Tackling Washougal’s iconic uphill drag strip is a rite of passage on the Motocross scene.
To the average person, attempting to dodge big chunks of punishing roost while blasting up a steep hill with your throttle jammed wide open in fourth gear, all while doing your best to avoid tangling with another rider and getting run over by a multitude of angry motorcycles doesn’t sound very inviting. But to the passionate fans at the Washougal National in Washington State, the above scenario is one of the best parts of the entire race weekend when the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship rolls into town.
Meet Horsepower Hill, one of the Washougal National’s most famous and iconic obstacles. Located just two turns after the start, the steep, long hill creates one of the most thrilling drag races of the entire season. For the riders, it’s six to seven seconds of holding the throttle wide open as you rip up the side of a mountain so steep it feels like you’re going straight up, all the while being bombarded with heavy, vicious clumps of dirt that are being flung relentlessly into the air by the high-powered bikes in front of you. After surviving what is arguably the worst barrage of roost on the entire circuit you’ll find yourself rapidly approaching the top of the hill, where your only option is to slow down. Failure to do so will result in launching into orbit and enduring a painful, suspension-hammering flat-land upon reentry.
For the fans, the experience is almost as exciting, albeit a bit safer, and it’s hands down the best place on the track, and perhaps even the entire circuit, to watch the start of a race. With Horsepower Hill located just two turns after the starting gate, the pack is still clustered tightly together as it begins the mad dash up the side of the hill. The sound of forty high-powered, bristling motorcycles roaring up the hill shakes the ground, and the swirling wind that follows sends shivers down your spine, hardening the goose bumps that have already begun dimpling your forearms. Fans standing at the very top are treated to the sight of the world’s most talented racers whipping their bikes sideways and skimming over the hill, mere inches from the ground. As the last motorcycle disappears over the ridge, the unmistakable scent of race fuel hangs in the air, teasing and satisfying your senses like the final crumbs of a rich hunk of chocolate.
It’s an intense, visceral experience, and it can only be experienced by leaning against the fences that line the sides of one of the greatest obstacles on the circuit – Horsepower Hill.