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SCORE Baja 500
June 1st, 2013
Ensenada, BC, MX
Photo credit: Mark Kariya; Miles Hall; Adrian Quintero
I’ve come to the realization that I am rarely in my life more focused and aware of my current reality than when I’m on a race bike in Baja. In those moments, nothing else exists; it can’t exist. There is too much at stake to allow my mind to wander. Around any corner, blind rise, or cloud of dust awaits an obstacle be it a vehicle, horse, cow, dog, person, rock, or ditch that I need to be prepared for. Failure to be prepared, present in the moment with unabated focus, can lead to unforgiving consequences. Consequences anyone who has ever raced in Baja is very familiar with.
Perhaps that’s part of the draw of the experience.
In the current form of reality we all experience on a daily basis, complete with endless distractions, experiencing a complete focus, an unyielding awareness of the current moment, is quite a novelty. But in Baja it’s a requirement; It demands this of each rider, each team member, chase driver, even spectator. In its own way, it produces an altered state of consciousness, a heightened state rarely experienced these days, and I believe that’s part of what keeps racers and team members flocking south of the border: the novelty of that experience.
And then, of course, there is a race that unfolds within that experience, and here is an account of mine:
I was incredibly confident in my team; with Steve Hengeveld, David Pearson and the addition of Taylor Robert, I felt we had a team full of experience, speed and heart that was going to be unmatched; even with the way it all played out I still feel the same, actually, I feel stronger in those convictions.
We were doing a slightly different strategy from the two- and three-man KTM and Honda teams: they were opting for longer sections that each rider would complete in one stint, but with our four rider team, we had the ability to shorten our sections, switch off a few times, and in doing so, allow our riders to sprint harder, then get a little recovery. I believe it was a good plan, it’s unfortunate we didn’t quite get the chance to see how it would have unfolded.
With the luck of drawing the first start pick, I had a clear course right from the off, free of dust, allowing me to ride at whatever pace I decided. As six o’clock am was drawing near I had the usual pre-race nerves coursing through my body, but I felt prepared and strong. As the thirty-second countdown began, the nerves began to fade, and as the green flag waved, the acceleration of my machine left all of those nerves behind me at the starting line. All that remained was focus.
Most racers can attest the idea that within the first few minutes of a race, you know whether you’re feeling the “flow” with your machine; whether you’re in control of your bike, or it’s the other way round. This was one of those times when I felt in control, and as I rode through the dirt roads leaving Ensenada I was hitting my lines and flowing through the corners just how I had visualized and practiced, dodging almost a dozen vehicles on what was a busy morning as far as traffic was concerned.
Colton Udall started on the Honda (thirty seconds behind me) and in what has become typical fashion he was riding really well. As we reached the Ojos highway crossing, he had lost just a handful of seconds to me, arguably due to the dust, and Kurt Caselli, who started the KTM (a minute-thirty behind me off the line), was pretty even on time as well. For anyone who followed my race last year, they know I had a slight issue with tunnel vision as I raced past our first pit stop and had to get gas from some locals. I’m happy to announce that I was able to not only see the pit, but stop at it as well, and the Vanscourt crew did an awesome job getting me in and out in a hurry.
From the pit one location the section that awaited me was terrain that I’m incredibly familiar with, and some of the most enjoyable in Baja. I was sweeping through the corners, maintaining my momentum and felt that I was riding really smooth and fast. I wasn’t making too many mistakes, I actually can’t remember any, and with each corner I just felt better and better. I entered a sweeping right-hander in fourth gear, sitting back on the bike, maintaining as much momentum as I could, and then upon exiting the corner my front end clipped a tiny rock. It wouldn’t have upset my trajectory too much but for the speed I was carrying and the lean angle at which I hit it. The rock sent my front end up into the air and I knew instantly I wasn’t going to be able to bring it back. I hit the ground on my right side as I slid, baseball style with my bike for quite a distance before we finally came to a halt. I picked the bike up quickly, noticing the only damage was that I had bent the brake pedal up slightly and after starting the bike and then quickly stalling it, I was able to re-fire it, downshift thrice and then take off, happy to have maintained the lead over a charging Colton. As I accelerated, I realized my ankle was quite sore and that’s when I knew it had gotten trapped under the bike in the crash, twisting my ankle backwards and spraining it. No time to worry about that however, as I raced on to mile one hundred, our second pit.
