The first race of the California Downhill series concluded Sunday in beautiful San Dimas, California.
The race was held on the Via Verde fast course, a .6 mile right, left,right sweeper combo. Top speeds were in the 50 mph range.
Qualifying time came with #4 World ranked George Merkert, a special effects wizard from Westwood , California, toeing line. Merkert posted the fastest time on the hill for Inline with a fast 47.520. Next up was #3 World ranked Mark Henley, hailing out of Redwood City, California, posting a time of 49.560 #2 World ranked Warren Focke, also from Northern California, posting a slightly better time of 49.185. Last up to the line for the day was #5 World ranked David Lambert, from Castro Valley, California. Lambert finished up the round with a time of 49.837.
The race format came down to 3, 4 man heats for points. 1st=1, 2nd=2 etc...
As the starter shouted out the go, and the racers took off. All 4 racers played strategic games in vying for their positions down the course. Merkert utilizing his big size and strong tuck, was able to fend off the other racers, for a very close 1, 2, 3, 4, finish. Heat #1 concluded, with Focke 2nd, Lambert 3rd, and Henley 4th.
Back up to the start for heat #2, again the racers playing a serious positioning game to make it down the hill. Heat #2 saw a near crash as Lambert contacted Focke near the finish line with Henley just behind the two. All the racers kept their heads and on their feet as the 2nd round finished out with Merkert 1st, Lambert 2nd, Focke 3rd and Henley 4th.
Heat #3 saw more of the same action. Merkert in a desperate attempt to shake off the following three skaters, swung out of the draft and scrubbed his speed, allowing the heat to finish with Lambert, Henley, Focke and Merkert.
The Series finished with Merkert taking the gold, Lambert the Silver and Focke the bronze to end out the 1st series race.
Merkerts comment after the race: "In the last year the skills of all our racers have become so evenly matched that inline downhill is like the NFL. On any given race day anyone can win. It felt good to stand on the top step of the podium against such a competitive field.
Special thanks goes out to Marcus Rietema, and Bob Ozman for sponsoring and holding the event. The race was held at Frank G. Bonelli Park, and promoted and sanctioned by the IGSA. (International Gravity Sports Association http://www.gravity-sports.com)
Stay tuned as the California Downhill series continues February 25th, 2006 at Frank G. Bonelli park "Raging Waters" course.