Bruce Ogilvie’s racing career started humbly enough -- on a Tohatsu 50 when he was in his mid-teens at Elsinore Raceway in Elsinore, Calif. -- but that start would blossom into one of desert racing’s most illustrious careers.
Born April 4, 1953, to Donald (Don) and Charlene Ogilvie, Bruce Ogilvie’s amateur career led him to become one of the greatest desert racers ever to spring from AMA District 37 in Southern California. Like many motorcyclists, recreational riders and racers, Ogilvie’s love of riding and racing was groomed by his relationship with his father, who was also an avid off-roader.
Not only did Ogilvie and his father work and ride together, they also raced together in local District 37 events, with Bruce’s sisters running the pit area. One of Ogilvie’s most memorable rides with his father dates back to the early 1970s: Starting out from their home in Riverside, Calif., Bruce and Don rode the entire Baja 1000 course to La Paz and back with only the motorcycles they started out on and the gear they carried, sleeping on the ground along the way.
Fueled by his enormous passion for motorcycling, Ogilvie’s amateur success soon translated to the highest level, and he went on to become one of the sport’s greatest racers, winning Baja events over four decades.
Ogilvie also excelled professionally. He managed American Honda’s off-road championship efforts for years and was a key contributor to the development of the brand’s CRF line of competition off-road motorcycles.
However, Ogilvie will be remembered by most for his competitive accomplishments on the Baja peninsula. His first win came at the Baja 500 in 1975, followed that same year by an overall victory in the Baja 1000. More wins would follow, most notably in the Baja 1000, the last of which came in 2003 when Ogilvie was 51 years old.
While still racing, Ogilvie branched into management. In 1984, American Honda hired him to coordinate the company’s off-road racing efforts. He also served as senior test evaluator for American Honda’s Product Evaluation department, and developed some of the most impressive racing talent of the next generation -- in addition to the machinery they would race on.
“Bruce loved motorcycles,” says Marcia Ogilvie, his spouse of 15 years. “Everywhere he went, you could see his enthusiasm and his desire for perfection. He was so humble, honest and loyal. He never asked for any recognition, and he never expected anyone to notice what he had done. He was always quiet, but because of his accomplishments, he commanded so much respect from so many in motorcycling.”
Much of that respect comes not from Ogilvie’s wins in the desert, but from the person he was. Among those who knew him best, Ogilvie’s reputation as modest and unassuming exceeds even his status as a world-class racer.
“It would mean so much to him to be here to experience his induction into the Hall of Fame,” she continued. “Because Bruce was so reserved, you couldn’t always tell if he realized how much he meant to other people, but there are thousands who know what he did for motorcycling, from those he may have just given advice to at a race, to industry leaders. To be honored for what he loved most, well, he would be really happy to know that what he did meant so much to so many.”
Ogilvie passed away on April 13, 2009, following an extended illness, and he was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2010.