Originally Published: February 27, 2008 8:54 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - It sounds like an idea ripped from the yellowed pages of an outlandish science fiction novel - racing nitro-fuel-powered motorcycles on ice.
But even though this daredevil activity is far from fake, one really needs to see it to believe it.
Friday and Saturday night, starting at 7:30, the nationally-sponsored Xtreme International Ice Racing's (XIIR) Professional Tour returns to Tim's Toyota Center for a second consecutive year.
The Prescott Valley event is the final round in this year's XIIR National Finals Tour. The winner of the tour receives a trophy in November at the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) Banquet in Las Vegas.
"We've already been to St. Louis, Florida and Louisiana," said Anthony "the British Bulldog" Barlow, series organizer and co-owner as well as a pro racer in XIIR. "We're the biggest ice racing series in the world. It's not a show, it's a real competition."
The event will feature motorcycles and quads racing separately on both evenings. It showcases 20 point-scoring heats in each category, with the top six riders in the qualifiers advancing to the finals.
"The public can sit close enough where they can touch the bikes," said Barlow, adding that bales of hay and pits separate the cycles from the fans. "There are a few crashes."
In one of those 20 races, local riders mix with professionals in hopes of winning the "Super Trapp Dash for Cash" award.
Barlow, a native of Southport, England, said two spots remain for locals to compete in the dash.
However, Barlow, 35, and fellow pro racers James "the Demolition" Mann, 24; Paul "the Cooper Man" Cooper, 25; and 41-year-old Charlie Venegas - seven-time world champion from California - plan to burn up the track in the motorcycle races.
"You've got four riders per heat in the first 20 heat races and then the main event is six riders in a race with six laps," Barlow said.
Barlow, an ice racer for the past 10 years, has won four Xtreme Ice Racing world titles. The American Motorcycle Association, the governing body for supercross, conducts the same role with ice racing.
In Xtreme Ice Racing, motorcyclists ride on an ice oval on motorcycles powered by quick-burning nitro fuel that takes them from 0 to 70 mph in faster than three seconds - faster than a Formula One car.
"When you're out there on the ice, the engines are producing 70 to 75 brake horsepower on a 180-pound bike," Cooper said.
Johnny "the Cool" Kerr waves the starting and checkered flags, and a referee officiates the races.
"All riders start in a line along the straight and set off into the straightaway," Barlow said. "You drift the bike to keep it from going through the fence."
The XIIR/American Motorcycle Association Championship Series is the only ice-racing event that the AMA sanctions.
This "contact sport" features several riders racing handlebar to handlebar with steel-studded tires and no brakes on a series of different-sized ovals.
Racers modify Speedway bikes and quads to race with all left-hand turns in an indoor arena, making it the fastest sport on ice.
As riders lean into a turn, they skid their left feet onto the ice to maintain balance.
The races begin in the center of the ice with a tight oval. As the event moves along, the circumference of the oval expands as the ice succumbs to the pressure and cutting from the bikes' tires.
"The biggest key is keeping that bike centered underneath you, of course, and the throttle control," said Kevin Calia, a 33-year-old amateur ice racer from Prescott. "You give it too much throttle, you're going to spin out."
At the event's intermission, six children ages 5-10 will perform a demonstration on their quads and cruise around.
Toward the end of the races, the track is at its longest, which makes the races tighter and faster.
Calia said he and his friends mainly ride motocross on dirt track surfaces. To compete, they bought steel screws for $90 and put them on their tires.
"We are just amateurs that have experience on our bikes and (the organizers) gave us an opportunity," he said. "The race is definitely a little tricky. With the spikes, the bike has surprisingly good traction. It's just a matter of getting the bike to stick in the corner and keep it on two wheels, basically."
Ivan Enriquez, 24, of Prescott Valley, will race his high-octane gasoline-powered quad on the ice for the first time Friday with 16 ATV participants.
"This is kind of a challenge," said Enriquez, who rides primarily on dirt tracks. "Since I've never done it, it's exciting to be participating in something like this, especially locally."
Those spectators who want to get advance tickets pay a general admission price of $15 for adults and $5 for children.
To get a closer look at the action, onlookers can spend $20 in advance for a reserved V.I.P seat in one of the first four rows of the arena. They also will receive an autographed program and a pre-pit tour.
Prices on the day of the show are $2 more per seat.
Tickets are available online at www.gettix.net, it's possible to charge them over the phone at 1-866-443-8849, or to visit the Tim's Toyota Center Box Office at 3201 N. Main St. in Prescott Valley.
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