I gave the bike to David, our mechanic Phil was able to bend the brake pedal back into a position somewhat resembling normal and David took off about fifteen seconds ahead of the Honda. Kurt was still pretty close to even on time with us, maybe losing a few seconds and then Kendall came through a couple minutes back as he prepared for quite a day (he did about 370 miles of the race).
The race plan was for me to take over for David at RM200, do thirty miles, then have him jump back on and ride thirty miles before handing the bike to Taylor, but as we got to our pit four location we started to hear reports from pit three that he went down pretty hard, lost time to the Honda and may not be able to continue. David later said he hit a rock with the rear wheel that sent him sideways and then he got thrown to the ground hard, hurting his back. Dave’s a warrior and he pushed himself all the way to pit four, keeping us within seven minutes of the Honda team and I mounted our bike and took off.
I pushed up to our pit-five location where I got conformation that David wouldn’t be able to continue and after some maintenance on the bike, I headed up towards Mikes Sky Ranch to our pit-six location at Rancho El Coyote. I hadn’t pre-run this section, but I knew everything up to Mikes pretty well and pushed hard, determined to put some time on the Honda team, now piloted by David Kamo, and try to get us back in the race. I hadn’t ridden the section after Mikes since 2007 and I was taking some sketchy chances over some terrain I didn’t know too well. I’d come over a rise into a minefield of rocks, probably thirty miles-per-hour faster than the section demanded and would have to slam on the brakes in the middle of all the rocks, getting really squirrelly, but pulling it off. Then, just before the pit, the course was on a fifth-gear wide-open straightaway and there was about a four-foot ditch perfectly concealed by the horizon ahead of me. I didn’t see it until late, slammed on the brakes, but realized I wasn’t going to be able to slow down enough to roll through it. I downshifted to fourth, twisted the throttle, lifted the front wheel and splattered the backside of the ditch at probably about seventy mph. The rebound from the impact sent me maybe fifty feet through the air, sideways and panic-revving, but I was able to land just straight enough to pull it off and I came into the pit and handed the bike to Taylor, adrenaline still pumping from hitting the ditch.
Taylor had a fantastic ride in his Baja debut, pulling time on the Honda team and just before he handed the bike to Steve, we had heard reports that we were back to within four minutes. It could be a race again.
Steve took over and was absolutely determined to make up time. From what he described, he had a line through some bushes that he could hit at 90mph, then jump a ditch and never lift. Unfortunately he clipped a rock just before he got to the ditch, which sent him swapping toward it at scary speed. He said he high-sided into the ditch and got utterly ejected, cartwheeling and landing some forty feet away from the bike. We later learned he crushed his tib/fib into his ankle, but surgery went well and he’ll make a full recovery.
The fact that Steve went down in this way shows just how committed he was, and here’s a further example: he was laying in the bushes, realizing his ankle is crushed, and when a sportsman comes up to him, he has the guy help him onto his bike so he can ride it up the course to an area that we can chase Taylor into, in an effort to keep us in the race. Steve is a beast.
Unfortunately for our race, between realizing Steve had crashed, getting a hold of Taylor and then getting him down to the bike, we had lost well over an hour and were now just looking to finish and get some points. Taylor got the bike up to me at RM420/Uruapan area and I had an uneventful ride to the finish, coming across the line in fifth position.
The Baja 500 is a unique style of racing: the team plans for months, the riders practice for weeks and it all comes down to less than half a day’s worth of racing. It’s definitely disappointing not to be able to repeat our victory from last year for ourselves, for the team: Monster Energy, THR Motorsports, Precision Concepts, Kawasaki, and for all of the sponsors, volunteers and people that put in the time and capital required to make this effort a possibility. Even though we didn’t finish as well as we wanted, I’m incredibly proud of the team: David rode for around seventy miles with a back injury that would end his day, Taylor (the Baja rookie, who was the only one on our team not to crash) did a great job coming to grips with the event and what it takes to excel, Steve showed how committed he is to winning and the size of his heart when things can go wrong. The team did an amazing job leading up to the event and all week, Scott, Bob, Ty, Phil, Rob, everyone who makes this effort happen, the pit volunteers, the chase drivers; it really is quite humbling to see the amount of effort that goes into a nine-hour event. Thanks to my personal sponsors: Fox Racing, Alamo Alarms, PODmx knee braces, USWE hydration systems, THR, Northland Motorsports and Ryan Abbatoye Designs for continuing to support me.
