Pikes Peak: Part 1

The 2010 Pikes Peak Hill Climb was totally epic. Following suit with most events we run in, Team Johny Killmore had a host of problems to contend with. Passenger Giorgina Gottlieb had no racing experience, driver John Wood had never driven a motocross sidecar and very little experience racing in the dirt, and the machine itself was never intended for racing on asphalt. Not to worry! Three days of practice will leave plenty of time to sort it all out, right?


The team assembled in Colorado Springs on Tuesday June 22nd to check in and get the bike through technical inspection. Dave Hennessy, owner of both sidecars that would be competing this year, had just replaced a fuel tank that was contaminated. The gunk had made it’s way into the carburetors of the Wasp/Yamaha that Team Johnny Killmore would use. The vintage twin-cylinder engine was able to run, but stumbled and smoked quite a bit. A carburetor cleaning in the parking lot would cure most of this rough running, but it was a rather foreboding start to the week. Both machines breezed through tech inspection, and the riders meeting followed.

It's got 3 wheels and the front is that way... check!

The main thing that comes from the riders meeting is good gossip. Ducati had brought two riders to race their 2010 Multistrada machines. This sport-touring machine was not intended for racing, but the pavement-then-dirt configuration of the course didn’t lend itself to racing either. Riders Greg Trachy and Alexander Smith (son of famous racer Malcolm Smith) would be going for a record in the 1205 class. Malcolm Smith was on hand and decided to race a machine himself. At 69 years old, it was amazing to think this world-beating rally and baja racer would again climb onto a race machine. It was extra interesting for John since Malcolm would be on a Husaberg, the same brand of bike John used as his first race bike. Two electric bikes would also be making the climb, the first ever to attempt it.


At first light came the team’s first practice sessions. This would be the entire bottom half of the course, with fast pavement leading to a hard-packed earth section. In John’s own words:

The first session is a sighting lap, done slowly with all the bikes. Things seemed ok until the first right hand turn. The bike refused to turn and so I put a ton of force into the bars. Finally it bagan to arc around, but the chair came up without warning and damn near flipped us. We were wobbling toward the haybales and the chair would not stay down. All right hand turns felt like this if they were the least bit sharp. I knew right away my experience in road racing was not going to transfer over.

With this in mind the pair were very slow in the first full pace practice run. The bike seemed to handle more neutral in the dirt section- a hard packed surface with a fair amount of grip. In the second run, John decided to push the limits. According to John, “someone put a ditch in the line I was using.” Further inquiry revealed that John had steered the bike on a road racing line in the dirt section, which put the machine out in the “marbles,” where the loose-packed soil is flung by other race bikes. In the looser soil, the reduced traction caused John and Gina to slip off course, finding a shallow ditch on the outside of the course. This would be deep enough to send both teammates flying, and end their day before official qualifying began.

Starting from second place when there there only two sidecars isn’t a big deal. What was a big deal was the fact that the machine now had a slightly bent front rim. Hours later, the bike was set for the next days practice, and it was just a matter of dragging two sore racers out of bed at 3am to do it.

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