Test of man and machine

Published 4:38 pm Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Twenty-four hours is a long time to do anything, but that did not stop dirt bike riders and teams from throughout the southeast from doing just that during the 16th Annual 24-Hour Challenge at Perry Mountain Motorcycle Club in Maplesville.

For the past 16 years, the event has been a pure test of endurance by pushing both man and machine to the limit.

The 2017 version featured a nearly nine-mile course that included portions of the wooded trail, grass track and motocross track.

After 24 hours of non-stop action, time ran out and the XC Gear/Nap1 six-man team was out front and claimed the overall title for the second year in a row.

They completed 58 laps, the most of any team, while second place Vance Metal Products and third overall XC Gear/Nap2 each completed 56 laps.

It was an emotional win for both XC Gear/Nap teams, as each member of crew was wearing special t-shirts in remembrance of Cliff Ousley, who was a part of the winning team last year, but died during a motorcycle event in September 2016.

“It takes for everybody to be on their toes and ready in the pits for when a rider comes in,” said Vance Earl with XC Gear/Nap.

Bike trouble can pop up at any time. How a team handles that sudden situation can be the difference in victory or defeat.

Every second in the pits means one less second on the track, and in a race every second is valuable to the final outcome.

“Even if a light goes out at night, you’re battling to get back in the groove,” Earl said.

There are certain challenges that arise as the sun goes down and the track begins to look a little different under the moonlight.

“The good thing is that you’ve been riding it all day, so you’ve gotten a pretty good feel of how the track goes,” Earl said.

There were several different divisions that included six-man teams, duos and ironman (one rider).

Approaches may differ depending on the size of the team, but the mindset of turning consistent laps remains the same for every rider.

“You just have to trust your team,” said Cole Reese with Geartap. “Everybody has to stick with the game plan and don’t try to mess with stuff in the middle of the race.”

Reese was the first rider out for the six-man team and found out a lot about the track within those first couple of laps.

Reese described the track conditions as perfect but rough.

“It was soft, but getting rougher with every lap,” Reese said. “I can’t imagine it [track surface] after another 24 hours.”

According to Tony Seawright Jr., with Red Rocket Racing competing as a duo family, a 24-hour race is no place for pride to get in the way of fast laps.

“You’ve got to keep swapping out,” Seawright Jr. said. “You’re going to get tired, but you have to know your limit.”

One of the more anxious moments for any driver is actually waiting in the pits for their turn on the bike.

“You just have to get hydrated and stay focused,” said Micah Williams with the Vance Metal Products team. “It’s 3 o’clock in the morning and we’re all out here trying to keep everybody awake to go ride. There are few times in a year where you get to do that.”

Maplesville event is one of three 24-hour dirt bike races held annually in the United States. The others take place in New York and California.