Chilliwack’s A.J. Van Winkle is the youngest to ever get a racing licence from Mission’s Westwood Motorcycle Racing Club (WMRC).
The teenager just turned 14, and historically licenses don’t go to anyone younger than 16. While the club says lowering the age by two years isn’t specifically about Van Winkle and is their attempt to attract more young racers to the sport, the timing seems awfully coincidental.
“I was excited to be able to get my racing licence because it allows me to race at other tracks – big tracks, fast tracks and eventually race bigger, faster, and more powerful bikes,” said Van Winkle. “The more track time and instruction I get only helps me improve as a rider.”
There was a process to get the licence, one that involved classroom training, an instructor-led track portion, and finally a mock race with other students.
Van Winkle knew most of the stuff already. He’s been dirt racing since he was five and road racing since he was 10.
He almost always races against adults and despite his young age he said they treat him “like any other racer.”
“Sometimes they are surprised to find out how old I am but after they do, I am just another racer to them,” he said. “I love to race and it really doesn’t matter to me how old my competition is. I want to beat them regardless.”
With his new racing licence, Van Winkle will be doing that more and more often as he works his way up to bigger and more powerful rides. He currently races with a Honda CBR250R, which is a single-cylinder 250cc bike that makes somewhere between 26-28 horsepower. Most of his competitors’ bikes are two-cylinder 250cc and make over 30 horsepower.
To an outsider, the spread doesn’t appear that significant, but a little difference can make a huge difference on the track, especially on the straightaways. Coming up on less powerful bikes has forced him to focus on the details that make for a better rider, including braking, cornering, and maximizing the drive out of corners.
“One of the things I like most about riding is the power of the motorcycle,” Van Winkle said. “The new bike that I am learning to ride has quite a bit more power than the 250 I am racing right now and can wheelie out of a tight corner. I really like that. I like to ride because I like the competitiveness and the rush I get. I like to push myself to be a better, faster rider.”