Recap: Top Fuel at the ManCup

story, video and photos by Tim Hailey

Flames! Larry “Spiderman” McBride has a solo in the final. MORE TOP FUEL PHOTOS

If there is one thing that has set the Manufacturers Cup events apart from other successful motorcycle drag races (up to this point, anyway), it’s been Top Fuel. And the Man Cup Haltech Finals on November 9-11, 2012 at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Valdosta included a container load of diverse nitro 2-wheelers shipped over from Europe just for this event on SGMP’s meticulous surface.

But everyone in the park had to bow down to the King of the World, Larry “Spiderman” McBride. The only time Larry and his mad genius brother Steve stepped off of Planet 5 was the opening round of eliminations when he ran a 6.02 against Norwegian Trond Hoiberget’s nitro Harley. It was smooth sailing to a solo pass final round for McBride after Svien Rolfstad broke in the water box.

Norwegian Trond Hoiberget could only watch McBride’s blue bike streak to the Georgia horizon in round 1

“It means a lot to win another title for all my great sponsors. I represent the best and we wanted to win the title for them,” said McBride, who considers this his 11th-and-a-half championship since he was leading the points when AMA Dragbike went out of business in 2010. Actually let’s call this 3 race series a half also, placing it back to 11. Hell, Larry didn’t even go to the Indy NHDRO/ManCup race, winning the title in 2. “I knew I just had to run my own race, and if it’s (winning the championship) meant to happen, it will happen. That’s how we have always approached it.”

Riding the only non-Nitro bike in Top Fuel, Rikard Gustafsson hit the wall with his left knee on Sunday. “It sounded like cutting meat,” he told me. But his holeshot loss to Tii Tharpe’s .009 light in round 1 on Sunday probably felt like a knife to the heart.

Per Bengtsson’s blown parallel twin smokes the tire and belches flame as he gives chase to Svien Olan Rolfstad, who won the pair in E1 of Top Fuel

Tommy Grimes was a surprise first round loser to Rickey House MORE TOP FUEL PHOTOS

House rolls to the line for his E2 match-up with Svien Rolfstad, won by Svien. MORE TOP FUEL PHOTOS

Tharpe lost to McBride in the other semi. MORE TOP FUEL PHOTOS

Rolfstad lost a fuel line in the water box for the final and wasn’t able to make a sweet pass like this one

Chris Hand (near lane) put a back half on to his career best front half on Sunday, too late to make the A field

Tak Shigematsu and tuner Don “DJ” Johnson struggled to find the track and failed to qualify for the A field.

Chris “Cannon” Hannum and crew soldiered through a lot of repair work on their trip over the pond.

Norweigian Jan Hegre blew up spectacularly in qualifying and though back on track, failed to make the field.

McBride thanked sponsors Pingel Enterprise, Trim-Tex Drywall Products, Drag Specialties-Parts Unlimited, Red Line Synthetic Oil Corporation, K&N Air Filters, Web-Cam, Vance & Hines Motorsports, PR Factory Store, Muzzys Performance, Ferrea Valves, Kibblewhite, Precision Machine, World Wide Bearings, Vanson Leathers, Performance Machine, Belt Drives Ltd, Street & Competition, Simpson Race Products, Nitrous Express, APE, EK Chain, Arias Pistons, R/D Spring Corp, Autolite, MSD, Protect ALL, Whipple Industries, Cometic Gaskets, B&J Transmission, Carolina Cycle, L.A. Sleeve, PJ1, Mickey Thompson Tires, Valco, Goodridge, Carlisle Belts and Gates Belts.


Recap: Pro Street at the ManCup

Ryan Schnitz looking serious in the Valdosta water box. ManCup Pro Street photo gallery

Orient Express Pro Street at the Manufacturer’s Cup Haltech Finals at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Cecil, Georgia, is the last US race of the year for Pro Street bikes, just one week after the Lee’s Performance MIRock Finals. The last chance to not just score a big check and take home a trophy (how ‘bout those ManCup trophies….?), but also the last chance to lay down the big number and show what you can do.

And like Frankie Stotz isn’t just as serious? ManCup Pro Street photo gallery

Illinois racer Frankie Stotz shuns the East Coast’s 8 race MIRock Series, but was in the running for the 3 race Man Cup Pro Street championship. “A very close battle for the points is at stake,” Frankie’s dad Kent noted at the start of the weekend. Kent built and tunes the Honda cbr1000rr that Frankie rides, and is the Godfather of all laptop-tunable streetbikes. Kent pointed out that fellow Midwesterner Bud Yoder had the points lead on Ronnie Mitchell’s “Rizzo,” with MIRock runner-up Joey Gladstone second on the DME Racing Hayabusa and Frankie third.

If we could see his face, Joey Gladstone would no doubt look just as serious ManCup Pro Street photo gallery

Frankie fired the first shot, leading Q1 with a 6.99 at over 200 mph. Then Yoder ran his first ever 6—a 6.97 at 208.62—that took over #1 in Q2 and held on for #1 qualifier.

