Skip Van Leeuwen, a dominant name in motorcycle racing during the 1960s and one of the best TT dirt track racers (Steeple Chasers) in American Motorcyclist Association’s history, passed away June 21, 2017, after fighting cancer for the past two years. Skip was one of those men who packed every possible experience into his 78 years. In an interview I did with him a couple of years ago, I left the experience shaking my head as I realized just how much Skip had done during his most active, youthful, and some might say, crazy years. He understood and imparted the phrase, “Life is to be lived!”
Skip won four National TT races but his true dominance showed in Southern California at the local track of Ascot where he and his iconic No. 59 Triumph were almost unbeatable on the TT track.
When young Turks, Kenny Roberts and Gary Scott came along, Skip would relate with an almost grandfatherly pride that his racing days were through and it was time for another phase of his life.
That new chapter, including Skip’s business interests, were almost as intriguing and flamboyant as his racing career, enjoying various business relationships with Michael Nesmith (the Monkees), Evel Knievel, and many more entertainment and celebrities that trouped through Skips home and office. Some of them attracted to him because of his racing prowess, but all because of his smiling countenance and irascible sense of his often irreverent humor.
Van Leeuwen was an original member of the exclusive Petersen Motor Museum Checkered Flag 200, and participated in putting up a tribute displays to various aspects of motorcycle sport including ones to the glorious history of Baja and Ascot.
Skip was very active in, supportive of, and a member of the Board of Directors for the 73-year-old Trailblazers Motorcycle club. It is an organization that was very dear to his heart, and one that will carry his memory for as long as it exists. Skip was inducted as a member of its Hall of Fame, and also of the very prestigious Dick Hammer Award, named after his long time friend and itinerant competitor.