Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway
Gold Country Fairgrounds
Story and Photos by Michael Kirby
AUBURN, CA, OCT. 5, 2016
The Fast Fridays Motorcycle Speedway season finale will roll into the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn this Friday night with an international flair. Five European speedway stars are flying more than 5,000 miles to come to California as part of the 2016 World team to challenge six of our best USA riders in a popular good-will meeting.
In its 15th year, the annual USA vs. The World challenge closes out the 2016 Fast Fridays season, and this is a do-not-miss night for fans. Both teams enjoy the laid-back camaraderie of the evening, with much good-natured fun and ribbing, but when the gates go up, the racing is on!
“The European riders that travel to this event just love our California hospitability, and our sunny, warm weather,” said Fast Fridays owner David Joiner.
Most of the tracks in Europe where these visiting riders usually race are much longer than the eighth-mile, tricky, dirt Auburn oval with which our riders are so familiar, which may give the USA riders a slight advantage. Also, the European riders all ride on borrowed bikes while they are here. Last year’s talented team overcame these minor obstacles, made the long journey to Auburn, and beat an equally talented American team, 63-48.
Returning this year for The World are brothers Peter Karlsson and Mikael Max, both very experienced veteran international riders who hail from Sweden. At 47 years old, Karlsson is the oldest rider on this year’s team, and his brother Max is 43 years old. Karlsson currently rides in the UK for the Lakeside Hammers in the Elite League. Max rides in the Polish and Swedish leagues. Both riders have extensive racing résumés, with more than 25 years of professional experience.
Joining this year’s team is 22-year-old Danish rider Mikkel Michelsen, who took up the sport at age 6 and won the Junior World Cup in 2008 and 2009.
Representing Finland on this year’s team is 36-year-old four-time Long Track World Champion Joonas Kylmakorpi. The “Flying Finn” also got on his first motorcycle at 6 years old.
Anders Ljung, 36, who also comes from Sweden, brings many years of experience, with Speedway Grand Prix appearances in 2012.
Rounding out the team is 18-year-old American rider Broc Nicol, who this year competed in Europe on the USA World Cup team.
Team USA is out to avenge last year’s loss and put America back into the winners’ circle. The six riders are the Fast Fridays top season points winners. All talented and led by seven-time AMA National Speedway Champion Billy Janniro, this year’s team will not go down easily.
Also on the team is Bart Bast, 49, bringing nearly 35 years of racing experience to the table.
Charlie Venegas, also 49 and also a veteran rider, has nearly 25 years of racing under his belt.
Auburn’s own Tommy Hedden, 43, is an experienced National rider with an extensive racing résumé; his is a familiar name at Fast Fridays.
Bryan Yarrow is a tough competitor and can be the best rider on the track on any given night. Yarrow is the only team member who was not on the team last year.
Rounding out the team is up-and-coming rider Luke Becker. At only 17 years old, Becker has racked up quite a racing résumé of his own in just the five years he’s been at it. Becker was also a member of the 2016 World Cup Team riding in Europe.
Getting another crack at the World Team, Janniro, Bast, Hedden, Becker and Venegas are all returning to avenge last year’s loss.
No matter which team wins Friday night’s 15th USA vs. The World contest, the night is sure to include some fantastic speedway racing! Fans can get their last speedway fix until the 2017 season begins next May. The gates will open at 6 p.m. and the racing will begin at 8 p.m. at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn.