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Reaching new speeds

Becky Regan
bregan@tahoedailytribune.com
Courtesy of Erich Stiegler

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For Wyatt Marshall it’s all about speed, and 100 mph wasn’t living up to his expectations.

The South Tahoe rider is already a Supermoto pro, but he hit the faster Supersport scene for the first time earlier this month in Buttonwillow, Calif. The 17-year-old raced in six different races and came away with three first-place finishes and two seconds in the American Federation of Motorcycle series.

Not bad for a kid just breaking into the kamikaze speeds of the sports bike racing world.

“Once I figured it out it really wasn’t too hard because I’ve been doing Supermoto for three years,” Marshall said.

Sure, not too hard racing a bike that reaches speeds of 200 mph among a sea of amateur riders. But the speed is a perk for Marshall, and a big step up from the “slow” 100 mph he’s raced at for the past three years.

Marshall shared the reasons and stories behind his recent switch to the Supersport circuit

Why did you make the switch from Supermoto to Supersport? That’s actually what I started out wanting to do, but Supermoto is on pavement so my parents made me do that because it’s a lot slower. In Supermoto, we hit top speeds of about 100 miles per hour. In Supersport, I hit 176 on one track. Maybe it was closer to 200, but my speedometer is off so I do really know. Going that fast, I just figured it would be so much more fun.

You just recently raced in your first Supersport series and came away with three first-place finishes. What was a moment that stands out from that? In one of the races it came down to the very last turn. I was in second place and the guy went on the outside of the turn. I broke so late underneath him that I passed him on the inside. He came around on the outside so we literally went all the way down the straight, and I was able to pull ahead just enough. I passed the finish line less than half a bike in front of him. His front wheel was right around my leg.

It was an awesome battle though. We probably changed leads 15 or 20 times that whole race, and then that last turn I took a chance and it worked.

When you say his wheel was next to your leg… it seems like there is potential for serious calamities out there. How do you walk away from that? There were a couple huge crashes at that race, and sometimes you don’t walk away, but there are plenty of crashes you do. I cart wheeled my Supermoto bike at a racetrack going 100 mph, top speed. I went to adjust my helmet, and when I lifted my hand up the handlebars turned and I started flipping down the track. But somehow, I don’t even know how, but somehow I walked away from that one. That was about two years ago. It turned out that I actually broke three ribs and cracked two of my spinal processes and rotated some things in my neck and what not, but I was able to ride the next day. I’ve had quite a few crashes, but they’ve never been major thankfully.

So does it ever get past the point where that risk of injury isn’t so high? Well in Supersport I’m technically a novice so racing with them is actually a little scarier because some of them don’t know what they’re doing. The first race I ran out there, two of the guys hit each other right off the start and got their foot pegs hooked together.

But in Supermoto I raced pro for a year. So I was racing with all the top guys in the country and really nothing ever happened. We’ve had four to 10 guys running into the first turn as fast as they can, and we literally pushed each other all over the place in turns. Once you get to a certain level it’s a little bit safer.

So what will it take to turn pro in Super-sport? Just more races and getting faster. I’m running the same pace as a lot of the pros. I have a deal with Pirelli right now, the tire manufacturer, and they want me to run certain races for the end-of-the-year championships, but we might change that. I might move up to pro in the next couple months.

What makes it all worthwhile? It’s insanely fun. I’ve lived up here my whole life and I’ve done all the extreme skiing and extreme mountain biking, and it’s just not as fun. And I don’t like skiing any more because it’s too cold.


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