March 5, 1975
Vol. 3  Issue 8

Checkered Past Authentic Vintage Motocross Clothing

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Chelle Blythe

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Hilltoppers M.C. Escape Country Grand Prix

The 500 Expert class rockets off the line for the ECRA-Hilltoppers Grand Prix, held out at Escape Country.  Burdick photo.
The 500 Expert class rockets off the line for the ECRA-Hilltoppers Grand Prix, held out at Escape Country. Burdick photo.

at Indian Dunes
Saturday February 15, 1975
By: Ina

The Hilltoppers M.C. chose the rugged back country of Escape Country for their first Annual Grand Prix. Living up to their name, "Hilltoppers" they plotted a gruelling course over the demanding hills and rough terrain that took the toll of many strong bikes and wore down the strenth of many accomplished riders. Saturday dawned bright and clear with the evidence of the previous rains gone, and a promise of fair skys and a course in great shape. The club members had laid out a difficult but "Fun" course covering 5.3 miles, some of which included what is known as the DeSoto Moto course, taken in reverse, plus some switch-backs on the side of the hills you wouldn't believe. One section must have been a least a quarter mile up hill with a sharp right-hander at the crest and straight back down hill for another quarter mile with a couple good jumps thrown in, before curving off toward the back country and out of sight of the spectators, again to appear on the back ridge, working their way down toward the sandwash, but having to take a twenty foot drop off route first which was the undoing, and unloading of several riders. The club provided flagmen throughout the whole route which did a fine job. Also the IRRC was on hand with three radio vehicles plus their off road ambulance unit and First Aid station. These fellow did a great job in the two days running, the ambulance truck went out only three times and was at the scene of a crash within four minutes over the 5.3 mile course. Our thanks to these hard working guys, from greatful riders and worried Moms!

Saturdays events were the Mini's through 12S's all classes. The race was for seven laps or one and one-half hours, which ever came first, all but the Mini's they were allowed a five lap race, but were required to run the same course as the big bikes. Mike Laenger had a large lead in the Mini division for two laps but as he passed through the scoring area, developed electrical problems pulling out for about half a lap, Mike managed to get started again and worked his way up to second place behind the Poweroll special, who also developed problems and gave the lead to Rick Austin. So the last lap Rick took the checkered flag with Mike in for second.

In the 100 division the expected winner was Greg Barret on a sleeved down Honda, but Greg took a bad crash (the only one of the day) nearing the end of the first lap, and was out for the race. Eric Petterson a Junior rider on a Yamaha took the win, riding a good race, with Kevin Scully on a Honda taking second. The 125 division held all classes, and it was Junior rider Alec Petterson on a Penton who hung in there for the overall win. Greg Gargus, Honda, pulled second for the Novice win and the Beginner first went to a Kawasaki from Draco's mounted by Pat Stevenson. The 175 division win went to Bart Weyand. That concluded Saturday's events and it was time for the Opens, 250's, Old Timers and Powder Puffers to check out their equipment for Sunday's race.

The weather held for Sunday, altho scattered clouds looked threatening. At 9:30 a practice lap was taken by all entries. The decision was to run all classes and divisions together in one big race. So Experts, Junior, Novice and Beginners of Open and 250's lined up with 125 Experts and the Old Timers and Powder Puffers. All told between fifty and sixty riders. In the Open Expert class, Maico rider Andy Bolander was expected to take the win and the favorites for the two fifties were Steve VanWormer and Richard Mullin both Maico men. Well fate or lady luck sometimes has things arranged differently. VanWormer broke the stinger off his pipe in the practice lap and proceeded to fry a ring, so was out before he started, this left the door open for Mullin.

Chelle Blythe was just about the only girl out at Escape Country for the G.P. That didn't matter, as she cleaned up anyway.
Chelle Blythe was just about the only girl out at Escape Country for the G.P. That didn't matter, as she cleaned up anyway.

All participants made their way to the starting area, lining up in numerical order by entry. It was a banner drop, dead engine start. The riders anxiously crouched for their fifty yard dash to their machines. As the flag dropped spectators raised their binoculars to see who would be the first off the line! As soon as the dust cleared and riders could be seen along the crest of the first hill it was Andy Bolander out front and stretching out from Junior rider, Charlie Beck. As the riders made their way through the first lap and in front of the spectator area it was Bolander and Beck out front, and working his way up, Richard Mullin and Bob Bell on his Triumph. You could only tell when Bob was nearing with that deep rumble of a four-stroker echoing in the canyon. Then came the rest of the pack. About mid-way in the pack of 250's and Opens was Chelle Blythe the attractive Powder Puffer on a 125 Honda, passing her way up, leaving behind all the other 125 riders.

Midway through the second lap, it was Bolander still out in front but Beck closing the gap, as they neared the sand wash it was apparent that Bolander had a flat rear tire. He pulled into the pits and borrowed VanWormer's rear wheel and went out to continue the race. Beck had a good lead, but by the fifth lap another rider was beginning to make his bid, Manuel Fimbres, Junior Husky rider. About the third lap Mullin was hit by a flying rock, which belted him in the nose and plagued with mechanical problems he finally had to pull in. Meanwhile, Bob Bell and Jim Corp, and Brand Manger were working their way forward. Che lie Blythe just kept pouring it on and held down her position with the top twenty, her nearest competitor a 125 Expert about three fourths of a mile back.

Well, the last lap was on, it was nearing a hour and twenty minutes since the start as the leaders were heading down the last leg of the grinding course. It was a surprise move as the 400 Husky rider Manuel Fimbres took the lead from Charlie Beck who had held it for four and a half laps and came across the line for the Junior win and the first overall win! Charlie placed second for the Juniors and Jim Corp third. It was a race full of surprises. No Open Expert finished the race, the others had dropped out and Bolander was stuck on the ridge with a broken chain. In the 250 division again, not one Expert finished the race, not only that no Junior did either. The Open Novice win went to Jeffery Tail, Yamaha, and the Beginner win to Russ Kaaty, Husky. The 250 overall win went to a Novice rider, Brad Manger on a Yamaha, with Don Diluccia, Maico, second and third to John Mittendorf.

It was Chelle Blythe all the way for the Powder Puff win and an overall win for the 125's. Pulling into the pits with a big smile, she resembled the cat that had just devoured the canary. The previous day a couple of PP riders viewing the course were overhead to say, "You couldn't pay me a million dollars to ride that track! no sir!! I must mention that I didn't hear any rider "put down" the course, altho it took it's toll of bikes and equipment, they all referred to it as a great course and a real fun ride. Many fine riders entered, and I wish I could mention them all. Many of them were plagued with mechanical difficulties and were not able to get that checkered flag. Perry Crates of Powroll Inc. had come all the way from Bend Oregon with three of his specially built Powroll Honda's. Ray St Perrie even cut his Honeymoon short to make the race, now that's real devotion to the sport Ray! (How about that Pam?)

Word has it that this was only a start and that the Hilltoppers will again be setting out another course, hopefully sometime this summer. I'm sure many riders will be looking forward to their next challenge. Thanks to Dave Oakleaf and all the club members who did such a fine job, our sport needs more fine clubs like the HILLTOPPERS. It was exciting.