A 14-year-old from Chilliwack is on the fast track to motorsports success.
The Pacific Coast Mini Road-Racing Club (PCMRC) held its opening races the weekend of June 19-20.
Rising star Andrew Van Winkle reached the podium five times in six races, including a pair of second place finishes in the Formula Thunder division. Competing against, and often defeating adults, the teenager has quickly made a name for himself at Chilliwack’s Greg Moore Raceway.
Now he wants to hit the road and test himself at other tracks.
“I am hoping to compete in all the races the PCMRC puts on in B.C.,” said Van Winkle, who lists Area 27 in Oliver, B.C. as his favourite racing venue to date. “I am also hopeful that we can travel to Alberta to compete with the Alberta Mini Roadracing Association.”
Van Winkle was just three years old when he started riding dirt bikes, and five years old when he started racing them.
The kid showed a talent for going fast and by nine he felt ready to try road racing. His dad, Jim, set him up with a Suzuki DRZ125 and from the moment wheels hit pavement Van Winkle fell in love.
When the 2017 Pacific Coast Mini Road-Racing Club season began, he was still nine, and therefore too young to compete in the first race. But he turned 10 days later and when he got his shot in the season’s second race, he made it count. Van Winkle broke out of the intermediate (beginner) class right away, posting a lap time that was far to fast for that class.
“Since then I have been racing against adults,” he said.
That season ended with Van Winkle being named the PCMRC’s Most Improved Rider of the Year as he finished second overall in the Spec Thunder Class.
The 2018 season brought more of the same. Racing two motorcycles (his Suzuki DRZ125 and a Kayo 125cc Super Sport), he finished second in the Formula-under-21 class and third in the Spec-under-21 class — that despite missing two of six races because he only competed locally.
In 2019 he finished third in Formula Thunder and third in Spec Super Sport, and started experimenting with two new rides. He practiced on a modified, purpose-built Yamaha TTR 125 and a Honda CBR 250 and intended to ride the latter in the final race of the season, but it was rained out.
COVID made 2020 a challenging year, but Van Winkle practiced a ton on the new bikes and is adding yet another ride, a Suzuki SV 650, as he heads into 2021.
As the bikes get faster he needs to get better, so the training doesn’t stop.
“My dad and I are always looking for other opportunities to ride and we are excited to see what the 2021 season has in store for us,” he said. “A short term goal is getting my race license with the Westwood Motorcycle Racing Club (operating out of the Mission Raceway) so I can start racing on a bigger track. In the meantime, I will continue to train in the offseason. Part of that training is riding my KTM 200XC-W on the single-track trails on local mountains with my dad, and at Popkum Motor Park with my friends.
“My long-term goal is to keep developing and improving my skills so I can be competitive in the classes I race.”