2009 Big Nasty Hillclimb results

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2009 Annual Big Nasty Hillclimb

Proves Nasty (as always)

By Ron Dillon & David L. Patton Jr.

The only professional motorcycle hillclimb in the Northwest, the 7th annual Project Filter Big Nasty, fired up again on September 18-20, 2009, and brought together its usual eclectic mix of interesting hillclimbers, machines and fans. The event was the fifth and final round of the 2009 Racer X/Malcolm Smith Racing North American Hillclimb Association (NAHA) Championship Series. The Big Nasty once again, it lived up to its name as less than half of the Sunday, main event pros were able to climb the 570-foot pro hill and all four of the hills challenged the record 539 entrants from across the West all weekend.

Known as "Idaho’s largest motorcycle event,” the Big Nasty did not set an attendance record for the first time in its history, but it still drew a massive crowd, setting attendance records on Friday and Saturday, before stalling a bit on Sunday, perhaps due to some early morning wind and cool temperatures that may have scared off some spectators. Nevertheless, attendance remained impressive, with over 10,000 spectators coming out for a weekend of sunny, 80° weather and the typical Big Nasty, Woodstock/Burning Man feel continued. Children played in an inflatable toy area, the Metal Mulisha SCS Freestyle team (accompanied by Mike Metzger) performed motorcycle aerial tricks, local bands played on Friday and Saturday nights on the impressive Jagermeister Stage, pumpkins were shot at the hill and 500-horsepower air boat rides were added for the first time, along with the usual helicopter and mechanical bull rides.

Above: Snohomish's Garrett Hopkins makes his way up the hillclimb to place 4th in Saturdays Altered Stock 251cc+ competition.

In addition, the Bad Ass Bikes street bike poker run was held on Saturday and each day opened with a live singing of the National Anthem and flag presentation ceremony, courtesy of the Idaho Air National Guard Color Guard, (who also provided a cool, A-10 flyover on Sunday). Food vendors served up everything from pizza to burgers and assorted clothing, vehicle and other products also dotted the venue. "We once again sold out of sponsor and vendor space,” said event director, Ron Dillon. "For the second year in a row, we had to start turning sponsors away and interest in the event was higher than ever. Even though we didn’t set an attendance record this year, we pulled people from a wider geographical area and we had over 100 more rider entries than last year.”

For the second year, the 225-foot trophy hill was lighted and half of the trophy riders climbed under the stars on Friday night. Right away the hill started to develop some ledges, making it tougher than last year, yet Oregon City, Oregon’s Shane Donaca became the first and only rider to scale it on a 250, 4-stroke. April Zastrow almost took her 250 4-stroke over the top as well, getting to an impressive 201 feet and winning the women’s trophy class.

Saturday’s action began in the morning, with a pro qualifying run on a brand-new 200-foot, very steep, twisting hill, that gave many riders fits because simply yanking the throttle open didn’t cut it on this hill. All eyes were on Damon Bradshaw, the legendary former Team Yamaha pro rider, who decided to try his first-ever hillclimb, and tried to qualify in all three of the top-tier pro classes on borrowed bikes. Bradshaw didn’t win, but he learned quickly, and rode well enough to qualify for Sunday’s mains in all three classes. Utah’s Austin Taylor turned some heads by topping the Open Pro class qualifying, with California’s Bret Peterson edging Billings, Montana’s Pete Loomis in the 700 class qualifying, and perennial favorite Jason Smith topping the 450 class qualifying. With several NAHA class championships on the line, the pro qualifiers were extremely competitive.

On Saturday afternoon, the over 40 and over 50 year-old pro classes were run, along with the 90 pro, and brand-new women’s pro class, to take a shot at the 560-foot big hill. It was made slightly easier by routing around its two, big ledges, but it was still a really, really ugly hill. Lodi California’s Lefty Frueh had an incredible day, winning cash and trophies in several classes and becoming the first rider of the weekend to go over the big hill. At 66 years of age, Lefty just seems to be getting warmed up in the hillclimbing game. Another "kid” was 70-something year-old Keno, Oregon, resident Marcus Smith, who still rides his nitro-powered 1964 Triumph hillclimber in several classes and puts on a great show for the fans. For the first time ever, the new women’s pro class put women on the big hill, and Toni Williams Howard avenged her loss in the Friday night women’s trophy class to April Zastrow, by handily winning the women’s pro class with a jaw-dropping climb of 448 feet, just edging out Utah’s Lexi Whitlock by two feet. If these rides were any indication, hillclimbing fans may just see women riding competitively in the top pro classes against the men in the near future.

And then there was Mike Metzger. Originally hired to supplement the Justin Homan, Keith Sayers Metal Mulisha Freestyle Show, "Metz” launched into an impressive display of backflips and nac-nacs, but he quickly noticed the unoccupied trophy hill, which just happened to line up pretty well with the freestyle landing ramp. So he quickly developed a combo routine which included a backflip, followed by a 4th gear pinned, 60 mph charge up the trophy hill, followed by a pivot at the top and a pinned decent, at horrifying speed, back to the bottom to start the cycle all over again. It was scary, innovative and crowd-pleasing and showed why Metz is still a motorcycling legend.

