Newspaper Reporters Get Rides On Bike At Infine



TV, Newspaper Reporters Get Rides On FX Bike At Infineon

Copyright 2003, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.

By David Swarts

Seven San Francisco bay area media representatives took rides on the back of a specially-modified AMA Formula Xtreme racebike during a break in promoter practice Thursday, at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California.

The Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki Formula Xtreme racebike, which had been clocked at 188 mph last season at Brainerd International Raceway, was fitted with a stock rear subframe, a stock tailsection, a passenger seat and passenger footpegs for the guest rides. Participating media reps who didn't have their own gear were outfitted in full racing leathers, boots, gloves, helmets and back protectors supplied by Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki and given two-lap rides with Steve Rapp at the controls. Rapp's teammate, Chris Ulrich, rode with Rapp so the media representatives would get the experience of being passed at close quarters.

“Just being on that thing, it’s almost scary. Even at the speeds we were going two-up like that, it’s a little hair-raising,” said Henry Coleman, Sports Editor of Sonoma, California’s Sonoma Index Tribune newspaper.

Coleman, who has ridden his personal Honda Hawk at several track days-- including taking a riding school with Rapp in the past--was asked what he thought the other journalists without much motorcycling background would get out of the experience.

“What they are going to get out of this is really what these guys go through and take a look at motorcycle racing with a whole new set of eyes,” said Coleman. “You’re out there on that thing, and not only are you out there on a motorcycle, you’re out there with 20 or 30 other guys who want to be in the same place you are. And to have the experience of riding something at that speed and then seeing the ballet these guys do in a race situation, they’re going to have a whole new appreciation for it. I think their writing is going to show it, too.”

Coleman’s take was verified in the excited words of the other reporters. Nate Christo of Navoto, California’s Navoto Advance newspaper, had never ridden a motorcycle before but volunteered to go first. After his ride Christo came back with an ear-to-ear grin and said, “Awesome! It was amazing. It’s such a rush sitting on one of those bikes; I can see why these guys love it so much.

“You start to lean, and you’re almost parallel with the ground. It’s such a rush. Then when he gets on the throttle and you just hold on for dear life. It’s amazing. It’s hard to describe. I definitely see why those guys love it so much, especially when those guys are out there by themselves. It’s such a thrill…I don’t think I knew really how hard it was. I have even more respect for them now than I ever had before.”

The experience even left an experienced reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco’s largest daily newspaper, searching for words. “Wow! That’s exhilarating. I don’t know how else to put it,” said Chuck Squatriglia. “I’ve driven cars hard, I have a motorcycle, but I can’t even describe it, the adrenaline rush.

“It’s almost a feeling of weightlessness. The sensation of leaning side-to-side is so smooth. Then he goes down the straight and pulls this wheelie. But it was so smooth! That’s what’s so amazing. Just the whole ride was so smooth. And his skill as a rider to be able to do that with a person on the back is just amazing.”

“That was the most unbelievable experience. It was the chance of a lifetime,” said KFTV television news reporter Kymberlie McNichols. “It almost felt unreal. It almost felt like I was in one of those fake movie sets where you’re pretending like you’re flying. It was almost like pretend; that’s how unreal it was. I want to go again. I was so nervous before, and now I’m excited about it. It’s great!”

McNichols, who said her ride with Rapp wasn’t anything like the one time she rode on the back of a Harley, was amazed when Rapp and Ulrich passed each other back-and-forth during her stint.

“We were really close, shoulder-to-shoulder with the other guy on the motorcycle. We were so close!” said McNichols. “I was so surprised we didn’t fall over. I almost thought I could use my knee pad (slider) in the corner a little bit. I was looking forward to using my knee pad.”

Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki offered the rides to Infineon Raceway Public Relations Manager John Cardinale several weeks before the Super Cuts Superbike Challenge presented by Honda of Milpitas.

“(Team owner) John (Ulrich) told us he had this two-seat bike set up to give rides to local media to help publicize AMA events,” said Cardinale. “We love the trade publications, but we’re always trying to attract the mainstream media. I knew the bike would draw them out. We got several newspapers and two of the local television affiliates.”

In addition to Coleman, Christo, Squatriglia and McNichols, the ride opportunity also attracted Christo’s associate Thomas Sorensen, McNichols’ cameraman Serapio Andrade and Rick Quan from CBS affiliate KPIX-TV, the San Francisco CBS affiliate.

“John Ulrich gave us the tools, and we made the most out of it," said Cardinale. "It turned a day that we didn’t really have much planned into a pretty good media event. We also had people who weren’t experienced in motorcycles come out, and hopefully they’ll come back out for the races.”

Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki plans to bring the two-seater and sets of gear to other AMA Nationals and has already scheduled a media ride during the Road America AMA National.
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