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Competitor Profile: I J Wagar

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IVAN J. WAGAR (1930-2004)

Ivan Wagar was born in Napanee, a small Canadian town in south-eastern Ontario some 50 miles from the confluence of the mighty St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario...As a local boy he battled his way to the top hurdling many obstacles to become highly ranked in North American motorcycle circles...

Ivan’s first bike was a 1948 Triumph Tiger 100 bought in the following year...On this he indulged a strong fancy for fast touring until the activities of two club colleagues gave rise to his urge to race...

So, in 1950, the T100 was replaced by a Thunderbird on which he finished fourth in his first airfield race behind three Vincent twins.... Thus encouraged, he bought an even more potent Triumph, - a Grand Prix model and collected three first place finishes at the Ontario championship meeting in August 1950... This highly satisfying achievement he was to repeat again in 1951.

Ivan by this time was smitten with the racing bug so he boarded ship and sailed away to test his skills at a race like no other.

Every June, The Isle Of Man shuts down its public roads so that madmen- and a madwoman or two- can hurtle through city streets, never far from danger or thousands of adoring fans.

And it’s not just the meek and timid that the TT intimidates...Local legend has it that GP star Barry Sheene pulled out at Quarter Bridge, barely two miles from the start, never to set wheel on the Isle of Man again...

It is unbelievable how fast everyone was going over roads that normally serve as the island’s main thoroughfare, over mountains, past farms and, most incredibly, through it’s villages. Today’s speeds can reach over 175 mph. Ivan twice raced at the Isle of Man.Representing Canada in 1952 aboard a Triumph he placed 39th in the Senior TT, and in 1954 as a privateer in the Junior TT mounted on a Norton he placed 53 rd. He also entered the Senior race on a Norton but because of spark plug leads problems he had a DNF in this race.

In 1953 Ivan seriously contemplated retiring from racing and settling down to a more orthodox life...But by midyear his resultant restlessness was too much to bear, and he rode in the Ontario championships to win the 500 cc race. The same mental vacillation plagued him again in 1954, however with his boat sailing only three days off he decided in favour of a continuance of racing at the TT, duly embarking at Liverpool on Apr 5th.

It would be difficult to imagine a more cheerful and friendly soul than Ivan Wagar, possessed of an almost boyish countenance and an infectious grin, he is always completely at ease.

Ivan was introduced to the motorcycle in his early teens...Bitten by the racing bug he became the Canadian Road Racing Champion after two fast years of campaigning.

Among his European trophies are two of the most coveted, the Isle of Man TT replicas.

In 1955 after emigrating from Canada to Southern California, Ivan set lap records at Willow Springs and Riverside race courses in the 350 class, also set a land speed record that stood for many years on the famous Bonneville salt flats of Utah on a 350 Honda and won the AFM 350 championship in 1964 before joining Cycle World as Assistant Editor in 1965...Ivan was soon to become Editor and Associate Publisher, and he explained that Cycle World was the first magazine in the United States to start conducting “honest road tests” for motorcycles...This system still works well today...This system referred to by Ivan is one which staff members ride machines and pool their opinions on performance. “We generally agree on the overall opinion!” (I’ve had three broken collar bones, a broken collar bone and a hip in traction at the same time, which was particularly painful, and three broken ribs after various accidents) reflected Ivan as he spoke of his deep involvement in motorcycle safety...This concern for safety led to his appointment to the National Motor Vehicle Safety Advisory Council in June 1970 when he became the first motorcyclist among the 21-member Council.

With motorcycle sales booming Ivan was instrumental in planning new rider-training programs...The Big Six motorcycle manufacturers contributed over $5,000,000. towards implementing them, Ivan explains.

Another Canadian who raced on the Island was Ted Havens...After the IOM races Ted and Ivan entered the Ulster Grand Prix races on the Emerald Isle....This resulted in a lifelong friendship over the years.

Ivan was an advisor on motorcycle safety to JAMA ( Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association), member of the committee on helmets of the American National Standards Institute, member of the executive committee of the American Motorcycle Association, as well as such AMA committees as professional racing and member Insurance advisory committee...He did motor racing broadcasts for network radio and was founding President and chairman of the rider licensing committee of the Motorcycle Industry Council.

He also was in Madrid, Spain as a delegate from the USA. to the world governing body of motorcycle racing’s annual congress.

Post Script:

Representing Canada at the time of the 1952 TT Ivan made the acquaintance of Barbara ( who was to become his future wife). They dated a few times, then Ivan along with Ted Havens raced at the Ulster GP in Ireland, after which he was employed by BSA for a stretch, then returned home to Canada...Again in 1954 Ivan raced at the IOM TT and at this time Barbara and Ivan rekindled their friendship... Their decision was to be married in Canada at a later date.. Ivan returned home to await the arrival of Barbara who set sail in 1955...Their marriage took place in Napanee where they resided for four years...In 1959 they, along with Ivan’s parents, emigrated to the USA where Ivan decided to race stateside...Ivan and Barbara spent many happy years together and when Ivan retired they settled in Olympia Washington.

Always remembered -by wife and best friend Barbara - and friend Allan Sinclair.

June 2005

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