The 24-Hour Grand Prix, 11/8~9/03

Story and Photos by Tom Niemela

(Photos now posted! -Tom)

            “Heck Tom, you’ll have a great time and besides, it’s the first time this club has ever had one of these events” my bud, Milo, said.  “A bunch of us on the ThumperTalk internet group are forming teams and we’re one man short.  If you want to get on the team, I need to know soon.” 

            The Over The Bars Gang (OTBG) had talked about doing this kind of venue for a long time and finally decided to step up to the plate and do it.  Scott Dubrovsky, Mike Erland and their crew of OTBG had been planning the gory details of hosting it for months and it showed when we got there.  We left right after work Friday night in the Milo Mobile along with his cousin Mitch Juenemann.  After driving in the torrid winds along the Columbia Gorge, it was a welcome sign to finally see the turnoff for the event.  After driving through the metropolis of Centerville, we continued on gravel roads until we saw this well-lit oasis in the midst of the evening darkness.  We were there.

            We got in line at the entry and waited our turn to sign the obligatory waivers and then look for a good parking spot.  After a bit of searching we found that all the ThumperTalk folks were parked on the main pit row, so we sidled right into the midst.  For those of you not computer savvy, is a website for all things pertaining to four-stroke dirt bikes.  A virtual Mecca of geek thumping and a heckuva resource if you ride a four-stroke. 

            After finding our perfect spot, we set up camp, introduced ourselves to our ThumperTalk neighbors and checked out the area.  Wow, this was the big times!  OTBG had huge nightlight poles along pit row to light up the night quite well, thank you.  We milled around with our neighbors, cruised pit row and then hit the hay.

            Bright and early the next morn I was up along with a few others.  Thank God a local mocha stand was there to fulfill my fix.  The rider’s meeting commenced a little after nine and then everyone headed back to get ready for the class starts.  We finished our sign up and received our cool t-shirts, blinking LED lights for nighttime and rider numbers.

            Since our other three team-riders weren’t due till late afternoon, the three of us decided to have Mitch launch off the start for three laps, then me, then Milo.  Mitch was fiddling with his bike right up to the last minute and I couldn’t believe he wasn’t nervous.  This guy was like ice, totally calm.  I finally had to point him toward the start and get him pointed in the right direction.  Think he was nervous?  Anyway, when he got up there, the starter told him to get on the line NOW, because his class (30) was about ready to leave.  Mitch lined up, the flag dropped and he was off in about fourth place.  Mitch is a good rider and I knew he’d do well, although I wonder about his starting techniques!

            As the waves of classes left in hordes, most of the pit crews and remaining team members ran over past the end of the first section of Forster’s Forest.  There was of course, some serious dicing going on right up to that point.  The dust was heavy on the area as the mass of competitors rounded the first section. 

            OTBG had set up the event so that every rider had to carry a transponder in a small fanny pack with the words “Princess” on it, and pass through a chicane area, stop to get logged, then continue on.  This was very cool in that each team could see how they were doing in placement as they went through this area. 

            Once Mitch finished his three laps, it was my turn.  I quickly grabbed our Princess fanny pack, adjusted my goggles and was off.  Not knowing what to expect of the course, I roosted off on my trusty WR450 towards Forster’s Forest.  As I entered it, the custom design work on the small trees (the only ones of the entire 11.6-mile course) was evident that some fun was put into it by Gary Forster and Mark Zertana.  Some of the trees were cut at angles so that you needed to really be careful how you threaded the needle to inch through it.  Since I’m a tree-dodging fan, this was like old-home week for me, so I railed through it, when I came into a tight, left-hander, ran into the back of a stalled bike and tipped over.  For God’s sake – I’d only gotten a quarter mile into the event and I was on my side!  He left; I awkwardly picked up my blue steed and continued.  50 feet later and we were out of the woods and I passed the guy I ran into, went through a rubbery marsh section and was then into the main course.  Then things really opened up.  It turned faster and wound its way down to what Scott called Ford’s Corner and that you’d know what it meant when you arrived there.  Sure enough there was a front end off an old Ford lurking just outside of the berm.  After about a mile of that, things tightened up into the rock chicanes and then wound down towards an old farmhouse.  I thought to myself, “Self, it looks like the course is going THROUGH the old shack!”  Sure enough, I had to go through one door, a middle-room door, then out the back door of this old shanty.  Inside were some checkpoint people making sure you stayed on the course.  Very cool and funny. 

