Dick Dorresteyn was one of the best TT Steeplechase racers of the 1950s and '60s. He won the prestigious Peoria TT aboard a Triumph in 1958 and the Ascot TT AMA national in 1962. Heart disease at a young age kept Dorresteyn from reaching his full potential. He continued to race into the mid-1960s despite his health problems. His heart condition, a complication of rheumatic fever he suffered years earlier, led to Dorresteyn’s death in March of 1976 when he was only 39.
Dorresteyn was born on January 28, 1937 in Oakland, California. He grew up in Richmond and was part of the infamous paperboy crew, which included Dick Mann, who delivered their papers on motorcycles at breakneck speed. Dorresteyn was legendary among his fellow paperboys for being blazingly fast on his older brother Bill’s late-1940s-era Mustang. He honed his skills by cow trailing on the hills above Richmond.
Dorresteyn became a member of the Richmond Ramblers motorcycle club, which was the home of a number of nationally ranked racers. According to Dorresteyn’s brother, Bill, the cow trailing often turned into all-out races.
At 16, Dorresteyn began racing scrambles, TT and short-track races around the Bay Area with good success. By the late 1950s, Dorresteyn was known as one of the top TT and short-track racers in California. He became a regular winner during the popular Friday-night races at Ascot Park in Gardena. During these early years, Dorresteyn supported his racing by working in a steel mill and later as a crane operator in his hometown.
While he raced primarily on the West Coast, he began to make occasional trips east. On one trip, he traveled to Peoria, Illinois, in 1958, and shocked the Midwestern racing fans by winning the national for 80-cubic-inch bikes and finishing second to George Everett in the 45-inch class. Dorresteyn’s reputation as a top-level TT racer was now nationwide. Based solely on his two finishes at Peoria, Dorresteyn finished seventh in the final 1958 AMA Grand National point standings.
Dorresteyn traveled even more in 1959 and earned podium finishes, taking third at both the Peoria TT and the half-mile in St. Paul, Minnesota. He finished eighth in the series that year. During this period, he continued winning numerous regional races in California. He called Peoria, Castle Rock TT in Washington, and Ascot Park his favorite circuits.
By the 1960s, Dorresteyn’s heart began giving him problems. His love for the sport was so strong he continued racing in spite of doctors’ warnings. Dorresteyn’s second and last national win came in the AMA national TT at Ascot Park in October of 1962, again riding a Triumph.
Dorresteyn continued racing through 1966. His second-place finish at the Ascot Park TT in 1966 was his final top AMA Grand National finish. He will always be remembered for his remarkable ability on TT tracks across the country. Certainly, he would be listed as one of the great TT riders of all time.
Dick Dorresteyn was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.