Siblings grow closer through ATV racing

Sunday, July 24, 2011 | 8:10 p.m. CDT; updated 9:17 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 25, 2011
ATV racer Terrie East and friend Terri McKinnon at Saturday's event at the Boone County Fair. “The women’s class will usually have four or five, if I’m lucky," East said. "Since we don’t have the different levels, I could compete against a complete beginner or a pro rider. I would prefer competing with the guys in a level that’s comparable to me."

COLUMBIA — The roar of engines at the Boone County Fair grandstand was deafening. Racers threw their weight side-to-side as they whipped around corners, sometimes on just two wheels. Suddenly, a streak of pink flashed through the cloud of dust.

As Terrie East, the only women competing at Saturday's ATV racing event at the fair, approached the corner, she downshifted incorrectly and her machine, outfitted with pink detailing, came to a halt. As she struggled to start it again, the other riders sped past her. All except one. Seeing his sister was having problems, David East stopped racing. 

“He’s just being a big brother, it’s pretty typical of him," Terrie East said. "He didn’t care how he finished.”

David East, 30, of Jefferson City, has been competing in ATV races for 10 years, but Terrie East, 27, who lives in Columbia, picked up the sport just three years ago.

“I’d always go to my brother’s races, and I started dating a guy that was into racing. I really wanted to get into it but never had the money,” Terrie East said.

After purchasing the vehicle and gear, gas for traveling to competitions and gate fees, the bills quickly add up for racers.

“I bet David put 20 grand easily into his bike," Terrie East said, "and you won't ever get that money back out.”

Terrie East bought her then-boyfriend’s practice bike to save money. From that point on, her brother has greatly influenced her ATV career. David East, a mechanical engineer, stripped his sister’s stock ATV and rebuilt it for racing. He has also spent a lot of time coaching her.

“He’s very involved,” Terrie East said. “I come off the track, and he always has something to say.”

Being a protective brother isn’t something new for David East. His sister said they are best friends and he’s been looking out for her since childhood.

“I think it dates back to elementary school,” Terrie East laughed. “He punched a guy that said something to me on the playground. He’s always there for me and definitely always wants to make sure I’m taken care of.”

ATV racing has been good for the siblings’ relationship, but Terrie East suspects her brother is not fully comfortable with her competing.

“It’s a dangerous sport. You can get really hurt,” she said. “Most people don’t appreciate how hard it is. You’re fighting the bike because every little bump it hits, it’s gonna move with you. I’m always sore after.”

The danger and physical challenge of racing might be why it is a male-dominated sport.  While there are different ability divisions for male racers, female racers are often compete together no matter their ability. Terrie East said the scarcity of female racers creates inconsistent competition.

“The women’s class will usually have four or five, if I’m lucky," she said. "Since we don’t have the different levels, I could compete against a complete beginner or a pro rider. I would prefer competing with the guys in a level that’s comparable to me. It’s just more fun when you’re out on the track and you’re battling for position than when you’re out there by yourself.”

That’s where her brother comes in. When Terrie East competes with the men, her brother is often by her side.

David East wasn’t planning on competing in the Boone County Fair. "I'm just getting burned out on the competition part of it," he said. His sister was the reason he changed his mind.

She wanted to compete because the fairgrounds were closer than most races. She said lately she hasn’t been able to race because she didn’t have a way to transport her ATV to other competitions.

"She's the only female out there, so she doesn't have much competition-wise," David East said. "It's more of a fun-factor for me, so I'd rather ride with her than have her go by herself."

David East said the decision to compete with his sister was easy. She appreciated it nonetheless.

“He completely gave up his plans, he never wants me to race by myself," she said. "If it’s between his race and mine, he wouldn’t go to his race, he’d rather race with me so I have someone to go against.”

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