We’ll definitely be back in November, determined to put the bad luck behind us and committed to pushing for that ultimate goal of winning the SCORE Baja 1000. Congratulations to Honda for again proving how good they are in Baja and to the KTM teams for dealing with their own adversities and ending up on the podium. I’d definitely like to thank my family and friends, my fiancé for dealing with the emotional burden that accompanies me being in Baja for a week and a half and especially all of the fans and enthusiasts that were cheering us on the entire race, even when we were so far back. It’s an amazing experience seeing how devoted and excited everyone is about racing in Baja California, MX. Can’t wait for the 1000!
Thank you to all the Monster Energy, THR Motorsports, Precision Concepts, Kawasaki team sponsors: Hoosier Precision Machining, FMF Exhaust, GPR Stabilizers, IMS Racing, BRP Triple Clamps, AME Grips, Kalgard Oils/Lubricants, Ryan Abbatoye Designs, AP Brakes, LAPC Pistons, Renthal Handlebars/Sprockets, Dunlop Tires, VP Racing Fuels, DT1 Air Filters, K&N Oil Filters, Hinson, Matrix Concepts, RK/Excel, Acerbis, Works Connection, Zip-Ty Racing, SealSavers, Baja Designs.
WORCS round 5
May 12th, 2013
Photos by Harlen Foley
Taft has to be one of the more unpredictable stops on the WORCS tour. The terrain is comprised mostly of hard pack roads, but the twist is that as the surface breaks down, seemingly bottomless silt arises, which conceals any square edges and holes and makes it a veritable guessing game as to what your hitting. Adding any water to the track, obviously a necessity to suppress the dust and prevent the silt, only fuels the unpredictability as it brings the traction level on par with an ice skating rink, making the terms speed and control slightly mutually exclusive. On top of it all, the weather report was calling for triple digit highs so there was no denying it was going to be one tough, physically demanding weekend of racing.
As I lined up for the start of the pro race I had a goal in mind: no matter how my race was going, I wanted to test myself in the heat; I was focused on maintaining my lap times for the entire two hours, basically testing my preparation. In the past I’ve been pretty susceptible to heat exhaustion so this was a perfect opportunity to test my limits. It was a pretty ambitious goal.
Lately I’ve become quite the master of the two-kick start and as the green flag flew, I didn’t disappoint. I was instantly deflated as I wanted to be up front quickly, but as my bike fired to life, I realized the only bikes thundering down the start straight ahead of me were the three (electric start) KTMs of Eric Yorba, Starr Savage and Ty Tremaine, and the Kawasaki of Justin Seeds; apparently everyone else was struggling to get their bikes fired and the fact that I wasn’t going to be mired in the back of the pack filled me with glee.
I wanted to get to the lead in a hurry, set my own pace, and I was able to make a pretty quick pass on Tremaine. Next in my sights was Justin Seeds and we accelerated down a choppy straightaway nearly side-by-side. As we approached the following corner, Justin was stuck in the main line, hitting the biggest bumps, and I was out on the far edge of the track, allowing me to brake later and sweep by just before we reached the turn. Upon exiting the corner I caught the tail end of a pretty exciting crash as Starr fell victim to some freshly laid water. He lost traction, sliding the bike sideways and once his bike caught, he was high-sided into the air and up the following hill while his bike actually low-sided to a sliding stop, leaving him looking back at a thundering pack of 450s heading straight for him, all struggling for traction just as he had done (I’m pretty sure everyone avoided him). His crash definitely exemplified how unpredictable the track conditions can be and it also gifted me second position, leaving just Eric Yorba ahead of me.
Eric was riding really well. We were both feeling out the track conditions slightly, but I wasn’t able to make too much time on him during the first lap. It wasn’t until the second lap that I made a pretty good push and got right up behind him, just in time to get a front row seat to Eric’s wild ride…
As we crested the top of a fifth gear hill, the course turned right, then lazily left and there was a small oil pipe just protruding from the ground on the inside of the left-handed corner. Eric trimmed the corner a little tight, clipped the pipe just wrong and tucked his front end, which sent his back end violently swapping out to the side. The speed of the swap whipped both of his legs high into the air and I thought he was done for, but somehow he managed to muscle the bike straight and get his legs back in their proper places. I think the fact that his entire race flashed before his eyes, along with almost crashing on an asphalt road, lead him to sit up and give me free passage into the lead and I still can’t believe he saved that swap; it was incredibly violent.