            After leaving the old house, there was some bonafide trail that dipped up, and around, then had a sweeping right turn up the bank.  If you weren’t on the gas there, you were hosed for sure.  Some more side hill riding and then you came to the first (empty) pond edge, which was a small jump, then continued on back and forth across the Eastern Washington prairie, when at the end of a fast straight, there was a phone booth.  We’re talking out in the middle of nowhere, you see a freakin’ phone booth!  Oh yeah, at the rider’s meeting, Scott and Mike had said there would be a phone booth with a mobile phone inside in case you needed help, this phone would ring directly to the main staging area.  Very cool and funny again. 

            Another mile or so and you snaked your way back towards the old farmhouse and ran alongside a barn and things started getting fairly fast from then on.  More old-pond skimming, rock dodging and you were then thrust onto the “Drag Strip”.  Not sure if it was a true quarter mile, but a chute may have helped at the end, since you were definitely in high gear and making hay!  Some more points along the way after that were Model-A Bend, Allred Alley, Life-Jacket Pond, Randy’s Strainer, Jawbreaker Pond, Shrub Row and the Hero Pond.  The Hero Pond had two of the pro team riders actually launch across it at the start of the race and cased their bikes heavily.  Not a pretty site, but they continued. 

            After my three laps were finished, I handed the ‘Princess’ bag to Milo and he and his XR400 were off.  This was his first race and he was railing!  I’ve decided Milo is a closet racer, since he was flogging the XR.  After he was done with his three, Mitch once again took the reins on his KTM 450 and railed down three laps.  When he was almost done, our remaining three riders, Steve, Jeff and Wade had finally arrived.  I nailed down a lap and they decided they wanted to take over, so they could get a feel for the course.  This would be good, since they would be doing most all the night racing.  Well, their daylight riding was short lived as dusk fell quickly and turned pitch black out.  About this time, Ma Nature was treating us to a lunar eclipse too.  More coolness.  Our first guy out, Wade, took off on his XR400 and took almost an hour to get back, so we knew something was wrong.  We had been doing 30-minute laps in the day, so we were really wondering what happened.  Evidently, Wade had bailed, and something had hit his engine, causing the compression release to stay engaged, so he had no compression to start the bike.  Pitch black darkness to boot, so brail was in order.  When he finally got in, he was pretty sore and hit the sack, so Steve, Milo and Jeff took turns doing single laps.  It was entertaining to see all the different lighting combinations the different teams were adopting.  Later on Milo, Mitch and I caught some Z’s, while Steve and Jeff soldiered on through the night. 

            At about 2AM, Steve came in and said that he and Jeff were tired and were going to crash out.  I was still in a groggy state with earplugs and didn’t think much about it, especially since I could still sleep until my alarm went off at 4AM.  When 4AM arrived I woke up, looked out and all six bikes were parked!  What the ????!  Then I vaguely remembered Steve entering the camper and informing us of their fatigue.  I scurried around, finding my riding gear, waking everyone up and asking where the transponder and blinking LED was and basically being disgusted.  Dammit, I showed up to race, not to sleep, so off I went.  Almost three hours of no laps and our ThumperTalk Team #4 was not looking good. I didn’t have anything but my stock WR headlight, but by God I was gonna log in some laps anyway.

            Racing at night – whoah.  That plain rocked!  It was SOOOOOOO cool!  Even though I was running a wimpy 55W headlight, I was having a ball!  I haven’t had this much fun in many moons.  Racing across the high prairie, you could see where the whoops were and also where the smooth lines were.  It was almost surreal racing along and only seeing your headlight dance across the ground.  Catching other racers and their dust was a new experience too, as the dust basically would give you a brown out.  It was pretty easy to tell when the pro teams came up behind you too – instant daylight.  The old boys were still awake in the old farmhouse too, so every time I’d come across anyone, I’d let out a “Woohoo!” and they’d answer back with something similar.  I remember seeing deer (aka: bumper burgers), quail, assorted small, furry creatures and one, red blinking LED in the dust, which was blinking just under the surface of a dust pile – weird!  The course had really changed from 12 hours prior too. 

