This photo dates back to Daytona’s first decade, when the world’s pioneers of personal propulsion looked to the hard packed sands of Ormond Beach to test their latest creations in hopes of becoming the fastest men on Earth. Here, New York’s William H. Wray Jr. tucks in for a low-tide run at Ormond Beach on March 25, 1909. Wray was in good company at that year’s annual Carnival of Speed as he was joined by fellow New Yorker Eugene Gaestrel on a N.S.U., as well as his friend Oscar Hedstrom, Indian’s head engineer who first visited Ormond to test his machines back in 1903. Hedstrom hadn’t come alone, he loaded up four extremely special prototypes and was joined by three of the Springfield Company’s fastest factory riders, A.G. Chapple, Walter Goerke, and Robert Stubbs, some of the first men to sign professional racing contracts in America. Each of the men in Indian’s talented stable laid down blisteringly fast times on their prototype racing machines, smashing several standing world records in the process. Wray himself had been known to test experimental racing designs dreamt up by his buddy Oscar Hedstrom, but for the 1909 run Wray brought something quite unique. 

As usual automobile, bicycle, and motorcycle classes were organized for the 1909 Carnival of Speed, however a new class had to be added to the motorcycle events for the first time. The “Freak Class,” as it came to be known was created for the two French-powered monsters that exceeded the F.A.M.’s engine displacement limit of 61 cubic inches. William Wray rocketed his 14 horsepower, belt driven Puegeot-Simplex racer to a record 80mph, covering a mile in 44 and 2/5 seconds, but being outside of official regulation his achievement was recorded as nothing more than a remarkable mention. Oscar Hedstrom, most likely through Wray’s connection with Peugeot-Simplex which dated back two years prior had also acquired one of the 14 horsepower French twins in 1907. Hedstrom constructed a special frame to house his Puegeot-Simplex motor and unlike the stock machine Wray was running, Hedstrom opted for a chain drive. Painted blue and with full Indian regalia, the finicky one-off racing machine known today as the Hot Shot was the second machine in the 1909 "Freak Class." Hedstrom himself drove the Hot Shot to a top speed of around 72mph, beating out Wray’s time for the kilometer by 2 seconds. Throughout the weekend Hedstrom and Wray bested one another on their big bore toys, but though both Wray’s factory Peugeot-Simplex and Hedstrom’s special construction Hot Shot boasted twice the horsepower of the stock 7hp Indians ridden by Goerke, Stubbs, and Chapple their times were surprisingly similar. Hedstrom’s fleet of nimble factory twins originally constructed the year before proved their worth yet again and many of their features became standard for civilian production over the next years.

Daytona’s 75th Anniversary is nearly here and along with the expansive variety of two-wheeled events beginning next week on Florida's sunny eastern seaboard comes a perfect opportunity to dig a little deeper into the heritage of America’s first capital of speed. I look forward to discovering and sharing more stories from Daytona’s rich motorcycle history over the next couple of weeks, and if you are among the thousands rolling into the area I will be setting up shop for the second year at the Destination Eustis vintage show at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Eustis, FL so come say hey.