Posted on October 14 2015
One of the most colorful personalities in racing, Dave Aldana was a top AMA Grand National Series competitor during the 1970s, winning four AMA nationals during his career. By the late-1970s, Aldana began concentrating on road racing. He became a factory rider for Suzuki and later joined Kawasaki’s AMA Superbike team in 1980. He went on to be a Honda factory rider in the FIM World Championship Endurance Series. Aldana teamed with Mike Baldwin to win the prestigious Suzuka eight-hour endurance race in 1981. He later rode the revolutionary Elf Hondas in the world endurance series. One of the most versatile racers in the history of the sport, Aldana competed in nearly every form of motorcycle racing, including motocross and speedway racing.
At 16, Aldana bought a 90cc Honda and began racing all over Southern California. It didn’t take long for the youngster to move up through the ranks in racing. He started working at motorcycle shops and earned a factory-supported ride from BSA in dirt track and a factory ride with Ossa in scrambles/motocross, all by the time he was 19. By the late-1960s, Aldana was the star of the Ascot TT races. Without planning it, motorcycle racing had become a way of life for Aldana.
In 1970 Aldana became a rookie expert on the AMA Grand National circuit riding for BSA. It was to be one of the most memorable rookie seasons in the history of the series. Aldana made a serious challenge for the championship. A crash at the Sacramento Mile with just three races to go dashed his hopes for the title, but along the way he won three nationals, finished third in the series and won the hearts of America’s racing fans with his win-at-all-costs riding style. The classic motorcycling documentary, "On Any Sunday," caught snippets of Aldana’s rookie season and it conveyed his brash and carefree attitude.
Aldana earned quite a reputation as a crasher in his early years on the professional circuit. He seemed to operate under a theory he laid out in a magazine interview. "If you don’t fall off now and then, you don’t know how fast you can go." At the same time he earned a nickname of the "Rubber Ball," since he always seemed to easily bounce up after spectacular crashes. He also gained notoriety from wearing a set of black racing leathers with a contrasting human skeleton on the front.