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Rocking The Chair: A Sidecar Co-Pilot Speaks

Sidecar racing passenger, Giorgina Gottlieb, is in a unique position… literally.  Hanging off the side of a race machine going well in excess of 100mph, she is held in with nothing more than skateboard grip tape and a sense of self preservation.  Whenever the uninitiated question Gina and driver John Wood, it tends to begin with “What is that?” and ends with “You’re crazy!”

While it may seem crazy from the outside looking in, like most tasks, it is simply a matter of focusing on the right thing at the right time. Since the June 2013 crash during the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, people seem to ask Gina a new set of recurring questions.

Gina responds in her own words:

So many people have asked me about the crash.  So, here’s a brief entry about it…from my perspective.

As a passenger, the first thing you have to accept is that you don’t have the handlebars. That said, you do have the wheels.  Not everybody is going to understand that, and this entry isn’t about THAT… in summation, though, a sidecar team is pretty 50/50 (Why this is such a difficult thing to grasp, right?  It’s okay, just take a moment to contemplate this and read on. He he..).  So…

Johnny Killmore and Giorgina Gottlieb PPIHC 2013
A look behind the visors as Johnny Killmore and Giorgina Gottlieb sliding backwards at 70mph (Photo Credit: Robert Frislie)

Question #1: what was I thinking?

It’s a fast right… I was in position for it, and held it as long as I thought I needed to… as it started to give. It’s always hard to tell what one should do when someone else is reacting to a reaction, and your reaction is a reaction to that.  We entered that turn fast, and I honestly thought we had it.  I expected us to slide a little. We slid too much.

The first slide, I thought we’d save it.  The second, not so sure.  On the 180° spin, I hoped we’d scrub off speed and flick it back around OR scrub off speed and stop.  When it caught, I just hoped we didn’t hit anything too hard.  How funny is that?  Even in that moment, impending doom imminent, I wanted to be able to walk away from it just enough to… keep going?  Not going to say I thought that far ahead.  I definitely wanted to walk away. 🙂  Worrying is not going to unbreak your leg, just sayin’.

So, when I couldn’t breathe [she caught the handhold squarely on the first bounce, ed.], I was worried.  Did I break my ribs?  I’ve felt this before (being thrown from horses unexpectedly as a youngster is one way to teach you), but it also hurt.  I was helped with taking off my helmet, and around that time, I found my breath.  Ahh, yes!  Oh yes, I’m fine.  A little tender, sure, but totally able to hop back on this monster.  Not guaranteeing a good performance, but good enough for government work?  Definitely!  And away we went.

Question #2: was I scared?

People have asked me this, especially after seeing the pic with John and I looking down-track, about to go off-track.  Honestly?  No.  I really, really didn’t want to get hurt.  However… that just made me want to go down-track more.  And, in the fractions of a second it took between the “not gonna make it” and “didn’t make it” and stopped, there really wasn’t enough time for fear.  Fortunately, fear is a function of time.  I get enough jitters before a race — there’s no time during one to have them.

The rest of it was fun.  We’d already messed up.  It’s still a rad course to the summit.  And, if you get to summit (shhhh… don’t tell anyone…), you finish. 🙂

– Giorgina Gottlieb

Here is the link to the outside video:

Here is the link to the crash video:

Written by Johnny Killmore

Johnny Killmore is a Formula sidecar and motorcycle racer who lives in the Bay Area of California. Fascinated at a young age by machines, Johnny is most comfortable at race tracks, garages, or far away places astride a motorcycle. Having cultivated a life revolving around speed, racing is a natural extension of that.

Johnny is also a great story teller so it follows naturally that he would share his adventures and report on the adventures of others. Having formally studied journalism, art, and agriculture, Johnny uses the visual and literary arts to bring to life the challenges, risks, and rewards of living a life at speed.

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