From here I went about pushing the pace and testing my limits, but as I came into the Endurocross section on the second lap, the only limits I was about to test were the limits of tire traction on a wet log. As I rounded a corner and headed towards a small log double (nothing incredibly difficult) I remember thinking that there was a lot of fresh water on the ground, which I knew would make doubling the logs a little tougher, but I was committed. I took to the air and as I approached the second log, I clipped it just slightly with the front tire. I landed in the dirt, front wheel first with my back end teetering on the brink of falling forward. It seemed like it took ages for my bike to decide whether or not to send me over the bars and I remember arguing with myself over the idea that I could save it. Finally my bike came to the decision that there was just enough momentum to tip me forward and I was forced to step through the bars as my bike came to a perfect stop, upside-down, resting on its seat and handlebars. Luckily, it never stalled and I was able to remount and take off without losing the lead.
It took a couple laps to beat the clutch perch back into a comfortable position, but once I did, the rest of the race was smooth sailing. I had pulled a decent lead and was focusing on achieving my goal of keeping my laps consistent, not dropping off the pace, which worked out well for the majority of the race. It wasn’t until the final couple of laps that my times began to drop, and even then it was more due to my hands getting hot spots than my body fatiguing. All in all, I was quite satisfied with how I held up in the heat as I crossed the finish line and took my third win of the series.
It was another great weekend for me, and my team: Precision Concepts, Alamo Alarms Racing. The team made some adjustments after practice to help with the square-edged chop and it made a big difference on race day as my bike handled the challenging conditions very well. The WORCS crew did a stellar job with the facility; especially considering the conditions weren’t ideal for keeping water on the course. Thanks to my personal sponsors: Fox Racing, Alamo Alarms, PODmx knee braces, USWE hydration systems (the hands-free device made such a huge difference on a blisteringly hot weekend), THR Motorsports, Northland Motorsports and Ryan Abbatoye Designs. Congratulations to Ryan Abbatoye for earning his first ever WORCS podium (not bad for sitting at a desk all day). Thanks to my family and friends, my fiancé for everything she does, my mechanic Phil, and Ty and John back at Precision for working their butts off in preparation for the Baja 500.
Speaking of the Baja 500: it’s always such a fun race and I can’t wait to get down there and start riding. I feel we have a great team. I’m thrilled to again be partnered with David Pearson and Steve Hengeveld, and excited to have Taylor Robert joining us, adding more speed and depth to an already stacked group of talent. After winning last year’s 500, we’re definitely planning on repeating and I’m looking forward to having another close battle with the KTM and Honda boys. See you all down south!
Thank you to all the Precision Concepts, Alamo Alarm Kawasaki team sponsors: FMF Exhaust, GPR Stabilizers, IMS Racing, BRP Triple Clamps, AME Grips, Kalgard Oils/Lubricants, Ryan Abbatoye Designs, AP Brakes, LAPC Pistons, Renthal Handlebars/Sprockets, Dunlop Tires, VP Racing Fuels, DT1 Air Filters, K&N Oil Filters, Hinson, Matrix Concepts, RK/Excel, Acerbis, Works Connection, Zip-Ty Racing, SealSavers, Baja Designs.
1. Robby Bell
2. Ryan Abbatoye
3. Justin Jones
4. Justin Seeds
5. Bobby Garrison
WORCS round 4
April 21st, 2013
Sand Hollow, Utah
Photos: Harlen Foley
The promise of a race course measuring over thirteen miles in length led to an air of anticipation as racers arrived at the Sand Hollow State Park in southern Utah. The area was uncharted territory for a WORCS race and I don’t believe any of us, the WORCS staff included, knew what we were in for. It didn’t take long for the first seven miles to turn into some of the deepest sand whoops this series has seen; terrain that made Southwick look like a child’s backyard sandbox and would leave more than a few muscles in your lower back screaming for mercy. Then, after seven miles spent relentlessly pounding sand whoops had taken it’s physical toll, the course opened up into flowing third and fourth gear sand dunes, full of razor backs that you could float over and catch your breathe. With the added variety of about a mile of slick rock, the Sand Hollow circuit was incredibly varied and seriously demanding, but extremely enjoyable and with lap times averaging around twenty-two minutes, the two-hour pro race was going to be quite unique.
