Ron Wood, just 90 years young and another great legend in flat track racing has been chosen as the Grand Marshall for the upcoming West Coast Dirt Track Series, Digger Helm Memorial race weekend, May 4 & 5, 2019, at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California. An event no one will want to miss with edge of your seat excitement for 2 solid days of racing on a fast well-groomed 3/8 mile cushion track featuring many AMA Grand National Riders as well as many old pros aboard gorgeous vintage bikes!
Ron Wood was born in South Pasadena, California. His dad was a general contractor as well as being educated in animal husbandry at UC Berkeley. During the second world war construction dried up leading the Wood family to moving to a 20 acre hop yard farm in Oregon where his mother kept a victory garden and young Ron learned all about the farming of hops, working on the farm after school and on the weekends. It was there that Ron’s passion for creating things was born. Ron’s creative fabrication journey began with roadsters and coupes. He built and raced a 1927 T V-8 that his folks didn’t know about. When they found out they made him sell it and at 18 he bought his first motorcycle, an AJS 500 brand new, black and gold single, built in England, that he used for transportation. With that bike he discovered his passion for motorcycles and at age 20 he moved back to California due to the hay fever he suffered with in Oregon.
Ron went to Ascot to watch the races and while sitting in the stands he got the idea that it would be fun to build a flat track race bike. He built a Ducati 250cc for the local tracks. His bike was a regular on the podiums. In the meantime, he had opened a 50,000 square foot warehouse, named his new company Wood Lighting, and created custom lighting for both commercial and residential applications. He produced lighting for 25 years with 100+ employees. While creating lights Ron decided to build a bigger bike and used a part of the lighting warehouse to begin his new projects. He built his first Norton and Eddie Mulder set fast time in qualifying on it at Ascot. Wood Lighting was sold in the mid 70’s and Ron began his full-time adventure building bikes. He built a couple more Nortons and a Ducati V Twin. Over the years Ron had the pleasure of providing rides for 40-50 pro racers and won his first AMA Grand National at Ascot with Alex Jorgenson aboard the only Norton twin to ever win a Grand National Flat Track event. The Norton win with Jorgenson put Ron in the spot light. Jorgenson consistently won at Ascot, also winning the season Championship there. Prior to the season championship win with Jorgenson, Rob Morrison, also aboard Ron’s bike won the Ascot Championship. Ron then decided to purchase a couple of Harley Davidsons for AMA competition that were piloted by Ricky Graham but Ron didn’t really care for them and sold them 2 years later.
Still looking to build the best and fastest flat track motorcycles, Ron got involved with Bombardier and Can-Am in Canada, they were building 2 strokes and eventually a 500cc bike that led to him receiving a call and being asked to build bikes to run the Grand National races. He went on to build about 500 500cc and 600cc bikes for Can-Am with Rotax engines and was very fortunate to have some of the best riders aboard them winning many AMA Grand National events. When Can-AM Canada decided to discontinue building bikes Ron contacted Rotax in Austria, and began dealing with them directly. He imported the engines, built the frames and sold the bikes complete without the rear sprockets and tires. Ron’s Wood Rotax bikes became famous and dominated in Grand National competition from the early 1980’s until the AMA banned them from competition in the 1990’s. However, that didn’t end Ron’s passion for building fast race bikes.
In 2016 AMA Grand National #23, Jeffrey Carver showed up to the Eddie Mulder West Coast Dirt Track Series race at Willow Springs with Ron and a Wood-Rotax mono shock bike that Ron built. Carver won, beating a field of top Grand National Riders. Ron and Jeffrey will team up again at the Digger Helm Memorial race with Carver twisting the throttle in hopes of repeating another victory. At the end of our interview Ron said “winning includes 3 components, a good rider, a good bike and luck”. Today at 90, Ron is still building bikes in his shop, playing golf every now and then for fun, and he still attends some of the races in Southern California, Arizona and Sacramento.
Wood Rotax motorcycles continue to be very fast and winning races across the nation commanding a good price when being sold.