the Hammer & Tongs Gran Prix • YZ465 May 20th, Goldendale Washington
the Mighty YZ465 on the way to a Victory- (IT465 engine currently in the frame)

the start of the Gran Prix- inexplicably I got a decent start.... Jim Anderson getting the holeshot
behind us are
Rob Watson, #15 Paul Richard and Lyndell Raphael

Smokin' on down the Trail

The Gran Prix was the full seven mile course, and part of this was the MX Course run backwards after a check point. Of course I couldn't find my drink bottle, so at my behest Mark went down to be my support crew at the check point. They were having trouble with the gate, and after revving the engines, and a flurry of butterflies the gate went about halfway down. Then a minute or so went by while they fooled with it, and then all of a sudden it fell and I got a great start. I was 3rd into the corner behind John Ulver. Ahead of him was Jim Anderson, the ex-Yamaha factory support rider. But it was a false start, and around the first loop they suddenly directed us back to the gate.

I was a little sad - my start had been good, but my restart was brilliant, and I almost got the holeshot behind Jim. I thought OK- this is more like it. The course was all tilled up, so there was no worn line. Jim roared away, never to be seen again.

Now pushing, I was keenly aware that there was a long line of hornets behind. But there had been no practice on this course, so we didn't know where it went, and a few times I came roaring over blind hill brows, and had to hit the clampers pretty damn hard not to crash off the track. The bike behind me was Rob Watson. I was expecting John Ulver or Lyndell Raphael to catch me. Hmm. I kept the pressure on, settling into a race pace that was little different that a regular moto. You're supposed to "pace yourself"- but what does that mean? I was fine- and without a camelback.

But Rob Watson caught up to me on end of lap 1. I could feel him behind me, and I was trying to ride my own race. But he went by, and I tried to hang on to him. We arrived at the checkpoint, and the tickets were punched, and a few feet past was Mark with the Gatorade bottle- I stopped and he gave me a blast of juice, and away I went. Rob Ballard had arrived on our heels, and when I stopped for juice, he slipped by. I could see them ahead, and struggled to catch up- we were now on the backwards MX Course part- which looked weird and unfamiliar. At the bottom of the course I caught them when they faltered as to where the course route went. Now onto the second lap past the startgate it was the three of us. I pushed like mad, and drew alongside Rob Watson in a side by side battle. He had the inside and edged me slightly, but with the throttles pinned, his 510 Husky versus my IT465 was a pretty even match, and as we went into the next corner he let out a whoohooo. I don't give an inch, and close the door softly.

Now it's the three of us with Rob Ballard leading. Later it occurred to me that I was about to be ROBBED! I can't remember where, but Rob Ballard may have missed s shift somewhere- I can't remember... Now it's me leading (not counting Jim Anderson who vanished right away, and isn't mortal anyway)

And that's how it stayed. Now the pressure. Little by little there began to be a short space between me and the pursuers. I kept wondering where the tough guys were? Rob and Rob slipped back a little, and then a little more, and soon there was empty space behind me!

Now alone and cruising, with the IT running like an antelope over berms and jumps and leaping up straights with no problems at all, I am aware that the way to lose this would be to overtax yourself, and let your guard down- and be caught by a rider playing a softly-softly-catchy-monkey game. So I tried to balance those two things: keeping the pressure up, and not over doing it.

Actually I was in a comfortable groove and could see that I had pulled a distance, and that Rob Ballard's red Honda was staying a certain distance behind, and that if anything it was lagging farther behind my trusty Yamaha.

Coming in out of the Wilderness ahead had a defiant excellence to it, a bit like Pescarolo arriving in the midnight deserted pits at Le Mans. This time Mark poured juice into my mouth as the ticket was being punched which was groovily efficient in determined pit crew sort of way. Off I went went the Sun. The course out on the 6 miles of nothing wove around up and down, and through quiet washes and across the top of sun baked terrain I smoke along.

my Pitstop Hero and team mate MARK SCHMIDT refueling the rider

The third stop the juice went right into my nose, and I barely got any of it in my mouth, but as I rocketed away I thought even that taste was refreshing. This time as I arrived down at the whoops before going off into the west Mark gave me a wide sign meaning that I had a huge lead, so I stopped and he gave me a better drink- and off I went. At all times I still felt as though someone was going to catch me, and I wondered vaguely of stopping again for a drink would do me in, but I never saw anyone again.

When I was a boy, my Dad used to use the phrase "Smokin' on down the Trail" which I always loved, and Mark pointed out how in this case I really was Smokin' on down the Trail, and it was thrilling. For sure the high point of the Weekend.


Rob Watson, and Lyndell Raphael giving chase- this is the first minute of the GP....

starting the last six mile lap....

wow- a win!- Lyndell (in white shirt) and I laughing about it...

©2006 SIEGE