Gene Belt is one of many Carroll countians who prefers racing on two wheels.
The 31-year-old Taneytown native competes every week at the 75-80 Dragway in the motorcycle division.
Belt and his brother, Dave, began racing six years ago in their pick-up trucks. Two years later, Gene decided to race his street bike. He has been racing the two-wheeler ever since.
Gene enjoyed riding bikes, so it was only natural for him to try it on the track. During the first two years, l he rode his bike to the track, raced it and rode it home. He still races the same bike today, but it has been modified to the point where it is not suitable to ride on the street.
Belt's bike is a 1982 Suzuki GS 1100-cc. When he first started racing, his elapsed time in the quarter-mile was 11.7 seconds, about 115 mph. Today, modifications to the bike have increased the speed to 142 mph with elapsed time in the low nine-second range.
Belt enjoys bike racing because it is an inexpensive way to race. And when he wanted to go faster like most racers want to do, he didn't have to invest a lot of money to achieve his goal.
"It is easier to make the motorcycle faster," Belt said. "You can do it at a third to quarter of the cost of a car. It is just easier to build a fast cycle and race."
Belt's modified bike weighs about 450 pounds. The 1,100-cubic-centimeter motor has been bored out to 1,168-ccs. The motor has a different head and a racing cam and the bottom end has been changed.
The bike has been lightened by stripping away unnecessary accessories, and the frame lowered and lengthened to transfer the weight for better handling. Wide racing slicks have replaced the narrow stock tire in the rear.
With about five times the power-to-weight ratio of a car, a motorcycle leaves the starting line like a rocket. Because of this force, Belt has wheelie bars on the back for better stability and traction.
In addition to providing the same rewards that cars do on the track for a fraction of the cost, motorcycles are easier to maintain. It is not unusual for a bike to race the entire season without a major overhaul.
Thinking of riding a bike over 140 mph can sound scary, but Belt and the thousands of riders who race love it and feel they are safer on a bike than in a car. The only time when things can get violent is at the starting line.
While it is a large outlet for fun, drag racing is not all of Gene Belt's life. During the week, he is employed by the Taney Corp. in Taneytown as a shop supervisor.
Drag racing on motorcycles have come a long way. They are a regular part of weekend programs at dragstrips.
In late-model racing last weekend, Gary Stuhler of Westminster registered his eighth win of the year at the Hagerstown Speedway. Stuhler started 11th and took the lead from Mark Plessinger on the 15th lap. Once in front Stuhler pulled away the last 10 laps for an easy win. Stuhler leads all late-model drivers with 21 wins.
In late-model action at Winchester Speedway, Rick Jones of Westminster placed fifth, Hampstead's Charlie Schaffer was sixth and Rick's brother Ernie was eighth in the 25-lap event. With two point races remaining, Schaffer leads Tom Myers of Mercersburg, Pa., by 31 points.
In super sprint car action at Lincoln Speedway last Saturday night, Darren Eash of Woodbine finished third in the 25-lap main event. Randy Zechman of Westminster placed third in the semi-late feature with Westminster's Kenny Angel and John Moser Jr. finishing sixth and seventh, respectively. In thundercar action, Corky Stull of Westminster was sixth, John McDonogh of Finksburg eighth and Greg Messersmith of Hampstead 10th. In a special Sunday night late-model show, Gary Stuhler finished second to Rick Eckert of York, Pa., and Charlie Schaffer was fourth.
Cris Eash of Woodbine and Jeff Shepard of Finksburg traveled to the Knoxville, Iowa, sprint car nationals where Eash finished 10th and Shepard was 16th in the B-Main.
Brad Green continued his winning ways in the four-cylinder division at Potomac Speedway as he led every lap to score his seventh win.
At Trail-Way Speedway, Brad McClelland and Steve Owings of Westminster finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the micro-sprint feature. Mark Shorb of Westminster placed fifth in the thunder-car main event with Finksburg's John McDonogh Jr. eighth. Matt Barnes of Westminster was third in the four-cylinder class.
In drag racing, Corey Hess of Taneytown won Class II after two back-to-back runner-up finishes the week before. The win moved him into first place in points. Roger Jorss of Sykesville was the runner-up.
In Class I competition, Joe Mayne of Mount Airy went to the semifinals. Lee Howe of Westminster and J.R. Gonyea of Mount Airy each went five rounds.
Marvin Ford of Westminster won the motorcycles and Scott Chasen of Taneytown was a semifinalist. Marvin's son, Michael, won the Jr. Dragster class.