RIP: Honda Mechanic Mike Velasco
Gary Van Voorhis, Larry the L
Mike Velasco passed away last night.

Renowned and exceptionally talented mechanic, Mike Velasco, passed away last night following a courageous battle with multiple health challenges.

Velasco's remarkable journey began during the inception of the US Superbike era. He played a pivotal role in building and supporting bikes while traveling alongside the Pops Yoshimura team during their Kawasaki racing endeavors. His expertise later led him to Honda, where he served as a factory mechanic for notable riders such as Fred Merkel, Freddie Spencer, and Bubba Shobert.

In the 1980s, Velasco formed a legendary mechanic partnership known as "The Burner Brothers" with the late Merlyn Plumlee. Together, they proved to be an indomitable duo, contributing significantly to Merkel's triumphant capture of three AMA Superbike titles. Plumlee died from cancer in 2007. His widow, Marta Plumlee, said today, "I know they are reunited in a great way and at peace."

“I loved working with Mike on our team. His personality was always 100% positive. God speed Mike Velasco. You’ll be missed by many,” Two Brothers Racings Craig Erion said today.
Velasco's exceptional skills and unwavering dedication also made him a trusted confidant to the three-time world champion, Freddie Spencer. Their collaboration saw Spencer riding to success on the Two Brothers Racing Honda RC30 during the early 1990s, marking a memorable period in both their careers. Velasco's meticulous tuning played a pivotal role in Spencer's successful comeback aboard the TBR RC30.

Mike Velasco is survived by his loving daughter, Michelle, and his devoted son, Grant. His legacy as a masterful motorcycle race mechanic and his enduring impact on the racing community will be fondly remembered and cherished by all who had the privilege of knowing him.

While Velasco’s accomplishments were primarily in racing—his bikes won AMA Superbike, the Suzuka 8 hour and the Camel Pro Dirt track races and championships, his collaboration with Two Brothers Racing influenced an entire generation of street riders. When it was introduced the Honda Hawk GT 650 was viewed by most as an expensive "wife bike". Craig Erion hired Velasco to build him the baddest Hawk GT possible. When Erion's Velasco-built Hawk showed up for its debuts at Willow Springs and Daytona the hot rod Hawk transformed the Hawk from a "chick bike" into a seminal sport bike of the 1990s. It remains a cult bike today.

Henny Ray
"The moment with Velasco that really sticks with me was at the AMA Light Weight BOTT race at Daytona in 1991," Said Craig Erion. "I raced my mildly tuned Hawk while my brother raced his Ducati. He won that race and I finished 10th. I took some pride that I was the first Hawk to cross the finish line. After the race Mike, my brother and I were standing there and Mike said, 'I think we can make the Hawk a winner.' And my brother went on to win a couple of national championships on a Velasco built Hawk.

“I loved working with Mike on our team. His personality was always 100% positive. God speed Mike Velasco. You’ll be missed by many,” Two Brothers Racing's Craig Erion said today.

The tale of Velasco's ingenious strategy during the 1984 Suzuka 8 Hours has become bench racing legend in motorcycle racing circles. Back then, American Honda sent their riders, Mike Baldwin and Fred Merkel, along with their American crew, to compete in the race aboard what was supposed to be a full factory HRC bike. However, the machine provided to the American duo was respectable, but received little support from HRC. They lacked special parts, and perhaps most crucially, they were at the bottom of the list for spare parts. While factory-supported teams could swap entire engines after each practice session, the American team had to meticulously rebuild their engines from scratch after most sessions, scavenging parts from failing engines. To make matters worse, HRC turned a deaf ear to their requests for assistance.
The tale of Velasco's ingenious strategy during the 1984 Suzuka 8 Hours has become bench racing legend in motorcycle racing circles.
In the final team meeting before the race, as most of the squad braced themselves for eight grueling hours on a comparatively slower bike, Velasco stunned everyone when he confidently declared that they were going to win the race. With surprised expressions all around, he explained that he had crunched the numbers on a paper towel and concluded that if they only changed the rear tire during pit stops instead of both the front and rear, they stood an excellent chance at victory.

While the factory-backed teams from HRC's cool kids only lunch table initially appeared strong in the '84 Suzuka 8 Hours, disaster struck swiftly. Many found themselves in crashes or tangled in the trackside barriers, while others were left in pieces inside the crash trucks. After three pit stops for refueling and rear tire changes only, it was the American Honda team that led the pack, steadily pulling away from the competition. Suddenly, HRC offered help, parts, and anything the team required, but Velasco and his crew firmly insisted that they manage on their own.

After four pit stops with only rear tire changes, Michelin, the tire supplier, decided to take matters into their own hands. They set up their equipment in front of the American Honda garage, intending to replace the front tire on the next stop, whether the team agreed or not. However, when Velasco realized their intentions, he forcefully tossed the Michelin equipment inside the garage, informing the Michelin engineers that they would only replace the front tire when the riders deemed it necessary for fresh rubber.

Velasco's audacious strategy paid off. Baldwin and Merkel went on to win the 1984 Suzuka 8 Hours race, instantly earning their place as Honda royalty.

Three-time world champion Freddie Spencer said today: "I’m devastated by the passing of Mike Velasco today. It was my privilege to race the bikes Mike prepared for me. This is who Mike was for me and what his essence was:

Friday afternoon March 1981, Daytona 100 mile Superbike race. My bike caught fire (I was leading) when we restarted after the pit stop (during refueling) some fuel leaked out of the tank onto the carburetor and the engine backfired and poof! Mike was reaching in to wipe the excess fuel when it ignited… Mike didn’t hesitate or run and never stopped trying to help me. He reached in to try and rub out the flash fire.
I jumped off and kept hold of the left bar and Mike grabbed the right so the bike didn’t fall over and get damaged. I jumped back on as Mike pushed me and it immediately restarted. I lost the lead but finished second and almost caught back up to win… In that moment it was the two of us that kept me going. I always felt safe with Mike and trusted him and his judgement without question! Even when we both finished the day with less eyebrows….After that episode we won four straight years at Daytona, three superbike wins and the 1985 Daytona 200. Thank you my friend! I will miss you and everyone will miss the legend that you are."

This story will be updated throughout the day.
Gary the Vee
"The Burner Brothers". Velasco (left) and Plumlee (right) built race winning Superbikes for Fred Merkel. This was a period of intense inter-team rivalry with Velasco and Plumlee on one side of the Honda garage pushing rider Fred Merkel while Wayne Rainey's squad on the same team were vying for the championship. Here, then Honda team manager Udo Gietel splits the two.
Dean Adams
When few believed in Freddie Spencer, Velasco was his unwavering confidant. Spencer came back and won AMA Superbike races on what was essentially Craig Erion's RC30 streetbike.
Bert Sheperd
Velasco built Superbikes and Honda RS750 dirt track machines for rider Bubba Shobert out of Honda's Indianapolis race shop in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
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