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Nov 7, 2012

SRA-West Wraps Up 2012 Formula Sidecar Series At Las Vegas Classic Course

2012 SRA-West Driver Champion William Becker (left) and 2012 SRA-West Passenger Champion Eric Becker (right).
The SRA-West Formula Sidecar series wrapped up the 2012 racing season in style this past weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Classic Course. Host club WERA saw 11 machines on the grid for the double-header event. All of the sidecar teams reported severe grip problems during practice and Saturday's 6-lap sprint promised to be exciting because of it.

At the start, things did not shape up differently than any other race with Team Johnny Killmore (John Wood/ Giorgina Gottlieb) taking the holeshot and being quickly run down by Team Becker Moto Works (William Becker/ Eric Becker). What was different, however, was that the rest of the field was in close pursuit. While the Becker duo began to slowly build up a sizable lead by lap two, Stull Racing (Steven Stull/ Phil Wood) began to close in on the leading machines with Team 321 (Donn Sayre/ John Heenan) in tow.

Beginning lap three, Team Johnny Killmore got out of shape on the brakes into Turn One and took an agricultural excursion through the gravel. They managed to rejoin the race in 4th position and immediately attempted a charge back to the front. After two laps of chasing, Team Johnny Killmore worked into third, but making the pass for second stick would turn out to be a lot of work.

Immediately after being passed in the entrance to Turn Five, Stull Racing would retake the spot heading onto the long back straight. With lapped traffic running very slow in the sixth-gear Turn Six, Team Johnny Killmore made a pass between Stull Racing and the lapped machine. Again, Stull made an attempt to retake the second spot on the brakes into Turn Seven, but this time the pass was complete. Becker Moto Works continued to run on cruise control out front as the checkered flag fell, helping maintain their significant points lead (the pair were leading both in the driver and passenger standings).

Sunday morning saw the same lack of grip reported by the sidecar teams during practice, and fans lined the pit wall to see the final sidecar showdown of 2012. True to form, Team Johnny Killmore took the holeshot, and with Becker Moto Works held by traffic initially, a slight gap appeared. As the Becker duo made their way around Stull Racing to take second, it appeared a repeat of Saturday was inevitable.

Becker Moto Works was obviously being held up in the tighter corners on the track and made an initial move in ultra-tight Turn Four. Team Johnny Killmore fought back in the next corner and held the lead for one more lap. Now it was lap three and Becker Moto Works would bid for the lead exiting Turn Five, leading onto the back straight. They pulled ahead initially, but a missed upshift kept Team Johnny Killmore in the draft, allowing them to reclaim the lead on the brakes into Turn Seven. All of this action was allowing Stull Racing to catch back up to the leading machines, and a three-way battle appeared imminent.

Seemingly sensing this, the Beckers took an unusual line out of the final turn with two laps to go and drag raced into the lead before Turn One. After several lead changes, Becker finally had clear track and simply left the field, being the only machine to drop to a 1:30 lap time all weekend, over one full second from the next fastest lap of the weekend, but more than three full seconds from the second-fastest time during Sunday's race -- truly an amazing feat. At the checkers it remained unchanged with Becker Moto Works taking the win, Team Johnny Killmore in second, and Stull Racing in third.

The points for driver remained unchanged as well, and William Becker took his fourth consecutive SRA-West title with John Wood finishing in the runner up spot for the second consecutive time. Probably most impressive though was Steve Stull's third overall in the driver's standings. Using a slew of passengers of varying weights and experience levels, Stull bettered his ninth place finish from last year by a significant margin. Passenger standings saw Eric Becker take the honors for the fourth consecutive time, but Heidi Niedhoefer took second place honors despite being injured in a traffic accident at the end of the season. Third place went to Team Johnny Killmore's Giorgina Gottlieb.

The sidecar silly season has already begun as well. Becker Moto Works put out the word that they are seeking interested partners to sponsor a Formula Two-spec machine (front engine, short wheelbase) and are looking for prospective buyers for their four-time championship-winning Formula One machine (rear engine, long wheelbase). This could drastically tighten the field in 2013 and make things even more exciting, as Team Johnny Killmore uses a Formula Two-spec machine (both styles of machine are eligible for competition in the same class).

Team Johnny Killmore also announced they are seeking financing to install a newer engine, replacing their aging 2002-spec Suzuki GSX-R1000. The pair also announced they would begin tire testing in the off-season to try and find more front-end grip and cure a vicious high-speed weave under braking that has plagued them all year.

Also of interest is Wood Brothers Racing. Brothers Chris and Phil Wood will run two machines next year, one of which is rumored to be powered by an 800cc 2-stroke snowmobile engine. The brothers have been racing against each other since childhood and it should be interesting to see how the rivalry develops in the three-wheeled scene. All SRA-West teams can be reached my contacting the SRA-West President, Sean Bakken at sbakken@sra-west.us.

With so much change afoot in the sidecar road racing world it will be anyone's guess as to how things will play out next year. Be sure to check out www.sra-west.us or search for Sidecar Racers Association West on Facebook to stay up to date on developments during the winter break. The SRA-West would like to thank host clubs AHRMA, WERA, and CVMA for continuing to support this unique sport. A final and sincere thank you goes to the teams themselves who work year round to keep their hand-built road racers in competitive shape.


RESULTS:

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3 (6 laps):

(Driver/ Passenger, chassis/ engine)

1. William Becker/ Eric Becker, Becker/ Suzuki

2. John Wood/ Giorgina Gottlieb, Windle/ Suzuki

3. Steve Stull/ Phil Wood, Baker/ Honda

4. Chris Wood/ Aaron McEwen, ART/ Suzuki

5. Donn Sayre/ John Heenan, Baker/ Suzuki

6. Mike Troutman/ Unknown, CSR/ Suzuki

7. Sean Bakken/ Gary McEwen, Spike/ Yamaha

8. Bernard Juchli/ Kevin Kautzky, CSR/ Honda

9. Scott Lane/ Elizabeth Herlocker, Becker/ Suzuki (5 laps)

10. Gerald Woolf/ Nathan Urbanovsky, Woolf/Suzuki (4 laps)


SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4 (6 laps):

1. William Becker/ Eric Becker, Becker/ Suzuki

2. John Wood/ Giorgina Gottlieb, Windle/ Suzuki

3. Steve Stull/ Phil Wood, Baker/ Honda

4. Chris Wood/ Aaron McEwen, ART/ Suzuki

5. Donn Sayre/ John Heenan, Baker/ Suzuki

6. Sean Bakken/ Gary McEwen, Spike/ Yamaha

7. Mike Troutman/ Unknown, CSR/ Suzuki

8. Bernard Juchli/ Kevin Kautzky, CSR/ Honda

9. Scott Lane/ Elizabeth Herlocker, Becker/ Suzuki (5 laps)

10. Gerald Woolf/ Nathan Urbanovsky, Woolf/Suzuki (4 laps)