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Motorcycle police roll into Manteca for challenge
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Motorcycle police officers, from left, David Bright, Stephen Meece and Bill Walmer are preparing for this weekends competition and skills challenge. - photo by GLENN KAHL

DeleteThe roar of 42 police motorcycles Friday and Saturday will mark the Manteca Police Department’s “Motor Skills Challenge” at the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley at Union Road and the 120 Bypass.

Times for the Friday training will be from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.  The Saturday skills challenge kicks off at 8 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m. The public is invited.

Organizing officer Patrick Danipour said Lodi motorcycles officers have offered to be in Manteca early Friday morning to help set out the cones for the event’s course – bringing many of their own cones with them.  The Lodi Police Department has been able to keep four of their motorcycle officers on the street in contrast to Manteca’s two – to enforce traffic laws.

Danipour said the event to watch in the Saturday competition is the team ride where two motorcycles are tethered together and officers must ride side-by-side through a specific cone formation for best time and accuracy on the course.

Separate categories of motorcycles will include Harley Davidson Road King and Electro Glides, BMW and Honda and a new model of police Kawasaki motorcycles are being included in the skills challenge.

A major focus again this year is the Manteca Police Department’s perpetual “Chief’s Trophy” that was first claimed by Fresno officers.  They have promised to win the event again and keep possession of the trophy.  Manteca officers think differently, however, and plan to bring it back into the city after the competition.

The Manteca Police Department’s five motor officers were reduced down to only two with the squeeze in the department’s budget last year.  The team of five continues to train together monthly to ensure their skills are up to par and ready to be called out on special assignments.

When the competition was inaugurated last spring, it was believed to be the first of its kind in recent San Joaquin County History.  In addition to the competing officers, the 2010 event drew a motorcycle team of California Highway Patrol officers from the Fresno area to take part in the Friday training day.

Officer Danipour said there could be as many as some 60 officers honing their skills on the course for the Friday training segment.

Under the direction of Lt. Nick Obligacion the team consists of veteran competitors of many police motorcycle challenge events in other cities throughout the Central Valley and the state.   Bringing home first place trophies for their skills in riding and negotiating the orange cones have become an expected tradition with the officers.  The Manteca team has left its mark with other departments in surmounting the difficult challenges in the competitions.

Motorcycle officers are coming from as far away as Watsonville and Fresno to compete this weekend. Also expected to be in Manteca for the two-day meet are motor officers from the cities of San Francisco, San Jose, Visalia, Roseville, Folsom, Tracy, Modesto, Lodi and Turlock.

One of the most challenging trials for officers is the “last man standing” event that involves two officers riding one behind the other.  The second rider must follow the exact path of the lead officer who attempts to get so far ahead of his shadow that the second rider loses focus.

A host of vendors offering everything from motorcycle accessories to insurance are setting up near the track.  The Manteca Explorer Unit made up of high school students are planning to sell hot dogs and soft drinks from their food and drink concession booth.

Sponsors include the Sunrise Kiwanis Club, Los Amigos Tires, Starbucks at Union and Yosemite,  California Casualty Insurance, Don’s Mobile Glass, 5.11 Tactical, Cocoa Cola, Doctors Hospital of Manteca, Gearheads motor repair shop, Frugal Frames, Magnum Hi-Tech, Alhambra Water, Binfords, Manteca Firemen’s Association, Orchard Supply Hardware, Manteca Police (non-sworn) Association, Manteca Police Officers Association, Hollister Honda, Van Unen Portables, The Hampton Inn and Suites, Mountain Mike’s Pizza, Aaron’s Tow, Manteca Tow, The Promenade Shops for use of the parking lot,  and “I Say Anything for Shirts.”

The Hampton Inn has set aside a block of rooms for the competitors and provided their conference room for a nighttime pizza dinner for the officers.