Saturday’s evening trophy competition proved to be challenging for riders and staff alike. Noisy, nitro bikes blew the PA system up earlier in the day and that, combined with loud bands pounding away on the Jagermeister Stage, made it very difficult for riders to get staged. Of course, a record turnout of riders also contributed to the scene (a record 64 riders competed in the 4-stroke, 450 stock class for instance). Saturday night’s trophy competition didn’t end until 1:40 a.m., a new, late-night record. Since the hill was lighted, everything worked out, but it made for some red-eyed hill catchers and riders the next morning. Some classes will be moved and adjusted so that the evening does not run so late into the night in the future.

Oregon’s Shane Donaca continued his winning ways on Saturday night, but he graciously asked to be taken out of trophy contention in all of his Saturday night rides (even though his rides were legal). Nampa, Idaho, Mayor Tom Dale tried his hand at hillclimbing for the first time, in a special celebrity class, and although he was edged out by Channel 2 Meteorologist Brian Carrington by nine feet, he managed to climb past the 195 foot mark, which was quite impressive. Mike Metzger jumped in as well and topped the largest class of the weekend, the 64-rider 450, 4-stroke stock class.

Sunday’s main event consisted of three pro classes: 450, 700 and open. These bikes continue to be some of the most exotic machines in motorcycling and many are stretched out and run steel, chained or bolted paddle tires on the rear and use any type of fuel including nitromethane, alcohol and nitrous. Some of them produce over 250 horsepower and are incredibly loud and temperamental. Former pro hillclimbers Lamont Jensen and Lucky Madsen, now 75 and 82 years old, respectfully, hadn’t been to a hillclimb since they retired from competition in the early 1960s and both were stunned at how far hillclimbing has come. "We simply could not believe how small, lightweight and powerful the new bikes are,” said Jensen. "The modern bikes have almost nothing in common with the heavy, hardtail bikes that we rode back in the day. Of course, the hills that we rode were harder,” he added with a wink.

Some wild new machines made their debut at this year’s Big Nasty and a stroll through the pits revealed a gorgeous, reworked nitro-burning open class Harley from California bike builder Curt Winter, and Shane Donaca brought back his heavily re-tooled howling, shrieking 580cc Yamaha two-stroke twin, built from a Banshee motor, (it pulled like a rocket, but broke the swingarm half way thought the weekend). Bikes like these, along with the Smith’s nitro Yamahas (more and more nitro-powered, Yamaha 650 twins, with their 21-inch rear wheels keep appearing at hillclimbs), and the Peterson’s semi, full of to-die-for KTMs, are helping to keep hillclimbing positioned as being the two-wheeled sport with more unusual and eclectic machinery than any other discipline in the world of motorcycle competition. Interest in building wild, hillclimbing bikes continues to increase and other fascinating bikes that are coming on line next year include a Yamaha TZ250; 2-stroke twin, beautifully created by Curt Winter; and several new 2-stroke, snowmobile engine-powered machines that are in the planning stages. Rumors of a small-block Chevy based hillclimber also continue, although no one has volunteered to ride it yet.

Sunday’s pro mains were extremely hard fought. Utah’s Jason Smith had a good ride on his first pass in the 251-450 Class but the timers malfunctioned and he had to take another pass and crashed on the ledges. On his final pass though, he put it together. "The first round was frustrating, but I was able to put together a good run on the bottom and a decent top to get the win,” he said. The Team Action Machine / Fly Racing backed Yamaha rider nailed a time of 18.942 to edge Cory Erhardt's comeback ride on the Reiter's Kawasaki / Moose racing / Motion Pro backed KX. Erhardt's runner-up finish sewed up his first Championship in his first full year on the circuit. "I bounced off the little ledge on my first ride. On the second run, I just wanted to be smooth and hit a good line.” Trailing in the Championship after round one, Erhardt stepped up with a 19.116 to edge Travis Whitlock and Robie Peterson for the #1 Plate. "It's been a great year, I am so happy to get this championship, I was just consistent all year and it paid off today.”

Harold "The Gasser” Waddell and Jason Smith came to the Big Nasty locked in a "winner takes all” battle for the 700 Class Championship. Waddell, the defending 700 Champ has not had great success at the hill. "Last year was my first win here. I just don't have much luck here and this hill doesn't really suit my riding style.” With the title on the line, Jason Smith had problems on his first run and Waddell ran a 17.18 for third. Smith covered the 570-foot hill in 17.85 seconds on his final run then Waddell sealed the deal with the fastest ride of the day, a 15.3 second blast on the THOR / EVS / Works Connection backed Suzuki GSXR. "On the first run I missed my line at the top and lost a lot of time. I was a lot more aggressive on my second run and at Gate 5, I was able to cut out of the ravine really early and that set me up for the top of the hill. It is awesome to win this race. It is really hard to beat Jason (Smith) at this hill. The Championship means a lot to me; I have 5 now and I really want to catch Travis (Whitlock), but he doesn't seem to be slowing down as he gets older,” Harold said, laughing.

