Major Changes for Glen Helen National Track
New tower, new hill, new layout, new map
On Friday May 12, Glen Helen unveiled its plans for the 2006 Glen Helen 250F/450 AMA National track. Glen Helen will invest over $300,000 on track improvements before the September 10, 2006, race. These changes include:
NEW TOWER: A totally new three-story scoring tower will replace the old wooden tower. The new tower will include observation decks, bathrooms, announcer's booth (with tilted glass windows) and a TV platform on the roof.
NEW HILL: Glen Helen is the hilliest track on the AMA National circuit and that reputation will only be reinforced by the addition of Mt. Whitney, named after the late Whitney Murphy. For those unfamiliar with Glen Helen's four tracks (two outdoor and two Supercross), Mt. Whitney is located on the REM track--which means that for the first-time ever the AMA National track will cross over the hill behind the scoring tower and go up to the top of the farthest ridge before coming back down, via a very steep drop-off, onto the infamous muddy straight. Mt. Whitney will join Shoei Hill, Mt. Saint Helen and Yamaha Hill. The best thing is that the track will flow up and over the two valleys that composed Glen Helen's natural terrain.
NEW LAYOUT: The addition of Mt. Whitney into the track means that spectators will have more choices of things to watch--as the old Budds Creek section, and its scary whoop section, has been retired (for the time being), but in its place is a new super step-up jump that will launch the riders from the ground floor of the National track up onto the REM pits. The Budds Creek section and the 110-foot-long tabletop will be used for RV parking on the National weekend.
FENCING: Track designer Jody Weisel has met with the AMA's Steve Whitelock (and John Ayers) several times in the past couple months to work out the details of the track fencing, which will incorporate the AMA's new plastic track barriers (much like the yellow plastic poles used at freeway gore points). The use of these special plastic track markers (2500 of them will be used at Glen Helen this year) will make it possible to cut down on the number of hay bales and provide for an special access road completely around the track for the Asterisk Mobile Medical Mule. Glen Helen spends $30,000 on track fencing every year.
MEDICAL UNITS: Not only will Asterisk be providing a medical unit at the National (as they do at every AMA race), but Glen Helen will have its own mobile medical unit (located by the tower) and four separate EMT crews station strategically around the track. In addition, Glen Helen is in the planning stages of outfitting their own “Emergency Care Center” with X-ray machines, oxygen, doctors and nurses to stabilize and care for both riders and spectators. The Glen Helen care center will be located in a permanent building and staffed by emergency trauma doctors.
TEST RACES: The 2006 National track will have four test races before the National. The first was the World Four-Stroke Championship--which was the first race to blend the National and REM tracks together. The second test race was the Prequel--which not only put all the hills into play, but was used to test the new fencing plan and ambulance road. Jody and Steve Whitelock worked on track details right up until the day before the race. The Yamaha Dealer Series will use a modified version of the National track--with the jumps toned down. And, one race (to be named at a later date) will be run just before the September National to finalize all the changes.
RACE TRACK SCHEDULE: It should be noted that unlike most East Coast National tracks Glen Helen Raceway holds 100 races a year (two weeks ago Glen Helen raced on Saturday and Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (Police and Fire Olympics), had practice on Thursday and raced again on Saturday and Sunday (an ATV race). That is six races in nine days. Plus, Glen Helen is open year round--since San Bernardino, California, only has two seasons, Summer and Windy, it is open over 150 days a year (and when it isn't open it is rented by the factories for pre-pro testing of the factory teams).