Ready … Set …. Race

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 3, 2007

Elmer’s Team named to honor fallen rider

By George L. Jones

The Selma Times-Journal

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STANTON – Elmer’s Team is taking the KTM/Perry Mountain 24 Hour Challenge 10 miles at a time.

Lap by grueling lap, the endurance race is not just a strain on the riders’ bodies. It’s a tribute to another celebrated competitor.

The six-man Elite class team received its namesake from Elmer Symons. After he died in a crash at the Dakar Rally this past January, the former Augusta (Ga.) KTM team was renamed in honor of the South African native.

“Elmer was a good friend of the whole team,” said team rider and fellow South African Louwrens Mahoney. “He won the Ironman here last year. It was a good way to pay respect to him.”

Entering last year’s race as a solo driver was part of Symons’s training for his first Dakar Rally as a rider. He had been a mechanic in the previous two.

Now the team, made up mainly of drivers from South Carolina and North Carolina, has hopes of a finish that would honor their fallen comrade.

“If we can get into the top three, that’ll be good,” Mahoney said. “It’s going to be tough. If nothing goes wrong, I’m sure we’ll get a podium.”

For other drivers, this is a first-of-its-kind event.

Twenty-two-year-old Ryan Linville has only been riding for a year and a half, and is quickly adapting to the sport.

His entry into the Ironman division raised the eyebrows of his friends and crew, but he said he had good reason for pushing ahead.

“They all told me I couldn’t do it,” Linville said, also joking that no one else in his group is young enough to be his riding mate. “I don’t think my chances of winning are too good. I’m just trying to do as many (laps) as I can. And if I win, woo hoo!”

Like most of his Huntsville-based crew, Sam Brown half-jokingly questioned Linville’s sanity. But his determination to finish the race isn’t up for debate.

“We all told him he was crazy, but he just wanted to do it,” Brown said. “He’s come a long way, and he really wanted to prove he could do it. His goal is to do 24 laps and finish the race. We’re just going to pump him full of as much fluid as we can.”

Jeremy Womble is another 24-Hour rookie. He is not going it alone, however, racing with Team Mossy Head out of Pensacola.

“I really don’t know what to expect; this is all new to me,” Womble said. “We’re going to run two laps a person and keep it going and don’t stop. We might change the transmission oil, and if nothing else goes wrong, that’s all we’re going to do to it.

“I just hope nothing else goes wrong.”