race reports

Man Cup World Finals at Valdosta, Georgia

World Class Performances

Words and photos by Tom McCarthy

This is Larry McBride on his historic 5.61 elapsed time run, the quickest pass ever in the history of Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing. He achieved it during the Pingel Top Fuel World Cup competition, Sunday, November 19, at SGMP.


The 41st annual Man Cup, Mann Hill Garage World Finals motorcycle drag race, held November 16-19 at South Georgia Motorsports Park, was billed as a true world class event in advance of the festivities, knowing top motorcycle drag racing teams from all over the world would be in attendance. This was not just hype as the event did in fact deliver world class, record breaking performances by teams in multiple classes. But it was not the record shattering alone that made the event humongous, it was the event itself as a whole that just shined like a diamond in the sunlight.


There was a palpable vibe to the race from day one with much anticipation present just going into the event. Ian King, the ten-time European Top Fuel Bike champion was present and needed a hearty performance to cap off a trying season of Top Fuel racing in the USA. Everyone knew that King Racing would have the bike in kill all weekend. Ian’s 5.91 at 205 achieved in qualifying showed he was competitive with the best USA Top Fuel motorcycles had to offer.

Rikard Gustafsson, of Sweden, fresh off his first EU Top Fuel championship season, was eager to prove himself in his first USA competition. His 5.89 at 244.2 in testing on Thursday showed he was a crouched tiger in waiting, ready to pounce. His 6.00 at 234, good for the #4 qualifier, established him and his team as a top performer. He and his team had their machine solid in the 5’s on more than one pass. This is what the fans paid good money to see and they got their money’s worth all weekend.


This event had the best crowd attendance of perhaps any Man Cup motorcycle drag racing event since the inception of the sanction in 2010. There were people in the stands at this one and they were vocal, not just for the fuel bikes, but for the APE Pro Street motorcycles as well.

Frankie Stotz on his Honda Pro Street bike delivered a 6.70 run that included a 4.29 1/8th mile time that was just nuts. No one could have ever foreseen a street tire, no-bar bike getting that quick in that short of a time span.


To achieve a 6.70 elapsed time at 202 MPH during qualifying, was really stupid fast – as the saying goes. And for this, there was money and great camaraderie along the fence line on race day as the Benjamins were exchanged while the no-bars bikes battled it out. The fans were loving it and most importantly, they’ll be back next year and bring additional friends. This event and the buzz is what grows the sport.

As for Pro Street winning performance, it was Rodney Williford who cleaned the table like a pool-hall hustler, by winning the DME All Star Shootout on Friday, defeating Jeremy Teasley 6.73 to 6.76 for a $10,000 pay day. Then Rodney cleaned everyone off the table again on Sunday by winning the event in the APE Pro Street class. Rodney’s 6.676 in the semifinal round was low ET for the event in the class, but only a thousandth of a second less than Mark Paquette’s jaw dropping 6.678, which he posted in E-3 that added to the buzz of the event.


The Pingel Top Fuel Twins thundering performance had an enormous impact on the vibe of the event. There were 12 Top Fuel Twins present, and they were the strongest field of Top Fuel two cylinder motorcycles ever to race in Man Cup competition.

Several European racing teams came “Across the Pond” to race in the USA.  Not only is it very expensive, but packing six massive drag bikes into a shipping container is no small task!


Jaska Salakari of Finland was the much anticipated T/F-Twin to see after his 6.0 elapsed time performance earlier this year. This had some fans and racers brimming with anticipation: when he arrives in America with his bike, could he run the sport’s first 6-oh, or perhaps run the sport’s first 5-second elapsed time in Top Fuel Twin racing? There were fans from all over who came to this race just to see Jaska’s unique V-Twin “KTM” type hybrid he made in his own shop.

Greger Johansson’s blown T/F Twin is an impressive machine that typifies where T/F Twins are going into the future. In 2018 there will be more supercharged twins than ever as the sport evolves.


The fans did see a 6-oh in Top Fuel Twin, but it was not Jaska, it was the man from Japan, Takeshi Shigematsu, who posted a 6.021 elapsed time that had the whole world of Nitro Harley racing a-buzz after his amazing performance, that damn-near ended in tragedy.

