Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Ellsworth Fontes on Big Island Labor Day Motorcycles

Ellsworth Fontes

“Without labor nothing prospers,” Sophocles said.

Each Labor Day for the past nine years this column has written about people and groups that have made contributions to the labor movement.

But this year the Big Dog decided to change things a bit and write about something that has been occurring each Labor Day on the Big Island for several years.

We’ve all seen it, heard it and have been impressed with its numbers and versatility.

I’m talking about the 700 to 800 motorcyclist that take to the streets to celebrate Labor Day with friendship and comradraire in their display of the many local and off island clubs.

To those that don’t know them they can be a scary bunch of people, but once you get to know these men and women you realize that they come from all walks of life and various professions and there only joy in riding is riding.

One such individual is Hilo’s Ellsworth Fontes who belongs to the Rock and Roll Motorcycle Club.

“We have 18 members on the Big Island and we have chapters on Maui and Oahu,” Fontes said.

Fontes got his motorcycle license when he was working at a gas station in Keaau at age 15.

“I never played any sports in high school at Hilo High,” Fontes said.  “Motorcycles and race cars became my passion and that’s probably what led me into my profession.”

Fontes started his own business, called Ellsworth’s Custom Cycles, in 1990 which also coincided with his buying his first Harley Davidson.

“I think that a lot of the public’s perception of bikers comes from the movies and television shows which depict us as outlaws,” Fontes said.  “They don’t realize that the biker riding next to them could be a business man, doctor, pastor and a whole mix of people.”

Prior to his motorcycle Fontes bought his first race car in 1973 while attending Hawaii Community College.

“I love drag racing which led me to opening my business,” Fontes said.

Fontes bought one of his current race cars in 2005 and bought a second car in ’06.

“I drive one of the cars and the other is driven by Charelle Luiz,” Fontes said.  “In 2008 I got another driver, Kiah Taroma, and all I did was repair and fine tune the two cars while I had those two girls compete.”

Luiz has already distinguished herself on the drag strip being selected Driver of the Year for 2009, becoming the first woman to ever win the title at the Hilo Drag Strip.

Recently Fontes bought a third car, called a junior dragster, and he has Charelle’s younger sister, Sydney Koga drive.

“Sydney just made 13 years old and she is already a competitive driver,” Fontes said.

Fontes estimates that there are close to 30 motorcycle clubs on the Big Island and during the Labor Day weekend they will be joined by some 200 off island motorcycle enthusiast for a weekend of riding and other events.

“We have a Bikers Rodeo,” Fontes said.  “The event has a variety of games, just like a horse rodeo, in which we compete to see who can handle their bike the best.”

For Fontes riding motorcycles and fast cars plays a role in stress relief.

“When I ride my Harley I have the freedom of riding, especially after a hard day’s work,” he said.  “I also like the bond the bikers have with each other, but I do it for the thrill and excitement of the ride ahead and also as a good business thing to be out in the biker world.”

The adrenalin thrill that Fontes receives from his riding bikes comes with a cost.  In 2010 the experienced rider was involved in what he calls ‘two freak accidents.’

“The first one happened when a car in front of us jammed on his brakes as he missed his turn,” Fontes explained.  “I tried to stop in time, but the road was wet and the bike skidded down the road, crossed up a bit and as I released the brake the bike swung around and tossed me off.”

Fortunately for Fontes his injuries were limited to a few scraps, but as he was beginning to get up another biker coming from the back of the pack skidded all the way to the front and ran him over.

“I was unconscious and was taken to the hospital during the rescue,” Fontes said.

In his second accident Fontes doesn’t remember all the details as a piece of lumber fell off a car and was laying on the road.

“My second accident happened in November when a vehicle hauling trash to the dump dropped some of it on the road,” he said.  “It all happened so fast that I’m not sure if I ran over it or the guy in front of me ran over it, but none the less it flew up into my foot and broke two bones on the arch of my foot.”

Fontes admits that although it was a freak accident that the public needs to be aware that debris dropped on the road way are major hazards, especially to the motorcyclist.

“I’ve also had an incident when a car on a double lane road didn’t realize that I was riding next to them and they just turned into the other lane running me off the road,” Fontes said.

So this Labor Day we should all be aware that there will be hundreds of bikers driving around our island and use extra special caution as we drive.

“I always tell everyone that when you ride a motorcycle that you need to be a very defensive driver as a lot of the cars aren’t looking your way,” Fontes said.

And someday should you happen to see an appreciate jogger on the side of the road, use caution, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

Email the Big Dog at waiakeabigdog@aol.com.


September 5, 2011 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Hilo Drag Racing – Full Results from Saturday, Aug 6

The Big Island Auto Club held pro gas events Saturday at Hilo Drag Strip, but rain canceled Sunday’s pro gas events.

