May 17, 2024

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Exotic Italian Motorcycles Wow Crowds at the 2023 Quail Motorcycle Gathering

By Chuck Gilchrest

Rare Italian motorcycles captured the day at the 13th Annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering and Ride at the elegant Quail Lodge and Golf Club on May 5 and 6.  Best in Show award went to a lovely Art Deco-styled 1939 Miller-Balsamo 200 owned by John Goldman — one of three examples in existence.

John Goldman’s 1939 Miller-Balsamo 200 — Best in Show

Goldman brought home additional awards, as his 1935 Motor Comfort MGC Grandsport 500 captured 2nd place in the Antique Class behind the 1929 Indian Model 402 4-cylinder entered by Mike Lynch. Local Carmel Valley collector and museum owner Robb Talbott also took home awards, with his 1956 AeroCapriolo Corsa 75 winning both the “Italian and Single” special class along with the “Spirit of the Quail” award.

British entries at the 2023 event

Motorcycle Dirt Track and Road Racing champion Bubba Shobert served as the Gathering’s “Legend of Sport,” with a special appearance by fellow racers and World Champions Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson. These race heroes of the ’80s and ’90s brought collections of their respective race bikes from their early days on the flat track circuit. Shobert, Rainey and Lawson traded race stories on the main stage, kidding each other about their wins and losses over the years, but it was clear that their respect for each other was unquestionable.  

Legend of the Sport, Bubba Shobert

Rainey, current MotoAmerica founder and President, had his own first-ever race bike entered in the show: a 1971 Yamaha Mini Enduro 60 which won the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Heritage Award. In contrast, his Championship-winning Yamaha YZR500 Grand Prix bike graced the show field as well.

Rainey’s Yamaha YZR500

Other special classes and awards included “Bring on the Baggers,” “1970s Vintage Muscle Bikes” and the Arlen Ness Memorial Award.

Early flat trackers

One hundred motorcycles participated in the annual Quail Motorcycle Ride held the day prior to the show. Recent rains in the area meant the hills of the Central California coast radiated a lush green and wildflowers filled the 100-mile course. Riders were treated to parade laps at the nearby WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca before returning to the Quail for a delicious lunch. Many of the bikes took to the show field the following day.

Event organizer Gordon McCall noted that while this year’s entries were a bit down in numbers, the quality of custom, exotic, rare and wonderful bikes could not be matched anywhere else.