Bud Yoder pulls off looking serious on a pink bike… ManCup Pro Street photo gallery

The first round of eliminations ran pretty well according to Hoyle, with the only possible upset being Danny Cox’s holeshot loss to Mark Paquette. But Paquette’s .000 light and subsequent round 2 holeshot win over Yoder was a HUGE upset, and when Gladstone lost to MIRock champ Rodney Williford, the door was open for Stotz. “That put us #2 in points, but we would have to win the race to win the championship,” said Kent.

Mark Paquette dusted Danny Cox on the tree in E1 and then…. ManCup Pro Street photo gallery

Stotz had lane choice over Ryan Schnitz in the semi. Last year, Schnitz and Stotz were engaged in a nationwide battle to lay down the world’s first 6-second streetbike pass. That distinction was won by Schnitz on his HTP Performance Hayabusa in October of 2011 at the fall MIRock race at Maryland International Raceway. And now Stotz had his chance for revenge.

“Both lanes had been very good all weekend so we stayed in the right lane,” said Kent. “Just before us went Williford, and he laid down a 6.95! (..or, a .96 according to the results) The track was great, but then I noticed he had left some oil on the track. We wiped up what we saw in the first 30 feet and I decided to line Frankie up to the left of the possible oil on the track. The track temp was dropping fast and if we waited for a track clean-up, the track would most certainly not hold the 6.99 I had tuned for.

“Frankie and Ryan both had fantastic reaction times—.017 and .016. Frankie had a 1.20 sixty foot time to Ryan’s 1.22, so we were ahead! But halfway through second gear the tire started spinning. Frankie pumped the throttle and tried to hook up again but Ryan was too far ahead. Whether it was oil or too far out of the grove or whatever, that’s racing.”

Williford, who owns the outright MIRock record with a 6.913, went to the final loaded for bear against Schnitz—whose stunning 6.90 lap last year went unbacked-up for the record. Williford wanted a 6.80 bad. A 6.80 would reverberate around the world and place his third MIRock Pro Street championship above all other PS championships everywhere.

Rodney Williford was hellbent on an .80! ManCup Pro Street photo gallery

But as the bikes staged, the SGMP starter pointed to oil under Williford’s bike and told him to shut it down. Williford bitterly complained and the starter backed down with the threat “If you oil my racetrack down you’re gonna come back out here and clean it up!” Williford’s MIRock rival Gladstone jumped in to help lift Rodney’s bike over 6 inches. Finally the tree came down and Williford spun badly soon after. Schnitz spun a short time later and—frustrated and smelling blood—Williford cracked his throttle back wide open. Although crossing the finishline at over 204 mph and nearly 25 mph faster than Schnitz, it wasn’t enough and Ryan won with an improbable 8.0 lap.

So Yoder ended up with the Man Cup championship, meaning that both Pro Street championship bikes are pink…speaking of improbable!

Here’s a video recap and interview with Schnitz and Towner:


McKinney Rotates the Earth in Valdosta
Pro Nitrous Quarter Mile Shootout at the Man Cup

When a group of the finest manufacturers and service providers in the Pro Modified motorcycle racing industry set up the Pro Nitrous Quarter Mile Shootout at the Haltech Manufacturers Cup race at South Georgia Motorsports Park, no one really knew what kind of times the wildly popular nitrous dragbikes would run. When the ADRL took aver the class a few years ago, riders were stuck clicking off their bikes at that organization’s eighth mile finishline.

Brand new ADRL champ and Driver of the Year Eric McKinney was the US quarter mile record holder with a 6.55 at 202 mph and Arabian Drag Racing League record-holder Terry Schweigert won AMA Dragbike’s last quarter mile Pro Mod race at Atlanta Dragway—but that was all years ago.

So everyone wondered—who would still know how to tune for the quarter mile, and who had the nerve to keep the throttle twisted all the way through the lights?

With a Big Dollar purse and big contingencies on the line, everyone would surely be pushing their old Suzuki GS motors to the limits. At the end of a stressful season, would these well-used cases even hold up? Well hold up they did. It’s doubtful that even the most optimistic expected as clean of an event as was seen in Valdosta.

Dave Norris led Q1…. Pro Nitrous photo gallery

After setting the pace with a 6.46 in test & tune, McKinney struggled with tire issues in qualifying. So Maryland’s Dave Norris paced five bikes in the 6.50s to lead Q1 on his DNR chassis. Scott Gray rose to the top with a 6.49 in Q2 and stayed there through the end of qualifying, leading a pack of three (including McKinney and #2 David Vantine) 6.40 bikes into eliminations. Gray also won the Xtreme Motorsports billet clutch cover give-away. “Turn ‘em and burn ‘em,” was Gray’s motto in Valdosta.

…but Scott Gray was on top at the end of qualifying. Pro Nitrous photo gallery

It was on raceday that McKinney and tuner Ashley Owens (also an ADRL champ and pilot of the world’s first ever 3 second eighth mile bike on anything other than nitro) put their tire issues behind them. Eric’s jaw-dropping 6.38 in round 1 propelled him into a second round showdown with MIRock champ Ronnie Procopio, who was unable to answer the 6.37 that McKinney laid down. Eric knocked yet another tenth off with a 6.36 at 204.9 mph over Monte Campbell in the semi.

