Cat® Machines (and Crew) Save the Day at Motorcycle Racing Event

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Cat® Machines (and Crew) Save the Day at Motorcycle Racing Event

Rain and mud no match for teamwork and plenty of Cat® machinery

With heavy rains and deep mud threatening to cancel one of professional motorcycling’s most prestigious races, Caterpillar had the right people in the right place at the right time—not to mention some heavy machinery at their disposal—to save the annual August event for hundreds of riders and thousands of race fans. The event is called the Peoria “TT” and billed as the world’s longest consecutive running dirt track race. Hosted by the Peoria Motorcycle Club on their home track in rural Peoria, Illinois, this year was the 72nd annual running of the TT event—bringing in some of the world’s best riders

The following article was originally published on americanflattrack.com.

By Mitch Boehm, American Flat Track

Rain has always been a dirt racetrack’s Achilles Heel, especially if the track in question sits at the bottom of a valley. And anyone familiar with PMC Race Park – home of the legendary Peoria TT – knows the circuit sits smack dab at the bottom of one. They don’t call it ‘Thunder Valley’ for nothin’.

In the days leading up to the 72nd running of the Peoria TT on August 18, 2018, the rains came. And came. Peoria Motorcycle Club members all said was more than they’d seen in years.

Come Friday morning, things were not good. The track was a bog, and just walking across it had your boots sinking 8-10 inches into gooey muck. The fact that the club had imported tons of fresh clay last year didn’t help, as the clay – which yields a near-perfect racing surface when dry and prepped – tends to hold water in a serious way.

Early Friday morning things looked pretty dire. But the Caterpillar team kept the faith and delivered big time. Early Friday morning things looked pretty dire. But the Caterpillar team kept the faith and delivered big time.
Early Friday morning things looked pretty dire. But the Caterpillar team kept the faith and delivered big time.

Not helping was Friday’s weather: Warm, with 90-percent humidity and very little breeze. The bog wasn’t about to dry and firm up, which spelled trouble for PMC and American Flat Track’s plan to hold a National the following day.

By Friday afternoon things were critical, and PMC and AFT management met to discuss options. Postponing the race until Sunday was not a good one. Fans’ and teams’ plans would be upset dramatically, and both PMC and AFT – and the teams themselves – would incur serious costs. With no rain in the forecast, the ideal situation was to somehow make the track raceable on Saturday. But with that much mud, getting it done was a huge task.

This shot was taken many hours into the prepping process, and it was still seriously sticky. This shot was taken many hours into the prepping process, and it was still seriously sticky.
This shot was taken many hours into the prepping process, and it was still seriously sticky.

Fortunately, a couple of representatives from Caterpillar – one of the Peoria TT’s longtime sponsors and a corporate fixture in Peoria for decades – were in attendance. Might we, one of them asked, bring in some members from our Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center – along with appropriate heavy machinery – to try to help get the track in race-ready condition? “If we can’t make the track race-ready,” one of the Caterpillar representatives added, “no one can.”

The confidence shown by Caterpillar’s guys closed the deal, and a plan of action was quickly devised. First, PMC would churn and aerate the top eight of 10 inches of mud for a few hours with its World of Powersports-loaned 4x4s. Then, before midnight, larger Cat® machinery (rushed to the track from a local Caterpillar facility) disked the surface, and then sealed the track from the evening’s dew and humidity with a roller machine.

Large and not-so-large Cat machines took part - and there were a lot of them. Large and not-so-large Cat machines took part - and there were a lot of them.
Large and not-so-large Cat machines took part - and there were a lot of them.

The next morning came phase two, and it was a doozie. Basically, a handful of experts from Caterpillar’s Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center – who train operators from all over the world to drive large Cat equipment – arrived on scene with a handful of massive earth-moving equipment, stuff normally used to build highways, and proceeded to tear up and aerate the top 12 inches of soil and clay along the entire half mile of track.

With fans already in place and practice nearing, the track surface starts to take shape. With fans already in place and practice nearing, the track surface starts to take shape.
With fans already in place and practice nearing, the track surface starts to take shape.

It was a spectacular sight. As huge grader and scraper machines pushed massive swaths of saturated soil and clay to the side of the track, another million-dollar machine picked up the soil and deposited at the far end of the track, where yet another house-sized machine scooped up the mud and aerated it before depositing it into a hopper and then into a separate pile – where it was worked again and again. Once semi-dry, the mixture was re-deposited onto the track, and as practice time neared, draggers and graders and rollers massaged the now-drier soil into something resembling an actual racing surface.

And suddenly, just 20 hours after resembling a mud bog, and there being no chance whatsoever that the track would be ready for a Saturday race (or a Sunday race, as well), the Peoria TT circuit was dry and prepped and ready for practice. Amazing.

Just before practice, the track looked dry ... and actually needed water during the day's action. Just before practice, the track looked dry ... and actually needed water during the day's action.
Just before practice, the track looked dry ... and actually needed water during the day's action.

“It really was an amazing thing,” said PMC race director John Swearinger. “Our crew said they’d never seen the track that wet the day before the race. On Friday we all thought, ‘We’re in trouble.’ It was a quagmire. And then we had to actually water the track on Saturday afternoon! That’s how good of a job that Cat crew did. Hats off to them and all the Caterpillar folks. They help us every year, but wow, they really came through this time.

“Our crew said they’d never seen the track that wet the day before the race. On Friday we all thought, ‘we're in trouble.’ it was a quagmire. And then we had to actually water the track on Saturday afternoon! That’s how good of a job that Cat crew did.”


“It was the Caterpillar guys’ confidence that made us all believe it could happen. These guys are the cream of the crop, and there is no chance we could have done it without them, on Saturday or Sunday. Just phenomenal.”

The 72nd Peoria TT was a fantastic one for fans and for Henry Wiles, who won his 14th TT in a row.


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