A weekend at one of the most scenic racetracks in America

It was well into summer here on the West Coast and time for the annual MotoAmerica West Coast Swing! Riders and fans spent a beautiful weekend at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington June 23rd thru the 25th. The sky was blue, the racing exciting, and most of all, the riders, teams, workers, and fans were friendly as always.

View of the grid & paddock from the top, between Turns 12 and 13.

Although getting to “The Ridge” to see a race may seem like a rather lengthy road trip, the racing never disappoints. The course is 2.47 miles in length, runs counterclockwise, has 16 turns (9 left and 7 right), is 42-52 feet wide, and has a 400-foot elevation change, along with spectacular views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens, weather permitting. The “Ridge Complex” is a 50-foot plunge from the top of turn 13 through turns 14 and 15. It makes for great braking action going into the turns and sometimes a “cheeky” pass in turn 13. Viewing for fans is at the bottom, along the fence, between turns 15 and 16. On Saturday, Geoff and I spoke with many fans in this area of the track enjoying the scenery, racing, and photography. It’s a great place to capture the action for photographers and fans, as well as to get a wave from the riders as they enter the pits on a cool down lap or at the conclusion of a race.

Turns 13, 14, and 15 are nicknamed “The Waterfall” by track workers because the track is crowned to facilitate efficient water drainage on each side during wet weather. This 50-foot plunge is actually called the Ridge Complex. Super Hooligan rider #1 Tyler O’Hara on his Indian FTR1200 in Turn 15 makes a great photo subject that fans can easily capture at the bottom of the Ridge Complex. Track Map, courtesy of The Ridge Motorsports Park.

Perhaps the unsung heroes at any racing event are the staff and volunteers, whose passion and dedication to the sport are the key to a successful weekend. As Geoff and I moved around the track to photograph, we often enjoyed a friendly chat with the corner workers and track marshals. Sometimes it is quite a hike through high weeds and brush to get to a good corner and their friendly “Hello!” is always welcome. They often say, “Not many photogs out here! Where are you from?”

Station 13 flag marshals Mary and “T-Man” (John), keeping a watchful eye on the riders and the track. Broadcast cameraman “Beans” (Vince) capturing the action from the back straight beginning at Turn 12 through the top of the Ridge Complex in Turn 13.

Watching the riders accelerate around the course is exhilarating. If the physical experience is what you crave, go for a ride sitting behind pilot Chris Ulrich on the Dunlop M4 ECSTAR Suzuki Two Seat Superbike (Rob did this a few years back). The $350 charitable donation helps the Roadracing World Action Fund whose mission it is to help prevent racetrack injuries through the promotion of racing safety and education. The corner workers will cheer for you, as they do all riders, on the cool down lap.

Dunlop M4 ECSTAR Suzuki Two Seat Superbike wrist Chris Ulrich and rider in the exit of Turn 8. Corner workers show their support and encouragement to the riders as they finish their cool down lap before entering the pits.

Part of what we do is to try to capture and share the behind-the-scenes action at a race. Like us, fans can wander the paddock for interesting photos. MotoAmerica provides fans with a special opportunity to interact with riders, teams, and other racing fans. Yamaha Twins Cup #131 Kayla Yaakov celebrated her 16th birthday at the track. While out on the grid, Yamaha Superbike rider #45 Cameron Petersen came over and held her umbrella. Later, Cameron was keeping his hand/eye coordination in the trim before going out onto the track.

Happy Sweet 16, Kayla! Yamaha factory Superbike rider #45 Cameron Peterson as umbrella boy for #131 Kayla Yaakov. Cameron Peterson- “Time me!”

There is a camaraderie among the MotoAmerica riders that can be seen at every race. Careers can change quickly and the riders train, work, and travel the circuit spending a lot of hours together at the track. Riders sometimes switch teams, sponsors, classes, and roles yet there is a love and respect for the sport that is clearly evident.

Superbike riders #1 Jake Gagne and #2 Josh Herrin chatting in the winner’s circle on Saturday. Supersport rider #4 Josh Hayes offering pointers to Superbike rider #54 Richie Escalante on the grid. Superbike rider #94 Danilo Lewis and Team Brazil enjoying a moment together before a race.

Ducati Supersport rider #12 Xavi Fores had time for a quick chat at a local restaurant before dinner on Sunday after the race. When he realized that we were photographers, we shared we had taken some great shots of him and he replied, “Do you want to know the secret of the yellow X?” He went on to explain that it was for his mother- the big, bright “X” made it easier for her to recognize him while he was racing!

Supersport rider #12 Xavi Fores sporting the yellow X for his mother.

Laguna Seca was the next stop on the MotoAmerica West Coast Swing, the July 7th-9th weekend marking the halfway point to the 2023 season. There is plenty of time to catch a race this season, and we encourage you to capture your own unique race experiences and photos.

There’s nothing quite like a weekend at the races!

Barb Nickless

*Photos by Geoff & Barb Nickless


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