing budget and if you can offer any kind of sponsorship assistance, they would love to hear from you. Every little bit helps and now is your chance to sponsor a WERA championship leading team. Chris can be contacted via spencerboats(at)comcast(dot)net