The Faye “Ladybug” Pierson Memorial Karting Reunion

The Faye “Ladybug” Pierson Memorial Karting Reunion

The 2022 Adams Event Was a Memorably Affair

By Leonard Emanuelson
Photos by Wayne Mass & Julie Watson

Adams Motorsports Park is located in the Inland Empire of Southern California, more specifically the city of Riverside. Like most of SoCal, it is a desert – massively irrigated so that it doesn’t resemble a desert, but still a desert. VKA’s premier west coast event, the Annual Vintage Kart Reunion is traditionally held the first part of February, and the weather is always a crapshoot. It can be a sunny 80-degrees, or like in 2019 a near rainout. This year’s 17th Annual Reunion honoring Faye “Ladybug” Pierson, was cold and windy with overnight temps dipping in the high 30s. Compared to the icecap gripping the rest of the country, Adams was the place to be but the plunging afternoon temps and Santa Ana winds dampened some of the evening festivities, but the vintage karters soldiered on.

We lost several vintage karters in ’21 & ’22. The most notable was Faye “Ladybug” Pierson who drove her signature Bug kart here for the final time in 2020 at the age of 91. There were several photo displays of Faye and other karting legends whom we dearly miss.  A few of the others include Rick Gifford whose karting career included a national championship in every division of karting. Tom Smith, a talented vintage kart restorer/fabricator, and Jerry Imbroden, the long-time Adam’s track photographer.

Dual Sidewinder, C-Open, 300 Classic – call it want you want, but the action is awesome! Opening laps of Heat 2 here with winner Steve O’Hara followed by the Hannon Gang – Brian Hannon and Doug Waterman. Brian’s K35s led many laps, but the Swantek Bro’s K-30s on “Goldfinger” prevailed.

Another great friend in karting we lost this year was John Motley from Paso Robles, California. John owned Yamaha of San Luis Obispo and Race Kart Engineering. He was heavily involved in modern karting too, serving as a tech director for SKUSA for many years. His daughter Kelley Coons and son-in-law, Randy Coons brought a huge trailer of John’s collection of kart parts from over the years. Several engines, pipes, karts and even a Rathman Exterminator were for sale.

My photo doesn’t do Steve O’Hara’s Caretta II/Mc30 justice, but the judges awarded it Best Modified Historic Rear Engine kart. It is a beauty!

In 2021 the VKA “Reunion” was relegated to a “Fun Day” due to Covid. This year vintage karters were happy to return to a full event schedule promoted by Louie Figone and Joe Swantek and hosted by Adams Motorsports Park.  Some highlights were the Thursday lunch provided by JMax-Torque’s Jim Donovan, ably assisted by Dean Kanocz and Jack Murray. The Randy Holt estate provided the excellent pizza Thursday night, and the Adam’s family and VKA hosted dinner and a jazz band on Friday night.

Virtually unlimited track time was available on Thursday and Friday, and the heats went off without a hitch on Saturday. When nearly 130 karts descended on the historic track the action was hot and heavy, and we were all treated to watch a couple of karting legends dominate the action. Steve O’hara won both heats in 300 classic and 150 classic. Howard Combee got the trifecta with dual Yamaha, 100cc Open and Yamaha Stock Appearing. The always tough Tom Wilms, captured the Historic honors and and Martin Johnson won Dual Rear.  None of these guys have lost a step in 30 years!

Here is the remainder of the pack behind O’Hara in the second heat. #19 Ron Funkhouser from Indiana was having mechanical problems. Jason Gibb #83 leads Cayden Spring in a Swantek entry, followed up by Richard Swantek in #19.

