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HC: 2008 champions crowned

AMA Pro Racing Hillclimb champions crowned DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- AMA Pro Racing is proud to announce its 2008 AMA Hillclimb champions, as well as the 2008 AMA Pro Sport Hillclimb champion. In the AMA Xtreme Hillclimb class, which features a...

AMA Pro Racing Hillclimb champions crowned

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- AMA Pro Racing is proud to announce its 2008 AMA Hillclimb champions, as well as the 2008 AMA Pro Sport Hillclimb champion.

In the AMA Xtreme Hillclimb class, which features a variety of engine sizes and configurations under 770cc, Phil Libhart edged defending champion Walter "Tiger" Strank by 4 championship points. Libhart, who had three wins to Strank's two, said it was satisfying to finally win a championship after coming in second for several years.

"It only took us 11 years to win this title, and I think we were the bridesmaid seven times," Libhart said. "We built that (Xtreme class) bike this past winter from the ground up. It's definitely good to build a bike from scratch and go out and win a championship on it. This has been a personal goal of mine for so long."

The title didn't come easy, though. "It was definitely a knock-down, drag-out fight to the very end," Libhart said. "At Oregonia, I took a pretty hard crash in the Unlimited class before I nailed down the Xtreme title. I hurt so bad I could hardly put my hands on the handlebars. And the year started with us finishing this bike at 5 a.m. the morning before the first event. I raced with two hours sleep in three days. I don't think it's sunk in yet, but it definitely feels good to finally accomplish something you've been working at for so long."

Strank, however, would not be denied in the AMA Unlimited Hillclimb class, which features various engine types 701cc and larger. The Johnstown, Pa., rider was the only multi-time winner on the season, riding his Yamaha R1-powered hillclimber to four wins and 123 championship points. Alex Benner, from Niles, Mich., finished second, seven points back and 16 points ahead of third-place rider Paul Kops, from Twin Lake, Mich.

"It was kind of an up and down year. We put a new motor in the bike. It made a lot more horsepower, and it took awhile to figure it out," said Strank, who rides for the Dr. Bob Racing Pro Hillclimb Team and receives factory support from Yamaha. "This bike is pushing around 300 horsepower, and I'm only 130 lbs. It's a lot for me to hold onto."

While Strank was disappointed to lose the Xtreme title, he admitted that winning the Unlimited class met his personal goals for the year. "I would have liked to have had my fifth in the row for the small class, but you can only win so many before someone else gets to be top dog," Strank said. "(Libhart) is probably the best rider out there who had never won a national title before, so he deserves it. As long as I'm No. 1 in one of the classes, I'm alright. Next year, though, I want to win them both. Plain and simple, I've had enough. I want both the titles back next year."

The 2008 Unlimited title is Strank's eighth AMA Pro Racing Hillclimb championship.

In the AMA Pro Sport Hillclimb class, which features 400cc to 450cc four-stroke, single-cylinder production bikes, Brownstown, Pa.'s Robby Debusk, 16, dominated the class all year. The Yamaha rider, who rides with Strank on the Dr. Bob Racing Pro Hillclimb Team, took the title with 130 championship points to Scott Wentz's 57. Christopher Wahl was four more points back in third.

"It was a good year. My worst finish on the whole year was second - I got four firsts and five seconds," Debusk said. "I learned a lot this year, from Tiger and everyone else. The most important thing was about how to use the clutch to keep the front end down and to keep the throttle pinned. I have a really good team behind me and a really good bike, so I'm real happy to get this championship."

-credit: ama

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