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Apr 3, 2013

Team Johnny Killmore Wins SRA-West Sidecar Races At Chuckwalla Valley Raceway

SRA-West: Stull Racing's Steve Stull/Heidi Neidhoefer (29) lead the first lap of Saturday's race over Team 321's Donn Sayre/John Heenan (321), Team Johnny Killmore's John Wood/Giorgina Gottlieb (187) and Wood Brothers Racing's Chris Wood/Aaron McEwen. Photo by Cali Photography, courtesy of SRA-West.
SRA-West Sidecars Kick Off 2013 Season at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway

Date: March 30-31, 2013

Location: Chuckwalla Valley Raceway (Clockwise)

Organization: SRA-West Formula Sidecar Series

The SRA-West Formula Sidecar series kicked off this past weekend with close racing and much excitement at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. Host club CVMA set up a doubleheader of 6-lap sprints for the field of nine sidecars - only the second time the three-wheeled machines had taken to this course. An epic fight for 2nd place would showcase the talents of the west coast's premier sidecar road racers, while one team snuck off into the distance to win.

Saturday's race would answer many questions that had arisen during the winter. Firstly, Team Becker Moto Works was not in attendance. Multi-time champions William and Eric Becker had placed their focus on building a vintage-spec sidecar and plan to only attend select events with the machine. This left all eyes on Team Johnny Killmore, as they had been consistently landing on the second step of the podium in years past. True to form the duo of driver John Wood and passenger Giorgina Gottlieb managed to top the timesheets during practice and looked to be the team to beat. Practice times were misleading though, as the large gaps between each team closed noticeably when the green flag dropped.

From the start Team 321 (Donn Sayre/John Heenan) would lose the holeshot to Wood Brothers Racing (Chris Wood/Aaron McEwen) and Stull Racing (Steve Stull/Heidi Neidhoefer), causing a three-way battle to begin almost immediately. Stull and C. Wood seemed to be best on cold tires as they pulled away from Sayre during the first lap. Sayre would not let them get too far ahead though, and began to gain ground. On the second lap Team Johnny Killmore caught up (having started from the back row) and began to force themselves to the front.

Late braking moves put Wood/Gottlieb into the lead quickly, but Stull racing would not concede. Exiting Turn 7, Stull/Neidhoefer again moved ahead. J. Wood/Gottlieb fought back on the brakes to regain the top spot, only to fall into second again exiting Turn 10. The lead seemed to swap every few turns with Wood/Gottlieb having a clear advantage in left turns and Stull/Neidhoefer showing serious confidence in right-handers.

Finally a gap appeared with J. Wood/Gottlieb streaking away to a comfortable lead. Stull would later cite transmission problems, losing 3rd gear intermittently. This allowed Sayre/Heenan of Team 321 and C. Wood/McEwen of Wood Brothers Racing to close the gap. A miscue by passenger Heidi Neidhoefer sent Stull Racing into the dirt though, and they would have to settle for 4th. The battle for second went to the last few corners, with Wood/McEwen taking the spot over Sayre/Heenan. J. Wood/Gottlieb finished with a comfortable lead.

Sunday's race still left many questions to be answered, however. Team Johnny Killmore's #187 Windle sidecar had been dirt surfing during practice and concerns of a bent front wheel were whispered through the paddock area. Team 321 had front brake problems as well and it was unknown if they would still be a factor as the laps progressed. Combining these problems with a high-RPM misfire from Wood Brothers Racing and the previous day's transmission woes of Stull Racing, the entire front of the grid sounded like a battle of the walking wounded.

The start again saw Team 321 lose the holeshot to Stull and Wood Brothers. The battle was intense by turn four when Team Johnny Killmore caught up from the back of the pack and made it a four-way fight. They slipped into the lead quickly though and after a brief fight with Stull Racing, took off into the distance. Stull Racing began to feel pressure from the other bikes and the battle for second place was on.

Wood Brothers would lead the group after getting by Stull on the back half of the course, with Stull Racing showing a nose almost every corner. With the pair battling so intensely, Team 321 was able to slowly close the gap, turning the final lap into a serious three-way dogfight. A missed shift by Stull Racing would force them to settle for fourth place despite their efforts, as they took precious seconds to find a gear that would hold. Sayre/Heenan of Team 321 now found themselves with only five corners left to figure out a way into second place -- it did not take long.

In a move straight out of Days of Thunder, Sayre propelled his machine up around the outside of Wood Brothers in the steep banking of Turn 13. Somehow the move stuck and Wood Brothers slotted in behind. Showing a nose into Turn 14 they couldn't make a pass, and it ended as a drag race to the finish. Sayre had just enough at the stripe to retain the position, with Wood Brothers Racing settling for 3rd by less than half a length.
After the event Team Johnny Killmore seemed happy with the double win. "We set out this weekend to calm down my driving style and make our laps more consistent. Despite some trouble in practice, we did that. The bike is extremely nervous through the handlebars but we are just going to have to deal with that until the budget comes in for geometry changes," said driver John Wood.

The points now show Team Johnny Killmore in the lead with their double victory and second place as tied between Wood Brothers Racing and Team 321. Although two 4th place finishes put Stull Racing slightly behind, their transmissions problems should be fixed by the next event, putting them back in the mix.

The battle continues when the SRA-West Formula Sidecar series stops at Willow Springs International Raceway April 26-28 with host club AHMRA for the 2013 Moto Classica. Less than a week later the series will follow AHRMA north to Sonoma Raceway May 2-3, where sidecars have not competed since 2005. For a full calendar and standings, visit www.sra-west.us for detailed information.


RESULTS:
Driver/Passenger, Chassis/Engine
SATURDAY, MARCH 30:
1. John Wood/ Giorgina Gottlieb, Windle/Suzuki
2. Chris Wood/ Aaron McEwen, ART/Suzuki
3. Donn Sayre/ John Heenan, Baker/Suzuki
4. Steve Stull/ Heidi Neidhoefer, Baker/Honda
5. Phil Wood/ Gary McEwen, Baker/Arctic Cat
6. Bernard Juchli/Kevin Starr, CSR/Honda
7. Scott Lane/Elizabeth Herlocker, Becker/Suzuki
8. Gary Woolf/ Unknown, Woolf/Suzuki

SUNDAY, MARCH 31:
1. John Wood/ Giorgina Gottlieb, Windle/Suzuki
2. Donn Sayre/ John Heenan, Baker/Suzuki
3. Chris Wood/ Aaron McEwen, ART/Suzuki
4. Steve Stull/ Heidi Neidhoefer, Baker/Honda
5. Phil Wood/ Gary McEwen, Baker/Arctic Cat
6. Bernard Juchli/Kevin Starr, CSR/Honda
7. Scott Lane/Elizabeth Herlocker, Becker/Suzuki
8. Gary Woolf/ Unknown, Woolf/Suzuki