A Wild(er) Hare
Luke Wilder still has one race remaining on his 2010 schedule, but the 19-year-old is already looking ahead.
The 2011 season is about seven months away, but if Wilder had his way, he wouldn't have to wait that long to truly test himself against some of the best amateur off-road motorcycle racers in the state and the region.
And, yes, Wilder can afford to look ahead.
The 2010 Dover-Eyota High School graduate, who lives in Chester, has accomplished his ultimate goal for this season. He clinched the Amateur Riders Motorcycle Association (ARMCA) District 23 B Class Hare Scrambles season championship on Sept. 19 in Dresser, Wis.
Wilder has won eight of the nine points races ARMCA Series this season. He hopes to make it nine out of 10 this Sunday, when the final race of the season is held at a track just outside of Mazeppa.
"Last year, I started consistently earning second-place finishes," Wilder said. "I was chasing one guy all year and I started gaining some confidence. I ended up second in the points standings, so (a championship) was my goal from the start this year."
Wilder, who rode a 250cc Honda four-stroke to his title this summer, will move up to compete against the best the series has to offer next year, when he'll compete in the A Class. As the B Class champion, Wilder automatically will be moved up a class next season, but it's a leap he was looking at, championship or no championship this summer.
A Class riders also hit the course just minutes after the AA Class riders, the professionals.
"Even if I wasn't forced to move up, I would be doing it," he said. "It's going to be a big jump. Those (A Class) guys are a lot faster. I'll be starting one wave behind the pro riders, so that will be a big motivator for me to try to keep up with them.
The jump to the A Class will provide an even tougher test of Wilder's skills, his strength, and his physical and mental stamina. Hare Scrambles races last about two hours and the rider who completes the most laps on a 10-mile course is declared the winner. Wilder said it becomes a grind "when it gets down to the last half-hour of the race."
He had no trouble with endurance this season, though, even while continuing to recover from and go through physical therapy to treat a shoulder injury. Wilder has an insurmountable 38-point lead over Jaymes Smith of North Branch with one race remaining. A rider can earn a maximum of 30 points, so Wilder would be guaranteed at least an eight-point victory in the points standings if he didn't race.
But, even though he has already started celebrating his championship, he will finish what he hopes is his final season in the B Class, because he loves to ride and race.
Wilder said he has always had a four-wheeler or dirt bike around to ride, and he developed a passion for racing when a friend whose father competed in motorcycle racing allowed him to take one of his bikes for a test ride.
Five years ago Luke's dad, Jeff, bought him his first racing bike, a 125cc two-stroke. Luke started his competitive racing career in the C Class and has quickly worked his way up.
Now he's a champ.
"Winning throughout this season was an awesome feeling," he said. "We had that drive and motivation after finishing second last year. To be winning races and knowing I can be a contender in A Class next year, it's kind of overwhelming."