With such a long lap time, the WORCS crew decided to combine the pro bike main with the pro atv main, making the first time to my knowledge that bikes and quads would race on the same track at the same time at a WORCS event. Other than the slight inconvenience that lapping any of the slower atv riders posed, I was genuinely excited by the prospect of a show down with the four-wheeled pros; I feel they’re some of the gnarliest racers on the planet. The start procedure would be dead engine with pro and pro2 bikes on the first row, followed three minutes later by the atv pros, then the pro2 lights and finally the pro-am quads. Did I mention how unique this event promised to be?
I knew the formula for a race like this: deep sand plus first lap intensity equals chaos and so a good start would be crucial. I did a couple practice starts and my bike fired right up, so I was feeling confident and just waited for the flag drop. As the thirty second board went sideways and we all stood statuesque awaiting the slightest movement of the green flag, my foot pushed through the kick starter and off my ideal starting position of top dead center. I had no time to rectify the situation and as the flag waved high into the air my initial kick left the motor unfired as the rest of the line began to ignite their machines and jet away. With a second swift kick my bike roared to life and I accelerated down the start straight around mid pack. The chaos formula was proving true and after just a few corners I’d passed two riders who had either stalled or crashed. Another rider suffered a pretty impressive swap and I managed to dodge the carnage and slip by, inching my way into the top five. Justin Jones was the first rider I comprehended as the pack started to file out and a quick burst of speed through some deep whoops shot me through to fourth. The next rider in my sights was Justin Seeds and, in a similar pass to the one I had made moments ago on Jones, I powered through yet another set of deep whoops and took over third. Just up ahead was the KTM of Ty Tremaine and as we turned onto a fourth gear fence-line straightaway, I used a little Baja experience as I held the throttle on, riding just inches away from the barbed wire, and made my way by. Just one rider remained ahead of me, David Broderick, and I was content to follow him through a narrower and slightly rocky section of the course. Once the terrain opened up into an uphill set of rolling whoops I made the commitment, pushed my way by him an into the lead. It was time to set sail.
It’s tough to express how much I enjoyed the race as from the moment I passed into the lead I was feeling very strong through terrain I don’t normally excel, riding my own pace, using the edges where I could to save energy, then clicking up to fourth and pounding the whoops when I needed to. With such long lap times the race seemingly flew by in a flash. Before I knew it the white flag was out and I had built a comfortable lead. I spent the last lap jumping the sand dunes, cruising through the rougher sections, showcasing some of my goon riding talents and I was elated to cross the finish line to grab my second win of the season (though I wouldn’t have minded another lap or two).
It was a sensational weekend for me as my race was absolutely flawless. My bike handled the demanding terrain so well that it seemed, at times, all I had to do was point the front end and hold the throttle on. Any concerns I had pre-race about lapping slower bikes and quads were quelled as everyone I approached was incredibly considerate and would leave room for a pass. I must say that the WORCS team did a great job all weekend long with the course conditions becoming much tougher than anyone expected, as they spent tireless hours bringing in broken bikes, quads and sxs’s. I want to thank all of my sponsors for providing yet another great effort: Precision Concepts, Alamo Alarms, Fox Racing, USWE drink systems, PodMX knee braces, Northland Motorsports and THR Motorsports, as well as all of the tremendous team sponsors listed below. Big thanks to my mechanics: Phil, Ty and John at Precision for everything they do to help me out and congratulations to Jacob Argubright and my teammate Justin Seeds for earning their first WORCS pro podium finishes . I’m really enjoying myself on the bike right now and I’m excited to continue improving and representing my team and sponsors to the best of my ability. Up next is the Silver State 300 and I’m looking forward to teaming with David Pearson, holding the throttle to the stop and having some more fun!
Thank you to all of the Precision Concepts, Alamo Alarm racing team sponsors: FMF Racing, GPR Stabilizers, IMS, AME Grips, Kalgard, Dunlop, Ryan Abbatoye Designs, Acerbis, Renthal, VP Racing Fuels, DT1 Air Filters, Hinson, Matrix Concepts, RK/Excel, Works Connection, K&N Oil Filters, Zip-Ty Accessories, and Seal Savers.
