TrailBlazers - We are a social organization of pioneer motorcycling enthusiasts. Meeting annually since 1940.

Let the countdown begin! Tickets will go on sale here on Tuesday, January 2nd for the 74th annual Trailblazers banquet, to be held on Saturday, April 7th, 2018 at the Carson Center in Carson, California.

As always, we will be inducting some of our legendary members into the Trailblazers Hall of Fame, as well as remembering friends we lost this past year. And of course it all starts mid-afternoon that day with the Tom Cates Memorial Bike Show presented by Hagerty Insurance.

The 2018 Hall of Fame inductees are Scott Autrey, Kel Carruthers, Debbie Evans-Leavitt, Bruce Flanders, Dennis Kanagae and Chuck Miller. Additionally, the family of the late-Tom White will be in attendance to receive his 2018 Dick Hammer Award, the Trailblazers highest honor.

In the coming weeks, we will be featuring a profile of our 2018 honorees, starting with Kel Carruthers. Be sure to check here often for a look at all seven honorees. And don’t forget: Tickets go on sale on Tuesday, January 2nd. The last two years we have sold out the first week. Don’t miss out.

Kel Carruthers – 2018 Trailblazers Hall of Fame Inductee

     For many years Kel Carruthers was one of the top riders and team managers in the world of roadracing. He was the 1969 250cc World Roadracing Champion, as well as a 2-time winner of the 250cc class at the Isle of Man in 1969 and 1970. In 1971, Kel achieved a milestone in America, giving Yamaha its first AMA National roadracing victory when he took the checkered flag at Atlanta.

     When he retired from racing, Kel went on to become one of the most successful team managers in the history of the sport, heading both national and world championship teams during the 1970s and 1980s. Carruthers managed the teams on which Kenny Roberts won his three consecutive 500cc World Championships.

     Kel was born in Sydney, Australia in 1938. His father owned a motorcycle shop and had been an Australian sidecar racing champion. The young Carruthers started riding at age 10 and entered his first race at 12. He turned pro when he was 15 and started clubman road racing a year later. By the early 1960s, he was the top racer in Australia. From 1962 to 1965, he won 125cc, 250cc, 350cc and 500cc Australian national championships.

     Kel went to Europe in 1966, and began to compete on the international Grand Prix racing circuit as a privateer. He progressed rapidly and by 1968 finished third in the 350cc World Championships riding Aermacchis. In 1969, Kel became an Aermacchi factory rider in the 125cc, 350cc and 500cc classes. At the Isle of Man, Benelli asked Carruthers to ride the company’s 250cc machine. Carruthers got permission from Aermacchi and won the 250cc class at the TT that year on the Benelli.

     Benelli was thrilled, and in an almost unheard of arrangement, Aermacchi allowed Carruthers to sign to race the Benelli 250cc the rest of the season. So Carruthers found himself a factory rider for two different companies at the same time. Riding the Benelli, Kel went on to win the 250cc Grands Prix in Ireland and Yugoslavia and clinch the 250cc World Championship in 1969.

     Kel was at the top of the sport in 1970 as he won the AMA 250cc Lightweight race at Daytona and went on that year to finish runner-up in the 250cc and 350cc World Championships riding Yamahas. Then, in 1971, he and his family moved to the United States and he raced that season out of Don Vesco’s shop in the San Diego area. Doing roadraces exclusively, Carruthers still managed to finish eighth in the AMA Grand National Championships, including his (and Yamaha’s) first AMA National victory at Road Atlanta riding a 350cc Yamaha.

     In 1972, Carruthers continued to race, but his emphasis was beginning to shift. That season he began working with rookie expert Kenny Roberts, taking care of his motorcycles and helping him learn the ropes at the roadraces. In 1973, Yamaha contracted Carruthers to run its U.S. roadracing team. And while Kel actually had a very good season on the track (runner-up at Daytona and Road Atlanta and winner at Talladega), but he becoming was more interested in running the team. Under the direction of Carruthers, Yamaha’s racing team was the most successful in the United States during the mid-1970s. Roberts won the AMA Grand National championship in 1973 and ’74 and the AMA Formula 750 (Formula One) roadracing title in 1977.

     In 1978, Carruthers and Roberts left for Europe to contest the 500cc Grand Prix Series for Yamaha America. Roberts won the world championship in his first full year giving Carruthers much of the credit for his success. Kel continued working as team manager and engineer for various teams on the Grand Prix circuit through 1995 when he retired from GP racing management. In 1998, Carruthers returned to motorcycling to run the Chaparral Yamaha National Supercross and motocross team and later the Southern California company’s AMA SuperSport road racing team.

     With a career that includes multiple National and World Championships as a rider and team manager, Kel Carruthers is more than a great motorcyclist, he is a living legend. The Trailblazers proudly welcome Kel Carruthers to the Hall of Fame.

Published Wednesday, Dec 06 2017

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