Hillclimb King & Queen Crowned

September 29, 2022

After close to 100 runs up the steep Whealkate Bluff, it came down to one run to determine who would be the Stock and Mod King of the Hill.  

The Vollwerth’s Meats – Pat’s Motorsports – Wildlife Refuge Cabins Motorcycle HIllclimb took place on Saturday at Whealkate Bluff in South Range.  The Hillclimb was sanctioned by the Mid America Snow and Terrain Expert Racers, commonly known as the MASTERS.

The MASTERS #1 Motorcycle Hillclimber, Mike Kirtland of Mass City, qualified for the Vollwerth’s Meats ‘King of Meats’ Modified King of the Hill by winning 4 different classes.  Three others earned one run in the King Shoot-out.

Those three are; Brad Havela of Ishpeming, Keith Williams of Watersmeet, and Brian Pence of Rockland.

Williams went by Gene Romero at the June Hillclimb.  At this Saturday’s Hillclimb, he registered as Mike Honcho.  

Kirtland went first and made it over the top with his Pat’s Motorsports Yamaha in 13.4 seconds.  Havela went next and turned in a 16.12 second run.  Williams had an amazing 12.35 seconds.   With Williams setting the bar, it was up to Brian Pence and Kirtland to beat that 12.35 second run.

Pence made it over the top in 14.39 seconds.

Kirtland still had earned 3 more shots at beating Williams.

His second run was 13.10 seconds, third run was 12.83 seconds.

That meant it came down to one last run to continue his Mod King of the Hill dominance over the last 3 years.

Kirtland’s final run was 12.70 seconds.  Thus giving the Vollwerth’s Meats Mod King of the Hill crown to Keith Williams.

After beating every one of his Shoot-out runs, Kirtland had a good feeling on his final run.  

“I flew over the Wall and never jumped so far,” Kirtland stated.  His team was cautiously optimistic.  That is until he heard the time of 12.70 seconds.  “I couldn’t get my Top Gun Bike to start.  On that bike I know I could have run faster than 10 seconds.  I had to run a different Bike, but still was confident I could win the King of the Hill.”

Pence ended with a 3rd in the Shoot-out.  On two runs he came within a few feet of making it over the top.  On one run the video from End of the Earth Entertainment showed his bike going over the top.  Problem was, Pence wasn’t on the Motorcycle.  Thus he registered a 209 yard High Mark.

Havela took a 4th, but wasn’t disappointed. “The weekend didn’t go too bad for only having about 1 hour on my new ride.  Finishing 2nd in Mod/swing arm open 250/450cc.  (I took a) 3rd in Open stock.”  The Ishpeming Hillclimber went on to say, “Not bad, but was really shooting for the King of the Hill this time around! 

It wasn’t just in the Mod King of the Hill shoot-out that came down to the last run.  The same scenario took place in the Wildlife Refuge Cabins Stock King of the Hill.  

Vollwerth's Meats King of Meats Stock King of Hill: KJ Jolliff

Mass City’s KJ Jolliff won the Stock King of the Hill. In the ‘shoot-out’ Jolliff was the only one to make it over the top of Whealkate Bluff. Rockland’s Brian Pence took second by coming a few feet short of cresting on the hill on two attempts.

This time Pence had earned 3 runs through the two rounds of qualifying in Stock.  The only other hillclimber that qualified was Mass City’s KJ Jolliff.  Pence agreed to run 1st on his Settlers Co-op/Source Heating Center/Citizens State Bank Bike.  This is where he fell only a yard short of going over the top.  That gave him a 209 yard mark that Joliff would have to beat.  In other words, Joliff would have to take his Joliff Trucking/ Jolliff Bothers/CJ Services Bike over the top.

Joliff made it over the Wall and turned in a 16 second run!

Now Pence had 2 more runs to make it over the top and beat that 16 second run.

His next run he went 189 yards.

On the final run, Pence had it happen again.  He went right to the top of the Wall, and couldn’t go over the top.  While registering another 209 yard run, it was Joliff that won $200 and a Diamond House International King of the Hill Jacket.

Atlantic Mine’s Robert O’Connell surprised a lot of the Pro and Amateur Hillclimbers by going as far as he did in the Willy’s Tire Shop/Bartanens Auto Body Kids King of the Hill.  O’Connell qualified by going 150 yards.

Bartanen's Auto Body/Willy's Tire Center Kids King of the Hill, Robert O'Connel (left) Gabe Kirtland (right)

Robert O’Connell of Atlantic Mine won the Kids King of the Hill at Saturday’s Vollwerth’s Meats Motorcycle Hillclimb in South Range. O’Connel is on the left, Gabe Kirtland of Mass City took 2nd and is on the right.

“That’s farther then I went and a lot of the other riders,” stated a Hillclimber that asked not to be mentioned as to who he is.

To make matters even more exciting, O’Connell went 158 yards to win the Kids King of the Hill.  Mass City’s Gabe Kirtland went 100 yards.  “That was Gabe’s 2nd time on a Motorcycle,” commenting a proud Dad, Mike Kirtland.

A historical moment took place in the MASTERS, a Circuit that has been around since there 1st Hillclimb at Whealkate Bluff in 1991.

For the 1st time a Gal competed in the Motorcycle Hillclimb.  It was Brad Havela’s daughter, Hanna.  Hanna’s first run was her best run, 92 yards.  Her last run, the Westwood High School/Chain Gang Racer went 87 yards.

Hanna Havela, 906 and Company Queen of the Hill

For the 1st time in the history of the MASTERS Racing Circuit, the first woman to compete in the Motorcycle Hillclimb was Hanna Havela of Ishpeming. Hanna won the 906 and Company Queen of the HIll by going almost 100 yards up the steep Whealkate Bluff in South Range.

“We practiced on some smaller hills in the Ishpeming area.  At first she was nervous and didn’t know if she would want to compete.  Then she said she wanted to try the Hill (Whealkate Bluff).  I am so very proud of her,” exclaimed her Dad.

It wasn’t long after the Hillclimb ended that the Havela’s excitement took a major shift to an emotional weekend.  This is when the Hillclimber that just missed making the cut for the King of the Hill Jesse Perry, passed away.  Perry was Brad Havela’s brother. Gage’s best friend.  Gage Havela and Perry went through Westwood High School and played Football together.

Perry had two runs when he went over 470 feet.  His best was a 5th Place finish in the Mod 450-4 class.  The class that will be the ‘feature’ class and re-named, Jesse Perry Memorial Class at next year’s Jesse Perry Memorial Hillclimb, sponsored by Vollwerth’s Meats, Wildlife Refuge Cabins, and Pat’s Motorsports.  The winner of the Jesse Perry Memorial Class will be awarded a beautiful Plaque, sponsored by Stampede Sport N’ Feed.

“He (Jesse Perry) lived for the hillclimb.  It was one of the things he loved to do,” commented Marissa Corkin.

The Westwood Class of 2016 is going to try to raise money to give to the winner of the Jesse Perry Memorial Class.  Jesse was a Westwood High School 2016 Graduate.

The MASTERS will now turn their attention to the Vollwerth’s Meats WINTERNATIONALS Snowmobile and Snow Bike Hillclimb at Whealkate Bluff.  That will be on Feb 4th and 5th, 2023.

“There is a lot more of us that have Snow Bikes.  We’re looking to compete at that Hillclimb,” concluded Colin Joliff.  His Uncle, Mike Kirtland, smiled and said, “Those Snow Bikes are going to make it over the top!  I guarantee it!”

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