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Schwen Works for the Win in the Battle of the Twins at Spokane Raceway Park

Schwen tops Smith as Sandell Watches

By Simon-Pierre Smith

SPOKANE, WA, JULY 22 2002

In the Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association the "Middleweight Grand Prix Twins" class is a jumping off point from the low pressure club classes to the more intense, and expensive, money classes. It is possible to win these races on the inexpensive and durable Suzuki SV650. Some riders forgo frugal longevity and ride air cooled Ducatis instead. While you won't see any of these bikes win a 750 superbike race, it is possible to enter an AMA pro event, Buell Pro Thunder, and aim for a top ten finish. The legendary ice racer Tyler Sandell, ranked fifth in Washington, did just that with an eleventh place finish at Laguna Seca.

Photo: Alan Schwen (124) leads Steve Smith (2) and Tyler Sandell (5) through turn 9 at Spokane Raceway Park

The last running of Middleweight GP Twins was at Spokane Raceway Park on July 22. Sunny and cool, conditions were perfect for a hard fought race. Alan Schwen and Steve Smith got the jump off the line, leading side by side down the long front straight and full throttle turn one. Sandell, knowing the psychological importance of an early lead, made the pass to the front in downhill turn two. His 15 minutes of fame was destined to be 15 seconds as he led only through the back straight and the following two corners. Sandell suffered from a carburetion "burble", possibly worsened by the fickle weather and altitude difference from his home track in Seattle. It would plague him throughout the race when exiting tight corners and slowed him just enough for Schwen to pass entering the second tight hairpin.

Just yards back from this battle were John Snell and wily veteran Marty Capadona. 

Photo: Darryl Havens (840) prepares to pass both John Snell (324) and Marty Capadona  

The surprise of the race was way back in the pack on the first lap. Darryl Havens, on a Ducati, was putting in a strong ride. On lap two he was in sixth. By lap four he had passed Snell for fifth. On lap five he pushed his way past Capadona for fourth. By this time, the third place Smith, focused on finding a way past Sandell, was too far gone to catch. What makes this ride so notable is that Haven's race number, 840, indicates that he is a freshly graduated novice. A quick chat with the man reveals the secret to his speed. He's an experienced professional sports car racer with a win in the 24 hour race at Daytona and holds the 1999 season championship in the American Le Mans series driving a Porsche. Riding a Ducati 900ss, he seems to be making the crossover to two wheel competition quite well in support of his Ducati Seattle sponsor.

While Havens was driving his way to fourth, Sandell was looking for a place to pass Schwen. Always within striking distance, but hampered by the his bike pulling poorly out of the corners, Sandell kept his place while warding off Smith. Finally, in an act of last lap bravado, Smith got around Sandell in the hard pull to the first hairpin. From there it was a freight train ride just a half a lap long through the intestinal back side before they hit the checkered flag. Barely 50 feet covered the first three riders at the line.

Photo: Tyler Sandel on his way to a podium finish in Middle Weight GP Twins

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