By Pamela Bussi
Riders from across the country found their way to the Big Sky Mountain in Big Sky, Montana. Over 350 riders representing 20 states tested their skills on the mountain.The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) West Hare Scrambles Championship Series final round took place on Sunday, August 28, 2011. Twenty-six riders tackled the ski slopes with the Mercantile Log Pile, Tire Rama Ant Hill and Bozeman Brick Rock Garden challenges. Along with the logs and rocks to tackle is the altitude of 7380 at the start climbing to 9315.The race format for the weekend uses the ski runs as a guide for the riders. The “Green Circle” course is a novice course, shorter and less technical, filled with fun. The “Blue Square” course is for the more advanced rider, offering rocks and tires to maneuver. Then like skiing, the black runs are for the advanced ready to tackle anything, likewise, the “Black Diamond” course is for the advanced riders and Pro’s.Going into the KLIM Big Sky XC, the final round of the AMA West Hare Scramble Championship was Brian Garrahan, Ross Neely, Justin Bonita, and Rodney Spencer, Jr. in the top spots. Brian Garrahan had clinched the championship at the last round, and was unable to make the trip to Big Sky, Montana due to family obligations.
After the 1st lap it was Jason Thomas 33:33, Robert Underwood 34:25 and Keith Curtis 34:40 in the lead. Jason Thomas on his Husqvarna looked smooth, in control and ready to take the 9 mile loop for a 3 hour tour.On the last lap, Rory Sullivan was in 1st, with Eric Bailey, Keith Curtis and Cameron Weaver following. Cameron Weaver and Keith Curtis were Montana favorites, and Rory Sullivan in 11th place when starting the race where the riders to watch. Jason Thomas went out of the race early with bike issues.As they came over the finish line with the checked flag up, it was indeed Rory Sullivan, 16:03:10 and Eric Bailey 16:09:51 in the first two spots, however, Cameron Weaver 16:19:35 took over Keith Curtis 16:22:16 to take the 3rd place spot.
Rory Sullivan came across the finish line almost 6 minutes ahead of the 2nd place rider. He was on the gas all day, clicking off riders. The course was very dusty, he said. He over took a few people in the upper rock garden. The last lap was difficult, he said, as he rode through the timer, tired, dirty and thirsty the sound of the crowd got his adrenaline going, focusing on positive thoughts carried him through the finish line. Sullivan said he likes to drive, so he is catching as many events as possible. He is on his way to the Baja 1000 next.Eric Bailey said it was a great race, and liked the ski hill, the terrain was challenging, and above all it was fun. With dirt caked around his eyes and lips he talked to the crowd about his ride and describing his bike challenges. Keeping his cool and correcting his bike issues quickly he was able to stay in the race.Cameron Weaver came through the finish line with the crowd screaming and a host of fans clamoring to get a word with the 3rd place winner. Cameron Weaver from Bozeman, Montana only 50 miles down the road was a crowd favorite. He said he fought stomach cramps throughout the race as well as crashing twice in the upper rock garden. The crowd was definitely a factor that kept him going, he said, every time he came through the timers, the announcer and fans gave him his energy to make the 9 mile loop and every 9 miles he got to see his fans. The hillside had over 200 spectators, and far more if you count the dogs that came along to sit on the hillside and watch the racers.AMA series winners were 1st Brian Garrahan, 2nd Justin Bonita and 3rd Rodney Spencer.After the awards for the Pro riders, Kevin Rockstool who was not able to ride due to injuries, spoke of his friend and partner Nathan Woods who died training for the 2011 season. The Hard Charger award, an engraved rock directly from Lone Peak at 11,300 ft. on the mountain was given to pay tribute to Nathan Wood. Rory Sullivan was named as the Hard Charger for the race. “Anyone that can come from 10th place to 1st place is a Hard Charger”, said Kevin.The Hard Luck Award, $300, provided by Straightaway Motors in Bozeman, Montana was awarded to Jason Thomas. This award was given to the rider that just plain had not placed where he normally places.