Viva Downtown's Joe Shipman Wins 2016 NAHA National Championship
● By Kendra Kaiserman
Life in the Fast Lane
Professional extreme dirt-bike racer Joe Shipman dominated the 2016 NAHA Extreme Sports National Hill Climb Championship series by defeating some of the country's top professional riders, including undefeated past champions.
“This sport is extremely competitive and loaded with multiple past champions, lots of riders from different disciplines of dirt bike racing. It seems like 10 or more guys can win on any given day … so to win this championship is a big accomplishment,” said Shipman.
In fact, Shipman placed top-3 in each of the four professional divisions to finish 3rd in the 450cc class, 2nd in the 700cc division, 3rd in the super competitive side-by-side X-Climb series and the Championship, 1st in the Open Exhibition class.
What makes championship seasons so difficult are the extreme nature of these events. Not only are racers faced with varying mountains, hills and race course lengths, the speeds competitors can hit are amazing. “Some of these bikes are running nitromethane and can reach insane speeds that can have you on the ground before you can even blink … so staying healthy all year can be a hard thing to do in this sport when we’re constantly pushing it to the limit," offered Shipman.
In this type of motorsport racing, the competitors race the hill alone, against the clock in a best of 2-run format. Each pass at the hill is an attempt to see who can get to the top the fastest where speeds, at times, can hit 60 mph.
Shipman's win came in the highly competitive Open Exhibition Class which features unlimited horsepower and super exotic custom hand-built machinery with many of these bikes producing over 200 horsepower. “My championship bike is a 100% custom built GSXR 1000cc by BTR Moto, in Hayward. Curt from BTR fabricated the frame and swingarm. The bike’s moto stock but the power to weight ratio makes some serious speed. We even run pump gas from the local gas station.”
Racing dirtbikes is all part of the Shipman heritage. “We have a large motorcycle family. My cousins race dirt track and my grandfather used to race drags in Bonneville. I guess riding comes easy in these genes. I’ve been racing dirt-bikes since I was 5. I played all the stick and ball sports growing up, but riding and racing motorcycles has been my strength,” explains Shipman.
Shipman had a feeling the season was going to be good after winning the first round. “First round was a great start to the year. I’ve always done well at the Northwest Nitro Nationals in Sunnyside, WA, earning my first NAHA Class win there in 2015. The hill has a motocross feel to it with decent jumps and big rollers. I won the Open Class from my first run there too. I’ve always known the potential of my riding and my bikes, so to win on one of the fastest hills we ride was epic,” continued Shipman.
“I’ve always believed myself to be a strong competitor at this level and had flashes of brilliance since I started pro hillclimbing. It took me a couple years to learn to ride within my limits and not overthink myself into mistakes. I learned this year to remain confident in my riding when under pressure fighting for wins. To win a championship is an incredible feeling. Now I just want to win more.”
Shipman will be defending his Championship season next year during the 2017 NAHA Hillclimb National Championships.
The NAHA is an organization of professional hillclimb competitors and events held primarily in the western United States. Our events are generally held on rough terrain, un-groomed uphill courses, sometimes over a thousand feet long. Our style of hillclimb differs from the typical style in the eastern United States, where the hills tend to be highly groomed, faster terrain. Feel the earth-shaking thunder of 2500cc Harley-Davidsons, the haunting wail of high-powered 2-strokes, and smell the nitro methane burned by furious four-cylinder Open Exhibition bikes! Hillclimb is the oldest of all motorcycle sports – the original extreme sport. Witness the timeless war of man and machine vs. seemingly impossible hills on battlefields that only exist in the North American Hillclimbers Association! www.nahahillclimb.org
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