Is Shane Scott the fastest guy in Atlantic Canada? We don’t know about that, but he’s the only guy from the Maritimes who’s managed a top-five finish at the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb.
In fact, he’s got a pretty impressive resume at the PPIHC. He had a podium finish last year (third in Heavyweight class) and was fifth overall in the bike division. This year, he was fourth in Heavyweight and fifth overall. Not bad for a guy from New Brunswick.
Of course, there’s more to the story than that—you don’t just jump from Moncton to Pikes Peak—so we reached out and sent him some questions about his performance this year.
Canada Moto Guide: When was the first time you were at the PPIHC – when you ran the race for the first time, or did you attend as a spectator before? Did you have racing friends who’d challenged the hill?
Shane Scott: In the late ’90s I was living in San Diego and racing Pro Dirt Track and Supermoto in California. Some of the supermoto guys were talking about going to race Pikes. At the time the course was both pavement and dirt so it was a perfect test for my skills. It sounded like an adventure, so I signed up to go; unfortunately, just before, I was in a bad supermoto crash and broke my leg. I moved back to Canada shortly after but over the years I kept in touch with the event as it felt like unfinished business. The years clicked by and finally by 2014 I went down as part of a Ducati club event.
Don Canet, road test editor for Cycle World magazine, who I raced with in California, was racing the event for Ducati. I spent some time with him and his teammate, AMA motocross legend Micky Diamond learning some setup, course particulars and such, and of course to watch the race. I was pretty impressed by it all and came away knowing that at 50 years old, it was time to do it.
CMG: Why did you pick the Hillclimb for a race, especially at this point in your career? Surely there are safer places to race? Or is it the most interesting challenge for a street bike in North America?
SS: I’ve always been attracted to dangerous things for some reason. I enjoy the intensity and relying on my skills to come out the other end. It’s unfortunate that the whole course was paved in 2012, before I had a chance to race it. There’s a lot of great road racers and even more great dirt riders but I feel I could be one of the top combined course guys.
CMG: Why’d you go with the KTM, as opposed to the Ducatis that most riders seem to favour?
SS: For my rookie year, 2015, I rode a Ducati Streetfighter 848 in the Middleweight class. I would have liked to race a supermoto bike but I just felt my weight, at 190lbs, was too much of a disadvantage on a single cylinder dirt bike. In comparison, Davey Durelle, a famous American ex-dirt tracker who now has the most class victories at Pikes, weighs about 130 lbs. The Streetfighter had been written off in a street accident, so I bought it and stripped it down and tried to make a racer out of it. I hadn’t road raced for years, since 1993 to be exact. And before that it was 1984. So we had to come up to speed pretty quick.
The Ducati was a fun track bike but we just couldn’t get it to run properly on the mountain. It almost stalled out on the starting line, and then actually stalled during the race. I finished that year with a 11:10, seventh place and fastest rookie in spite of all the problems.
I was pretty bummed out with my result and the problems with the bike. Even when it was working well I felt we were pretty down on power. So in the long drive home from Colorado to Moncton, New Brunswick, I decided that I was going back and that it was going to be on the baddest monster I could build. After a couple months of research that turned out to be a KTM Superduke 1290R. That bike just seemed to be built specifically to race up a mountain course. Plus my friend Larry Northrup, owner of Toys For Big Boys Ltd. in Moncton was a KTM dealer and he was really excited about the project.
CMG: The first time you raced the mountain, what specific challenges were you facing—and what different challenges did you face this year?
SS: Racing Pikes Peak is a year-long journey. You will fail if you just think you can show up there and run up the hill. I would say that every day for a year I was doing something to prepare for the race. It’s especially difficult to do from Atlantic Canada and as a privateer with a limited budget.
CMG: Electric motorcycles have the advantage of not dealing with O2 shortages at the top of the mountain. Did you ever consider riding a battery bike, or was it going to be a KTM or other gas-powered bike all along?
SS: You know, I think I’m just an old fashioned motorhead. I love the bark and rawness of a gas burning race engine. It just wouldn’t be the same for me, I couldn’t get excited about it.
CMG: How did you train for this race throughout the year in Atlantic Canada?
SS: I’ve always been quite athletic and have maintained that into my 50s. I’m the owner of the Sequoia Natural & Organic health food stores so my diet is very basic and clean. For the 2016 and 2017 race I became involved with Sculpt Health & Wellness in Moncton to get to my peak level of performance. I wanted to get as light as possible and build core strength to muscle the big KTM around. Over the winter I dropped from 194 lbs to 170 and lowered my body fat percentage from 21 to 15. So by race season I was pretty ripped and ready.
As far as bike training, it’s pretty tough living in Atlantic Canada. Our race track only opens mid-May so I only got out for a couple test sessions before packing up to drive to Colorado at the beginning of June. I dirt bike a lot and have a track right at my house so I tried to get as much seat time there as I could. Both years I did go down to 10Training, American dirt tracker Johnny Lewis’ place in Florida. I learned a lot from him on his dirt trackers that was useful on pavement as well.
CMG: Do you think you could do better, if you went back? Or are there too many factors to say how it would go?
SS: This year I was fourth in Heavyweight and fifth fastest overall with a 10:28. Eight seconds doesn’t sound like much, but an incredible amount of effort went into making that happen. Less than 10 out of the thousands of bike racers over the last 100 years up this hill were faster. When you look at it that way every second, and especially eight seconds, is a lot.
At first, when I heard my time was a 28, I was quite let down. Our ideal goal had been a 10:20, with a 10:25 being acceptable. My run had just felt so good, only one small mistake when I slid out on some painted lines. The bike had worked perfectly; the engine was strong all the way to the top and my crew had really dialed the chassis in over the past week. The Pirelli tires were brilliant. There were little slides and spins here and there but very manageable.
So with that, I have no complaints on the package we brought to the hill this year. We were a pretty well-oiled machine for a privateer effort. The four guys faster than me are factory-backed teams with some pretty deep resources and very experienced road racers. If I continued going to Pikes I would say I could chip away at it and get to that 10:20 on a good day. But I don’t think I’m a guy that could get near that 10 minute mark. Not now, maybe 20 years ago when I was racing in California and was in my prime.
CMG: You’ve put your time in at Shubie, which is a pretty sketchy track. How does the run up Pikes Peak compare, in pavement quality? And what’s worse — the concrete walls at AMP, or the sheer drop-offs at the PPIHC?
SS: Shubie is a tremendous training track. It’s rough and tough and you have to be on it all the time. There’s no time to relax there as the turns and elevations all flow together. Great for focus training. I feel Shubie is pretty safe really as the speeds are not that high. Comparatively Pikes is a monster. If you go off course you are really going to get messed up. There is no run off at all, just trees and boulders and cliffs. I clocked 147 mph coming through the Picnic area straight so it’s serious business. It’s about the only place a guard rail is your friend. Or at least friendlier than the endless cliff behind it.
CMG: What advice would you have for someone else wanting to tackle the PPIHC?.
SS: I would only advise it to someone that is capable of meticulous preparation or has that kind of a team around them. Otherwise just stay home. I also think it’s best left to guys with a pretty deep race resume, knowing how to approach a new venue, easing into it and adapting to the special circumstances. Building that knowledge quickly through the limited test sessions and then just letting it rip on race day.
CMG: After this year’s race at Pikes Peak, what’s next?
SS: I’m done with Pikes. Time to move on to something else. I’m definitely more comfortable on a dirt bike and I’m looking at several options right now. I really loved the dirt track experience at 10Training so who knows. The clock is ticking so there’s no time to lose!