Hot Rod Angel(le)
This Archives edition is reprinted from CN issue #5, November 16, 2005. CN has hundreds of past Archives editions in our files, too many destined to be archives themselves. To prevent that from happening, we will be revisiting past Archives articles while still planning to keep fresh ones coming down the road -Editor.
After losing the 1999 NHRA Winston Pro Stock Bike Championship in the series finale at Pomona, California, Angelle Seeling [Angelle also raced under her married names Angelle Seeling and Angelle Savoie she currently races as Angelle Sampey – Ed.] broke down and cried like a girl. The sobbing marked the culmination of a pressure-packed season full of mood swings, temper tantrums and emotional outbursts that punctuated her defeats—and sometimes even her wins—in a year where Seeling was expected to take the title from two-time and defending class champion Matt Hines. With top tuner George Bryce giving her one of the two fastest scooters the class had ever seen (the Vance & Hines-backed Hines had the other one), and with Winston writing big, big checks (big enough that Seeling’s team actually pitted with the Winston’s fuel dragster in the car paddock and not with the bikes, thus alienating Seeling from the rest of the Pro Stock Bike contingent), she had failed by falling asleep at the Christmas Tree in round two of the ’99 World Finals, all but handing Hines his third straight title. Seeling was devastated and considered quitting the sport altogether.
Good riddance, so said many of her competitors, and not only because they were most certainly tired of getting their asses kicked by the hot chick on the hot bike, but simply because, despite the considerable positive attention that Seeling had brought to the class since joining it in 1996, the ego and aforementioned emotional baggage that came along with her rising stardom was bringing the class down from the inside. To her credit, Seeling had a good read on the scene, and she knew that if she returned in 2000, she would have to change her outlook.
“When I lost the championship last year, I thought I was going to die,” Seeling told Cycle News in 2000. “I don’t want to say that I gave up, but I didn’t even want to come out and try. I really had no desire to ever race again… After a month, I started to miss it. I realized that giving up just because I wasn’t the champion was stupid because I really enjoy what I do. I realized that it really doesn’t matter, because I have the opportunity to race a motorcycle for a living, which is all I ever wanted to do. Once I focused on that and stopped worrying about the championship, I felt a lot better. That’s when things started to come together.”
Seeling came into the 2000 season with a renewed confidence but a more humble attitude, vowing to “just have fun” and let the chips fall where they may. With Winston still on board, the team knew that it would need to be competitive, but even with the horsepower that Bryce was making, Seeling had her doubts as to how the team would fare. In the ultra-sophisticated sport of drag racing, the Vance & Hines teams had raised the bar with the addition of a new six-speed transmission, a part that it made available only to its customers, leaving Bryce and Seeling to fend for themselves with a five-speed.
“Matt [Hines] had run fast with a six-speed, and everyone else had one, and we didn’t,” Savoie told Cycle News back then. “To be honest, I didn’t even think that we would be running for second place… If we got outrun, it was because they were supposed to outrun us. If it happened, I didn’t think it would be my fault.”
The Gainesville, Florida, season opener turned out to be quite different than Seeling anticipated. Instead of getting outrun, she qualified number four and reached the semifinals. At the very next round, in Las Vegas, she won.
“After the first two races, we didn’t get run over as bad as I thought,” Seeling said. “It was engraved into my heart and soul that I could win the championship, but I still wasn’t going to let it devastate me like I did last year.”
With an icy-cool attitude that would send shivers up the spine of Val Kilmer’s character in Top Gun or Arnold Schwarzengger’s character in Batman & Robin, Seeling went on to win in Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Denver and Englishtown, New Jersey. Even after a scary brush with the wall in Brainerd, Minnesota, when her rear tire blew out at 175 mph, Seeling was unflappable. She piled on the wins, piled on the points and watched as her competition self-destructed. When it was over, Seeling joined legendary Top Fuel drag racer Shirley Muldowney to become the only other woman ever to win an NHRA World Championship. Seeling would go on to match Muldowney’s record of three titles by winning two more consecutive Pro Stock Bike crowns in 2001 and 2002.
Today [in 2005], Seeling, now Angelle Savoie, is still racing and still as popular as ever. Having parted ways with Bryce two years ago, she is now a member of Don Shumacher’s U.S. Army racing team, where she has never fallen out of the hunt for another World title. Better yet, Savoie’s riding skills and attitude have matured to the point that she is recognized and respected as one of the top competitors in all of the NHRA categories.
Hell hath no fury like an Angelle scorned.CN