A Guide to the Blackwater 100 – America’s Toughest Race

Back in the 1970’s, enterprising motorcycle race promotor Dave Coombs discovered the small West Virginia town of Davis, and whilst looking at the beautiful yet rugged terrain, soon realized that it was an absolutely perfect spot to hold a motorcycle race. Best of all, this area would be the best for a tough race that only the best riders and motorcycles would be able to get through – just the way that Dave liked it. Soon after, he organized the race naming it the Blackwater 100 – ‘Blackwater’ thanks to the nearby Blackwater Falls, and 100 for each mile in the race.

America’s Toughest Race

The Blackwater 100 soon became legendary, and was known as ‘America’s Toughest Race’ by both those who took part and those who watched it. Racer Productions, Dave’s company, began to rapidly grow, and along with his wife Rita he began to hold additional 100-mile-long events in a series that became known as the Wiseco 100 Mile Series and the Grand National Cross Country Series. By 1983 three-wheelers had been added to the program, and a few years later four-wheelers also became popular. Instead of the 100-mile races that lasted a full five hours, the events were split – two hours for ATV’s, and three for bikes. Although these ultra-tough races were definitely cool, there weren’t many people willing to give them a try.

ATV Struggle

At the time, the ATV world was struggling, due to a number of safety concerns in the late 1980’s that had scared the majority of ATV manufacturers away from the racing scene. Factory rides quickly dried up, and in 1989 Honda dropped the prominent TRX250R from its lineup. However, a determined gang of racers and the efforts of the ATV aftermarket industry managed to keep the flame alive, and from 1993 to 1999, the sport’s superstar was Pennsylvania’s Barry Hawk, who notched up an impressive seven straight GNCC ATV Championships. By then, the ATV’s used in races were made almost entirely of aftermarket equipment which made them lighter and faster even though they looked just like the old Hondas.

Dave’s Vision

From the beginning, Dave Coombs poured his heart and soul into the series Anyone who attended a race could expect to see Dave laying out the course, running the riders’ meeting, patrolling the track, guiding photographers to prime photo shooting spots, giving TV interviews, and keeping tabs on the pits and parking before going out and racing a few laps himself. In 1998, the series lost ‘Big Dave’, leaving a major void in the sport that he was a big part of creating. His family stepped up to carry on the vision and continued the series. Today, GNCC Racing has an elevated television package that began in 2001, and has since evolved into part of NBC Sport Network’s 52-week Racer TV package.

Whether you’re a pro or amateur, and whether you win or lose, GNCC Racing has always been about taking part and trying your best against the terrain. That’s the way Dave Coombs wanted it over thirty years ago, and it’s still that way today.