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The third season of the Manufacturers’ Cup has proved to be a somewhat fraught affair after SGMP, the previous host track for the season opener and closer, placed two events directly in opposition to the new Man Cup venue at Bradenton Motorsports Park after previous rental agreements went west. This had the unfortunate impact of splitting what is a comparatively small pool of two wheel racers, and, whilst counts at Valdosta and BMP over the World Finals weekend suggested the latter was very much the winner, the movement of SGMP’s bike opener for 2014 away from what will probably be the Manufacturers’ Cup weekend hopefully hints at a thaw in relationships in the South East.
Politics aside (we’ve spent most of this season embroiled in issues around Europe) the Haltech World Finals presented by Pingel (we wish we covered more US races so we up payment by word just by listing the various sponsors…) was set up as a Battle Royale between the two quickest fuel bikes on the planet in a transatlantic challenge reminiscent of races way back on the other (right?) side of the pond, together with the debut of the fabulous rocket bike of Eric Teboul that brought in a number of surprise visitors over the weekend (not least of whom was Captain Jack McClure along with his freshly restored rocket go-kart; the 87 year old was itching to have a run out and this may happen in 2014). In the event, the Top Fuel final boiled down to the much anticipated head-to-head and the rocket, well, we’ll leave that until the last.
It would be far from the truth to say Larry McBride dominated this event, smashing sprags for ‘fun’ in testing and qualifying, and managing a best of 6.007/207.27 to end up in second spot going into eliminations. First round was a match-up with Chris Hand and this almost ended Spiderman’s day as he blazed the slick at the hit but managed to recover with a 6.769/210.37 after Hand slowed to a 6.941/149.92. The short field provided a semifinal bye and another tyre smoker after which McBride and brother Steve decided to swap out a new clutch for the old one to confront the not inconsiderable challenge of low qualifier Sweden’s Peter Svensson. With the final matching up the two quickest fuel bikes on the planet, McBride was fairly amped up and cut a 0.038s RT and put his weekend’s woes behind him with a 5.765/227.10 (with a very sweet 3.757/207 at half track) that Svensson never looked like overhauling. “I bet everyone thought it would smoke the tyre, and to be honest so did I” said a relieved McBride, the run being the second quickest of his career, a new track record, and underlining a 12th domestic championship. This may be one of the last events for McBride on the venerable ‘Old Blue’ as a replacement is nearing completion at their Cycle Specialist shop in Virginia, but there is the possibility of a two-bike team in the near future.