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Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association

The 2000 Season Heats Up

Mark McKinney.  Image by Photo GirlApril 23rd marks the beginning of race season for the Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association,WMRRA.  

Since 1974 WMRRA has provided a haven for Puget Sound riders who want to race their bikes, as well as enthusiasts who just want to be a part of the excitement working background positions. Event attendance has been steadily increasing each year and it looks like 2000 will be the year that Motorcycle Racing gets a high profile with Seattle as a spectator sport not to be missed, according to Nan Darbous during a recent interview with Sound RIDER!

Perhaps one of the most exciting races to see though is the Sidecar class. These machines usually are built with an in-line four motor and have a base wrapped around them. The standard street sidecar design and a look are not used here. Instead the driver is usually laying forward or sitting back on the machine and a smaller rider, sometimes called a "monkey", works the back of the bike shifting position from left to right dependent on the turn. Each machine has a bit of flair as the design allows for color and sponsor profile.

Endurance racing is a new feature on the 2000 schedule of the Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association (WMRRA). Two Novice Rider Clinics, held in April at racetracks in Bremerton and Spokane, will induct neophytes into the mysteries of motorcycle roadracing. The first race of the year, April 23 at Seattle International Raceway, will inaugurate the new season. Numerous other races will follow at SIR and Spokane Raceway Park. 

The endurance race, scheduled for June 17 at SIR, will be four-hour events ridden by teams of at least two riders. Such long races are extraordinary in the demands they place on riders and their machines - a typical club race is five to ten laps on a course of a little more than two miles, and usually is all over in ten minutes or less. Arrangements are not final as of this writing, but WMRRA is currently seeking sponsors to provide a prize-money "purse" for top finishers in the endurance event. 

Seattle-area roadracers founded WMRRA in 1974 to promote and sanction motorcycle roadracing in the state. Over the past quarter century the club has done a lot for Puget Sound riders who want to race their bikes, as well as friends and fans who want to watch, or even become a part of the excitement through cornerworking or other volunteer work.

"This year we'll be developing a number of relationships with other non-profit organizations to increase awareness of our sport," said Darbous. WMRRA wants to exceed 1500 attendees on average per event this year. To do so the club has been building alliances with a number of charities including The Boys and Girls Club, Northwest Harvest, Junior League and Toys for Tots.

So what if you want to race your bike? What does it take to get on the track and ride your first novice heat? You begin by signing up for the New Rider Clinic, which is a two-day program - one day in the classroom and one day on the track - at Bremerton or Spokane. (Postmark deadline for the April clinic in Spokane is April 3; deadline for a June clinic at Bremerton is May 22. If you're interested, get those entries out now! See www.wmrra.com for details.) While you're waiting for the classroom day to arrive, you need to get the necessary safety gear - leathers, boots, helmet, and gloves - and prepare your bike. Leathers can be expensive; racers on a budget often are able to find a serviceable used set for sale. Bike preparation means removing items like the headlamp, mirrors, kickstand, and other street legal items not allowed on the track. You must also safety-wire critical fasteners and plugs, such as the axle nuts and oil drain plugs, and install "catch bottles" (also known as "barf bottles") to contain any fuel, oil, or coolant that might be discharged from the engine breather, fuel tank vent, or radiator. Full information on required safety gear and bike preparation is available in the official WMRRA rule book, which you can read online at www.wmrra.com .

After you've taken the New Rider Clinic and passed the track test, you'll receive your racing license. "So," said one novice racer when he got his laminated card, "I just show this to the cops, right?" No, sorry! Although people laughed at the joke, WMRRA emphatically "distances" itself from the idea of racing on public roads. In fact, members can be drummed out of the club for actions detrimental to the sport, such as speeding or reckless riding on a bike that displays racing numbers. The WMRRA license does, however, entitle you to sign up for a race organized by WMRRA or another club. (Most clubs recognize others' racing licenses.) When raceday arrives, you'll get up way too early - assuming you were able to sleep - and head for the track, where you'll unload your bike and other gear. Then you stand in line at the registration table, unless you were smart enough to sign up in advance. You banter with other racers (or listen quietly, if you're feeling kind of nervous) as you wait to sign up and pay your entry fees. Then you submit your bike and gear for a quick technical inspection. Stickers on your bike and helmet show that the machine and gear have passed; you won't be allowed on the track without them. After the riders' meeting, where race officials deliver any breaking news about the coming raceday, you return to your pit to get ready for your assigned practice sessions. Now you get a chance to familiarize yourself with the track and make sure the bike is ready for action. You know this is just practice, so you're not very apprehensive - just excited, wide-awake as you suit up, start the bike, and motor slowly for the track entrance. Does this sound good so far? You can write the rest of the story yourself: visit WMRRA's web page and follow the "Getting Started" link.

Suppose you just want to be a spectator? What will you see? WMRRA races various classes - everything from 125 cc Hondas whose little motors buzz like aluminum hornets, up to thundering Ducatis and screaming Suzukis with engines of 900 cc and more. Riders haul in their bikes from all over the state, and from points beyond in Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia. The pits are open, and you can see the racers and their machines "up close and personal," much more so than you ever could on ESPN or Speedvision. WMRRA's home track, Seattle International Raceway (really in Kent, a few miles southeast of Seattle), is set on hilly land that offers many good vantage points. Spectators who'd rather avoid the hiking can get seats in the grandstands, which afford views not just of the main straight but also of the track's last, big sweeper and the notorious Bus Stop, where many a race has been won or lost.

If you want to be more than a spectator, but not race, there are many volunteer positions open within the organization for both on- and off-track support.

Most on-track volunteer positions are for corner work. The corner workers stand at strategic points around the track. Their main job is to work the flags, signaling the racers of any hazardous conditions ahead. They also notify the corner captain of crashes or other incidents, or of hazards such as oil or debris on the track. In return they get a free lunch, plus the undying gratitude of the racers whose fun they make possible.

Off the track there are plenty of ways to volunteer within the organization. Many positions are available in marketing and general administrative support.

For more information and a schedule of upcoming races visit the WMRRA website at www.wmrra.com .

Tom Mehren & Bill Nolan/Spring 00


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