Perry Mountain 24-hour race tests machines, riders

Published 6:16 pm Friday, June 3, 2011

For those who have never experienced the Perry Mountain Gas Gas 24-Hour Challenge, the thought of racing on a motorcycle for 24 consecutive hours might be a bit hard to comprehend.

After all, even Evel Knievel didn’t spend 24 hours on a bike at one time.

But according to those who put it on, the grueling nature of the event is what makes it special.

“This is the only one held in this part of the country,” said event organizer Glenn Hollingshead. “The other is at Glen Helen Raceway in California.”

Saturday, June 4, marks the 10th running of the Challenge, which brings some of the top riders from all parts of the country, including Texas, California, New York and Michigan. This year’s field already stands at 400 riders with more expected to sign up at the track.

The idea for the event came when Hollingshead attended one of the 24-hour races in California and decided that there was a need for a similar event at Perry Mountain.

Hollingshead said the concept of winning the event is simple.

“Go as many laps as you can in 24 hours,” he said. “Whoever has the most laps wins. If we get down to the end and someone has the same amount of laps as another, then whoever gets back [to the start/finish line] first wins.”

Given the nature of the course to be faced, actually winning is the tough part.

“The track is a 10-mile loop,” he said. “It’s got ditches, woods, hills, part of a motocross track, a little bit of everything.”

The field will be divided into 14 classes based on riders’ age, expertise, and if they choose to participate as a team, a duo, or solo.

You read that right; some people will try to tackle 24 consecutive hours on a motorcycle by themselves. Hollingshead said the track will leave the riding assignments up to the teams.

“We don’t have any control [over what the rider does],” he said. “We make sure they have the proper safety gear and lights, but breaks are up to them. You’ll have some teams that have a rider who can go five to six laps, and one who can only go two.”

The favorites for the overall win have to be the KTM factory based team, which has won seven out of the nine previous years. One of the team’s riders is also a national champion on a separate circuit.

The benefit of a factory team is the financial and mechanical support that comes from the bike manufacturer, but Hollingshead said once the team has registered, all bets are off.

“[The factory teams] kind of change out who they bring each year, but once they sign in, that’s who they have to use.”

The gates will open at 7 a.m. the day of the race, and the race will begin at 10 a.m. Tickets are $15, with children 12 and under getting in free.

For more information, call Hollingshead at (334) 872-4286 (day), or (334) 872-0619 (night).