(Editor's note: Former Wild Rockies mountain bike organizer Ron Dillon of Caldwell filed this report about last weekend's Big Nasty motorcycle races near New Plymouth. Two Wood River Valley bikers were listed in the final results on the 270-foot hill—Hailey's Don Toussaint, Yamaha, in second place in Trophy Senior 50-up, and Bellevue's Dien Toussaint, Honda, in 32nd place in Stock Trophy 251-650 CC—4-stroke).
By RON DILLON
The only professional motorcycle hill climb in the Northwest, the eighth annual Chaos Energy Big Nasty, fired up again on Sept. 17-19 and brought together in southwestern Idaho its usual eclectic mix of interesting hillclimbers, machines and fans.
The event was the fifth and final round of the 2010 Racer X/Malcolm Smith Racing North American Hillclimb Association (NAHA) Championship Series, and once again pulled a record number of spectators (right at 12,000 for the weekend), and a record number of 693 entries from across the Western U.S.
Known as "Idaho's largest motorcycle event," and "The place where NASCAR meets Burning Man" the Nasty enjoyed perfect, 75-85 degree temperatures all weekend, and the typical Big Nasty, Woodstock/Burning Man feel continued.
Children played in an inflatable toy area, Mike Metzger performed motorcycle aerial tricks, local bands played on Friday and Saturday nights, pumpkins were shot at the hill, and 500-horsepower air boat rides returned, along with the usual helicopter and mechanical bull rides. The Happy Trail Dual Sport Overnight Ride was added Saturday and Sunday, a street bike ride was staged out of Baker City, Ore., 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.
Messy and action-packed ATV mud-run competitions were added each day, (nobody made it through the mud hole without a tow) as well as ATV adventure rides that allowed people to take a guided trip around the 1,000 acre Tom Pence Ranch on their 4-wheelers. Food vendors served up everything from blooming onions 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 third year in a row, we had to turn potential sponsors and vendors away, and interest in the event was higher than ever. We are continuing to pull people from a wider and wider geographical area, and we had over 150 more rider entries than last year."
For the third year, the 270-foot trophy hill was lighted and hundreds of trophy riders, from young to old, climbed under the stars on Friday and Saturday nights. The new, trophy hill remained largely "ledge-free" enabling a fair number of riders to get over it, and some of the classes swelled to unprecedented numbers, like the 450, 4-stroke trophy class, (80 entries) and the 250, 2-stroke trophy class (51 riders).
As the action began on Friday at high noon, it became obvious that everyone, from the 50 automatics, up, was riding better and every class was more competitive than ever before.
With so many classes and talented riders, it would be impossible to mention everyone. The three Schnepp boys, riding mini bikes out of Ontario, Ore., had a great weekend, as did the Kouba Family from Idaho, with mom, dad, and several Kouba Kids, managing to win or place in a number of classes.
Saturday's action began in the morning, with pro qualifying run on a 225-foot, very steep, twisting hill, that gave many riders fits because simply yanking the throttle open didn't cut it on this hill. A number of brand-new hillclimbers had purchased NAHA pro licenses, eager to see if they could qualify for Sunday's main events, and several of them, including Boise riders Jayson Gray, and Rory Schinsing, as well as Utah's Austin Wardell, managed to do just that. Utah's Brandon Whitlock turned some heads by winning the Open Pro class qualifying, with Montana's ageless (actually 46 years young) Dusty Beer, heading the 700 pro class qualifying, and perennial favorite, Californian Robie Peterson topping the 450 class qualifying. With several NAHA class championships on the line, and record numbers of riders, all of the pro qualifiers were extremely competitive.
On Saturday afternoon, the over-40 and over-50 year-old pro classes were run, along with the women's pro class, all taking a shot at the 570-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, as usual, and at 68 years of age, Lefty just seems to be getting warmed up in the hillclimbing game. Another "kid" was 70-something Vic Kim, who drove up from Hacienda Heights, Ca. to play on the Idaho hills, and placed in several trophy and semi-pro classes.
The once-popular 250 semi-pro class was brought back this year, and 16 riders entered. Billings, Montana's talented and popular Cory Erhardt won the class on an incredibly fast KX250 Kawasaki, and the coolest 250 to ever appear at a hillclimb was brought in by California's Ralph Ables, who built a wild, hand-made hillclimber that used one of Kenny Robert's old Honda, v-twin, 2-stroke, RS250 roadracing engines stuffed into a handmade chassis. The finished bike produced 115 horsepower on nitrous, and weighed less than 220 pounds. This howling, shreiking, spinning, bumblebee-like bike wailed in a number of classes, and helped to keep the weekend really interesting. There are just no end of interesting, exotic and eclectic bikes at big hillclimbs these days.
There also continue to be more women competing in hillclimbing, and like their male counterparts, they are steadily improving too. Jenny Kouba, Toni Howard and Lexi Whitlock, staged a knock-down, drag-out war, and many believe that it is just a matter of time before a woman qualifies for one of the pro class mains. Yes, they're getting that good.
And once again, there was Mike Metzger. Originally hired to simply put on a freestyle show, "Metz" launched into an impressive display of backflips and nacnacs, but like last year, he simply couldn't ignore 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 fourth 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—known as the "Godfather of Freestyle."