The Open Class title was also on the line and after a tough day at Round 4 held at Sturgis in August, defending Champion Harold Waddell was pretty much out of the chase, leaving Travis Whitlock and Jason Smith to fight it out. The two Utah riders are very good friends and they fought hard for the Championship. "Travis is always hard to beat on a hill with ledges, I wish I wasn't riding first today in this class,” said Jason Smith before he launched the Western Powersports / Factory Backing nitro burning Yamaha twin up the hill. "When I walked the hill, I found a line over on the left that no one had used, but the top was so rutted that I missed my line and lost time there. It was an okay run, but I knew it would be beat. I just hoped Travis wouldn't beat it.” KTM/ Fox / Maxima / FMF rider Travis Whitlock was next on the hill. "Jason put in a good ride and I knew I would have to lay down a fast run, I had to go for it.” Whitlock was smooth over the road section and hit the steep part of the hill and cranked on the big KTM. "After I hit that first big ledge, the rest of the ride was really smooth. House of Horsepower has helped me with my suspension and "The Old Guy” got lucky.” Jason Smith was still on the top of the hill when Whitlock's time of 15.98 was announced and he headed back down to try to beat the rider he has looked up to most of his life.

Jason Smith thought he had picked something up on Travis' first run, "From the top of the hill, it looked like he kept the throttle on when he hit the first big ledge.” Smith put the throttle to the stops on his final ride and it ended in a huge get off as the bike kicked him off when he hit the big ledge. "It has been a long time since I crashed that hard,” Smith said after the race. Jason was able to see Whitlock's ride on video after the run, "Travis did back off a little to set the ledge up, I wish that I had seen that before my last run, but I am happy for Travis, he is a great champion and he was my hero when I started hillclimbing.” "When Jason put in that first ride, it was 'Alright son, that's enough of that,'” said Whitlock. "I just turned 40, my wife and kids are great, and to win a thirteenth title here today is just icing on the cake; what an awesome year.”

The weekend ended with the King of the Hill Shootout, giving the top five Open and top five 700cc bikes one final shot at the hill. The slightly shorter, more open 560-foot gully route was used, and Damon Bradshaw nailed the course perfectly to edge Travis Whitlock by one, one thousandth of a second, putting $500 in his pocket and adding his name to the Big Nasty "King of the Hill” perpetual trophy. Bradshaw was pleased and added that he will try hard in the future to add some more hillclimbing to his schedule, which is quite full with his current, successful career as a monster truck driver for the US Air Force Team.

Next year’s Big Nasty Hillclimb will be held on September 17-19, 2010, and discussions are underway on how to make it even bigger and better. Country and Western music are being considered for the Jagermeister Stage, a rock krawl is being explored and numerous tweaks and adjustments will be made to make Idaho’s largest motorcycle event an even better show.

The organizers wish to extend a hearty "helmets off" to the sponsors, donators and partners: the title sponsor, Project Filter, Edge Performance, Miller Light, Coors, Treasure Valley Motorsports, McAlvain Group of Companies, Idaho Air National Guard, amp Energy, Buck’s 4X4, Carl’s Cycles, Parts Unlimited, Emmett Rentals, Moto Tech, Les Schwab Tires, Stinker Stores, Sprint, Happy Trail, Boondocker Nitrous, Rekluse, Ammerman’s Custom Exhaust, H20 Graphix, Nationwide Insurance, Seventh Heaven RV, Purely Custom, Fly Racing, Big Twin Cycles, Scott USA, Pro-Moto Billet, The Double Diamond Saloon, Jaegermeister, Redline, Bad Ass Bikes, EZ Mart, HCD Construction, Northwest Water Service, Mike McNitt, Idaho Power and H&H Utilities, Ronnie Wehr, Pete Treadwell, LMP Sports, 208 Clothing, Polar Pak, BTR Moto, Astrata Print & Design, Ridgeline Design & Development, Riverside Embroidery, Channel 2 and Channel 6 Television, KSRV, KWOW, KTIK, J105 and the X Radio, the Holiday Inn, as well as our musicians from 57 Heavy, Half the World, Abrupt Edge, Radillac, and Aces & 8’s.

A big thank you is also in order to the ranch owner, Tom Pence, and the small army of staff and volunteers who helped, including: the Todd and Todd announcing duo, the Caldwell Track Club, the world’s best catchers, the Fly Racing, Owyhee Outlaws, Brent, Jo, Kelly and Grandma Edwards and their campground staff, and the Gem County Mosquito Abatement staff, who fought the vicious mosquitoes to a standstill for three days at the site, and to Mid-Valley and Donoho Construction. The event could also not have happened without the support of the Payette County Commissioners and law enforcement and medical personnel, as well as the Idaho State Police and nearby landowners including George Colwell and Dan Bicandi.

The 2009 DVD will be available by Thanksgiving, and t-shirts are still available as well. For more information visit the Big Nasty website at: www.bignastyhillclimb.com or call Ron Dillon at (208) 573-4255.


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