Almost 700 compete in Virginia City Grand Prix

The 270 racers in Sunday's expert/amateur portion of the Castrol Grand Prix motorcycle race in the hills around Virginia City started on C Street in the middle of town.

Dropping down Union Street toward Sugar Loaf Rock, 10 racers at a time launched off a cross street and flew 40 to 60 feet before landing.

Then, with a rev of their engines and a cloud of dust, they were on the trail. Three and a half hours later, dusty and worn, about 200 of them finished.

"The ground out there is really hard," said Paul Ziegler, a racer and co-owner of Reno Motor Sports (RMS). "It gets better the more people ride because it kind of pushes the rocks out of the way."

Ziegler, aka "Joe Joe" to fellow enthusiasts, planned to race Sunday, but dislocated his toe while breaking in a Yamaha 450 F at Moon Rocks near Pyramid Lake.

He said the key to the Virginia City course, a 22-mile loop through old mining roads and trails, is pace.

"If you go out as fast as you can during the first two laps, you won't be able to keep it up," he said.

The four top competitors in Sunday's race completed six laps in 3 1/2 hours, while most did five and others four.

There were four races over the weekend: the 50 cc race for 5-to-9-year olds; the 80 and 60 cc race for 10-to-16-year-olds; Saturday's 2 1/2-hour novice race; and Sunday's "Pro Challenge" expert/amateur race.

"This year we brought in Castrol, Sierra Nevada Brewing -- all the big name people," said race organizer and Virginia City native Nick Fain. "Just to try to bump it up, make it a bigger race."

Fain said he was asked to organize a race when the Western States Racing Association stopped doing its Mother's Day race after 30 years.

Fain, who won the novice race in 1996 and placed fifth in the expert/amateur race in 2000, formed the Virginia City Motorcycle Club and revived the race, now in its second year.

"It's almost twice as big as last year," he said. About 400 racers registered last year, with almost 700 this year. Fain said they hope to make it even bigger next year, with maybe 1,000 racers.

Sierra Nevada Brewing is ready to do its part, according to company area manager Tim Blasquez.

He said the owner of the Chico brewery, Ken Grossman and his son, Brian, are big off-road motorcycle enthusiasts.

"I wouldn't be surprised if (Grossman) was riding in this event next year," said Blasquez.

Meanwhile back at Ziegler's RMS pit, the other owner of RMS, racer Dennis "The Desert Fox" Belingheri, pulled in for service.

Immediately, his crew had a 5-gallon "quick fill" gas can in place and hollered for tools.

"Eight millimeter!"

"Crescent wrench!"


Steel clanged while they dug for tools, and in about 30 seconds, Belingheri tore back onto the course.

Mechanic Matt Valdovinos of Reno said the RMS trailer changed nine flat tires Saturday for free. Last year, it changed 70 in one day, he said.

Helping out was Dan Jager, who competed three laps of the 22-mile course Saturday on his Kawasaki KX 125.

"It's a good course overall," he said. "There is one hill that is just pure rocks."

In the announcing tower, overlooking racers in a section of tight, dusty turns, was announcer Bob "Motomouth" Cavakis, a RMS parts manager. He's been announcing for 32 years, starting with the Mother's Day races. He raced from 1970 to 1991, while working as a juvenile court judge and director of youth corrections.

"But I've always had my fingers in motosports. I just love it, I absolutely love it," he said.

His 13 year-old son Ryan Toomey, a seventh grader at Sparks Middle School, placed first overall in the 80 cc expert division.

The Castrol Grand Prix is sponsored in part by the Virginia City Convention and Tourism Authority.

Race results

Top four finishers for Sunday's expert/amateur portion of the Castrol Grand Prix*:

1. Shane Esposito, originally from Reno, now of Los Angeles

2. Dennis Belingheri, Reno

3. Ryan Johnson, Fallon

4. Jimmy Bryant, Carson City

*During the 3 1/2-hour race, these were the only racers to complete six laps on the 22-mile course.

On The Net

The Virginia City Grand Prix:


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