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The Wood brothers hope to chop it up at Willow Springs this Weekend.

SAN CLEMENTE, -(CA)- Brothers generally live the early part of their lives side by side, but Chris and Phil Wood of San Clemente will take it to another level this weekend as they begin their quest for the 2011 Motorcycle Side Car North American Championship.

They plan to compete in 12 races, beginning Saturday and Sunday at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, 20 miles north of Palmdale

 

Some of the people that help to make it happen.

The two lifelong motorsportsmen, originally from Yorkshire, England, arrived in the United States in 1989. Chris Wood, 42, is co-owner of Salon Incognito in San Clemente with his wife, Mary Lee, while Phil Wood, 39, manages a downtown San Clemente tire store along with a family-owned muffler and hot-rod shop.


“When we were kids, with the family we’d all go to the Isle of Man (between Britain and Ireland) on vacation and go to the sidecar races,” Phil Wood said. “When Chris saw it for the first time, he told me, ‘I want to do that one day,’ and so here we are.”

 

Chris Wood show us the button for the rocket launcher.

The pair hope that by season’s end this fall they will have ridden their Swedish-made ART 190-horsepower, $40,000 sidecar into the championship ring with the most points accumulated from this year’s races.

Last year, entering the season halfway through, they placed 10th in the overall standings in the West Coast division of the Sidecar Racers Association (SRA West).

This year the brothers have a new sidecar featuring the latest technology – the same as Formula One race cars, even using the same 105-octane fuel.

Sidecar racing is almost as old as motorcycle racing itself, with championship series held in Europe and the United States every year, beginning officially in 1949.

 

Phil Wood shows off his port side heeling position.

The driver, or “throttleman,” is in charge of the speed and direction of the three-wheeled sidecar using a combination of acceleration and braking, also known as “drift steering,” to point the machine right and left on the closed track.

The passenger, or “monkey,” is responsible for leaning to one side or the other, and often over the bike fractions of an inch off the pavement at high speed, using his body weight to turn the bike.

Speeds reach 80 to 90 mph on the turns and 170 on the straightaways – all with no seat belts. The only protection are gloves, helmets and leather clothes.

 

Wood Brothers Racing in action in Las Vegas last year.

Trust between the throttleman and the monkey is crucial, as well as knowing what your partner is going to do next. That’s why the Woods believe that, as brothers, they have a big advantage;

Crashes most often occur when a team’s critical balance is not perfectly in sync, resulting in the sidecar flipping over and throwing the racers across the track.

“Sidecar racing is everything ‘on’ or everything ‘off’; there is no in between,” Chris Wood said.

He described one of last season’s races in which Phil was hitting him on the back, which Chris thought meant he needed to go faster.

Phil said he was hitting his brother as hard as he could to signal him to stop; the sidecar’s brakes were on fire and flames were coming from under the cowling.

Chris couldn’t see what was happening. “I felt it getting really hot, but I thought it was just the bike,” he said. “We pulled over, threw sand on the fire and at least finished the race. The crowd cheered as we came in … they loved it.”

The brothers say that on a typical weekend, with trips to Las Vegas, Utah or Portland, Ore., usually cost about $750, including gas for travel, entry fees, food and lodging. Unless you blow a motor, which can cost as much as $8,000 to replace, sidecar racing is relatively inexpensive, they say.

 

The Wood brothers are looking for the North American Championship this year.

In addition, the Woods say, the family atmosphere at the track among fans and racers is great, with everyone helping with problems and offering encouragement.

“In sidecar racing, there are no divas, there is no attitude and no potty mouth,” Chris Wood said. “There are several husband-and-wife teams. In the pits we are like one big family.”

The Wood brothers have several area sponsors, including Champion TrikesHi-Tech Collision and Glass CentersEl Camino AutomotiveSC Rider Supply, Naked Monkey and Biker Garage 101.

 

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