Mass City’s Mike Kirtland sweeps at Hillclimb

July 19, 2022

Mike Kirtland at the Wall

Motorcycle Hillclimbers from all over the Midwest converged on the 620 foot steep Whealkate Bluff in South Range to find out who had the talent to make it over the top.  While more hillclimbers broke the timing beam at the top then the number that did it last year, Whealkate Bluff still proved to be the test of man, machine, and ‘guts.’

It was at the 2021 MASTERS Racing Circuit Motorcycle Hillclimb that only one run set a time, that being the Circuit’s number one Motorcycle Hillclimber, Mike Kirtland of Greenland.  At the 2022 Volwerth’s Meats, Pat’s Motorsports, Wildlife Refuge Cabins, Keweenaw Chevrolet-Buick-Cabins Hillclimb, 7 riders made it through the Digital Timing Beam.

Mike Kirtland MC King of HIll Awards

One of the 7 was Kirtland, who not only remained the MASTERS top rider, but expanded upon his ranking.  Kirtland captured the Vollwerth’s Meats-Settlers Co-Op Modified King of the Hill, the Twilly’s Mod Uphill Drag Race Champion, 4 Class Champions, and the ‘frosting on the cake,’ the Bam Tools Fastest Time of the Day.

Earlier in the day, Kirtland shot up the hill in an amazing 12.22 seconds.  MASTERS Officials on the Radio’s comments ranged from; ‘check that time again,’ to ‘are you serious, 12.22?’  The question that could not be answered was, ‘that has to be close to the record.’

Problem was no one has any of the results from the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Back when Terry Lahti of Houghton was competing.  When the South Range Business Association stopped running the Hillclimb in the 1980’s, Lahti turned to ‘human-powered’ sports.

“When the MASTERS brought the Motorcycle Hillclimb back, I went out and got a Motorcycle.  After not making the hill last year, all I wanted to do this year was make it over the top,” expressed Lahti.  “It didn’t matter if I won a class, or even if I took King of the Hill. All that mattered to me was to make it over the top.”

Lahti made it over the top to win the Feature Class, TOP GUN.  Winning that class qualified him for the King of the Hill Shootout.  Lahti drew to run 2nd in the Shootout, with one of Kirtland’s 3 runs was to go first.  

In the Mod Shootout, Kirtland ran 12.84 seconds.  Lahti then ran a 12.83.  “I had to look at the time over and over to make sure it said 12.83,” claimed Wyatt McIntyre of the MASTERS.  “You can’t blink your eye in 1/100th of a second, here Terry (Lahti) ran over 600 feet up the hill 1/100th of a second faster than Mike (Kirtland).”

With Kirtland winning 3 Modified Classes, the Mass City Hillclimber had 2 more runs.  He ran 12.90 second in his 3rd run.  Traverse City Chaz Forcia qualified for the Shootout but did not run.  

“When I saw those times that Terry and Mike ran, I just didn’t think I could beat them,” explained the former Baraga resident.

In Kirtland’s final run to beat Lahti, he turned in a 12.55 second run to win $450.00.

Shane Bandola

4 hillclimbers qualified for the Merritt’s Travel Center Stock King of the Hill.  Kirtland, Calumet’s Harrison Kerchner, Rockland’s Brian Pence, and Crystal Fall’s Shane Bandola.  Bandola went 1st and set the bar at 13.28 seconds.  Pence then crested the hill with a 15.94 second run.  Kerchner ran the smallest Motorcycle of the Foursome and made it over 200 Feet before the hill pulled the young man down.  Then it was time for Kirtland to sweep the King of the Hill Shootouts.  Kirtland failed to make it over the top.

“I watched the line everyone was taking throughout the day.  I knew what line I wanted, it was just the question if I could hold that line,” commented the talented Bandola.  “I was confident right from the start this morning.  It was just the question as to how everyone else would do.’

Shane Bandola and Jeanna Bandola

The chatter in the Pits throughout the day dealt with how talented Bandola is.  “Mike (Kirtland) was expected to do well, the question was how (Shane) Bandola, along with the Havela Race Team would do.  The surprise that made so many of us in the Pits was to see how Terry (Lahti) would do.  After all he is a young 68 year old,” chuckled McIntyre.

“Terry (Lahti) used to be one of the top riders with my brother, Tim (Tousignant) in the 1970’s,” stated Ontonagon’s Craig Tousignant.

Lahti set the high mark to win the Stock King of the Hill last year.  

The Hillclimber that racers, crew, and fans were ‘pulling for’ was Nick Gustafson.  Gustafson, who works for Polaris Industries in Roseau, Minnesota, has become one of the most popular and likes MASTERS Racers for the past 30 years.  Gustafson has been a TOP GUN Champion in Snow Drags, a representative of the MASTERS Racing Circuit at the World Championship Snowmobile HIllclimb in Jackson, Wyoming, and one of the best Snowmobile Watercross racers.

Gustafson crested the bluff in 17.99 seconds.  Later in the day he crashed his Honda near the top of the Hill and suffered an injury to his knee.  He had to receive help in walking down the hill.  To make his injury more serious is having to make it back to the Roseau.  The home of Polaris is located in Northwest Minnesota, a few miles from the Canadian border.

