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Full throttle excitement in Willows
Riders pushed their motorcycles to the limit all weekend as the American Federation of Motorcyclists held the first of four racing weekends at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows.
The weekend took a somber turn in the final race before lunch Sunday afternoon when veteran racer and former AFM overall champion Dave Stanton was involved in a frightening crash on the exit of Turn 5 in the first lap of the Open Superbike race. Stanton was accelerating out of the turn nicknamed "The Cyclone" when the crash occurred.
Stanton was airlifted to Enloe Hospital in Chico with a severe spinal injury and a punctured lung, according to a post on the AFM Facebook page.
An outpouring of support for Stanton flooded the Facebook post and on bayarearidersforum.com. The AFM is a tightly knit community of riders, support staff and families, the majority of whom travel to the seven races throughout the summer.
The race was restarted and Ricky Corey crossed the finish line ahead of Jeremy Toye. Corey took the season points lead in the Open Superbike class from Toye with the victory. Stanton entered the race tied for third in points.
Corey held on to the points lead and won a seesaw battle against rival Toye in Formula Pacific, the premier class in AFM.
Thunderhill was the third race of the season, which began the first weekend of March at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in southern California and continued May 4-5 at Sonoma Raceway.
The AFM returns to Thunderhill three more times before the season ends in October — the first weekends in July, August and October.
Thunderhill has special meaning for Brian Bartlow of Kelseyville. One year ago, Bartlow was talking to Tim Catching while getting lunch on the paddock when a woman caught his eye.
"I said to him, 'she's the prettiest girl I've ever seen,' and he said, 'that's my daughter," Bartlow said.
The chance meeting with Valicia Catching evolved into a relationship and they named their first child together — Willow Skyla Bartlow — after the place they first met.
Catching is the cousin of another competitor, Jason Catching, who Bartlow competes against in the 650 production, 650 twin and Formula 4 classes.
Jason Catching edged Bartlow on the track in the 650 production class and won the Formula 4 race in which Bartlow retired early due to a problem with his bike.
Robbie Wetterau, 23, continued his strong start to the season in his quest to take home the season championship in the 250 Production class on his 2012 Kawasaki Ninja.
The rider out of Sebastopol started racing at 19 and took second place last season. He also leads the 500 Twin class, which he placed second in behind Alan Cunningham at Thunderhill.
"Thunderhill is a fast track, Sonoma is more technical. We carry a lot of corner speed and if we lose momentum, it's a real bummer," Wetterau said.
Wetterau placed second in the 250 Superbike class behind Eric Thompson. Also competing in that race was the only electric bike team in the AFM.
Brammo is based out of Ashland, Ore., and is using Thunderhill as its control track. The company brought two bikes and two riders to the race.
Shelina Moreda rode the Empulse TTX, which is based off their production bike, to fifth place in the Afemme class and sixth place in the 250 Superbike.
Brammo tapped Eric Bostrom to ride the larger of the two bikes, the Empulse RR. Bostrom was the most decorated rider competing in the event and took the RR to seventh in Formula 1 and 10th in 750 Superbike.
Brammo been racing since 2009 with the goal of speeding up technology development. The company has achieved success racing against other electric motorcycles and decided to compete with gas bikes this season, said Brian Wismann, director of product development. said.
"This year we realized if we really wanted to push to the next level of development, we needed to race against the real competition, which is the gas bikes," Wismann said.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org