John Koester took the AMA Pro Hillclimb Unlimited Class Championship and racked up wins in both expert classes at the 66th running of the Devil’s Staircase Hillclimb, hosted by the Dayton Motorcycle Club. Phil Libhart dedicated his championship win in the Xtreme Class to his late brother and fellow hillclimber, Todd Libhart. Nick Briggs clinched the championship in the Pro Sport Class in his rookie year.
Pro Sport riders tackled the hill first with Joseph Lowe setting the pace at 9.524 seconds. Briggs topped the hill in 9.507 seconds for the lead, momentarily. Luke Cipala set the only sub-nine second time, at 8.898 seconds, in his Pro Sport debut for the lead after one run. Another newcomer, Joe McGurer, rode last and wedged into second with a 9.358-second E.T.
On their second attempts in Pro Sport, only Briggs set a faster pace and that not enough to move up the podium steps. Briggs’ third place finish, one place ahead of his rival- Lowe, was enough to hold the points lead and win the series Pro Sport crown. Eddie Capelli finished third in points for the series.
The Xtreme Class led off with the newcomer- Logan Cipala cresting the hill at a 7.173-second pace. Robby DeBusk rode next, cresting in 7.027 seconds. Libhart rode third and was the first rider in the sixes with a 6.890-second E.T. Jay Sallstrom followed up with a 6.988-second ride- a tenth off the pace. Riding mid-order, reigning champion, Koester dropped a 6.837-second ride for the lead. Late in the order, Vinny Nuzzolilli posted a 7.103-second E.T., fast, but not enough for the podium.
Koester waited out the second half of the Xtreme Class but the podium positions remained unchanged- Koester, Libhart, Sallstrom, in order. Libhart’s second place finish on the day was enough to hold off Koester’s defense of his 2014 title by just one point. Sallstrom finished the series in third place.
Logan Cipala also led off the Unlimited Class, setting a 7.298-second pace. Matt Luna shaved off 45 thousandths to move ahead. Libhart moved into the sixes again, posting a 6.753-second E.T. Nuzzolilli and Sallstrom took up spots just behind Libhart with times of 6.844 and 6.880 seconds, respectively. Koester rode last in order but jumped to the front of the pack with a 6.700-second ride.
Koester again waited out the second half and did not have to ride as no one bested his time. The order of the top Unlimited riders didn’t change either, with Libhart in second and Nuzzolilli in third flanking Koester on the podium. Koester held a thee-point lead over 2014 Unlimited Champ, Sallstrom coming into the final round. Koester’s win, his fourth in a row, was more than enough for the championship. Sallstrom and Libhart took second and third, respectively, on the series. Koester credited his win, in part, to vastly improved and stiffer suspension. Apparently stiffer competition requires even stiffer suspension.
Exhibition Hill-Cross was dominated by the Cipalas with Luke winning the first heat and Logan the third. Koester took the win in heat number 2. Logan Cipala took the win in the final, followed by Koester and Luke Cipala, second and third, respectively.
The AMA Pro Hillclimb Series receives sponsorship from VP Racing Fuels, Wiseco, TiLube, Evans Coolant, ALCO Cleaners, PSYCHMX Graphix, and Kawasaki.
Results Round 8
U/L: 1. John Koester (Hon); 2. Phil Libhart (Tri); 3. Vinny Nuzzolilli (Hon); 4. Jay Sallstrom (Yam); 5. Matt Luna (Kaw).
Xtreme: 1. John Koester (Hon); 2. Phil Libhart (Tri); 3. Jay Sallstrom (Yam); 4. Robby DeBusk (Hon); 5. Vinny Nuzzolilli (Hon).
Pro Sport: 1. Luke Cipala (KTM); 2. Joe McGurer (Hon); 3. Nick Briggs (Yam); 4. Joseph Lowe (Kaw); 5. Sean Van Assen (Suz).
2015 Series Standings
U/L: 1. John Koester, 179 (Hon); 2. Jay Sallstrom, 170 (Yam); 3. Phil Libhart, 164 (Tri); 4. Vinny Nuzzolilli, 146 (Hon); 5. Cory Strickler, 121 (Yam).
Xtreme: 1. Phil Libhart, 179 (Tri); 2. John Koester, 178 (Hon); 3. Jay Sallstrom, 165 (Yam); 4. Vinny Nuzzolilli, 142 (Hon); 5. Cory Strickler, 127 (Yam).
Pro Sport: 1. Nick Briggs, 161 (Yam); 2. Joseph Lowe, 159 (Kaw); 3. Eddie Capelli, 140 (Hon); 4. Sean Van Assen, 120 (Suz); 5. Johnny Curry, 115 (Yam).
About AMA Pro Racing:
AMA Pro Racing is the premier professional motorcycle racing organization in North America, operating a full schedule of events and championships for a variety of motorcycle disciplines. Learn more about AMA Pro Racing at www.amaproracing.com.