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Colorado Springs, June 9, 2011 -- The 89th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) hosted a two-day tire test on June 4th and 5th that included many multi-time winners, a number of legends of this storied race, and the history-making electric superbike of American Chip Yates.
The SWIGZ.COM Pro Racing USA team brought Chip Yates (Aliso Viejo, CA) and his UQM Technologies powered 240bhp, 400lb/ft electric superbike to Pikes Peak this past weekend to test tires, settings, and for Chip to work on learning the 156 hair-raising corners that comprise America's second-oldest, and arguably most extreme, motor sport event.
Based on many months of intense preparation, Chip found good pace early on, running 7th of 33 riders despite only getting in one run out of the five practice runs that other riders did on Saturday, but cautioned that respect for the mountain and for the people involved is the order of the day.
CHIP YATES: "I'm extremely pleased with how well the bike performed this weekend right out of the box and this test gave us the invaluable chance to meet everyone and start a dialogue with the mountain based on respect, humility and preparation. As extreme and majestic as the 14,110 foot mountain is however, I was even more struck by the quality and camaraderie of the people involved. Not only were we treated wonderfully by Race Director Phil Layton and his team despite being complete rookies with an unproven Pikes Peak bike, but on Saturday when I tucked the front tire on a white line and had a little crash, none other than Alexander Smith (Ducati factory rider and son of legend Malcolm Smith) pulled over on the course to help me lift my 585 lbs superbike out of a ditch. Shortly thereafter, I was warmly welcomed by Alex's Ducati teammate and 6-time Pikes Peak winner and hillclimb legend Greg Tracy".
The two-day test gave Chip and his team the chance to experience the course while exposing plenty of issues to think about in advance of what is certain to be an incredible race day on June 26th. Chip's reflections:
On the mountain: The mountain demands respect, which I believe can be paid in two ways: 1) caution, or 2) extreme preparedness. Some choose to proceed slowly and cautiously, which is totally valid. I have chosen to show my respect for the mountain by spending 12 hours a day for 3 months learning the course and preparing for this epic adventure. I respect the mountain by bringing my "A" game and doing my homework. If I crash, it's not out of cockiness or a lack of respect, it's because I brought my "A" game to the mountain and the mountain is showing me areas for future improvement.
On the event: At the 2-day test, I was leaned over dragging my knee at more than 100mph at "Bottomless Pit" corner, with a 3,000 foot drop off on my left and a giant snowbank on my right. With all due respect to other forms of racing, this has to be the most extreme racing spectacle in the United States. Fans literally line the edge of the closed public road standing shoulder to shoulder just feet away from the racecars and motorcycles flying by like European rally events adventuresome people need to come out on June 26th and see this to believe it.
On the people: Over this past weekend, I discovered that the people are the spirit of the event. It may sound strange, but you don't race the other participants, you race the mountain. I was pleasantly surprised at the camaraderie and friendships already evident after just two days of being together with the officials and racers. The only other superbike style chassis we saw in this year's test is a KTM RC8R ridden by talented and experienced rider Jeff Grace. Not only did Jeff stop to be sure I was ok when I had my little crash, but we went out for a meal together after practice. This "family and friends" attitude is a wonderful change from other forms of racing I've been exposed to.
On the electric superbike: The bike is incredible and very well suited for an epic event like Pikes Peak. It turns well and makes 240 horsepower at sea level and 240 horsepower at the 14,110 foot summit. I also have 400 ft/lbs of torque available the instant I open the throttle, which was a huge benefit when I was exiting the 156 corners during practice. The batteries on-board can last the full duration of the 12.4 mile race making full power, but at 585 lbs, the bike is too heavy for me to pick up by myself if I should crash during the race for that I will need help from the fans!
On his expectations: The key to approaching Pikes Peak seems to be that a racer should be humble and expect the unexpected. Competitors have been exposed to rainstorms, hail, snow, wind, fog, animals, spectators, loose terrible dirt, grippy awesome dirt, heat, cold and everything in-between. With all the factors at play, combined with how I want to ride, I believe there is a significant chance of crashing or otherwise not finishing this year and I accept that. I plan to race to the bikes potential rather than ride up just to get a finish. This is a learning year for us and we are here to build relationships, learn about the mountain course, and prepare ourselves to be a serious factor in the results once the entire road is paved either in 2012 or 2013. That being said, if things go our way and if the mountain agrees, I believe we could still surprise a lot of people on Sunday, June 26th!
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