Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to Mert Lawwill: '69 AMA Grand National Champion and AMA Hall of Famer


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Mert Lawwill gets a leg down in practice in between turns 1 and 2 at the Terre Haute Half Mile round of the AMA Grand National Championship Series in August of 1975. Mert captured the '69 AMA Grand National Championship as well as competing in over 160 events as a pro on the AMA Flat Track scene from the early '60s until his retirement in 1977. He also won 17 AMA Grand National Championship Series races throughout his career and went on to be inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 1998 as well as being inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1997 for his ground-breaking work in the mountain bike industry. Mert still works in the frame and suspension areas with bicycles and motorcycles and also works with amputees in helping to develop prosthetic limbs. His son Joe is a well-known competitor in downhill mountain bike competition.
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Mert strolls the pits at Terre Haute in '75 while then-National #77 Eddie Wirth walks back to his pits behind him. Sitting in his pits on the right side of the shot is Ken Springsteen #76X with his Vista Sheen-sponsored XR750's sitting just over Mert's right shoulder. Ken and Jay ('76-'78 AMA Grand National Champion) were team mates on the Vista Sheen team during their rookie seasons in the AMA Grand National Championship Flat Track Series and had been sponsored by them for a couple of years coming through the amateur and novice ranks in the AMA's ladder system of AMA Flat Track Racing.
Some of Mert's ventures outside of the flat track motorcycle racing scene involved working with and developing prosthetics for amputees as well as his legendary work in the mountain bike industry. He also teamed with Kenny Roberts in the late '70s/early '80s on the Roberts/Lawwill Racing Team, which included riders Jimmy Filice and former 2-Time Grand National Champion Dick Mann as one of the team's advisors. The bike was based on the Yamaha Virago V-Twin engine that was very popular on the street some 30-odd years ago. It was also one of Yamaha's strongest selling and most popular platforms for street use as well. It never really quite came around in the flat track scene, unfortunately.
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Heat race action at Terre Haute in '75 with a talent pool that was to say the least, pretty deep. Leading on the #3 C&J Frames-backed Yamaha parallel twin is 1970 AMA Grand National Champion Gene Romero, followed by '69 AMA GNC Mert Lawwill on the #7 factory H-D XR, '73-'74 AMA Grand National Champion Kenny Roberts on the #1 Yamaha factory XS650-based parallel twin, and former National #77 Eddie Wirth just coming into the shot on his privateer XR. 1981 AMA Grand National Champion and current AMA Pro Flat Track Manager and overseer Mike Kidd won the main event at the Terre Haute Action Track that day.
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Stu's Shots wants to take the time to wish '69 AMA Grand National Champion Mert Lawwill a VERY happy birthday which he will be celebrating on Friday, September 24th. Having caught on to AMA Flat Track Racing in the summer of 1974, Mert was one of the main men on the scene in those days, and always seemed to have a smile on his face to go along with his will of iron and tenacity on the track.

Besides competing on the pro scene for some 15 years, Mert was one of many riders in the day to come out of the Pacific Northwest area of the United States in the late '50s/early '60s, although by the time he was racing in the pro ranks he was based in California. He is not only a member of the '98 AMA Hall of Fame class, but was an inductee into the '97 Mountain Bike Hall of Fame class as well for his ground-breaking work in the industry with mountain bike frames. He was also inducted into the Washington State Motorcycle Hall of Fame and was one of the inaugaral inductees into the AMA Flat Track Hall of Fame at the Springfield Mile in late summer of 1998. His work in the area of hand prosthetics goes back to the mid/late '60s when he first worked with a former team mate who had lost his hand in a racing accident, and to this day works to develop limbs through his company Mert's Hands.

You can check out some more info on former National #7 below and help in wishing one of the all-time greats of AMA Flat Track and AMA Grand National Championship Series racing a big happy birthday. Thanks for all of the racing memories, Mert, and thanks for all you have done throughout your life to help people as well. Have a great day!!
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Here is Mert's official site on the net. Check it out, some pretty cool stuff going on here:
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This is the site that features Mert's work in the area of prosthetics, a VERY worthy cause for helping racers that have lost a limb (or a portion of) that can sustain a day-to-day 'normal' routine with the use of a replacement attachment. Mert actually started working with prosthetics back in the late '60s after being approached by a former team mate. Read on and check this out as there is some VERY cool stuff here:
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The AMA Hall of Fame inducted Mert into their order in '98 and here is their page on his racing accomplishments:
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Mert was originally from the Boise, ID. area, but the Northwest area of the U.S. is a hotbed of flat track and especially TT race courses. The Washington State Motorcycle Hall of Fame has a great story and interview with Mert about his career and past accomplishments. Great reading here:

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Mert went from motorcycles and prosthetics into the world of mountain bike racing, and was one of the genre's earliest real pioneers of the sport. He was inducted into the Moutain Bike Hall of Fame in 1997 for his numerous accomplishments and here is their page devoted to Mert:
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And finally, what most people remember Mert for is the legendary movie "On Any Sunday" that was produced by Bruce Brown in the late '60s/early '70s. Mert was one of several people profiled in the epic film along with other big names such as the late Steve McQueen and '70 AMA Grand National Champion Gene Romero. Here Bruce talks about the film and it's place in motorcycling history:

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4 comments:

  1. Mert Lawwill ROCKS! even at 70 years
    Happy birthday Mert!
    Phil Reyes

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm glad you think so, too, phillybeef! Thanks for stopping by and checking us out.

    ReplyDelete
  3. happy birthday mr mert!

    and btw... great pics!

    ;)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the comps Sake Racer, and thanks for stopping in to check us out!

    ReplyDelete

Keep it nice, but keep them coming!

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