Tak Shigematsua


At about 1100 feet into Tak’s run, his one-piece handlebar set up, became a two-piece unit, as vibration got the better of the tubing and suddenly during the quickest pass in Top Fuel Twin history, Tak had broken handlebars! This caused him to let off the throttle and his bike veered to the right while he was in the right lane, and Tak tagged the wall with gusto at close to 190 MPH. Tak’s right exhaust mount and his header pipe took the brunt of his impact. Tak lost his right racing boot in the process and had an adrenalin rush that had him reaching for a Mason jar later that night, but all things considered, Tak was fine and eager for competition the next day.

Top Fuel Twin motorcycles further upped the ante with Tommy Grimes driving Per Bengtsson’s “The Beast” which gave a stellar performance qualifying fourth in the 12-bike field. Tommy drove the bike well, all the way to the semifinal round where Tii Tharpe sent him to the trailer.

Sunday evening, in the final round, Tharpe and Jay Turner of Jay Turner Racing, showed the world how it’s done with side by side, wheels up, flames belching for 1320’ competition to cap off the class. Jay Turner’s 6.19 at 222 MPH over Tharpe’s 6.31 at 216 was the icing on the cake that was Top Fuel Twin.


The biggest anticipation of the event had all eyes on the Spiderman, Larry McBride, after his 255-mph performance at the previous Man Cup race. Clearly everyone knew that Stevie McBride and Larry had found the new level of performance they were looking for in MPH, now it was time to put that new power to the race track. Top Fuel motorcycle people in the know, knew Larry could and would go quicker, but how much quicker became the question. The brothers McBride answered with the stage presence that only a band like Metallica could bring such thunder to the masses.


During qualifying Larry’s 5.72 was just his team’s way of finding the race track and letting everyone know that the Spiderman was not playing around this race. They were a team on a mission. A mission to bring back the title of “The World’s Quickest and Fastest Top Fuel Motorcycle” to the USA.


The brothers Svensson took the title of the world’s quickest from the brothers McBride in 2012. The McBrides’ battle to bring it back to the States has been raging ever since. Larry and Stevie did the deed on Saturday, Nov. 18, during Q-2 by delivering a 5.677 at 250.74 MPH that stopped the show. There was bedlam on the starting line as the Top Fuel teams all shared in the celebration that followed. The five-year quest to break into the 5.60’s was over and a new era begins as the Top Fuel bikes now have to look to mid-five-second elapsed time performance to be competitive with the Cycle Specialist’s motorcycle.


Then much to the dismay of the rest of the Top Fuel motorcycle community, the brothers McBride lowered the boom again on the final lap of the final race of 2017.

Larry and Mitch Brown driving the Dennis Bradley Top Fuel bike squared off in the final round and Larry left Brown in his wake, as if Mitch was on a pit-bike. Larry stopped the timers at SGMP with the quickest pass in Top Fuel bike history: 5.611 at 249.49 MPH. Again there was bedlam on the starting line and the SGMP/Man Cup staff left the score boards lit just a little longer so people could photograph the historic numbers. Not everyone can say they were there when Larry lowered the boom.


And that was not the last big gasp of the race, so impressive were the performances at the Man Cup Mann Hill Garage World Finals. A Hawaya Racing Pro Fuel bike showed it does not take a quarter-million dollars and a lot of fancy equipment to produce world class performance. The big moment happened during E-1 of Pro Fuel racing and it was a pass that will long be remembered for it historical significance.

Kirby Apathy


During round one of eliminations in Hawaya Pro Fuel racing action, Kirby Apathy left P/F racer Terry Stewart in his wake as Kirby stopped the SGMP timers with a 6.855 at 183 MPH. This was the first ever sub-seven-second elapsed time pass by a Pro Fuel drag bike.


Think about it. All the bike has is one carburetor, a clutch and an ignition system. That’s it, no transmission, no fancy anything, just raw torque and a fearless pilot. Since the Man Cup World finals of 2016, Kirby and the Hawaya Racing team have battled valiantly, traded 7.0 passes on more than one occasion, but no one, until now, has actually run a 6-second elapsed time on a Pro Fuel drag bike.


Well, that’s history now too, but then again, that’s what the Man Cup, Mann Hill Garage World Finals was all about: world class performance by world class teams. Well over 500 entries were recorded to have attended this race. And easily that many fans attended too.


This was one of the greatest motorcycle drag races I’ve seen since 1981, and I’ve seen a few. The performances were just amazing.

Now that McBride (far lane) has dipped into the 5.60’s with his performance, the whole world has to chase him. 



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