In the past two weeks Craig resident Bobby Hankins has faced 55 of the fastest snowmobiles in the nation and Sunday he found out his was the fastest.
In Bear Valley, Calf., 100-miles south of Lake Tahoe Hankins raced in the last X-Games hillcross qualifier of the season and was the overall winner. Hankins said he found a smooth line on the left side of the hill in the semi finals that got him to the finals. No one else discovered his secret and he once again used it to win the entire event.
Winning was Hankins' only option to punch his ticket to January's X-Games to be held in Aspen and makes his aim as steep as the hills he climbs.
"I'm going to place that's the only reason why I'm involved," he said. "I'm going to Aspen to take one of the top three spots but in my mind I'm going to win it all."
Hankins is no stranger to the spills and thrills of snowmobile racing at the X-Games. In 1998 he raced at Crested Butte's X-Games but in snowcross the snowmobile equivalent of motorcross.
He made the switch from rounding corners to climbing hills because snowcross, in his words, "wasn't even real."
"Snowcross moved so fast that it was over before it started," Hankins said. "And I was finishing in the middle of the pack every time. The guys who raced snowcross had sleds that were suped up to more than I could afford and it's all about the equipment."
Hankins involved himself with hillcross just this year, though the general manager of Craig's Actionmotor Sports has been involved in snowmobiling most of his life.
A noticeable difference about Hankins, or at least something he notices when racing, is he's usually the oldest one on the course that is populated with riders between 19 and 26 years of age.
One factor keeping Hankins spry and light on the course is being a free agent, which means a company is not sponsoring him. While being a free agent means he can pick and choose what part, components and sleds he rides, it means his pocketbook takes a hit. Hankins said he'll keep sharp throughout the summer by trading in his snowmobile for a motorbike. But most of his time will be spent building his sled for next year's competition.
"There will be countless man-hours put in to building the sled for competition," Hankins said. "But it all comes down to one thing and that's equipment."