By Sandy Hackney

The story of East River Racing began in September 1969, all because I had been seen risking life and limb on a ’69 Yamaha YDS3 (250cc) on a series of curvy roads in Durham, NC that Summer.  A mechanic at the local Yamaha shop said to me, “You should race.”  Huh?  But the seed was planted, and there was a AAMRR Labor Day race weekend coming up at VIR; it was several days long and featured one 5-hour race.  After exploring this some, I approached a local roofing company, who fashioned a set of expansion chambers to TD1 specs and I was set! Top speed was increased to about 110mph; damned thrilling.

The story of a crew thrown together by circumstances, who find they have much in common. Their racing team toolbox is still in use over 50 years later. [Sandy Hackney]
The race went as expected, with me unloading a time or two – once when my front brake cable snapped at the end of the front straight and I ran into a guy I was “outbraking.” I survived and we finished 4th in a gentle rain.  What next?! Obviously I needed a “real” racer, so I bought a used TD1C from the fabled Bob Sharp, who sadly perished a couple of years later on his bike. With the TD1C, I went off to race the 1970 Daytona 200.  Which was not a total success … I damaged the crank by exceeding the red line (a few times) and it blew after one lap on that legendary tri-oval.
How it starts: take your road bike, add expansion chambers, and suddenly you’re off to the races. Here with a Suzuki Titan, which was a superb production racer. Sandy Hackney and tuner Ginny Carlson camping at Daytona. [Sandy Hackney]
I moved to NYC and began to meet like-minded friends. Soon Bill Nelson, pictured by the door of our racing truck, joined me with his own TD1C. We began to campaign up and down the East Coast: Summit Point, Bridgehampton, VIR, Road Atlanta, Pocono Speedway, Daytona, Nelson Ledges, etc. In the 1971 edition of Daytona I placed in the middle of the field, won $40 and treated Bill and our ‘tuners’ to a prime rib dinner. Somewhere Bill got the idea of buying a 250 Ducati racer so he could, as he said, “Nip at my heels.” On his first ride he took off and, as the gearing was very tall, he picked up speed slowly. He accelerated to around 80mph and was going to shift, but found he was already in 4th! Top speed! A good idea for racing in the 1940s maybe. Back to Yamahas.
With the ‘tuners’ in the paddock, some of whom became wives! Bill Nelson and tuner Judy Bloom camping at Daytona. [Sandy Hackney]

Soon we had a core group made of several colleagues from the Respiratory Therapy Department at NYU Medical Center; we were all in our early 20s and in love with motorcycles. We rented a storefront on E. 12th between 1st and 2nd Ave, and East River Racing was truly born. Our truck was purchased by me from a NC monk for $80. A great deal. We added a couple of fine women as tuners – and more. One tuner is married to this day to Bill.

Sandy Hackney at speed on a Yamaha TD2, with its coveted large drum brakes, at Summit Point.[Sandy Hackney]
East River Racing survived for several years as we slowly came to our senses. One aficionado, Herr Snow, pictured at the far left by the truck had bought my TD1C. He fired it up at VIR, took off, and went possibly 1 mile through a couple of turns. I came upon him after he set it on the side of the truck and began walking back. “No more” and that was the end of his racing career. Recently, he told me he has 9 motorcycles in parts – and one runs!
Looks like an album cover of the period: the East River Racing crew circa 1970, with their 1950s Ford panel van modified as transporter. Note the NYC skyline in the background. Art Snow, Gerry Ebersole, Bill Nelson, Sandy Hackney, Tac Hostetter. [Sandy Hackney]
All of us survived. Bill had a fine career as a physician. Another was a mayor of a small Georgia town. One owns and runs a department store. The erstwhile racer Snow had a spell as a bartender on a Mississippi river boat. Today he plays bass for a funky band in San Antonio. Yours truly – 2nd from right by our truck – had a few poorly paid careers and a number of bouts in graduate study. Today, after giving up my Royal Enfield with a sidecar, I am settled down in the Paradise of upstate New York with my fantastic wife and a creaky 1984 BMW R80. Bravo to ERR! It was a lot of fun.
In the pits for a little pre-race prep at a verdant East Coast circuit. Bill Nelson tuning his TD2 at Virginia International Raceway. [Sandy Hackney]
A time never repeated, although the ERR crew remained friends over the decades. Bill Nelson at Daytona.[Sandy Hackney]


Sandy Hackney, “Pushing 80”, is North Carolina born. Educated at Duke, he also studied theology at Saint John’s University and musicology at NYU. Retired in upstate New York with his fantastic wife Ann, he concentrates his efforts on bicycle riding and for the last time trying to understand Wittgenstein.