8.90 index   Winner — David Francis (Paauilo) in a Camaro (8.98 seconds/154 mph).

Runner-up — Gary De Rego (Honokaa) in a Nova (9.27/144).

9.90   Winner — Donnley Koga (Kurtistown) in a Camaro (9.99/132).

Runner-up — Jonathan Santiago (Keaau) in a Roadster (10.24/131).

10.90   Winner — Chad Fiesta (Pepeekeo) in a Nova (10.94/132).

Runner-up– George Berdon (Kailua-Kona) in a VW (mechanical problem on the starting line; did not complete race).

11.90   Winner — Brad Miprano (Hilo) in Dodge pickup truck (11.85/112).

Runner-up — Jerry Andrade (Hilo) in a Vega station wagon (11.79/107)

12.90   Winner — Wayne Costa Jr. (Pahoa) in a Honda (13.38/95).

Runner-up — Ian Bernard (Papaikou) in a Nova (13.82/94).

Pro-gas motorcycle   Winner – Reggie Leite (Hilo) on a Yamaha (8.84/152).

Runner-up – Bricen Baruela (Hilo) on a Yamaha (10.44/120).

Stray Kats    Motorsports competition

Outlaw   Winner — Shane Kamahele (Hilo) in a Toyota (10.71/131).

Runner-up — Donn Pinnow (Hilo) in a Honda (36.77/16 mph; mechanical problems).

Superstreet   Winner — Michael Okumura (Pahala) in a Honda (12.37/114).

Runner-up — Rob Gavel (Hilo) in a Honda (12.48/108).

Supercomp   Winner — Michael Okumura (Pahala) in a Honda (14.23/69).

Runner-up — Rob Gavel (Hilo) in a Honda (18.64/59; lost on a red light).

Closest to dial in: Chad Fiesta (Pepeekeo) in a Nova (10.94).

Best reaction time: Gary De Rego (Honokaa) in a Nova (0.073).

Next races: Labor Day Drags, Sept. 3-4 at Hilo Drag Strip.

August 11, 2011 Posted by | Drag Racing | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Memorial Day Drag Race Results

     Memorial Day Drag Race Results    Big Island Auto Club

41st annual Memorial Day       Drag races Hilo Drag Strip

Saturday pro-gas events

8.90 index winner: Ralph Kawagoe (Honolulu) in a camaro (10.30 sec/108 mph). Runner-up: David Francis (Paauilo) in a camaro (9.00 sec/155 mph, red lighted).

9.90 index winner: Donnley Koga ( Kurtistown) in a camaro (10.11 sec/126 mph). Runner-up: Brandon Murakami (Aiea) in a honda (10.41 sec /139 mph).

10.90 index winner: Richard Hill (Hilo) in a camaro (11.09 sec/130 mph; Hill wins on a hole shot). Runner-up: John Debus (Kailua-Kona) in a VW dune buggy.

11.90 index winner: Larry Suria (Pepeekeo) in a nova (11.95 sec/113 mph). Runner-up: Jerry Andrade (Hilo) in a vega (11.88 sec/101 mph; broke out of bracket).

12.90 index winner: Thomas Hada (Hilo) in a camaro (13.27 sec/105 mph). Runner-up: Wayne Costa, Jr. (Pahoa) in a honda (13.78 sec/94 sec).

Motorcycle pro-gas winner: John Molson (Hilo) on a honda (9,51 sec/142 mph). Runner-up: James Kamanu (Hilo) on a suzuki (10.00 sec/136 mph.

Sunday ET Bracket   racing events

Junior Dragsters bracket winner: Caisey Francis (Paauilo) (9.20sec/62 mph). Runner-up: Chantell Belberde (Hilo) (9.66 sec/67 mph).

Bracket I winner: Darrell Agliam (Hilo) in a toyota pickup (10.72 sec/111 mph–wins on a hole shot). Runner-up: Raycen Wong (Hilo) in an olds starfire (9.99 sec/120 mph).

Bracket II winner: Matt Hinez (Hilo) in a mustang (11.53 sec/118 mph; wins on a hole shot). Runner-up: Jerry Andrade (Hilo) in a vega station wagon (11.34 sec/118 mph).

Sports Compact Bracket winner: Rylan Tokeshi (Hilo) in a honda (11.72 sec/118 mph). Runner-up: Wayne Costa, Jr. (Pahoa) in a honda (12.72 sec/128 mph; broke out of bracket).

Motorcycle Bracket winner: John Molson (Hilo) on a honda (9.61 sec/138 mph). Runner-up: Sheldon Asejo (Hilo) on a suzuki (10.43 sec/119 mph).

Quick 15 Bracket winner: Raycen Wong (Hilo) in an olds starfire (10.31 sec/106; wins on a hole shot). Runner-up: Charelle Luiz (Hilo) in a digger (9.84 sec/154 mph). Fastest car on the track–Buddy Loeffler (Hilo) in a chevy cavalier (7.51 sec/187 mph).

