Soup Classic: Wheelbase, Where Motorcycle Internet Began, Kinda

Originally published April 2007


'Copy Freely': launched in an era when digital rights were at best an afterthought, WheelBase was one of the first racing information sites.
‘Copy Freely’: launched in an era when digital rights were at best an afterthought, WheelBase was one of the first racing information sites. Rondell El Scano

In the early 1990s, if you wanted race information faster than the print industry could deliver it to you, you bought a fairly expensive computer and subscribed to one of the information services available then–CompuServe, America Online, Prodigy, or found someone geeky enough that knew how to use Usenet, etc.

Race results from Europe then were available to you on a same day basis or even just an hour after the event, which was mind-blowingly fast.

There were many pioneers of the racing electronic age and one day they will either get their due or drift into obscurity. One name that should not be lost when discussing pioneers of the electronic media as it pertains to racing (POTEMAIPTR) is a name still well-remembered: Gordon Jennings.

Best known as a print writer, Jennings worked all over the So-Cal bike publishing scene, Cycle, Cycle World, Motorcyclist and for various car magazines as well. Jennings was totally home brew, he often mentioned that he never attended college and seemed happy to qualify various statements with that, but was dazzlingly cerebral and had an excellent grasp of technology.

Jennings and his longtime partner Karen Green realized the power of the electronic media long before really anyone in motorcycle publishing did. While most were ignorant of the electronic media or were just trying to connect to a BBS or get the right modem string to view the AOL sign-on screen, Gordon and Karen built their own … well, web site, in circa 1992. They called it WheelBase.

What they built wasn’t a web site per-se, as it was somewhat of an off-shoot of CompuServe, but it had most of the features one now sees on the Internet–pictures, text, etc. Being that it focused on motorsports, WheelBase was really before its time.

WheelBase was nearly priceless to gearheads for a multitude of reasons but for one above all: Kevin Cameron and Jennings filed something on the WheelBase “site” quite often. They’d discuss anything from politics to vintage aircraft to reed valves and their hearty and at times prickly discourse was excellent. It wasn’t like today where Assface (FB) and comments on stories will quickly have the reader losing faith in humanity. It was intelligent, well-informed conversation by two legends of the sport.

The trick to being before your time is to hang on long enough so that you are of your time. WheelBase hung on until the Internet hit then it moved to a web address, but then Gordon became sick and later passed away.

Wheelbase, the web site, was still standing in its 2000 glory in 2002, but now it seems to have scrolled off everything but the Internet Archive.

Hope somebody printed them out …


Tim Knipp

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