Westsider wins Hill Climb quad cycle race
A local boy made good at the July 19 Pikes Peak Hill Climb.
Jim Vidmar, who grew up on the Westside and still lives near Old Colorado City, won the Motorcycle Quad 500 division.
Driving a customized 1995 Yamaha Banshee, the 14-year Sheriff's Office detective saw the clues to victory when he passed three of his closest rivals, who'd started in the group ahead of him. “I knew if I kept up the pace, I had a good chance of winning,” he said afterward. “But I pushed just as hard because there were other fast people back in the pack.”
A quad is a four-wheeled motorcycle. The “500' category refers to the engine-size limit of 500cc (cubic centimeters) or less.
Vidmar's time of 12:34.598 was about 10 seconds faster than second place. But he's sure it would have been closer if top racers Jim Goertz (the '06 winner and course record holder), Mike Ell (the '07 winner) and Alex Helton (Jim's brother-in-law, who had the fastest qualifying time), hadn't run into mechanical problems. “I think it was my time,” Vidmar said. He's not certain, but from what he understands, he's the first local person to win the quad 500 event.
It's a physically demanding race, with the quad riders changing their body positions on the turns to aid stability. Additionally, Vidmar estimated he had to shift his 6- speed bike some 300 times as he wove through the 156 turns on the 12.42-mile uphill course to the Pikes Peak summit, achieving speeds up to 90 mph and averaging about 60. Another complication for riders is the surface, going from pavement to dirt to pavement and back to dirt.
Before the race itself is the preparation. A range of customization is allowed in the Quad 500 event, as long as the engine does not exceed 500cc. These include areas such as fuel, chassis, suspension and brakes. For the race itself, the air/fuel carburetor adjustment is tricky because of the change in altitude from the 9,300-foot start to the 14,110-foot finish. People who get it wrong can blow out their engines, Vidmar noted.
He has several sponsors who help with costs and machine improvements. Still, he feels like “an underdog” when he goes up against racers who are so well-heeled they can come to the Hill Climb with a couple of extra engines, for example. “If we blow an engine, we're done for the week,” he pointed out.
Vidmar, who attended Whittier, West and Coronado High, started racing quads about 24 years ago. He competed in his first Hill Climb in 1992, also entering in 1993, then taking a break from the event until 2006. He nabbed third place in '08.
Vidmar and Helton also drive in the Colorado Hill Climb racing series, with Vidmar third in cumulative points behind Helton. The overall points leader, Mike Tollett, finished second behind Vidmar at the Hill Climb.
Despite this close competition, Vidmar looks on his racing mainly as a hobby nowadays (though an expensive one - any prize money he gets “doesn't even pay for my tires,” he clarified). With his brother-in-law also involved, numerous family members attend the races, and that makes for good “camaraderie,” he said.
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