            After three laps of total darkness, it started to get light on lap four.  It actually was harder to race at this point, due to the contrasting lighting from the headlight and sunrise.  On lap five, it was back to business as usual, regarding daylight.  Each of my laps I’d come through the pits to see if anyone was awake and ready to race, but to no avail.  At the end of lap five though, Wade was up and ready to roll, so I swapped the Princess bag and he was off!  I then woke up Milo and Mitch, then went to the RV and woke up Steve and Jeff.  We still had about three hours and nobody wanted to race anymore.  After MUCH prodding and verbal abuse, I talked Steve and Jeff into continuing after Wade’s second lap.

            At the 10AM finish, people were gathering at the last couple turns by the Hero Pond.  Rider after rider came in, but all eyes were focusing on the pro teams to see who would come in first.  Eventually Dennis Sweeten came railing in and rounded the last turn in first place.  Not more than a minute later was second place team rider, Mike Corder and he pinned the big thumper and LAUNCHED over the Hero Pond!  This stunned everyone there and was certainly an awesome move.  Rider after rider continued to come in with rounds of applause from everyone. 

            At the awards, Gary Roe was the winning Ironman Class rider and received a rousing round of applause from everyone.  He was dog-tired and could barely move.  The poor guy had been fed bananas, hot dogs and baby aspirin for 24 hours and was whipped!  Chris Green received a trophy for the oldest rider and the trophies continued on.  OTBG really did a splendid job of hosting this event and they had a great turnout too.  They were hoping for 20+ teams and received almost 50!  Everyone’s already talking about next year’s race and their plans! 

            Ricky Bozarth said, “It was fantastic!  It was tougher than nails, and my teammate Jason (Dahners) spurred me on, because I wanted to quit five laps before the finish and I’d had enough and he said, ‘Let’s just see if we can finish’ and so then I got a breathe of fresh air and we ended up finishing.  And we finished real good, we were just two minutes behind the overall leaders, with some problems, but everyone had their problems.  It was a fantastic event and I’m glad we came.”

            “We were absolutely elated with the entire performance,” said cohost Mike Erland, “The teams went right where they were signed, they rode smart, people followed the rules, stayed on course and we’re absolutely ready for next year, which is scheduled for about the same time.  I’d like to be sure and thank a few people, like Ron Campbell and his wife, Teresa.  Ron has spent literally the last year on a caterpillar out here, all his waking hours, and he’s driven this course three times on a cat just to clear it.  Incredible.  And his wife helps out a lot with it as well.  Steve and Diane Castle also helped make this event happen.  Without their help it wouldn’t have happened, along with many others that have helped.  Our sponsors are Hillsboro Motorcycles, MXD out of Hood River, Broadmoore RV out of Pasco, and many others that I know I’m forgetting at the moment.  Some of the funniest things that happened on the event was the pros that tried jumping the pond on the first lap, casing it and living through it.  The people and how they were getting through the night, the pits and how they were preparing, and strategies was also funny.  The farmhouse was a crackup!  We had guys actually use the radio in the phone booth.”

            Mike Corder said, “It was long and hard.  Some crazy things like losing lights, a guy stops and asks if you’re all right and I tell him just to go and I’ll follow.  I followed him for about a lap and he falls over.  I tried to plug in my lights and they finally work, but overall it was a good experience, a lot of fun and looking forward to doing it again.”

            “It was short and sweet,” said a bummed Dan Jordan.  “I was following Scott McNew and I saw him go flying over a jump and saw him go over the bars, so I grabbed onto the binders, so I wouldn’t go over the top of him and I did the same thing.  I didn’t hit him, I went off to the left and landed on my shoulder and separated it.  That’s all part of the fun!  I’d like to thank Hillsboro Motorcycles and PBI Sprockets.”

