Local news reporters, a racing series founder and even a racer’s spouse all came away with similar enthusiastic reactions after going for rides with Chris Ulrich on his Team M4 Monster Energy Suzuki GSX-R1000 two-seat Superbike Thursday at Virginia International Raceway, in Alton, Va.
Ulrich was invited by the track to give the special rides as part of VIR’s Media Appreciation Day, which also included the formal opening of the facility’s new banked oval go-kart track “The Crater” and a press conference with AMA Pro racers Elena Myers, Ulrich and Jake Zemke.
And in spite of stifling heat and humidity, four individuals suited up in professional safety gear and went on two-lap rides with Ulrich around the 2.25-mile North Course, and all came back with big smiles and new-found appreciation for the sport of motorcycle road racing.
Amanda Meadows (Traffic Reporter with Richmond, Virginia CBS-TV affiliate WTVR, who reached 160 mph during her ride with Ulrich) says: “Absolutely amazing, exhilarating! The most exciting thing I’ve ever done! I was amazed at the actual forces that you felt. Once he got on that straightaway there was actual pressure on my chest, and my head felt like it was getting pulled off. I don’t know how fast we were going, but I could tell we were going really fast. I think this is going to be great. This is going to be on the morning news.”
Hank Dewald (owner of Roanoke Valley Publishing) says: “It was a little frightening on the first lap, but by the second lap I started relaxing and thinking, ‘This is great!’ And I wish we had one more [lap], especially down this front straightaway. I kept thinking, ‘When is he going to get off the gas going into Turn One?’ And I know he got off way before he would in a race. To me, that was thrilling.”
But the fun wasn’t limited to just reporters, as Azhar Hussain, founder of the new International TTXGP electric motorcycle road racing series, asked Ulrich to provide him with his first on-track motorcycle experience.
Azhar Hussain says: “If I didn’t love motorcycling before, I would be in love with it now. I came into this without any expectations. I was completely green, never been on a track like this before. I have to say it really made me appreciate the talent of the rider. That was the main thing I take away from this.”
“Watching on TV you can’t really be in the action, but being on the back of the bike, feeling Chris doing his thing was incredible. There’s a lot going on, the accelerating, the turning, the shifting, the braking and knowing when to do it all. I have endless respect for all those who do this. I always had respect for the riders, but my appreciation for the fine art of riding has gone up immensely. That was the best thing, the best memory.”
Ulrich also took the opportunity Thursday to fulfill a promise he made to share the two-seat Superbike experience with Ashleigh Hopkins, the wife of teammate and friend John Hopkins, who is returning to racing action this weekend.
Ashleigh Hopkins says: “I’ve wanted to do it all year. Chris has been promising me, and now we come to one of the hottest places I’ve ever been in my life and he says, ‘Right, we’re going in five minutes. Get in John’s leathers and we’re going.’ It was amazing. It was on my bucket list. I’ve always wanted to do it, and now I can check it off.”
Even though she is married to one of the world’s best riders and has spent years in the MotoGP World Championship paddock, Hopkins said she discovered a new-found appreciation for what her husband and Ulrich do for a living.
Ashleigh Hopkins says: “Yes, definitely, Like anything, you can have an idea in your head of what it’s like, but until you actually do it you have no idea. It was a whole new experience. Like, for them to do a whole race…I only did two laps and I didn’t have to do any of the work and I’m exhausted.”
“My arms hurt. My legs hurt. Your whole body is incorporated in the ride, like you need everything. It was crazy. It was amazing. I always wondered why John was doing so much training on his bicycle everyday, but now I understand. It’s crazy!”