larry laurent | January 16, 2022
Cycle News Archives
When satellite teams had satellite teams
The early 2000s period was undoubtedly a unique peak of motorcycle racing in America. There was no better illustration of this fact than Bruce Transportation Group Honda, which became a top team in the AMA Pro Road Racing of that era with riders such as Alex Gobert, Roger Lee Hayden, Josh Hayes, Marty Craggill and Jake Zemke. Bruce Transportation Group Honda was basically a satellite team of a satellite team. That’s right, in the early 2000s AMA Pro Road Racing had up to three levels of factory-backed Honda teams. There was the factory team, then Honda’s satellite team, Erion Honda, and then another satellite team that came out of the Erion Racing shop. Bruce Group operated under its own tent, with its own big rig, independent team staff, press kits and riders. The team was funded by racer-turned-team-owner Bruce Lyskawa.
And as the team’s unique yellow livery suggested, much of Lyskawa’s company, Bruce Transportation Group, operated a large fleet of school buses for New England districts.
The history of Bruce Transportation Group Honda begins with Lyskawa who raced professionally primarily in the AMA Harley-Davidson 883 and AMA Team Challenge series in the 1990s. Lyskawa met Kevin Erion when he was looking to increase his involvement in the series and become a team owner.
“I raced motorcycles for years, and although I never finished with great results, I really enjoyed the sport – it was in my blood,” Lyskawa said.
Erion made Lyskawa’s entry into team ownership as seamless as possible.
“I met Bruce when he bought us Formula Xtreme bikes and 600 SuperSport machines,” Erion said. “For a long time Bruce talked about how he would like to form a racing team one day, then in mid-1999 our discussion about a new team started to get more serious. Eventually he asked, ‘How are we going to we start?’ and basically we were in business.
The Bruce Transportation Group Honda team was formed prior to the 2000 season.
Lyskawa was an avid road racer and although the sport was booming in the late 90s and early 2000s, one element he lacked was sponsors outside the motorcycle industry.
“We were building a top-notch racing team, but more importantly, we were building the image of motorcycle racing outside of the mainstream industry,” Lyskawa explained. “We wanted to open the door to outside support for the whole paddock, and we were proud to be at the forefront of that movement.”
The team now had sponsorship, a shop and support from an established racing team. What was needed next was a team leader and they found their man at Vance & Hines in Joey Osowski. Osowski was a national championship-winning endurance racer in the 1980s. He had raced for Team Hammer and Cycle Tech Racing, so he knew how well-organized the teams were. It turns out that Osowski was the perfect man for the job and he quickly put together a strong team.
“I wasn’t looking to leave Vance & Hines,” Osowski recalls. “I really enjoyed working there, but when they talked to me about being a crew chief, I was excited about the possibility of getting back into racing.”
Then the team recruited riders Jake Zemke and promising Canadian Kevin Lacombe. Zemke came from the Cycle Gear Suzuki team and his signing turned out to be a brilliant move. Zemke was immediately a Formula Xtreme contender for the new Bruce Honda team and was also a strong top 10 in Supersport. Lacombe finished 10th in the Formula Xtreme Series with a pair of top-10 results for the season.
The series culminated with Zemke earning his first-ever FX win at Willow Springs. He finished second in the series. To have a freshman team take a win and place a rider second in an AMA National Championship series was a remarkable achievement.
“I look back on my time with Bruce Transportation with great fondness,” said Zemke, who moved to Erion Honda the following season. “It was the start of my long association with Honda and the team worked well together from the start.
In 2001, the team consisted of drivers Josh Hayes and Roger Lee Hayden, both in Formula Xtreme and Supersport. Hayes finished fifth in both championships that season and scored four podium finishes in FX. He scored another unexpected 750 Supersport podium when he raced his 600 Supersport bike around the tight and technical Loudon circuit.
In just two short years, the Bruce Transportation Honda has firmly established itself as a force to be reckoned with, and team owner Lyskawa was thrilled with his team’s quick start.
“By any measure, the 2000 racing year was absolutely spectacular,” Lyskawa said. “We were there, a brand new team, not a factory team, and we were racing with the big dogs, I couldn’t have been happier! In our first year, we established an enviable presence, reputation and track record, and then in 2001, we consolidated those gains. At the start of our third season, we were already considered one of the best teams in the paddock.
The Bruce team lacked the Erion Racing workshop for the first two years, benefiting immensely from the knowledge, experience and data that had already been generated for the Honda CBR929RR/954RR and CBR600F4/F4i race bikes. In 2002 the Bruce Group established their own shop directly across from Erion Racing, but the same open working relationship existed, with access to all Erion Racing data. Bruce Group came close to winning the 2002 Formula Xtreme Series with returning Zemke. Zemke has been a strong podium almost all season, winning at Laguna Seca. At the end of the season, he was tied on points with Jason Pridmore in the final standings, but Pridmore won the title in a tiebreaker after picking up more wins. Additionally, Zemke also had a few superbike rides that season, a first for the team.
That year also saw an 18-year-old runner from a famous racing family, Alex Gobert, join Bruce. The youngest of the three racing Gobert brothers showed promise as he finished with six top-10 FX results and an eighth-place finish at the end of the year.
Despite Bruce Group’s success, Honda began to scale back its support for satellite teams in 2003. That year, the team fielded only one driver, Australian Marty Craggill, in Formula Xtreme. Craggill had a respectable season, scoring two podiums en route to seventh in the championship, but that was it for Bruce Transportation Group Honda. The team disbanded after the 2003 campaign.
“I funded the team for four seasons, and I was hoping that as an outside industry sponsor we could attract more companies like ours to keep the team going, but that didn’t happen. never materialized,” recalls Lyskawa. “We had a great run. I was very proud of what our team achieved in such a short time, and we’ve also helped young people like Jake, Josh, Alex and Roger advance their careers and that’s been rewarding too.
Those who witnessed the rapid rise of the small, rambling team with the funny bus logo will always remember them as a small team that unquestionably made its mark. NC