Toronto-born Owen Weichel, a star in Canadian and AMA Pro National roadrace action in the 1990s, has died from a heart attack in his sleep at home in California. Weichel was 50 years old, and is survived by wife Georgia and children Owen Jr. and George.
Weichel won races in all three Canadian National Pro classes during his lengthy career. As well as Pro Superbike feature, Pro Sport Bike and the now defunct Pro Open Sport Bike CSBK National races, he was also a front runner in a variety of AMA Pro categories, including Endurance, and also found success in Formula USA and NASB National events.
At his career peak, Weichel won the Yoshimura-sponsored National Pro Sport Bike Championship after a fraught finale at Shannonville in September 2000, triumphing against one of the strongest fields in Canadian road racing history, including middleweight class king Steve Crevier. At the time, he had just joined the works Canadian Kawasaki squad, and went on to score an impressive win in the Feature Superbike class at Race City in Calgary, Alberta, in 2001, aboard a rare, full-works, ex-Akira Yanagawa gear-cam-drive Kawasaki ZX-7RR.
However, a career success listing in no way does justice to the life and times of the charismatic, outspoken and at-times flamboyant red head. Following Weichel’s passing, a wide range of top racing and tuning talents from the Canadian scene went out of their way to confirm that Owen was one of the most interesting and entertaining people they have ever met.
Weichel started motorcycle competition in the glory days of the RACE National and Eastern Canada Challenge Regional series, starting with a Suzuki RG500 square four production racer and soon moving to a Suzuki GSX-R750. Weichel was a product of the same era that produced racers such as Miguel Duhamel and Pascal Picotte, but took longer to reach the top, since he had little personal wealth.
In 1990, Weichel and partner-in-mischief Attila Szabo headed west for the Alberta and last-ever Westwood National in B.C., producing a string of bizarre and mostly unrepeatable misadventure/travel stories! Earlier that year, the same troop managed to roll their trailer on the way back from the A.M.P. National on the east coast.
Initially a landscaper, soon Weichel was working for Hyd Mech Saws based in Woodstock, ON, the large firm also supporting his ever-improving racing program. Weichel started racing in the American National series, mostly focused on the 600cc class, and soon joining the team of Chicago-based 4&6 Racing.
Led by top tuner Jim Rashid, 4&6 took over a failing Endurance program, and Weichel joined 250cc G.P. class star Jon Cornwell aboard the middleweight Honda, winning multiple events and taking the title. The influence of “Corndog” and Rashid is considered to be a key to Weichel’s career development. Later, Weichel would ride for 4&6 at the Mosport CSBK National in 1999, taking victory in packed Open Sport Bike in his first ride on a Yamaha YZF-R1.
In 1994, Weichel rose to prominence in 600 Supersport aboard the new Yamaha 600, and just missed the podium at the final vent of the season at Road Atlanta. From there, Weichel moved to Suzuki, although he is most commonly considered a Honda CBR600 racer in the mid-1990s era.
It was during this time that Weichel famously had his throttle jam on the back straight at Road America in F-USA National action. Forced to jump from his GSX-R600, the ensuing crash ripped the bike apart, with the rear shock spring disappearing for good amongst the carnage!
Later, Montreal chassis legend Dale Rathwell would amazingly repair the seemingly ruined, one-off ex-Yanagawa Kawasaki, the result of several huge spills with the always all-out Weichel.
Weichel split from Kawasaki after a shake up in early 2003, but continued to be involved in U.S. racing for a few more years, having moved to California when he married.