December 21, 1950 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada, John Donald
Learment was raised by parents who both served in World War II. He
grew up in suburban Mississauga Ontario, just west of Toronto. I
know you are thinking two things right now. One, wow I didnít know
that Canada had a Mississippi sounding kind of place. But I bet you
canít make a rhyme out of it like (Miss-iss-ippi.) Second, didnít we
just have a Canadian story last week on John from Mississauga? What
are the odds? Yea, right Eh?
Anyhoo, Jackís interest in motorsports started when his father used
to take him to the old CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) at the
Toronto fairgrounds to watch the Super Modifieds. Back in the late
50ís and 60ís they ran the Modifieds and Hobby Stocks on an asphalt
track built around the Toronto Argonauts football field at
Exhibition Place. Jack remembers the excitement of racing, the sound
of the engines and the smell of racing fuel.
Jackís experience with the two-wheel world started by riding other
peopleís bikes. It started with a Sachs moped when he was about 10
years old. From there he rode a few step through 50cc Hondas
followed by a few Honda CB160ís. The bike Jack really contributes
his riding skills to was a twin carb Triumph Daytona 500 that
belonged to his friendís brother during Jackís high school days.
The first pass down a drag strip for Jack was at the Old St. Thomas
Dragway in 1975 at a Wednesday night grudge and TT session. As
almost every story I write includes, ďOne pass and I was hooked.Ē
The track became part of Jackís weekly routine. In the late 70ís a
fellow by the name of Dave Connery showed up to the track with a
1200cc Z1 wheelie bar bike that ran 9ís. That was it, Jack had to
have one of those big inch, high compression motored dragbikes after
hearing and seeing Daveís bike.
On Saturdayís, Jack and a friend of his Bill Hope would drive to
Cayuga Dragway Park to watch Billís brother Ralph race his NHRA Comp
car. Then on Wednesday nights and Sundays Jack would still beat
around on streetbikes at the local track. More and more dragbikes
would show up going quicker and faster so Jack and his friend
finally pooled their resources and put together an 1132cc all motor
small tire bike with wheelie bars. For the 1980ís, April to November
racing seasons where spent either at St. Thomas, Cayuga Dragway
Park, Detroit Dragway or Ubly Michigan.
I asked of Jack, what he was best known for in the sport, he said,
ďIím probably best known for longevity in dragbike racing as most of
my modest collection of trophies and plaques are for how my bikes
look rather than for winning races.Ē Jack has also served as a team
member of Pollard Nitrosports with his good friends, Geoff and Greg
Pollard on their Top Fuel Bike. They were the first and only
Canadian dragbike team to run a 5-second pass and to win a national
event in Top Fuel. Geoff won the last professional Top Fuel event at
Indy at the AMA Dragbike event in 2009. Jack said that was a very
special day when Geoff beat McBride. He didnít know that old fat
white guys could jump that high. The pair of 5ís were ran at
Valdosta at the National Finals in 2009. The photo below, taken by
the official beverage coordinator for Vantine Racing (Genie Muldoon)
depicts the celebration after Geoffís 5.93 run. McBride (background)
had to shutoff due to a fuel leak otherwise the fans may have seen
the first and only side-by-side 5-second pass. I know itís hard to
believe with Korry Hoganís many 5ís that it has still not been done.
I always ask subjects of
VIP stories to tell me their favorite drag racing stories. Jack said
he had a large collection of the usual road trip, pit party, million
ways to win/lose in bracket racing stories coupled with the
enlightened rogues and characters that he has met in the sport. The
first story that came to mind was he said he has to be one of the
few to have dodged a deer running between two bikes at the top end
of the racetrack and not just once but on two occasions.
Jack said his best save was the day his left side handlebar broke
off just as he let the button go. He
was in the semis of a quick 16 and practically had a bye to the
finals because he treed the other guy buy a day. To make matters
worse know one got it on video.
His favorite thing about his years at the races is that he got to
see a lot of great and historic passes. Jack was the last pair of
Pro ET bikes to go down the track prior to Elmer running the
historic 6.06 at the Prostar Indy event in 1996. Jack was sitting on
the return road awaiting his tow back to the pits as Elmer and Tony
Lang came by. He said he would never forget the sight. Itís also
impressive that the pass is still #11 on the all time ET list,
fifteen years later.
I received an email a
short time ago from Graeme Jones who nominated Jack as a POTW. Not
only because of being a staple in Canadian drag racing since the
80ís but for also being the catalyst behind the Kevin Blackmore
Memorial Quick 16 at Grand Bend Motorplex which just celebrated its
9th annual event in which the King of Canada, Mike Konopacki, won.
Kevin Blackmore was a longtime friend of Jacks and a hardcore
dragbike racer. His death was a big shock to the racing community
and they wanted to do something to honor his memory. A small group
of racers got together in 2003 and approached Grand Bend Motorplex
about adding a Q16 race to the annual bike event weekend as this
format was one of Kev's favorites. As well Kevin's fellow workers at
Lafarge Cement put up a beautiful trophy to be awarded every year to
the bike racer for best sportsmanship at Grand Bend Motorplex.
Grand Bend management Paul Spriet & Ron Biekx have been on board
since day one and make a major contribution to the prize pool every
year. Brad Prong, the entire Portiss Family & Sarnia Drywall Supply,
Wiseco, Platingmaster, Mike Law & Raceworks Canada, Sparky's
Performance Centre, Jack and a variety of others have helped make
each year a successful remembrance of Kevin. This photo is Kevin at
Grand Bend in 2000.
Other Areas of
Residence: London, Ontario, Canada
Spouse: Beth. Married 30 years, Bethís always supported my
Children: No kids, just Nikita the husky/wolf hybrid
Occupation: General Mgr. small business
Interest outside of racing: Detroit Red Wings, hockey, dogs,
music, cottage at Lake Erie
Favorite foods: BBQ, Mexican, steak.
Favorite movie: Let It Ride w/ Richard Dreyfuss, Terri Garr,
Robbie Coltrane and David Johansen. Probably the funniest movie
nobody has ever heard ofÖ
Daily driver: Ford Explorer or Honda Accord
Classic Motorcycle: 1979 Kawasaki KZ1000 MKll with a 1075
motor, 29mm. smoothbores & a Denco pipe.
First motorcycle: 1973 Kawasaki Z1, brown & orange vin #
Heroes: My father Don Learment , Elmer Trett & Duane Allman.