            After finishing his first-ever race, Milo Juenemann said, “Well, after I got over the arm pump, I relaxed on the second lap and pretty much kicked butt from there on out.  Good times!  I did three laps at night.  I had a majorly, spodely maneuver when I was following another ThumperTalk guy on another team.  I found what I thought was a good place to pass in the dark on the outside, and I hit neutral, then second and my bike went side to side and I ended up sideways in the course and he was laughing at me.”

            “I wished I would have had a better seat on my KTM” said Milo’s cousin, Mitch Juenemann.  “I kinda wished I would have done some laps at night.  I had a couple scary passes where I thought I was going to lose it.  I just gave it some throttle and it straightened right out.”

Number one Ironman and Hillsboro Motorcycle’s Gary Roe said, "The story starts with a $100 bet from Richard Chapman that I could not do 20 of the 24-hour endurance race alone, at the ripe-old age of 49.  The original plan was to ride 12 hours, rest for 4, then ride again as long as I could, but at that 12th hour, after four flat tires, I was behind the leader by a lap and all the other Ironmen had gone to bed.  I knew I couldn't sleep yet, so I decided to get in some insurance laps.  At 3am I was ahead by 6 + laps, and was told the 33 year-old guy from Montana (who was leading at 9 pm) was getting up at 3:30 am.  At this point I knew I was too wired to sleep and if I did, I'd be so seized-up afterwards it'd be tough to go again, so I decided to pace myself and keep going.

“At about 4 am the fun began.  I stopped at the half-way check point where they ran us through an old farmhouse, pulled into the house to get gas and said ‘Where's my pit crew?’  The checkpoint guy said ‘You're at the farmhouse!’  So I went ‘Whoops!’ and rode off.  Sometime shortly thereafter I was sure I saw zebras in underwear running across the course.  Tracy was watching mine and the Montana man's lap times, and figured that if I kept going until 7:30am I'd have it in the bag.  I could have rested at 4-5am and finished the laps I needed to win later, but I knew if I stopped for any length of time, I wouldn't be able to get going again.  At 6am when the sun came up, I kicked it into gear and got in a 32-minute lap.  It was such a relief to be out of the dark--it's tough to go fast with limited vision!  At 7:30am when I came around and had it won, I wanted to see if I could stick it out for all 24 hours.  So off I went!  I survived all 24 hours on vitamin water, cold hotdogs and honey.  A big thanks to my pit crew, Vint Holtman, Randy Thomas, Darrell Tucker and Michael Remington and everyone else that pitched in - couldn't have done it without you!"   

            Gary’s lovely wife, Tracy commented later, “Tom, Gary is an insomniac anyway, (and very stubborn when he makes up his mind) so this type of race is suited to him.  Also, I don't think the pit crew from the Montana guy knew I was Gary's wife, because they kept coming over to the scorekeepers table and asking questions about ‘#1 IM’ and answering my subtle questions about their guy (5 IM).  So I got a lot of strategic info. from them, plus I was right there with the official lap times in front of me.  It was a ton of fun and very exciting!  Also, Gary sings to himself when he's racing (always has) and at every pit he'd mumble ‘Whiskey for my men, beer for my horses’,  Tuesday he gave all of his crew-members Jack Daniels and JD autographed tumblers as thank you's from his bet money.” 

Overall I’d like to thank my teammates Milo, Mitch, Steve, Jeff and Wade for a killer time!  Although I gave them Hell at times, we had a ball, and can’t wait to do it again!  Big props go out to the OTBG for the awesome job they did to set this event up!  It was truly unreal the different things people did to achieve acceptable lighting on some bikes.  A tip of the helmet to Gary Roe for actually finishing the event – solo, first place – and collecting on his bet with Richard Chapman!  Scott where’s my sweatshirt?  ;-)

24 hours of Starvation Ridge 11/8&9,2003


Place       number                   laps                         time                                         team name

001      2PRO              49 laps             10:13:12                      KTM Country

002      3PRO              49 laps             10:14:14                      Girlywaving Swamprats