While participation was down slightly over previous years, the vintage karters that traveled long distances were way up. The Hannon Gang from Seattle just keeps growing, and was joined by other Washingtonites Jason Gibb, Mike Stryker and Stan Crocker, to name a few. Doug Sharp hauled much of his Vintage Museum Restoration from Indiana and his dual 101-powered Hartman was the talk of the pits. Alex Odenthal showed up from Idaho and ran a direct-drive Dap T-80 out of the Hannon camp. Jason Gibb’s brother Chris showed up from Texas to drive his brother’s second kart. Dennis Faust and his wife brought two beautiful vintage Emmicks for sale and a Yamaha single to race from the Phoenix area. But undoubtedly the long distance award goes to Frank Weir from VROOM magazine who traveled all the way from Ireland.

The Adam’s Kart Show did not disappoint. While the amount of participants was noticeably lighter, the quality just keeps getting better. Doug Sharp showed some amazing karts from his Vintage Museum Restoration and won Best Modified Rear Engine for his ’61 McCulloch 300. Alan Paolercio and Bug Cooper are a traveling karting “event” by themselves (usually showing up with no less than 10 of Alan’s karts) — were rewarded with Best Un-Restored Rear and Sidewinder classes. The Washington state folks showed well too with Stan Crocker’s ’69 Bug Stinger winning Best Restored Sidewinder and the Tom Pierson “Best Bug In Show” award. Jason Gibb’s ’82 Proline captured the “Peoples Choice” award. Jsson has made the transition from racing dirt karts to vintage, and says he loves the karting and the people. Check the photos out – other stunning karts include Steve O’Hara’s Carretta II, Rennie Goldberg’s Lancer and Paul Wright’s Bug Stinger Enduro.

If Adams is any indication, the ’22 VKA season is going to be awesome!


