F6 Pre-Race Scout, Oklahoma April 2002

Reported by Pete Love

This is a pre-race scouting report. The actual competition takes place June 15-16, 2002.

In a desperate effort to beat Bob Schwartz' record for getting the US military to fund luging trips, I decided to turn a visit to my DARPA bosses in College station, Texas into a downhill drama. A bit of quick research revealed that Texas is mostly flat (in the word of Deniss Sirion "If anyone's luging in Texas, they're doing it on the freeway on ramps."), however, Rusty Riley and F6 racing came to my rescue with an invite to check out their Talimena drive race course and a few other roads in Ouachita National Forest (pronounced Wichita-proving that Native Americans and the Welsh have something in common in their attitude to place names).

After a couple of days at the Agriculture and Mining University in College station (which is about as exciting as it sounds), I pointed the rental car north, set the cruise control and struggled to stay awake for 6 hours as the Texas scenery rolled by. By the time I got to Oklahoma I was convinced there were no mountains anywhere within 1000 miles, and that F6 would be towing me around behind their truck. However, after a reassuring phonecall from Rusty, I headed up towards Talimena the following morning, to be greeted by the very welcome signs "Low gear now - try your brakes" as the road tilted down at a 10% grade and the Ouchita mountains sprang into view.

This bit of Oklahoma is very pretty (sorry, I should say it's real purdy), as the forests were totally destroyed by slash and burn logging around the turn of the century, and the land then purchased by the Forestry Dept. for $1.25 an acre. As a result there are now 45000 acres of mountainous forest shot through with acccess roads and amazing scenery. A downhill paradise. F6 arrived bang on time, we stopped for a quick photo-op, and to check that the rattlesnake at the bottom of the course was in fact dead, and then it was onto the Talimena drive race course.

This is the road on which F6 will be running their race on the 15th and 16th of June. Having experienced a few different definitions of the words "technical", "braking turn", "passing opportunity" and so on, I was curious to see what the Oklahoma view would be. The first run down the hill settled that pretty conclusively. Suffice it to say thatEuropeans can no longer use "American course" as a derisive term indicating no braking and no turning.

The course starts off gently with an unbraking sweeping left right, after which one builds speed into a left right chicane - hard braking when using one lane of the road, this will be an Aviemore juice box/Hotheels hells gate style chicane when using both lanes of the road. It is followed by a hard right, which again will be borderline braking using the full road, and then a steep run into the "Brake for this or call an ambulance", 90+ degree lefthander. This is followed by the steepest section of road I have ever ridden, one exits this hard braking turn into grades of 15-20%, giving an incredible spurt of acceleration, taking one from around 30mph up to 60+mph in a few seconds, just in time to come up to the definite hard braking right, after which again one accelerates hard into the final section, over the finish line (past the rattlesnake) and into the shutdown area (which is uphill, as if you could ask for anything more).

The unique feature of this racecourse is the multiple periods of very high acceleration, combined with very technical braking and borderline braking turns. This means that a large amount of racing action will be packed into the course's 1 mile, with multiple passing opportunities both in the turns and in the draft. In addition to the high quality of the race course, the level of local support for the race is very high, we were given a very warm welcome everywhere we went, with people suggesting all sorts of help and contacts for the race (and the party will be something to remember). Provided a good turnout F6 should be able to get carte blanche to make Talimena drive on of the must attend races of the season.


After a good session on the racecourse, we headed up towards the other two practice roads, starting with the 3.5mile course. This is another classic road, with multiple 150-180 degree turns, very similar to the Aviemore lefthander, big open hairpins one can really blast into. An exhausting course to buttboard, but exhilarating. The final runs of the day were on the brilliantly named "Dead mans vista" - so called because bandits used to be found hanging from the trees there. This is a steep, less technical run with speeds in the high 60's low 70s, and multiple sweepers, which start out easy but get more controversial as the speed builds. Unfortunately, the day was running out and it was time to point the hire car south, set the cruise control and try and find a radio station playing something other than country.

With such an excellent set of roads on which to practice, the Bainbridge Ohio race under their belt, the Talimena drive race to look forward to and having made their international racing debut at the Capetown DHX, F6 should continue to make a big impact on the sport both in the US and on the international circuit. The futures bright, the future's Okie.

Darren Lott ©2002