The Race of Gentlemen – a mix of motorcycle and hot rod racing – has a very particular twist: It takes place on the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey. To qualify for the race, all cars and motorbikes must be pre-1950s, each with accurate parts and tires from that era. A crowd of almost 15,000 people make their way to this Jersey beach town each year to compete or cheer their favorite driver. Here’s a look at the rides, and the characters, that make this a distinctly unusual annual event.
Cars are displayed on Wildwood beach for spectators to inspect on their way to the Race of Gentlemen race grounds.
Bikes can hit speeds of 70 MPH on the beach. With traction being a primary concern for competitors, each race has a element of suspense.
Mel Stultz and 10 members of the reformed motorcycle club “The Oilers” wanted to create a race that kept tradition of pre-1950s racing alive. The concept was simple: push these machines to the limit by drag racing them at high speeds on a beach. “We pick the fastest, baddest, coolest bikes all across the world,” Stultz says.
Hot rods and motorcycles are inspected and approved before race day: No “straight of the street” bikes allowed. That means no headlights, no full fenders, etc. Bikes must be “bobbed” and stripped down for racing and must be tank shifter. The idea is to recreate the look and feel of bikes that would be racing in the late 1940s.
Races begin at 8 a.m. and don’t stop until the sun sets. Mel Stultz knows that putting on a show is essential to keeping spectators interested, so holding on to the back of a hot rod at the beginning of the race has spectators wondering, “What the fuck is wrong with this guy?”
Friends Jennifer Sheets and Crystal Geisey are both racing their vintage bikes in the hopes to become the first female motorcycle TROG winner. This isn’t their first weekend on the beach in New Jersey – last year they came as part of the pit crew – but this marks their first time racing on the track.
Hundreds of racers line up for their turn to race. After a racer finishes their heat they often drive back and get back on line to race again. The addiction to speed has them push their cars and motorcycle to the mechanical limit.
Sushi, a legend at TROG, travels from Japan each year to participate in the race.
Most TROG racers treat the event as a “family reunion.” Even though Crystal (left) and Jennifer were facing off in a grudge match, their favorite part of TROG is being able to catch up with each other.
Crystal’s bike breaks down at the start of her “grudge” match between Jennifer Sheets. For most attendees of TROG, they spend an entire year rebuilding and tweaking their bike for the race. No matter how much work they put into a bike, it can break down on the line and an entire year’s worth of work and expectations can be destroyed in a second.
As the day’s races continue, traction on the beach becomes an issue. Racers find their bike or car fishtail when taking off at the beginning of a race.
American heritage is celebrated with American cars and bikes racing on the beach.
At the end of race day, the space is cleared of all cars and a bonfire party takes place on the beach with music and food.