VKA Bakersfield 2020

VKA Bakersfield 2020

Photos by Julie Watson

Bakersfield’s VKA rear engine contingent was well represented. What may have been lacking in quantity was made up for in quality. Dewayne XXXXX’s fat tire, open header, dual West Bends was the power player, with Al Paolercio’s dual Mac 20 McCulloch kart dicing for the remaining positions.

Bakersfield’s VKA event is a favorite vintage west coast kart event for a number of reasons. First, there’s the track – the karting equivalent of F1s SPA-Francorchamps with huge elevation changes, and unlike SPA, virtually no straightaways. A large downhill off-chamber sweeper is the straightaway – if you’re brave enough to keep it pegged. The track’s got history too with karts racing on it for more than 40 years. Track owner, Rusty Sanders, resurfaced the track a couple of years ago; it now has excellent grip and a smooth surface. Simply put, Bakersfield is the reason race karts were invented.

Event Promotors Joe Swantek (left) and Richard Swantek (Right) not only put on a great event, they fielded some incredible karts like the K29-powered Bennet/Invader with Howard Combee in the seat.

Then there are the people – starting with promoters Richard and Joe Swantek. They almost totally bear the financial responsibility of this race including substantial cash show prizes and a great Saturday lunch provided by Teressa Swantek. One of the best parts of Bakersfield is that you get to rub shoulders with karting greats like Howard Combee, Terry Ives. Steve O’Hara, Rocky Buff, Bobby Shiffert and many more. Not all were in attendance this year due to medical and Covid issues, but the low-key atmosphere ensured that some good times were shared.

This year’s event had perfect 70-80-degree weather with a slight layer of smoke from the many California fires. About 30 karts were entered, which was good considering the Covid 19 concerns and heavy smoke warnings. There was nearly unlimited track time on Thursday and Friday for racers to dial-in their karts. Saturday brought on some excellent race exhibitions in four categories: Single and Dual Rear, Yamaha Sidewinder, Single Sidewinder and Dual Sidewinder. The exhibitions were run as a 6-lap heat race and a 6-lap final with a lunch break in between.

Following the laid back atmosphere, Bakersfield’s kart show was unstructured with no pre-determined classes. Instead, the judges simply picked out 5 outstanding karts and awarded them generous cash prizes.

 Saturday afternoon rolled around all too soon as karters packed up for the trip home. After lots of track time, bench racing and long lunches at Ethel’s roadside restaurant across the street, everyone looks forward to doing it all again next year. If you haven’t been to a Bakersfield VKA event, you should definitely put it on your schedule!

Bakersfield’s VKA rear engine contingent was well represented. What may have been lacking in quantity was made up for in quality. Duane Dalke’s fat tire, open header, dual West Bends was the power player, with Al Paolercio’s dual Mac 20 McCulloch kart dicing for the remaining positions with Bruce Bereiter’s Hornet and Jack Martin’s Rupp Grand A.
Alan Paolercio’s dual BM130 Emmick Lightening not only was fun to watch on the track, it won one of the 5 cash show awards.
In Single Engine Sidewinder there were also four entries: Howard Combee driving the Swantek racing K29, Paul Fields’ direct drive K35, Bobby Shiffert’s Yamaha and Frank Correia’s K30. It featured some great wheel-to-wheel action with Howard winning both heats.
Show winner, Jack Murray’s ’61 Evans Flyweight/Max-Torque Special was a real hit with it’s 3 Mc10s and flip up center motor for starting. It’s original as driven by Melvin Hilligos at the Nationals in Mid Ohio.
Bobby Shiffert tried to slay the big foreign power in Single Sidewinder with his open Yamaha. He ran a respectable third, but it was like bringing a knife to a gun fight!
The burgeoning VKA Yamaha Sidewinder class was no exception at Bakersfield with 7 karts running in the heats. Matt Jones dominated both heats with John Woods getting two seconds and Dennis Faust from Phoenix grabbing a 4th and a 3rd.
John O’Dell did not make the grid with his dual TKM-powered Proline, but he did win a show award. John should have this beast ready to rumble at Adams in January.
Elegant simplicity – Bruce Bereiter’s West Bend 820-powered green Hornet with an overhead pipe is a time capsule!
Dennis Faust hauled a couple of beautiful Emmicks over from Phoenix and won a show award with his Yamaha twin. Unfortunately, a slight off-track excursion in practice bent his axle and he was unable to compete this year in Dual Sidewinder.
Matt Jones won both heats in Yamaha Sidewinder going away. Matt is the next generation we need to encourage in vintage karting.
Fortunately for the Single Sidewinders, Rocky Buff sat this one out, but he did win an award for his freshly restored Swiss Hutless.
The award for most laps completed goes to 16-year-old William Thompson who ran his Yamaha-powered Black Widow as hard as he could. This was William’s second time out in his kart and he plans to enter the demo heats next year. Great job!
Ex-enduro racer, Frank Correia got most of his mechanical gremlins solved and made a good showing in Single Sidewinder with his K30-powered Emmick.