Saturday's afternoon program also included the new, Rekluse Celebrity Challenge. It put stock bikes on the big hill for the first time. Oregon's Shane Donaca, won, climbing to over 300 feet on a stock bike, and then, just for fun, running a Timber Sled "snowbike" over the big hill. In the midst of this, Mike Metzger appeared once more, and after taking second in the Rekluse Celebrity Class, he performed some more breath-taking cliff jumps down the bike hill, where no one had ever ridden before. His "sick" riding both up and down the hills, managed to thrill and horrify the crowd at the same time.
Saturday night's show was designed to end by 11 p.m., and it did, even with a record number of trophy entries. Newcomer Charles Netcher, from nearby Star, Idaho, topped 79 other riders to win the prestigious 450, 4-stroke trophy class, and Geret Loyosa, riding a CR500 Honda from Winters, Ca., laid down the fastest time of the weekend on the small hill, as he won the hotly-contested open altered class with a scorching time of 6.79 seconds. Loyosa wasn't the only thing scorching in this class; Al Rivera, hailing from Westlake, Ore., blasted up the hill, only to have his nitrous-injected, 1,000 GSXR Suzuki, blow the motor and catch on fire about halfway up. Despite desperate efforts by the Owyhee Outlaws hillcrew to save the bike, the battery and nitrous tank both subsequently exploded, and the bike burned to a crisp at the 220-foot level on the hill. Fortunately, no injuries were recorded.
Some people cheered the fire, and some cried out; it certainly made for quite a sight, high over the crowd of thousands.
As Saturday's competition wound down, the first-ever Big Nasty fireworks show cut loose in front of the cheering crowd, as Rivera's bike still smoldered on the hill. It really was a surreal scene.
Sunday morning's main events consisted of the mini bike semi pros, and the three pro class mains: 450, 700 and open. The highly-modified minis warmed up the crowd, and both Nathan Schnepp and Chase Seal managed to scream their tiny bikes more than 300 feet up the big hill, putting on a great show.
Sunday's pro mains were extremely hard fought, and Harold, "The Gasser" Waddell, from Omaha, Nebraska, stayed super-focused and on top of his Suzuki's all weekend. Utah's Jason Smith put up a good fight in the 450 pro class, but had to settle for second as Waddell uncorked a stunning 17.934-second blast to win the class by nearly a full second. "The Gasser" was just getting warmed up, and proceeded to win the 700 pro final by nearly two seconds over California's Bret Peterson and Montana's Matt Coleman, turning in a blindingly fast 15.344 second time. In the past, Waddell has stated that "I just don't have much luck here and this hill doesn't really suit my riding style." Clearly, that is no longer the case.
As the open pro class came to the line, only one challenge remained, could Waddell become the first rider in Big Nasty history to sweep all three pro classes? In short order, he did just that, uncorking the fastest time of the weekend over the big hill, a blindingly fast 14.952 run to win the open class by over two seconds, over Montana's Dusty Beer, and Utah's Craig Spencer who finished second and third, respectively. It was quite a weekend for the THOR/EVS/Works Connection backed Suzuki rider. "My bikes are really working, and I have finally started figuring this hill out. It is really hard to beat Jason (Smith) here, so I know that all our hard work is finally paying off. I want to thank my sponsors, my mom and dad, and especially my fiancé Ashley, for supporting and helping me to get where I am today in professional hillclimbing."
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 570-foot gully route was used, and Dusty Beer finally proved that even Waddell is human, handing him his one and only second place of the weekend by nailing the course perfectly to edge Waddell by a tenth of a second, putting $500 in his pocket and adding his name to the Big Nasty "King of the Hill" perpetual trophy for the third time.
The next Big Nasty Hillclimb will be held on Sept. 16-18, 2011, and discussions are underway on how to make it even bigger and better, 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, Chaos Energy, Edge Performance, Coors Light, Cycle City of Mountain Home, Idaho Air National Guard, Nationwide Insurance, Buck's 4X4, Carl's Cycles, Moto Tech, Les Schwab Tires, Stinker Stores, Sprint, Happy Trail, Rekluse, Ammerman's Custom Exhaust, Fly Racing, Big Twin Cycles, Pro-Moto Billet, Timber Sled, Cold Clean, Kouba Link, Energy Release, Tuff Shed, Clutch World of Nampa, The Double Diamond Saloon, Mount Olympus Waters, Tarantula Tequila, Hanigan Chevrolet, Boise Vintage Cycle, Bad Ass Bikes, Pepsi, AEHI, EZ Mart, HCD Construction, the Holiday Inn, as well as our musicians from 57 Heavy, Half the World, and Abrupt Edge. 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 world's best catchers, the Fly Racing, Owyhee Outlaws.
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 2010 DVD will be available by in the future, and t-shirts are still available as well. For more information visit the Big Nasty website at: bignastyhillclimb.com or call Ron Dillon at 208-573-4255.
Hillclimb series ends with Oct. 9 "The Screamer"
The 2010 Idaho State Hillclimb Series ends with its third and final round Saturday, Oct. 9. Called "The Screamer," it will be staged on another steep, terraced hill at the Clay Peak Motorcycle Park near Payette. All classes will run on Saturday.