Monte Campbell and David Vantine. Pro Nitrous photo gallery

That set up a final with veteran racer Shane Eperjesi, who advanced past redlighting Gray in round 2, on his old-school bodywork and headlight bike. Eperjesi was dipping into the mid .50s and racing smart, but that wouldn’t be enough to stop the McKinney juggernaut. Despite “slowing” to a 6.38, McKinney took the $4000 win and $3000 in contingencies.

Eric McKinney and Ronnie Procopio. Pro Nitrous photo gallery

Eric’s father Scott, a class sponsor and veteran bike owner, was beside himself with excitement and literally giggling over the performance by his son, the bike, and tuner Owens. See an interview Eric and Owens in this video:

Class sponsor Kevin Gilham of Lectron was stoked with the debut performances of two of his new products, including the 52-50 carbs on McKinney’s bike. “These are very big carbs,” laughed Gilham. “I worked with Rick Ward to make an extra big cylinder head to accept these carbs. I wasn’t sure they would run them at this race, but they wanted to take advantage of these on the quarter mile.”

In the eighth mile Pro Comp class, Ryan Schnitz led Q1 with a 4.09 sporting brand new Lectron EFI throttle bodies on his HTP Performance Hayabusa. HTP only received the new throttle bodies and fuel rail on Thursday before the race. “We have a couple of new generations of these coming out in 2013,” promised Gilham.

Now THAT’S a Pro Mod! Runner-up Shane Eperjesi Pro Nitrous photo gallery

Eperjesi wasn’t too disappointed with the $2000 runner-up purse plus $1000 in contingencies he took home. “I thought the class was AWESOME!” said Shane. “I’d like to think Dan (Wagner of DTM Performance) for making all of this possible for all of us. Also want to thank the rest of the companies for the sponsorship, ‘cause without ALL of y’all this would not have been possible.

“The performance of the class was unbelievable, with everyone running so close to each other. As far as my performance, I was really happy to run in the 50’s. I struggled in qualifying with a bad tire, then final qualifying I thought I was done when my battery went bad and had a massive backfire. I am a low budget guy with one motor. I had to pull the motor Saturday night and repair it to make it up for first round, and I want to give a big thanks to Ed Grothus for staying up with me Saturday night to help me.

“When I won first round I knew I had Scott (Gray) second round and he was number 1 qualifier. I knew I had to be more aggressive with the tune-up but didn’t want to beat myself by making a bad call. That was my lucky round when he went red. Then got a little more aggressive in the semi to run my career best of 6.56 to beat Rick Perry. For the finals I knew I could not out-run Eric so I just changed the tune up a little with the help of Joe and it worked for my career best of 6.53. I knew I had to get up on the tree against Eric and I had a .010 to his .008. I did all I could do and I was HAPPY!”

Eperjesi’s excitement about the class was unanimous. “Returning to the quarter mile was awesome,” said Vantine, who broke against Campbell in round 2. “Early in the weekend the turn off area was like Christmas morning. Everyone was wearing a huge grin as they took off their helmet waiting for the next pair to tell them how quick and fast they had gone, while they told the pair ahead of them their times. You’d say ‘You went a .50’ or ‘You went 200’ only to watch that person light up like a Christmas tree, do a fist pump and say ‘YES!’  It was the most excited I’ve seen these guys in years, myself included.”

“It’s nice to see that most of the racers enjoyed it,” said sponsor Ray Mancini of Xtreme Motorsports. “Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen.”

“I find it amazing that these riders and their mechanics could re-tune
these bikes from eighth mile to quarter mile and hit the speeds and times they were hitting,” said Eric Hochstetler of MTC Engineering. “It was exciting to watch.”

“It’s not much different tuning-wise, just longer,” offered Procopio.

“Honestly, the quarter mile seems like an eternity after running the eighth,” said Schweigert. “I was a little bummed I never ran a .40-something, that’s crazy talk when you think about it. It was awesome having nitrous bikes running .40s and .30s—unbelievable! We had lots of fun breaking in tires and doing John Force burnouts, then running a .60-something on a brand new tire.”

“I have heard nothing but good feedback from the racers and fans concerning the quarter mile Pro Nitrous class,” concluded sponsor Walt Timblin. “I really think you haven’t seen anything yet. Give these guys another race or two and I think things are going to really close up as far as ETs. What really shocked me most was the bikes didn’t blow up as expected by several.

“I think this outing with the 1/4 mile opens up more race events to run Pro Mod bikes in, and I was and I’m happy to be a part of this class creation.”

Timblin also announced that NX is jumping on board and sending three gift vouchers to give to the class. That adds to the cash, the free Mickey Thompson tires, contingencies, special class T-shirt and other swag that all a part of the Pro Nitrous Quarter Mile Shootout.


The sponsors who are made it all happen are: