2003 AMA U.S. Hillclimb Championshp schedule set.
PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The 2003 AMA U.S. Hillclimb Championship presented by Pace American, will feature 13 events this year and run from May to October.
Hillclimbing is one of the most traditional of all motorcycle competition with the championship being part of AMA racing since the association was founded in 1924. Dave Watson, of Ludlow, Mass., is the defending champion in both the 540cc and 800cc divisions and earned a nomination for the 2002 AMA/Speed Channel Athlete of the Year. Watson gave us a hill-by-hill comparison of all the venues on this year's schedule.
The 2003 series will kick off on Sunday, May 18, in Middlebury, Ind., hosted by the Iron Horseman Motorcycle Club. "Middlebury is the shortest hill of the series," Watson says. "It's tricky and hard to win. There's a jump right off the start and that makes it a real timing hill."
On June 1, the series goes to the White Rose Motorcycle Club's hill in Jefferson, Pa. "That hill is fairly long and there's a breaker so you have to let off the gas to make it. There's a jump near the top of the hill so a lot of times you break the timing lights while still in the air!"
On June 8, the Bushkill Valley Motorcycle Club hosts the championship round in Steel City, Pa. "That's my favorite hill," Watson declares. "It's a long hill and always develops a really narrow lane, so it's hard to stay on the fast line. There are three jumps that are pretty big and the hill usually gets pretty rutted up. It's very steep at the top, so you need a perfect combination of technical skills and a lot of horsepower."
On June 15 the series moves to the Hornell Motorcycle Club hill in Avoca, N.Y. "That hill is a little strange," Watson claims. "I don't know if they use it to graze cattle or what, but there are these little paths that zigzag up the hill. They move the climb to different parts of the hill in different years, so it's never the same. It's a real drag race hill and the crowd really gets into it."
Scenic Brown County, Indiana, is the scene of the June 22 round in Nashville. "That's a ski slope," Watson says with zeal. "It's probably about 600 feet and it's wide open. It's the fastest hill we race on and I bet we reach 80 to 90 mph. No big jumps, so it's all about horsepower and just hanging on. The four-cylinder bikes like mine always do well there."
Haydenville, Ohio, is the site of the July 13th round of the series. "The bottom of that hill is a lot steeper than the top," Watson explains. "You can't see the top of the hill from the starting gate. There's a jump there where you probably go about 20 feet high. It's a real launch. They also run this one at night so that makes it pretty unique."
On Aug. 3, the climbers return to Jefferson, Pa., for the All Star Challenge, a throwback to the days of the one-day national championship.
Dansville, N.Y., and the Poags Hole Hill hosts the championship on Aug. 17. "This is another fast hill," says Watson. "There's an early jump and then a flat area where you really get some serious speed before turning up to a very steep angle at the end of the run. It's one of the most exciting hills for spectators and riders. You feel like you're flying to the sky it's so steep at the finish. You've got to have a lot of motocross skills to do well there."
In September the series makes return visits to Steel City, Pa. (Sept. 7), Middlebury, Ind. (Sept. 14), Haydenville, Ohio (Sept. 21), and Jefferson, Pa. (Sept. 28).
The championship wraps up on Oct. 12, on Daytona Motorcycle Club's Devil's Staircase in Oregonia, Ohio. "The name isn't really an apt description of the hill," Watson claims. "It's not a big hill, it's not real steep by our standards, but it's the series finale and there's always a lot of pressure. Since it's in October the weather can be a factor and if it gets muddy you're in trouble. We always get a big crowd at Oregonia."