The motorcycle world was saddened to learn of the passing of Wayne Hosaka on Sunday, January 16. He is known best to motorcycle enthusiasts as a former pro racer on the AMA Class C circuit in the 1970s, and later as a sponsor and supporter of the sport through his Flattrack.com website. In his later years Wayne (or "Hos" as he was known to some) became a talented artist, taught girls how to play basketball, enjoyed gardening and played the harmonica.
"But wait!" you say. "Wasn't he paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair?" The answer is yes. Hosaka's motorcycle racing career came to an abrupt halt only weeks after he had qualified for the main and finished eighth in the National at the 1971 season-opening Short Track race at the Houston Astrodome. Next up was a daytime flat track event at Ascot Park where he suffered a broken neck in a crash in the Semi, permanently losing most of the feeling in his body from the neck down.
Wayne Noboru Hosaka was born on March 10, 1948. He was raised in the San Diego area and at a young age developed an interest in art and motorsports. His Uncle Mits Hosaka had a motorcycle business and was constantly doing speed work on motorcycles, go-karts and about anything else with an engine in it. When Wayne was about six years old, he and his cousin Hito got first into go-karts, and next into motorcycles.
Hosaka quickly rose up through the ranks in AMA District 38 Amateur TT racing, first on a 100cc Hodaka and, later, larger Bultacos and other brands. As a former racer in the area myself, I can attest that if you wanted to win races in San Diego in the late-1960s, you had to get the best of Wayne Hosaka, which was no easy task. In a word, Wayne was just "fast" on any motorcycle he rode.
Hosaka, who was a new father at the time he was injured, was focused then on a career as a motorcycle racer. But the Ascot crash changed everything and he looked for things he could do within the scope of his limitations. Eventually he became employed working on computers, using voice command software and limited hand motions.
In the early 1990s, Wayne became an early user of the World Wide Web and in 1995 created a website for the motorcycle flat track community called Flattrack.com. The website and forum he created quickly became a must-read for everyone interested and involved in flat track racing. In a recent interview, Hosaka said, "My original mission statement was to provide a place for flat track enthusiasts to share information on racing, equipment, schedules, etc. I did not fully realize the impact it would have on the sport as an "Open Forum." It gives promoters, riders and team owners a place to discuss issues and help establish rules and regulations."
Along the way, Hosaka's father, himself a talented artist, encouraged Wayne to get back into art, which he had enjoyed as far back as elementary school. But the hobby now required him to paint using a mouth stick for a brush for detail work, with some use of his left hand for broad strokes. In 2004 he became a member of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists and through the years produced many amazing pieces of art, some, but not all, motorcycle related.
Hosaka remained busy to the end. He got involved as a basketball coach for girls, loved to listen to Blues and would entertain friends at parties playing his harmonica. He did some gardening and spent time with his three grandchildren.
Mia Larcom, one of Wayne's assistants with Flattrack.com website, wrote the following on the website the day after Wayne's passing: "On January 16, 2011, Wayne crossed the final checkers. His life, his artwork, and his never ending search for peace and humanity were an inspiration to all who knew him. This site was his gift to the flattrack community. HE was a gift to the EARTH. Hos will be missed, but never forgotten. Thanks, Wayne."
Wayne Hosaka was inducted into the Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2005. He is survived by his mother, sister Marsha, son Wayne Hosaka, Jr. and three grandchildren. Following the passing in 2004 of Carol, his wife of 24 years, Wayne was fortunate to have the support of Kathleen Fabry as his primary care giver.
Note: Memorial services have not yet been announced.