SCORE San Felipe 250
March 9th, 2013
San Felipe, BC, MX
Once a year the sleepy beach town of San Felipe is awoken by the sounds of chase crews, pre-runner vehicles and race machines tearing around the streets and nearby desert in preparation for the season opener of the SCORE Baja series. The town may be a destination for those seeking relaxation and an escape from the hustle and bustle of the American way of life, but the race itself offers nothing of the sort. The terrain is brutal. The course features more whoops than most racers would care to hit in a lifetime and embedded rocks blending in so well with the dirt that it makes racing feel a bit like a game of Russian roulette. Maintaining focus over such unreadable terrain is of the utmost importance as the slightest mistake could end your race. Couple the mental test with the physicality of the course and the speeds required to compete and it can be argued that the San Felipe 250 is one of the toughest off road races in the world.
Heading to the start line, the stage was set for a hotly anticipated race with all of the fastest teams starting thirty seconds apart and some late-week rain making the usual early morning dust a non-issue. I would be first to leave the line on the 4X, Monster Energy, THR Motorsports, Precision Concepts Kawasaki with my teammates David Pearson and Steve Hengeveld. Starting second would be the 2X KTM of Kurt Caselli and Ivan Ramirez, followed by the 14X of Kendall Norman and Ryan Abbatoye. The second KTM of Mike Brown and Toby Price would take off fourth, running number 3X, followed by the 1X Honda of Colton Udall and Timmy Weigand and then the 8X Honda of Mark Samuels and Ryan Dudek. The pre-race drama was heightened even more when most teams found out a day and a half before the race that the “classic” SCORE spreading would be no more and riders would now have to stay within 500 feet either side of the course. Then the water was further muddied when the night before the race the rules were bent to allow spreading in sand washes, around silt beds and in areas where a line was more or less deemed parallel (I’ll be writing a second report with more detail on this issue from my perspective). So we were all left on the start line, unsure of which lines would be legal to take, but it was time to put all of that aside and race.
As the green flag flew, I set out on to the heavily shadowed racecourse with my mind set on giving David a perfect bike. I’d be lying if I said last year’s crash wasn’t in the back of my mind and so my goal was to ride well to RM44, but safely and give my teammates a real shot this year. I felt good as I neared zoo road, but suddenly I saw a tire track ahead of me and once I saw KTM’s helicopter ahead of me, I knew Kurt had taken a single-track line off the start and made his way by. I knew about the line, but with the uncertainty of what was going to be legal, I decided not to take it and just pounded down the arrows. From there I rode down the center line of the course, smashing through the car whoops until around RM 20 when I jumped out on a parallel line to the left to get a little break from the bumps. There were multiple lines that had been deemed legal up to around RM36, and when most of the lines converged, I saw Colton coming in hot from the left as I was now out on the right. Our lines merged and I jumped right in behind him as we both held the throttle wide open across the desert. For the next half a mile I kept right behind Colton until our lines split yet again and I took a slightly better line to the right, allowing me to make the pass back into second place physically. As we neared the highway 3 crossing Colton was right behind me and pushed up along side just after we crossed. We rode nearly side-by-side for a bit until I lost a little momentum on my side of the two-track and he pulled a second or two on me. The pit was just a few miles up ahead and as we came in to change riders, we were just seconds apart and the KTM was less than a minute up the trail. While I didn’t show the speed I wanted to off the start, I accomplished my goal of giving David a perfect bike, and we were still well in the race.
