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Len Fitch inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame


by Sylene Argent

On Saturday, November 2, area resident Len Fitch was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame as one of a handful of honourees. The special banquet took place at the Sheraton Hotel in Toronto.

  Fitch has spent a large part of his life, 54-years to be exact, involved in motorcycle racing, which was why a group of his peers nominated him for the prestigious award.

  “It is held to honour anyone who contributed or was a competitor to the road racing community,” Fitch said back at his home after receiving his award. He noted the recipients were from all over Canada, and the banquet is held in a new location every year.

  Fitch was first introduced to racing in his youth. His dad raced bikes back in the ‘40s as a half-mile rider. He recalls hearing stories of his dad racing on the ice at the Windsor Arena. In 1945, the year he was born, his dad was involved in an accident that broke his back, which ultimately ended his racing career. He spent three months in a body cast.

  “Although he took me to many [racing] events, my mom and he did not want me to race because of that accident,” Fitch said.

  He recalls going to Edenvale, near Wasaga Beach, to watch races with his dad when he was eight-years-old. It was a former WWII air force base, which was converted to a race arena.

  “I sat outside the fence and watched the races. The speed they went in the race, the sights, the smells, I decided I wanted to race,” he said.

  In 1966, Fitch married his wife, Nancy, and said the first purchase he made was a bike of his own at the age of 21. He rode in the streets for a few weeks, but was told to take the plate off and learn to ride to race at local raceways. He said he never rode a motorcycle on public highways for nine years.

  He said he had a late start to racing, but by 1970, he was an expert in Canada with the Canadian Motorcycle Association (CMA). He was urged to try racing in Michigan with the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). His first AMA race was in 1970 for the Daytona. He said, from that point, he proceeded through the ranks.   He would end up racing the 200m race at Daytona six times. He raced in the AMA for eight years, of which six he was racing in the expert division. He raced across the US, from Indianapolis to Texas.

  While he raced, he still worked full time in construction. Fitch was self-sponsored, and said he raced with some of the best in the world, such as Yvon Duhamel of Montreal and Giacomo Agostini of Italy.

  “To finish in the top 20 was a real accomplishment, and I always finished in the top 20,” he said, noting speeds could get up to 190km/h.

  After eights-years of racing with the AMA, Fitch decided to spend more time with his family and started touring.

  In 1985, he retired as a contractor and took up farming.

  In 2005, he still owning a few of his bikes that he used to race, and wanting to give back to the motorcycle racing community, so he got involved with the Vintage Road Racing Association (VRRA). He raced there for six-years. The club puts on four events per year.

  He then started sponsoring riders who rode his bikes in the race. He later got involved with sidecar racing, too, which he continues to sponsor.

  He knew in 2015 that in two-years it would be the 50th anniversary of the only Canadian Grand Prix Motorcycle Race, so he approached the VRRA about a celebration. He was able to get 24 of those original racers brought to Canada to take part in a banquet and a parade lap, because of the sponsor support.  

  Fitch quit racing in 2010 after he endured a bad accident.

  He was humbled to be inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame and that he had support from his family there, when he delivered an 11-minute speech.

  “We did this because it was a passion. I never thought about getting a return. I got called out of the blue. I had no idea they were doing this. To get that recognition from my friends was special” he said.   

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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