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Sep 3, 2013

SRA-West: Team Becker Motoworks Wins At Miller Motorsports Park

SRA-West Formula Sidecar Series
Round 5: Miller Motorsports Park-- East Course
Tooele, Utah
8/30/2013-- 9/01/2013

The SRA-West Formula Sidecar Series had a large turnout of competitive machines this past weekend when they took part in the Bonneville Vintage GP, hosted by the American Historic Motorcycle Racing Association (AHRMA). More than a dozen vintage and modern sidecars battled it out on Miller Motorsports Park's East Course, and fans lined the pit wall and balcony both days to see the action.

The biggest surprise was the return of Team Becker Motoworks' #84 machine. The father/son team of William and Eric Becker are defending champions, but have only made select rounds while alternately campaigning a vintage machine and their modern Formula 1 racer. Starting near the back on Saturday's race was no problem though as the seas parted and they were up to second place before lap one of the six-lap sprint was complete. Current championship points leaders Team Johnny Killmore (John Wood/Giorgina Gottlieb) were obviously pushing hard but were being reeled in quickly.

Lap 2 had the pair in lockstep. Wood/Gottlieb could only manage to stretch out a few bikelengths in two sections of the track, while Becker/Becker pulled back distance in several other areas. Their strength showed best coming onto the front straight, where on lap 3 they took a tight exit and powered past on the front straight to take the lead. Wood/Gottlieb fought back on the brakes into turn 1 as the crowd cheered, but their tight line scrubbed too much speed and Becker/Becker stormed away.

Lap traffic came into play and momentarily it looked as though Wood/Gottlieb were pulling back some ground on lap 5, but a trip onto the rumble strips exiting turn 6 (Satisfaction) quickly ended any chance of that. As Becker Moto Works slowly built up a lead, Team Johnny Killmore would again take to the curbs in the final lap in a hair-raising moment that nearly propelled Gottlieb out of the bike. After a huge bounce on the outside curb of "Tooele Turn" (turn 12) she managed to stay on the platform only by slapping her hand on the ground at close to 90mph. Third place was occupied by Wood Brothers Racing (Chris Wood/Aaron McEwen). Although their race was somewhat lonely, they benefited by finishing close to Team Johnny Killmore, as they lie only a few points behind in the championship.

Sunday started much the same with Becker Moto Works threading the field and posting up behind Wood Brothers Racing within a few corners. Team Johnny Killmore bogged on the start but were setting the pace up front. Before lap 1 was over, Team Becker Moto Works found their way into second and put their head down to close the gap to the front. Within a lap they were shadowing Team Johnny Killmore but were having difficulty making a pass. Showing more speed in left turns than the leaders, a pass attempt was made on the exit of almost every left turn on the track, much to the crowd's delight. Laps 2 and 3 both continued this way until the Becker duo got a great drive exiting the final turn.

This looked to be a carbon copy of Saturday's pass but Team Johnny Killmore anticipated, braking so late that the tires could be heard howling in protest by fans along pit wall. This held off the onslaught for the moment, but the wide line would allow the Becker's to get a nose on the inside. As Wood/Gottlieb dove for the second apex, Becker saw the door closing and got on the brakes. The crowd collectively gasped as the #84 Becker machine's nose came in contact with Gottlieb's helmet. It was a light contact but enough to lift the chair of Team Johnny Killmore's #187 even higher than it already was. Neither team seemed to have time to think about it as a drag race ensued to the next corner, with Wood/Gottlieb just barely holding the lead.

A few huge slides from the Team Johnny Killmore machine showed they were either overheating their tires or trying too hard. Either way, the frantic driving style momentarily caused Becker to back off, most likely expecting an imminent spin by the pressured leaders. They managed to hold on desperately until again, at the final corner, Becker got a better drive and used it to motor by on the front straight. This time Wood/Gottlieb could not fight back and would have to settle for second. Driver John Wood would later sight chain-hop as a severe problem all weekend. When pressed for an explanation he would only state that the better he got an exit, the less drive he could get.

Further back, Wood Brothers Racing were again in third but had unexpected company in the form of Team Big Dog Garage. The #21 machine of Bernard Juchli and Kevin Kautsky were having a miracle ride. Suffering wheel hop on the starting line all year, they have shown speed but never the results due to the need to fight back through the field. This time they overcame the wheel hop only to have the bike fail to take second gear. Nonetheless the duo managed to make it to turn 1 in something better than last place, and that's all it took. They spent their entire race threading the field until being faced with a fairly decent gap to Wood Brothers Racing in the third spot. They chipped away at the gap until, on the final lap they were able to make a move on the inside to edge out a win, and their first SRA-West podium.

The SRA-West championship still remains fairly close with two rounds remaining. The tripod troupe will stop off at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway September 21-22 for a double-header with Chuckwalla Valley Motorcycle Association (CVMA) in Desert Center, California. In both driver and passenger standings, Team Johnny Killmore retains the lead by only 11 points over Wood Brothers Racing. A fairly comfortable gap exists back to third place Big Dog Garage, but it only takes a slight mistake to be off in the dirt and have your championship hopes dashed in the home stretch. As always, the SRA-West thanks host club AHRMA for their continued involvement in promoting the sport of sidecar racing.
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