Hornell Hillclimb: Where Fast Competition Determined the 1935 National Champions

The National Hillclimb Champion of 1935 is Joe Petrali! Winning a second place in the 45 Class A, and first place in the 45 Expert, at the great National Championship Hillclimb at Hornell, New York, September 1, the points he gained put him at the top of the list in both of these classes.

Willis Wolfe (Indian), Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, hillclimber who has made some remarkable performances this year, won the 45 Class B event and with it the National Championship in that class.

Pete Uebelacher (Excelsior), took first place in the 80 Class B to win the National Championship. This is the third National Championship for Pete, as he also won the 80 Class B title in 1933 and 1934.

With eight thousand spectators gathered in the valley, the event started on schedule at 1 o’clock. The first event was the 45 Class B, and every rider eligible to compete, with the exception of Syl Polacek, was on hand with his hillclimb wares, ready to demonstrate.

Earl Buck (Indian), of Palmerton, Pa., the high point man in his class, was first man to take a shot at the hill, and in rapid succession the others of the 45 B riders followed their two rides. When the smoke had cleared away it was found that Willis Wolfe had won the event and with it enough points to overcome Buck’s lead and make him the National Champion in Class B for 1935. Wolfe’s time was 17.09 seconds. Uebelacher had placed second in the event and Buck bad to be content with a third place. The good medicine Buck has been making through the 1935 season evidently lost some of its potency in this, the most important crisis of the year.

Next event was the Class A 45 National Championship. The line-up of fifteen of the best riders in the country was promise enough that there would be fireworks of a high degree before the event was finished. Among those waiting to tackle the big hill, some say the biggest hill in the East, included such veterans and well-known stars as Mitzell, Petrali, Reiber, Moore, Carswell, Lindstrom, Paradise and others.

Petrali jumped into first place with a remarkable exhibition of hill generalship and trailing him closely were Moore and Mitzell. It looked as though they were sitting pretty when Lindstrom came to the start. Lindstrom is from California; some had heard of him or read of his performances on Pacific Coast slants, but few thought he would be a factor in upsetting the dope in such an aggregation as had assembled for the Hornell hill holiday. But they took a second look when the now famous Windy dropped in the clutch and attacked the hill.

Attacked is the only word that can be fittingly used in this connection. There was no hesitation, no slowing, no loitering. He smacked the hill as though it had been a flat spot in the highway and busted the tape in 11.77. Second trailers booted their mounts and strained and tore at the old hill, but to no avail, and Lindstrom’s time stood, with Petrali in second place. Ralph Moore in third and Top Carswell in fourth.

Mitzell took the first ride in the Expert Class and held top speed until Lindstrom again rode. This time he flashed over the top in 11.63 and was really in the driver’s seat. So it was through the list until Petrali came to his second ride. He flattened out the hill worse than Windy had done in the Class A and showed a time of 11.51. That was enough for the boys, and Petrali captured the event, with Lindstrom second, Carswell, third, Flummerfelt, fourth, and Reggie Pink. fifth. Winning the event had cinched the Expert Class National Championship for Petrali.

Joe Herb, Merced, California, furnished Pete Uebelacher his main competition in the 80 Class B, taking second place and nosing out Willis Wolfe, who got third. Happy Seamans was fourth.

No account of this hillclimb would be complete if it did not relate the heroism of the motorcycle club that made it possible. Some really championship work was done by the Hornell Motorcycle Club, “The little club with the big hill.”

This club is composed of sixteen members. In April they had been given the sanction for the National Championship Hillclimb. During the summer they had done yeoman service, getting the hill in shape for their big moment. They were all set, long in advance. Everything was the tops. This would be a climb! Then it rained. It poured. It was a cloudburst. The worst flood in the history of that section occurred and the boys went out afterward and took a look at the hill. It was a mess. The work they had accomplished was brought to naught. The hill was scarred with gullies. The road into the hill was wrecked. Even the refreshment stand had been washed away. That was in July.

Did they give up? Not the Hornell boys-and girls, too, for they have a splendid auxiliary. They set to work. Every afternoon off, every Sunday, sometimes at night, they toiled to rebuild their precious hill. They built two bridges on the road. They hired tractors and trucks and three mules and changed the creek channel. They grubbed trees and revamped the hill course. The town of Howard loaned them a road grader to help with the creek change and the road grading work. All the rest of the summer they toiled. No trips to hillclimbs for them, they even missed Syracuse so that they might touch up the hill for the last time.

The Monroe County Motorcycle Club helped, too, coming over with twenty-eight of their members one Sunday and tearing into the work like real engineers. This same club was on hand at the climb to help in the details of running the climb, and were also aided in this by the Kodak City Motorcycle Club, so that the small membership of the Hornell club could devote all its attention to the important matters at the gate.

When we see what the Hornell boys and girls accomplished we do not wonder that for all their small membership they have a fine clubhouse worth $3000 and free from debt. The club is 100 per cent A.M.A. and has been registered as an A.M.A. club since 1929.

The 1935 National Championship Hillclimb was second in point of attendance only to the great Muskegon Hillclimb in 1929 and drew attendance of motorcycle folks from all over the United States.

Officials were: Referee, Harry Gunn; clerk of course, Charley Wagner; timers, Andy Uebelacher and Frank Zimmerman of Rochester and F. E. Quenell of Toronto, Ont.