The Post-Journal

Higbee Focused On Winning Motorcycle Championship

Some people might think that motorcycle racers are simply brainless daredevils.

They are not.

During competition, racers must constantly process, store and access information under great time pressure. And at speeds anywhere from 100 to 175 mph.

Those kinds of pressures would keep most people off a bike, but not Jamestown's Shawn Higbee.

The 22-year-old Southwestern Central School graduate not only gets on a bike, but also competes regularly around the country - and wins.

In three seasons of national competition, Higbee has shown steady improvement in his racing career. From a fifth-place overall finish out of 50 riders in 1992, Shawn has taken the points lead at the halfway mark in the American Motorcyclists Association Professional Motorcycle Road Racing program's Harley-Davidson Twin Sport Series.

"My focus this year is to win the championship," said Higbee who is sponsored by Harley-Davidson of Jamestown.

At the Charlotte Motor Speedway this month, Higbee finished second, which gave him a two point advantage over current defending national champion, Scott Zampach of Milwaukee, making this the tightest points race in the history of the series.

Now Higbee has the challenge of maintaining his first-place standing for the balance of the 12-week series.

"To be ultimately successful in road racing, you must be a good athlete, businessman, spokesperson and scientist," explained the racer.

And Higbee has been proving to everyone that he is capable of excelling in each of those areas.

"Road racing is a mental chess game," said Higbee, who measures 6-2 and 150 pounds. "There are many variables, and you must reduce as many of them as possible to constants.'

Some of the variables that Higbee must master at high speed are lean angle, front and rear traction, body position, pressure on controls, throttle position, gear choice, rpm, speed, on-track location and strategy.

Controlling a bike at high speeds has been a life-long endeavor for Higbee. "I've worked on motorcycles ever since I was a little kid. I really feel comfortable on a bike."

One thing racers must exhibit is good control over their emotions. "You learn to manipulate your emotions," noted Higbee. "Even though you're doing 100 or 175 mph, and your emotions should make you scared, you must trust yourself that you have made the correct decisions."

So far this year, Shawn has been making the right decisions, as he placed fourth at Daytona, second at Phoenix, third at Laguna Seca and second at Charlotte.

His fourth place finish at Daytona International Speedway was a good example of how much progress he has made this year. The race was a real battle.

Sixty-two Harleys started the race and Higbee battled right to the end with such notables as dirt track legend Jay Springsteen, England's 888 national champion, Francis Williamson, and last year's Daytona winner, Dick Koehler.

Although his emphasis this year has been on the Harley-Davidson Twin Sport Championship, Higbee has also expanded his program to include Superbike, 750 Supersport, and endurance racing.

In addition, Higbee is riding a 1991 XL883 to compete in the new Harley-Davidson 883 Challenge. H-D of Jamestown owner Dave Reid has provided both Harley's for Higbee's efforts.

More races, more travel, more practice. In the road racing business, the best riders are constantly analyzing and planning. And sacrificing.

Higbee, who leaves a day or two in advance of a race, conducts three 12-hour practice days prior to an actual race. His day starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. "When I get back from a race, it's like being on vacation," he said. Even when he's back home, though, there's very little rest as Higbee stays busy with a weight program three or four days a week.

"I've devoted all my time to road racing because I'm trying to make a living at it," said Higbee. "If I have a decent year (1993), I'll be making money at it."

Money or no money, Higbee plans to always stay involved with road racing. "Road racing is one of the things that makes me perform to my highest potential," he says. "Road racing is a very important part of sharpening a person's thought process, body coordination, mental toughness and physical conditioning."

A goal-oriented individual, Shawn has his sights set on winning the Harley-Davidson championship and getting into the winner's circle for Kawasaki. "I've tried to set goals every year," Higbee added. "As long as I keep making progress, I'll be happy."

If the first half of 1993 is any indication, Shawn Higbee should be smiling at the end of the year.

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