The hillclimb featured 3 ‘Father-Son’ tandems.  Mike Kirtland had 2 of his son’s compete, Brady and Gage.  One of the top Motorcycle Hillclimb teams in the entire Midwest is the Havela Race Team from Ishpeming.  This had Brad and his son Gage competing.  Then there is another top Motorcycle team of Leif Forcia and Son’s Transport.  That has Leif and his son, Chaz.

Otto Walli

The thrill of the entire event was watching 4 year old Otto Walli compete in the Premium Spray Foam and Coatings ‘Kids King of the Hill.’  Walli had only run his 50 cc Micro Mini Motorcycle 3 times after taking the ‘training wheels off.’  After making it up 58 yards, Walli left the hill and ran into the side of the hill, flipped his Motorcycle.  “The Motorcycle landed on top of him.  He got up, walked away with the Trophy’s lifted above his head.  He took it like a champ,” commented his nervous Mom, Brittany Barrette.  “I’m sure he’ll be in a lot more crashes as he gets older.”

Otto Walli Kids King of Hill 2022

Robert O’Connell of Atlantic Mine took the Junior King of the Hill by setting the high mark of 163 yards.

Ishpeming’s Jesse Perry held off half of the popular Joliff Brothers race team, Colin, in the 2 Bike Uphill Stock Drags.  Perry went a few feet higher up the hill to win that exciting final.

The common comment amongst the fans was, “This was exciting!  We sure appreciate the landowner giving us the chance to keep this event going.  It is good for South Range and the area.”

Otto Walli with Britney Barette

MASTERS – Vollwerth’s Meats – Pat’s Motorsports – Wildlife Refuge Cabins – Keweenaw Chevrolet Buick GMC Motorcycle Hillclimb Results

Vollwerth’s Meats – Settlers Co-op MOD King of the Hill:  Mike Kirtland, Mass City, Yamaha, 12.55 seconds.

Vollwerth’s Meats – Merritt; s Travel Center STOCK King of the Hill:  Shane Bandola, Crystal Falls, Honda, 13.28 seconds.

Settlers Federal Credit Union/Diamond House International MOD Uphill 2-Bike Drags:  1) Mike Kirtland, Mass City, Yamaha.  2) Gage Havela, Ishpeming, Yamaha.

Twilly’s Sports Bar/M & M Powersports STOCK Uphill 2-Bike Drags:  1) Jesse Perry, Ishpeming, Yamaha.  2) Colin Joliff, Mass City, Yamaha.

Premium Spray Foam & Coatings Jr. King of the Hill:  Robert O’Connell, Atlantic Mine, Yamaha, 163 yards

Premium Spray Foam & Coatings Kids King of the Hill:  Otto Walli, Lake Linden, 58 yards

Bam Tools Fastest Time of the Day:  Mike Kirtland, Mass City, Yamaha, 12.22 seconds (Mod 600)

Twilly’s Sports Bar TOP GUN:  1) Terry Lahti, Houghton, Honda, 12.68.  2) Mike Kirtland, Mass City, Yamaha, 13.38.  3) Nick Gustafson, Roseau, MN. Honda, 208 yards.

Pat’s Motorsports Stock 350-500:  Shane Bandola, Crystal Falls, Honda, 13.63.  2) Mike Kirtland, Mass City, Yamaha, 15.10.  3)  Colin Joliff, Mass City, Yamaha, 16.69.

Keweenaw Chevrolet Buick GMC Stock 350 (2 Stroke) 450 (4 Stroke):  1) Mike Kirtland, Mass City, Yamaha, 12.62.  2) Brad Havela, Ishpeming, Honda, 13.72.  3) Brady Kirtland, Mass City, Yamaha, 166 yards.

Wildlife Refuge Cabins Open Stock:  1) Mike Kirtland, Mass City, Yamaha, 12.97.  2) Terry Lahti, Houghton, Honda, 13.41.  3) Gage Havela, Ishpeming, Yamaha, 210 yards.

Ben DeHaan Trucking MOD 401-600:  1) Mike Kirtland, Mass City, Yamaha, 12.22 (Fastest Time of Day).  2) Gene Romero, Freemont, Honda, 13.25.  3) Craig Tousignant, Ontonagon, Yamaha, 208 yards.

Joliff Brothers Logging MOD 500 (2 Stoke) 650 (4 Stroke):  1) Mike Kirtland, Mass City, Yamaha, 13.43.  2) Nick Gustafson, Roseau, MN. Honda, 17.99.  3) Randy Antilla, Greenland, Honda, 160 yards.

Mosquito Inn/4 Season’s Convenience 250 (2 Stroke) 400 (4 Stroke):  1) Brian Pence, Rockland, 166 yards.  2) Nick Gustafson, Roseau, MN. Honda, 130 yards.

Ewen Building Supply STOCK 250-400:  Chaz Forcia, Traverse City, KTM, 16.37

 150 (2 Stroke) 250 (4 Stroke):  Harrison Kerchner, Calumet, Kawasaki, 74 yards

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