The second round of the 2012 AMA Pro Hillclimb season took place outside of Canaan, New Hampshire during Laconia Motorcycle Week 2012.
With the smell of nitro in the air, hillclimbers took turns launching their paddle-wheeled motorcycles with super-stretched swingarms up the three-tier, 400-foot slope with reckless abandon. Running everything from nitro-injected Triumphs to full-blown modified Suzuki Hayabusa engines up the hill, the fearless bunch had gathered just outside of Canaan, New Hampshire, for the third round of the 2012 AMA Pro Hillclimbs. The competition included three classes, the Pro Sport Hillclimbers using bone stock 450 motocross bikes for the most part while the Xtreme Hillclimb division ups the ante with 150-plus horsepower machines. Riders in the Unlimited Class take it one step further by barreling up the hill on modified motorcycles pushing up to 230 horses.
This year’s Shawn P. Farnsworth Memorial Hillclimbs, held in conjunction with Laconia Motorcycle Week, offered a new wrinkle this year. In order to attract the best riders around, the format was switched from an amateur-level event to pros, which necessitated a change of location as well. The annual event moved from the Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford to its new location, a parcel of property owned by Ridge Runner Promotions off Route 118 in Canaan. With a $13,000 purse up for grabs, seven riders battled it out in the 450 Class, 17 competed in the Xtremes while 15 riders put it all on the line in the Unlimited Class.
In the Pro Sport Hillclimb finale, Ian Lau, Colby McCutcheon and John Koester lined up their 450s side-by-side-by-side in a true drag race up the hill. Coaster, positioned in the middle lane, got the jump on the other two with Lau also getting off to a strong start. McCutcheon was off-line a tad over the first jump and ended up getting roosted by the other two, dropping him out of contention. Coaster would end up winning the dash to the finish line with a decisive edge over Lau, who put in a valiant effort but finished second on the day.
Hillclimbing is a dangerous sport. Nate Redmann had the best run of the Xtreme Class with a 4.831 second blast up the hill but cased it hard into the final tier and had to be stretchered out.
In Round 1 of the Xtreme Class, Robert Debusk set the mark to beat with a 4.903 second dash up the perilous slope, edging out Nate Redmann by a scant .005 seconds. Anthony DeHart was in the podium hunt with a competitive 4.920 run, his decision to take an inside line with fresh dirt on the far right side of the course paying off with the third-fastest time of Round 1.
For the most part, first round times were faster than the final round of the Xtreme Class as the course dried out over the afternoon, until reigning 2011 champ Redmann’s mad 4.831 second dash broke the trend. Redmann won the class but wasn’t able to enjoy the fruits of his labor because he cased it hard into the final tier after the last jump, knocking himself unconscious and sending a hush over the crowd. He had to be stretchered out as a precautionary measure and was carted away for further evaluations.
Another tense moment was created when the #45 bike of Shane Green exploded in the pits while staging to make his first run in the Xtreme Class, reducing a case on his engine to shrapnel. His mechanic was temporarily stunned by the shock wave but fortunately was not seriously injured in the incident.
DeBusk opted not to make a second pass up the hill, letting his first round time of 4.903 seconds stand which was still good enough for second place. “The Rooster” DeHart, sporting a helmet with a red Mohawk on top, grabbed the final podium spot with a time of 4.920 seconds.
In the Unlimiteds, Vinny Nuzzolilli put down the ride of the day in the “Big Bike Class,” shooting out of the hole like a bullet, rocketing up the hill fast, clean, and straight on his way to a blistering 4.662 second run. Jay Sallstrom backed up a strong first pass with an even better 4.80 second blast up the hill to capture second, while Brent Stevenson claimed the final podium position with a 5.021 second effort.
Vinnie Nuzzolilli deserves to pump his fist after blasting up the hill at the Laconia Hillclimbs, laying down the cleanest, fastest run of the day on his way to the win in the Unlimited Class.
This year’s event was also a memorial for popular hillclimber Shawn Farnsworth, who tragically lost his life after crashing in last year’s series finale at Devil’s Staircase National Hillclimb in Oregonia, Ohio. Commemorative t-shirts in his honor were worn by many in attendance and another Farnsworth, 16-year-old Nicholas, received one of the biggest ovations of the day when he wheelied through the timing light during his blast up the hill. Michael Farnsworth also elicited a big cheer when he attacked the hill on an 1840cc Harley V-Twin.
The spirit of the Laconia Hillclimbs was best embodied by one of its attendees, Bob Purdy. The 85-year-old man and former service member has been coming to the hillclimbs for 57 years straight and once competed professionally himself from 1955-65. Even though he had just gotten out of the hospital for treatment for cancer, Purdy insisted they bring him out to this year’s competition because he didn’t want to miss it. Now that’s dedication. It also shows the level of importance locals place on the annual hillclimbs which once again was one of the highlights of the 2012 Laconia Motorcycle Rally.