CN III ARCHIVES
BY LARRY LAWRENCE
If ever there was a motorcycle-racing version of a Johnny Cash song, Mike Harth would have to be it. A hard drinking, womanizing roughneck who
emerged from the oilfields of Oklahoma, Harth
was a fearless racer who could care less about
political correctness. If a fellow rider was brave (or
stupid) enough to make a risky pass on Harth, he
knew he’d hear about it afterwards. On the track
“Iron Mike” was able to overcome incredible obstacles and injuries, but in the end the one thing
this fiercely independent rider found toughest to
face was his own mortality.
Harth is perhaps best known for his Daytona
750 Supersport victory in 1992 on a junkyard Kawasaki, but he also won numerous national endurance and major club-racing events and championships during his 20-plus year racing career.
He rode for some of the high-profile independent
teams of the 1980s and ‘90s, teams like Team
Suzuki Endurance, Dutchman Racing and Team
Harth grew up in Oklahoma, and as a young
man went into the Army and later worked the oilfields of his home state. His brothers bought an
old Harley-Davidson Sprint flat tracker and they
soon got Mike on the bike and he started racing
local flat tracks. In 1980, Harth began club road
racing. Although Harth was talented and put together a string of top- 10 AMA Superbike finishes,
Harth battling Fritz Kling in the 1992 Daytona 750
Supersport race - Harth’s lone Supersport win.
Road racer Mike Harth in the late 1980s.
his bikes often didn’t last the race and they were
seriously down on horsepower.
Former Harth mechanic Larry Brown said that
Harth knew he needed a stronger motor if he were
to have any hope of winning a Superbike race. “He
finally bit the bullet and got one of the HRC motors
for his Interceptor,” Brown said. “When he raced
the thing he was still getting pulled by the factory and factory-support Hondas. He went to the
Honda guys after the race and asked what the deal
was. They hem and hawed around and told him
that even though he’d spent 20 grand he needed
more parts to be competitive. Well that just ticked
him off and he vowed to never race Hondas again.”
Harth’s first paid ride came in 1987 when he
signed with John Ulrich’s Team Suzuki Endurance
to race the WERA National Endurance Series.
Harth, along with Thomas Stevens, helped the
team win that year’s WERA title. A few years later
a tense relationship with Ulrich came to a head in
one of the most infamous (or famous depending on
your point of view) incidents in WERA history.
It was a low-key club race at Roebling Road in
Savannah, Georgia. Suzuki contingency money
was available and Harth borrowed a bike from a
novice rider. In the race, Harth chased down and
passed Ulrich’s riders Kurt Hall and Mike Smith to
win. Afterwards Harth’s borrowed bike was protested ostensibly by Smith, but Harth suspected
that it was Ulrich who ordered the protest. The novice rider who’d lent Harth his Suzuki was in a bind.
He had to work the next morning and had to get