Brandon Rumbaugh getting ready to hit the track on his VVR/Waynesburg Yamaha YFZ450.
August 4, 2013 is a day that several of us will keep in the front of our minds for a very long time. A significant, historical day for a nonprofit. A feeling of accomplishment from everyone who was involved. A rush of emotion from the spectators and supporters in attendance. An American Hero fulfilling his dream and inspiring everyone he encounters along the way. Brandon Rumbaugh, VVR’s first Veteran rider, tackled a cross-country ATV racing track for the very first time.
The day didn’t start as magically as it had ended, of course. It’s racing and that’s the way it works most of the time, at least in my experience. The track was literally right off of the I-79 Mt. Morris exit which made it extremely convenient for both Brandon and myself. Leave it to me to immediately replace convenience with chaos as I buried my truck and the VVR trailer in mud as soon as I pulled in. Fortunately for myself and I assume several others, there was a large bulldozer standing by to pull our rig through the mud. Brandon was about 45 minutes behind me so I called him to give him a heads up and hopefully prevent him from getting the “tow of shame.”
As soon as Brandon arrived, we backed the bike out of the trailer and immediately started working on the shift cable. The shifting mechanism is a push/pull-type system that is mounted on the handlebars. We haven’t been able to get it completely “dialed in” yet and for some reason one of the cables snaps after about 10 hours of use. It just so happens that we snapped the last cable he had while we were out riding a few days prior so Brandon had to get replacements overnighted and we planned to install a new cable trackside. That didn’t go so smoothly and thank goodness Brian Vasko and Rick Tonsetic from Waynesburg Yamaha showed up to save the day! Aside from the panic that several of us felt while this was going on, the scene during this fiasco was uplifting. Brandon’s bike was surrounded by a sea of blue, gray and black shirts as a dozen or so VVR supporters and members of the Waynesburg Yamaha family were there to lend a hand.
Waynesburg Yamaha’s Brian Vasko and Rick Tonsetic saving the day!
The start of the race was about 30 minutes behind schedule thanks to all the rain we had received the day before. This played hell on my nerves and I admittedly was a wreck. I wanted everything to go right for Brandon’s first race and in the process, I forgot a few important things and had to leave the starting area to go back to the trailer! Meanwhile, Brandon was a cool as a cucumber, sitting on the starting line and chatting with friends and supporters.
We’d signed up to race in the Open Sportsman class along with 2 other riders and were lined up toward the back of the field. Before we knew, “10 seconds” was yelled out4 and at the wave of the green flag, Brandon dropped the hammer and almost took the holeshot! ! I was watching from behind and knew it was close, but the GoPro footage is unbelievable! This young man barely has any experience riding a race quad let alone, racing one and he almost hits the woods in first place in his first race!
After the first turn we dropped down a hill, turning to the left and hit an off-camber straightaway that was a little whooped out. A racer had tucked in between Brandon and I but that didn’t prevent me from watching how he tackled what I believed to be his first test. He conquered the section as if he had been doing it all of his life, shot down a steep, slick incline, crossed a small wooden bridge, dropped the hammer and roosted the hell out of me while flying up the opposite hill. The entire sequence was, for lack of a more appropriate description, pretty bad ass to see.
VVR supporter Courtney Mayhew poses with Brandon who is sitting in his track-chair (aka The Tank).
Although the track was shorter, I’d say the terrain is pretty comparable with what you’d run into on most of the GNCC tracks laid out for the morning, amateur races. One particular spot that I thought would be most challenging for Brandon was a section that took us through the rocky bottom of a ravine that reminded me of a dried up creek bed. There were quite a few kickers in that section and a big one right before the 90 degree turn that went straight up a hill and led us out of there. Staying on the bike AND the gas, Brandon made the ultra-rough terrain and hill climb look easy.
Brandon and Rick blaze back through the off-camber section on their second lap.
After the start and that first little section, we settled in and picked up the pace, allowing the faster riders by as soon as the terrain would allow us to pull over. The crowd of spectators was absolutely amazing and every group we passed loudly cheered as we rode by. It was awesome and it apparently worked as someone told us that we did our first lap in about 18 minutes which was impressive for his first race ever! About halfway into the second lap, Brandon yelled back that he was having a hard time holding on and a few minutes later we pulled off the trail and took a break. I’ll never forget the arm pump I experienced during my first race. It was bad and I wasn’t using my arms to hold my entire body on the ATV and turn the handle bars like Brandon has to. I can’t imagine what he was feeling but a moment later we were back at it, only at a slower pace.
It wasn’t our goal to break any land speed records that day. We simply wanted to go out, ride at least 1 lap and anything beyond that was a bonus. Brandon met that goal with ease and after we checked in for lap #2 we pulled over again to take a little break. I repeatedly asked Brandon if he wanted to call it a day and he repeatedly told me no, which didn’t surprise me, so after a couple minutes we were on the throttle. Unfortunately, about half way through our second lap Brandon’s clutch went out right in the middle of a hill climb. We both backed our quads into trees so that we could let off the brakes and cheered the other racers on while we waited for the end and a tow back home.
In the end Brandon accomplished all of the goals that he had set for his first race. Sure there were a few hiccups but that’s racing, that’s how it goes and that’s part of the reason we love the sport so much. You have to put forth effort to overcome obstacles, just like anything else in life. Think of the obstacles that Brandon faces every day while I explain the title of this post “That’s Too Easy.” This was Brandon’s response when avid VVR supporter Courtney Mayhew asked him “Why don’t you consider racing an automatic?” as we were scrambling to fix his adapted shifting system.
THAT’S. TOO. EASY.
Brandon strikes a pose with his 3rd Place plaque. Not bad for his first race EVER.
Veteran and VVR supporter Sam Lamp gives Brandon some last minute tips. Sam traveled 2 hours to meet and race with Brandon.