June 19, 2011 - Alton, VA With scattered showers threatening and temps in the low 90's VIR hosted Round 5 of the Michelin Team Challenge. The weather was sauna-like all weekend, but nary a drop of moisture fell during race hours and at 12:05 PM EDT the green flag dropped on the 2-hour time limited 65-lap enduro.
Jim Barry on his Sweeney-engined Yamaha R1 led the first lap as Scotty Ryan was powering the Stiles Racing Yamaha R6 to the front. By lap two Ryan was past Barry and was hotly pursued by Eric Helmbach aboard the Chester Auto Repair BMW 1000. The gap between the first three riders was 1.5-seconds on lap three. By Lap 4 Rick Beggs had served a stop-and-go penalty for a jump start. Amateur Alan Nelson scored the nice move of the day award for a turn one pass putting his MWR Racing GSXR 750 into fourth place and within a lap Nelson was into third. Fatigue from the sweltering heat took its toll on Nelson and after several laps the MWR machine began to drift back in the field before handing off to teammate and owner Michael Rice. On Lap 6 Premier racing went mechanical in turn 5 and parked their Yamaha R6 behind the pit wall for the duration of the event.
On lap twelve Ryan's lead was up to 3.5-seconds over Helmbach with Lloyd Bayley on his RPM Motorsports Suzuki 1000 following in third. Walt Sipp had also managed to work Tim Ivanoff's Buell 1125 up into 5th place. The motor in the Thrashed Bike Racing Buell was living up to the team's name as the crowd could hear with every lap an intensifying misfire. Sipp mentioned on the podium at race end that the bike was a handful, but Sipp got the job done in spite of the misfire.
After the first round of fuel and rider change stops Meghan Ryan took over from Scotty on the Stiles machine and Alex Shaw took over from Helmbach on the BMW and put their entry into the lead for the first time of the day and there it was to remain as the crew from Chester Auto Repair landed a much needed win to remain competitive in the pursuit of a second consecutive title in GTO and as overall champions. Stiles would finish second overall after a pit-stop infraction gave them a minor set-back. Sipp nursed the big Buell home for third.
In addition to Walt Sipp's exceptional performance there were others, most notably perhaps that of those young riders in the GTU class at Moto Medusa Justeen Cicio and Alison Fournier riding their Markbilt-engined Honda 600 to a third place in class behind ASRA Champions Rick Beggs and Jason Gibbens on the Repsol Kawasaki. Cicio and Fournier were duly pleased as this was their first outing in the Michelin Team Challenge.
Click here to view the complete results for this exciting race.