At 48 years old, James Roy is living proof that it’s never too late to start a racing career. The longtime Gilroy resident won the American Federation of Motorcyclist’s (AFM) Novice Formula 40 Middleweight Division and took third in the Clubman Middleweight Division last season. The AFM is the oldest racing organization in the country dedicated solely to motorcycle road racing.
And get this: The 2017 season was Roy’s first year in motorcycle racing.
“Taking first in the Formula 40 was definitely a big accomplishment,” said Roy, who has moved up a level to the Expert Division for a 2018 season that kicks off on Saturday in Buttonwillow. “It’s about being consistent. You have to go out there, practice a lot and be calm in the face of everything. We can get up to speeds of 160 mph, so it’s all about being aware of your surroundings and recognizing who is next to you, behind you and in front of you.”
Roy obviously has the motor skills and reflexes to thrive on his race bike, a 2012 Kawasaki ZX-6R. Those skills were recognized and developed at an early age, when he started his BMX racing career at 9 or 10 years old. The 1988 Gilroy High graduate won so many trophies in his adolescent and teenage years that “we had too many in the house and couldn’t give them away we had so many.”
Roy kept a few trophies, one in particular that meant more than perhaps any other. When Roy was 15, he was selected to compete in the Presidents Cup, which only the top 10 racers from every age group from each state gets to participate in. Roy finished in seventh place in his Presidents Cup race in Ohio.
“That is something I’ll feel great about for a long time,” he said.
Roy was perhaps at the peak of his BMX career when he decided to call it quits a year or two later. He chalked that up to a greater interest in “cars and girls,” and he also started riding motorcycles after that. However, Roy never thought about racing motorcycles until several years ago, when he tagged along with a friend to the track.
From there, it was love at first ignition. All of Roy’s past BMX experience helped him make a natural transition to the AFM.
“BMX riding trained me to go for it, I guess,” he said. “When everyone goes into the first corner all at once, it can be a little unnerving for a spectator if you’re not used to it. But it was most definitely a natural transition for me.”
For the upcoming 2018 season—which involves seven races spread out over seven months—Roy will be happy if he’s finishing around fifth place every race. That’s because Roy is going up against some top riders.
“I’ll be racing with a lot of very fast people,” he said. “I would like to say that as long as I’m not fighting for 15th place—I actually want to be fighting for fifth place—I’ll be happy. Taking fifth place in the 600 supersport class is an accomplishment because they normally grade out to be the fastest racers in the country.”
Roy is also trying to qualify for the MotoAmerican Round at Sonoma Raceway, which is the top level of road racing in the country.
The fact that Roy is out competing is a feat in itself; however, when one realizes the majority of riders he’s racing against are in their 20s, it takes his feats to another level.
“I do get a lot of ribbing on Facebook,” he said. “People will ask who I was and if anyone can vouch for me. A bunch of people will comment, ‘He’s fast and old.’ I’m sure most of the guys out here do not like getting beat by an older guy, that’s for sure.”
Roy receives help from his girlfriend, Dori Patrinos, who is his de facto crew chief and takes care of all the logistical arrangements once he arrives at the track.
“Racing takes up a lot of time, and she has been a great support for me,” Roy said.
Of course, racing isn’t cheap, and Roy pays for all of his equipment through the salary he earns from his general contracting job. It also helps that Roy has some sponsors, including Pirelli Tires from CT Racing, Lee Block from Racer Gloves, Fun Track Dayz, GP Suspension and Jimmy Schrull Roofing.