003      1PRO              49 laps             10:16:46                      Orange Crush

004      3-EX                49 laps             10:24:05                      Team Pucker

005      2-AM              48 laps             10:34:02                      Sauce Faced

006      11-EX              47 laps             10:13:52                      Foot Hills Racing

007      5-EX                47 laps             10:16:59                      Bill’s Bar Bangers

008      2-EX                46 aps              10:19:07                      Hot Nuts Racing

009      3-AM              46 laps             10:20:06                      Team Spode

010      4-EX                46 laps             10:23:00                      Team Brat

011      14-AM             46 laps             10:28:07                      Team Etra

012      7-EX                45 laps             10:04:47                      Team R3PM

013      10-EX              45 laps             10:15:58                      3 point one 4

014      6-EX                44 laps             10:04:25                      Iron Mountain Racing

015      8-30                 44 laps             10:04:25                      Rut Busters

016      7-30                 44 laps             10:16:32                      Team MXD

017      10-AM            43 laps             10:06:15                      What Were We Thinking

018      4-AM              43 laps             10:08:29                      Coast Range Wrecking

019      13-AM            43 laps             10:09:26                      Jones Creek Trail Riders

020      1-AM              43 laps             10:25:40                      Flying B off-Road

021      1_EX               42 laps             10:04:59                      Great NW Construction

022      7-AM              42 laps             10:23:48                      Thumpertalk Team #1

023      5-AM              42 laps             10:23:55                      Thumpertalk Team #3

024      8-EX                41 laps             10:26:03                      Whakt

025      9-30                 41 laps             10:26:25                      R3pm-Piazanno

026      12-AM            39 laps             10:07:38                      Team Coffman

027      21-AM            39 laps             10:12:00                      NB Blue

028      11-AM            39 laps             10:12:18                      Thumpertalk Team #2

029      3-30                 38 laps             09:38:12                      Iceholes #2

030      6-AM              38 laps             10:12:45                      Team Tree Hugger

031      8-AM              38 laps             10:39:05                      Jeffs Performance

032      1-IM                36 laps             10:03:29                      Hillsboro Motorcycle

033      15-AM            36 laps             10:07:13                      Wassom

034      5-30                 36 laps             10:35:33                      X-treme Team

035      9-EX                34 laps             10:08:41                      Old Farts & a Kid

036      20-am              34laps              10:19:16                      Motoboss

037      5-IM                32 laps             10:17:17                      Powder Puff Girl

038      9-AM              32 laps             10:29:06                      Guts Racing

039      1-30                 32 laps             10:33:07                      Dead Last

040      22-AM            31 laps             10:11:49                      Oregon Power Sports

041      6-30                 31 laps             10:24:25                      Thumpertalk Team #4

042      17-AM            29 laps             10:13:34                      Shred Bettys

043      4-30                 24 laps             09:50:17                      Ice Holes #3

044      3-IM                23 laps             09:21:28                      Midtown Pipe&Tobacco

045      2-30                 15 laps             09:31:21                      Ice Holes #1

046      19-AM            12 laps             10:00:44                      Trunk Monkey Racing

047      4-IM                11 laps             18:54:28                      Team Action Motorsports

048      2-IM                10 laps             15:42:51                      Basque Power

(click on thumbnails for larger picture)

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Yep, that's an old Honda CX500 streetbike conversion!

Nov 8 2003
8:00:03 am
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Team ThumperTalk!
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Ironman winner, Gary Roe!
Nov 9 2003
11:28:36 am
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Milo coming out of Forster's Forest.
Nov 8 2003
2:15:45 pm
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Steve Claus doing his stint at night.
Nov 8 2003
5:56:44 pm
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Pit row. 
Nov 9 2003
8:46:20 am
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Wiggling through the old farmhouse.
Nov 9 2003
9:10:04 am
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"We have to ride THROUGH this?!"
Nov 9 2003
9:11:05 am
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Busting up a berm! 
Nov 9 2003
10:09:47 am
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Winning pro-team rider, Dennis Sweeten coming into the finish.

Click here to see the Hero Pond jump by Mike Corder! (4M filesize)