Sallstrom, Koester, Bleau- AMA Pro Hillclimb champs
October 15, 2013
By Jeff Whitehead
The AMA Pro Hillclimb Series, sponsored by Wiseco and PsychMXGrafix, crowned Jay Sallstrom, John Koester, and Nick Bleau the 2013 Champions in Unlimited, Xtreme, and Pro Sport classes, respectively, at the final round on the Dayton Motorcycle Club's Devil's Staircase Hill at Oregonia, OH on October 13th.
After a pitched battle against the top contenders, Jay Sallstrom came into the final round as the Unlimited Class heir-apparent. He was neck-and-neck with Vinny Nuzzolilli after round seven, but injuries sustained in a crash in that round knocked Nuzzolilli out of the chase. The door to the title was open, if only slightly, for both Koester and Phil Libhart who were 15 and 24 points back, respectively. Sallstrom's ninth-place finish on the day was more than enough for the series title. Koester's sixth-place finish assured him of the second podium step for the series and Libhart's win moved him just ahead of Nuzzolilli for the third podium spot. Sallstrom said he was happy to have the title, but regretted that it was at the expense of Nuzzolilli's injuries.
In Xtreme Class, Koester came into the final round with a commanding points lead over Sallstrom and Libhart. He held on, with a fifth-place finish at Oregonia, to clinch the 2013 series championship. Sallstrom finished third on the day to maintain his second-place series finish. Libhart's Xtreme Class win on the Devil's Staircase tightened the points gap, but not enough to overtake Sallstrom- he finish third in the series. Koester remarked that he was gunning for both expert titles, but was pleased to have one and knew, since round one, that he could do it.
Sixteen-year-old Nick Bleau grabbed up 154 out of a possible 175 Pro Sport points in the first seven rounds, making him nearly untouchable. He needed just one more point to guarantee the 2013 title. He garnered 19 from a fourth-place finish, more than enough to make him the new Pro Sport champ. He was flanked on the podium by Devin Sweitzer, second, and Molly Carbon, third.
Pro Sport riders had first crack at the hill with Broc Williamson setting the pace at 11.915 seconds. Points leader, Bleau moved into second with a 12.436-second ride. Ryan Preece raised the bar with an 11.526-second E.T., moving into the lead. First-timer, Adam Holmes wedged into third, just five one-thousandths of a second ahead of Bleau. In second-half action, Holmes leapt into first, cresting the hill in 11.157 seconds. Preece and Williamson finished second and third, respectively.
In the Xtreme Class, Sallstrom set the pace early with a 9.609-second time. Robby DeBusk topped the hill in 10.316 for second until Phil Libhart laided down a perfect ride at 9.470 seconds, moving into the lead. After half-time, DeBusk bumped teammate, Sallstrom to third with a 9.559 second E.T. Libhart rode only once in Xtreme Class, taking the win and setting the fastest time of the day in all classes.
Unlimited Class racing followed and Greg Dunbar topped the hill in 10.294 seconds for the early lead. Junior Jackson rode six one-hundredths of a second faster, edging Dunbar back one spot. But, late in the order, Libhart upped the ante with the class's first sub-ten second ride at 9.743 seconds- very close to his own Xtreme Class time. In second-half action, Libhart sat out, just like he did in the Xtreme Class, and watched his perfect ride stand against rider after rider. Dunbar moved ahead of Jackson by four-tenths and Scott Wentz crested in 9.753 seconds, moving into second place, just a hundredth off Libhart's pace. Libhart stepped to the top of the podium a second time while Wentz and Dunbar took the second and thirds steps, respectively.
In other news- Team owner and past champion, “Dr. Bob” Shreiner announced his retirement from the sport over the next year. This truly marks the end of an era- starting in 1968 in the amateur ranks, Bob raced for a couple decades, racking up amateur national titles in '85 and '86. Fielding a pro team soon after, he designed, built, tuned and perfected some of the fastest, most reliable and most beautiful nitro-injected Yamahas to be seen anywhere. They were some of the most successful, too- Shreiner's bikes attracted top riders to the Dr. Bob dynasty and they chalked up 17 national pro hillclimb titles over the past two decades.
U/L: 1. Phil Libhart (Tri); 2. Scott Wentz (Suz); 3. Greg Dunbar (Yam); 4. Junior Jackson (Hon); 5. Matt Luna (Kaw).
Xtreme: 1. Phil Libhart (Tri); 2. Robby DeBusk (Yam); 3. Jay Sallstrom (Yam); 4. Scott Wentz (KTM); 5. John Koester (Hon).
Pro Sport: 1. Adam Holmes (Hon); 2. Ryan Preece (Hon); 3. Broc Williamson (Hon); 4. Nick Bleau (Suz); 5. Mark Stowe (Yam).