Doug Sharp’s Vintage Museum Restoration is taking vintage karting to the next level – it’s controversial, but is great to look at and keeps the keyboard warriors amped up. Just your “run-of-the-mill” Hartman with a couple of “tarted-up” McBombs (nothing to see here…)
Lead pack during start of Dual and Single Rear Heat 2 shows some wheel-to-wheel dicing going on. Twins started in front followed by the single “poppers”.
Tom Wilms has bad-fast single and twin Rupps. His beautiful #25 Chappal cleaned house in Single Rear/Historic. Couldn’t resist this shot of Tom with Bruce Bereiter’s Green Hornet – skinny tires rule!
Another west coast karting legend Bobby Shiffert was at Adams making his presence known in Yamaha Stock Appearing.
Howard Combee driving Jack Dodd’s stable of Yamaha-powered Emmicks was awesome to watch. He won both Yamaha classes and 100cc Open on his own Birel. Howard and Jack worked hard and the results showed.
Howard didn’t have a gimme in Dual KT100 with 02 David Richey, Brian Robson 8 and Jeff O’Hare 26 in hot pursuit.
The Swantek brothers were all smiles here, but can be usually found arguing over gear ratios, tire pressures…whatever. Joe (rt) was the event co-promoter and wrenched when he could. Richard not only wrenched 3 karts, he drove in the 150 Classic category – good guys!
There was a good turnout for Yamaha Stock Appearing, but even after loosing (2) of their “good” motors, Howard Combee’s driving skills pulled the Dodd/Combee team through to victory.
Jason Gibb’s pits were full of Proline karts and foreign motors. The kart in the background won the People’s Choice award in the show and he competed in 150 Classic with a stroked K-30 Komet. Brother Chris ran the rare ’87 Proline Euro with a TT-75 in 100 Open.
Never bet against Steve O’Hara! Especially when he is driving his own kart. This K-35 Komet-powered Emmick has been under development for some time. Special features? A McCulloch flat-back carb for openers. Regardless, he handily won both heats.
Young Cayden Spring is a shifter kart hot shoe brought into vintage karting by his “vintage” grandfather Ken Queen. Kid can drive and loves the vintage scene. We should all try to get more youngsters involved!
Lots of vintage parts for sale at Adams, but by far the biggest sellers were Kelley and Randy Coons selling Kelley’s late dad’s (John Motley) accumulation of karts and parts including John’s incredible Rathman Exterminator. Several complete engines were available as well as 100s of pipes, mounts and hardware.
Just 2 karts gridded for Dual Rear – Duane Dalke and Martin Johnson both from Bakersfield, CA. Martin won the heats, not sure if this is him or Duane. COME-ON GUYS…SOME NUMBER PLATES PLEASE!!!
Lot’s of Hartmans at Adams and we couldn’t resist showing Scott Wigginton’s perfect Yamaha-powered example.
Lots of great driving in the Rear group. Here is a shot of the beginning laps before the field spread out. Those white pants of Louie Figone #41 stand out in the crowd. Louie runs hard and has a great time, even with all of the pressure of co-producing the event.
Romero Llamas flew out from Ohio and picked up a ride in Yamaha Stock Appearing. Love his passion and intensity.
Welcome to the Alan & Bug show. Alan Paolercio (L) and Bug Cooper always show up with a stable of very original and correct karts. And – they run the crap out of them as God intended.
6.1 Sidewinder drew a crowd at the start, but it was Howard Combee #10 on his K11-powered ’74 Birel that dominated. Howard purchased this kart after winning the world championship in Hong Kong in ‘75 and has owned it ever since!
Rennie Goldberg brought 2 amazing karts to this years show. The Hartman in the foreground with Colver BM130s has never been fired. The Lancer in the background was raced by Bob Pruitt and won the Past Champion Sidewinder award.
Here Jack Martin leads Tony and Mike LaRocca out of the big Monza. Track time was virtually unlimited.
Stan Crocker brought some outstanding karts to Adams from Washington state including this pristine Emmick Lightening II powered by a Komet K78TT, and his ’79 Emmick dual KT100.
Mark Landes’ ’62 McCulloch 200 powered by a Mc40 looks right at home beside this Yamaha RC-100 early sidewinder.
The Harpur Racing pits was always abuzz with activity. Marc Zartarian ran one of his Stock Appearing Yamahas out of the Harpur camp. For many years Marc owned and operated Hi-Rev Engineering.
Unrestored and still functional, Alan Paolercio’s ’61 Rathman Exterminator not only won Best Unrestored Rear class but Alan lights this candle when he and Bug are feeling very ambitious.
While everyone was drooling over Doug Sharp’s “Lizzie”, he was making a sneak attack on the Best Modified Rear Engine class with this ’61 McCulloch R300.
Paul Wright pulled out all of the stops restoring this ’70 Bug Enduro Stinger powered by a Mc91b1 with overhead slippy pipe.
The Tom Pierson Memorial ‘Best Bug In Show” award was captured by Stan Crocker’s ’69 Bug Stinger that also won Best Restored Sidewinder.
Steve O’Hara had a great Adams outing this year including taking the award for Best Mini Bike with his Taco 22.
Jim Jacobs brought his ’69 Bug Wasp with a Clinton A400 on board. It won Best Un-Restored Historic Rear.
Ken Queen brought two nice Bugs from Mesa, AZ. The ’72 Bucket Bug and a ’68 Bug Stinger.
Gilberto Rodriques (middle – driving suit) has a stunning kart collection and usually brings a couple of karts to Adams every year. This Dual Mc101-powered Hartman may be subtle, but never-the-less stunning.
When Steve O’Hara was not whipping everyone’s butt on the track he was displaying his incredible Carretta II and ’68 Bug Sprint.
Dennis Faust brought two great turn-key Emmicks for sale from AZ, and also competed with his Yamaha Stock Appearing Emmick. Seen here working out a few “bugs” with his rev limiter.
Vince Hughes Candy Apple Red ’62 Go Kart 1200 eluded the show photos, but here it is parked next to his Margay Cheetah MKIII.
Bruce Bereiter not only owns and drives his “Green Hornet”, the family fun kart is a homebuilt ALA Kart clone that has been stretched for comfort.