Next race is points meet June 25-26, featuring team racing.

June 11, 2011 Posted by | Drag Racing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luiz named Driver of the Year

Charelle Luiz in Sudden Impact III

Charelle Luiz with Sudden Impact III

     Turning 16 is an important date for many teenagers as they look forward to getting their drivers license, but for Charelle Luiz that age meant getting her competition license in the sport of drag racing.  Four years later Luiz has won the coveted “Driver of the Year Award.”

   Luiz is no ordinary girl as she grew up attending drag races at an early age with her dad, Donnley Koga.

    “I’ve always had a passion for drag racing ever since I was a little girl,” she said.  “My dad has been around drag racing since he was in high school and I was introduced to the world of drag racing at a young age.”

    Koga would bring his daughter to the track and Luiz would learn the in’s and out’s about the sport.

    “My dad would let me help him out with his race car and ever since then I got hooked on drag racing and wanted to learn more about the sport,” Luiz said. 

    In 2005, while attending Kamehameha School-Keaau, Luiz got the opportunity to race when Ellsworth Fontes chose her to drive his dragster. 

   “I was only 16 years old and a week earlier I had just gotten my driver’s license when Uncle Ellsworth asked me to drive for him,” she said.

   Ellsworth Fontes, no relation to Luiz, had torn a cartilage in his knee when he began looking for a driver to replace him in his 850 horse powered dragster.

    “I had known Charelle (Luiz) for years as she grew up at the drag strip,” Fontes said.  “I selected her to drive my rear engine dragster called “Sudden Impact III” out of several other drivers because I really felt she understood the science of racing.”

   Since those early days Luiz has been a regular at the Hilo Drag Strip and has completed her fourth year as a driver where she competes in the 7.90 index class.

   The 2009 drag racing season runs from February to October and Luiz competed in every Index race on Saturdays and in Bracket 1 races on Sunday’s.

Big Dog Athlete of the Week
Big Dog Athlete of the Week

Winning the majority of races in the 7.90 class Luiz was recently selected (Oct. 11) as “Driver of the Year” which was determined by the amount of points earned in the index races and in the bracket races.

    “All those hard times I went through, all the tears and problems we ran into with the car and what not, all paid off in the end,” Luiz said of winning Driver of the Year.”

   “Charelle has excellent reaction time.  She is very focused and extremely competitive,” Fontes said of his award winning driver.”

    Luiz graduated from Kamehameha in 2007 where she paddled and played volleyball from her freshman to junior years.  In her senior year she moved all her focus to the drag strip and in learning to drive the high powered vehicles.

    Now in her junior year at Hawaii Pacific University on Oahu Luiz majors in Human Services and is concentrating on becoming a Substance Abuse Counselor.

    “My goal one day is to help adolescents and teenagers recover from using alcohol and drugs,” she said.  “I also always had a passion in helping teenagers who suffer from domestic violence.”

    But it is her recreational weekend hobby of drag racing that gets the adrenaline going and the heart pumping.

   “We consider drag racing a family hobby and its one weekend out of the month where we can all get together and have fun,” Luiz said.  “One thing I like about drag racing is the adrenaline.  I’ve always wanted to drive something that goes over the speed limit and being able to feel what it s like is awesome.”

    Luiz is not the only woman driving a dragster at the Hilo Strip.  “There are two girls right now that are in the 7.90 index class and there are quite a few girls out there on the track, which is a good thing,” she said.

    In the 7.90 index class dragsters try to get down the quarter mile strip in exactly, or close to, in 7.90 seconds.  Often times to achieve that feat drivers are averaging between 160 and 170 miles per hour in an extreme display of speed.

    “There are over 100 competitors that try for the championship points during the drag season and Charelle beat them out to win Driver of the Year,” Fontes said.  “Not only that, she is the first woman to ever be selected for that award.”

    “Some people think that this is a guy’s sport but the way I see it is that girls are just as good as guys, if not better,” Luiz said.

   “I’m still in shock that I won driver of the year,” Luiz said.  “I’d like to thank Uncle Ellsworth for giving me the opportunity and to my crew, Sudden Impact Racing, for helping me get here.”

October 22, 2009 Posted by | Drag Racing | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Big Dog’s Athlete of the Week – Charelle Luiz

Charelle Ruiz win Drive of the Year honors

Charelle Luiz wins Driver of the Year honors

Big Island girl, Charelle Luiz, recently was named Driver of the Year for her numerous victories at the Hilo Drag Strip.  Luiz drives for Ellsworth Fontes and used a rear engine dragster packing 850 horses.

More on Luiz in a later post.

October 17, 2009 Posted by | Drag Racing | , , , , | Leave a comment