The prodigy: This 14-year-old Rad Rider outperforms the adults

“I think it's cool competing against people my dad used to race against.” — Andrew Van Winkle

by Melissa Godbout

Andrew Van Winkle leans into a tight turn on his blue Honda CBR250R motorcycle on a race track.

“The adult racers really just treat me like any other racer. I love to race and it really doesn't matter to me how old my competition is. I want to beat them regardless.” — Andrew Van Winkle — Photo courtesy Andrew Van Winkle

Andrew Van Winkle is an exceptional talent. This 14-year-old motorcycling racer is the first rider of his age to be issued a motorcycling racing license in his hometown of Chilliwack, B.C. Typically, riders must wait until they are 16 to get their license, but due to his ability, track maturity and his experience—he’s been racing dirt bikes since he was five, and small motorcycles against adults since he was 10—the Westwood Motorcycle Racing Club (WMRC) offered him the opportunity. The riding community has taken notice of Van Winkle’s abilities, especially now that he can now race bigger displacement (faster and more powerful) bikes at bigger tracks around the Pacific Northwest and North America. 

Andrew Van Winkle smiles while standing next to his blue Honda CBR250R under a tent in a parking lot.

Andrew Van Winkle currently races with a Honda CBR250R, which is a single-cylinder 250cc bike that makes somewhere between 26-28 horsepower. — Photo courtesy Andrew Van Winkle

Like other motor-vehicle licensing requirements, the WMRC license school involved classroom training, an instructor-led track portion, and then finally a mock race with the other students, whose ages ranged from Van Winkle at 14, up into their riders in their mid-50s.

“I was excited to be able to get my racing license because it allows me to race bigger, faster tracks and eventually race bigger, faster, and more powerful bikes,” said Van Winkle, adding that even though he knew much of the information taught in the racing school already, due to years of racing, it was still good practice. “The more track time and instruction I get only helps me improve as a rider.”

Start ‘em young

No stranger to two wheels, Van Winkle started riding a dirt bike when he was just three years old. He first rode at Greg Moore Raceway when he was five. At that time, the youngest kids’ class for road racing was 10, and since he didn’t want to wait that long, Van Winkle decided to start racing dirt bikes just before his sixth birthday. He won his first dirt-bike race in August of that year (2012), in the last race of the season, beating a boy three years older than him who he had been chasing all season. From there, he was hooked. Though minimum age requirements prevented him from competing on a road course, he took any opportunity to race or ride any motorcycle that he could.

Andrew Van Winkle rides a blue Honda CBR250R motorcycle at high speeds on a race track.

“I like to ride because I like the competitiveness and the rush I get. I like to push myself to be a better, faster rider.” — Andrew Van Winkle — Photo courtesy Andrew Van Winkle

At only ten, when he was old enough to start road racing, he promptly graduated out of what was called intermediate class by being too fast to continue competing at that level. It was then that he started racing against adults. At the end of the season, Van Winkle was voted the most improved rider in the club.

The next year (at the age of 11) he had a bike to race in the SuperSport class. The first race of the year in that class was the first time he won a race against an all-adult field.   

“The adult racers really just treat me like any other racer,” said Van Winkle. “Sometimes they are surprised to find out how old I am but after they do, I am just another racer to them. I love to race and it really doesn't matter to me how old my competition is. I want to beat them regardless.”

Since then, he has primarily raced against adults, mostly because there are only a few younger riders at the same level as him and Van Winkle knows if he wants to improve, he needs to race against experienced riders. Some of these riders are life-long racers and include riders who used to race against Van Winkle’s dad, Jim, who was also a motorcycle racer.

“I think it's cool competing against people my dad used to race against but I don't spend much time thinking about that,” said Van Winkle. “They are racers and it doesn't matter how old they are. My goal is to beat them.”

Andrew Van Winkle poses behind his motorcycle underneath a red tent.

Van Winkle knows if he wants to improve, he needs to race against experienced riders. Some of these riders are life-long racers and include riders who used to race against Van Winkle’s dad, Jim, who was also a motorcycle racer. — Photo courtesy Andrew Van Winkle

With his new racing license, Van Winkle can better work towards that goal with more track time, even more race experience, and by working his way up to bigger and more powerful bikes. He currently races with a Honda CBR250R, which is a single-cylinder 250cc bike that makes somewhere between 26-28 horsepower. Most of his competitors’ bikes are two-cylinder 250cc and make over 30 horsepower. Although the spread doesn’t appear that significant, it means Van Winkle is down on power. On the track, that little difference actually makes a huge difference, especially in the straightaways. However, Van Winkle has always found a way to be competitive with every bike he has ridden and in every class he has competed, regardless of how much of a power disadvantage he may have. It has forced him to focus on the details that make him a better rider, including braking, cornering, and maximizing the drive out of corners.

“One of the things I like most about riding is the power of the motorcycle,” said Van Winkle. “The new bike that I am learning to ride has quite a bit more power than the 250 I am racing right now and can wheelie out of a tight corner. I really like that. I like to ride because I like the competitiveness and the rush I get. I like to push myself to be a better, faster rider.”

Breaking into Area 27

Last summer Van Winkle experienced another first for anyone his age and was invited to ride at the prestigious and exclusive, Area 27, a private track with a membership costing upwards of $60,000, designed by Canadian racer, Jacques Villeneuve.

“I was really excited because it is a large track and has a long enough straight that I could get my bike up to its top speed,” Van Winkle said. “It is a cool track with elevation changes and blind turns. My favorite corner is turn seven. You enter going uphill, drift wide, and then cut in tight heading downhill.”

Located just outside Oliver, B.C., the luxury motorsports club isn’t open to just anyone, which was not lost on Van Winkle.

“I feel really lucky to have a track like that not too far away from home and to have been given the opportunity to ride there,” he said. “I can't wait until I can go again. I have an even faster bike I can ride there next time.”

Never wanting to coast, Van Winkle sees his new racing license as his ticket to even more track time and being able to hone his craft.

“I would like to continue racing and improving my skills as a rider and racer, hopefully moving on to bigger, faster bikes while travelling to new tracks.” When asked if he ever tires of racing and time on his bike, Van Winkle shook his head and said without hesitation, “Any given day, I choose the track.”

ON OUR RAD RADAR:

Rider: Andrew Van Winkle
Where: Chilliwack, B.C.
Occupation: Student
Bragging rights: First rider of his age (14) to be issued a motorcycling racing license in his hometown of Chilliwack, B.C.
Weapon of choice: Honda CBR250R
Local ride recommendation: Area 27 race track in Oliver, B.C. “It is a cool track with elevation changes and blind turns. My favorite corner is turn seven. You enter going uphill, drift wide, and then cut in tight heading downhill.” — Andrew Van Winkle


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