David’s section would cover about a hundred miles of new-to-the-SF250 terrain and then Steve would hop on for about thirty miles before it would be my turn to take the bike again. Dave did a fantastic job of getting us back into second position on adjusted time and Steve rode strong getting the bike to our fourth pit, where I would mount for a fifty-two mile section. I hopped on the bike with about a five-minute deficit to the KTM and put my mind to the task of chasing the 2X bike down. I felt better than my morning stint and the bike was working so well through the whoops; I could see Ivan’s tire track in the still-wet dirt and from studying the way he was riding the course, I felt I had to be gaining ground. I kept riding hard as the course turned into a wide, fast wash around RM192, telling myself, “you’re catching him, keep pushing!” but my exuberance would get the best of me. The sand wash made a sweeping left turn, followed by a short whoop section and as I sped into the whoops, I had too much speed and skipped a whoop, dropping my rear tire straight into the bottom of the next hole. I hit with so much force that there was nothing I could do to avoid the back end rebounding violently into the air. I was in a slow-motion endo and as my front tire came back in contact with the earth, it dug in and threw me viciously over the bars as the bike cartwheeled further away. I hit the ground pretty hard, but as I jumped up my thoughts quickly turned to the bike, hoping I hadn’t damaged it too severely. Luckily the only real damage was a broken rear fender and slightly bent bars so I re-fired the machine and took off again. The crash definitely knocked a bit of the wind out of my sails and I never did find the same intensity I had before I went down. I made it through the following rocky sand wash without too much incident, other than a couple minor flying double-u’s from hitting some nasty embedded rocks at speed, and brought the bike to David for our final pit, still five minutes or so behind the KTM and just a couple minutes ahead of the 1X Honda. With just thirty miles to go it was going to be close whether or not we could hold off the Honda for second place on adjusted time.
I wouldn’t know how the race finished until I arrived at the line, shortly after the bikes had finished and I learned we hadn’t quite been able to hold the Honda off and would have to settle for third place on the day (it wouldn’t be until the following morning that I would learn we were penalized and dropped to fourth position overall behind Kendall and Ryan, which is definitely a bit of a slap in the face to get docked). It’s a tough result to take when I know beyond a doubt we’re capable of winning. I do feel horrible about the fact that I wasn’t able to keep it on two wheels for the second year in a row at this event and that’s something I need to improve upon personally moving forward. Mostly I’m disappointed for my teammates because I know how talented they are, how hard they work and how they deserve to win, and also for the team and all of the sponsors who support us. Everyone involved pours their souls into giving this team, and the riders, a winning effort and it hurts to not be able to repay all of that effort with a victory. Despite any controversy over who took what lines, I feel Kurt and Ivan rode a flawless race and deserved to win and Colton and Timmy are continuing to prove that they’re world-class racers. I also want to congratulate Kendall and Ryan for a well deserved third place finish; they were probably the only team in the Open Pro class to comply with the 500-foot rule around the entire course. The competition is tougher, faster and deeper than it’s ever been in Baja and it’s going to force us to improve our program further, but last year we rebounded from an even worse series opener to get right back into the title hunt and I feel entirely confident that our team has the resolve and determination to do it again and prove we’re worthy of the SCORE championship.
I want to thank the team for everything they’ve done leading into this event, Monster Energy, THR Motorsports, Precision Concepts Kawasaki and all of the supporting sponsors who continue to help us improve. Thanks to my personal sponsors: Fox Racing (that gear looked sick!), Alamo Alarms, PODmx knee braces, USWE, Northland Motorsports and HookIt.com for backing me one hundred percent. I want to congratulate Roger Norman and the entire SCORE staff on their first SCORE race of the “new era”. There were definitely some growing pains, which should be expected, but there were also a lot of improvements and bright points to take away and I’m looking forward to the Baja 500. Up next on my schedule is the third round of WORCS in Havasu, AZ and I’m looking forward to some scorching temperatures and seeing the pits filled to the brim with racers!
Thank you to all the Monster Energy, THR Motorsports, Precision Concepts Kawasaki team sponsors: FMF Racing, IMS Products, Hoosier Precision Machining, BRP, Renthal, Dunlop, AME Grips, AP Brakes, LAPC, VP Racing Fuels, Kalgard, DT1 Filters, Hinson, Matrix Concepts, ZLT, RK/Excel, Acerbis, Works Connection, Zip-Ty Racing, SealSavers.
BITD U.S. Hare Scrambles
February 23rd, 2013
Photos provided by Digital Dirt Media
Cholla (pronounced “cho-ya”): anyone who’s had personal experience with this demon of a cactus just cringed at the reading of its name. For those unfamiliar, it is a cactus that can grow to around handlebar height and is made up of conveniently detachable little golf ball-sized pieces just loaded with barbed needles. Once a Cholla ball hits your skin, its fish-hook-like barbs sink in and the only way to get them out is with a tool of some sort, be it a pair of pliers, a fine comb, or the caveman method of using two rocks, as using your hand only causes more needles to stick to your palm; and, oh yes, the experience is quite painful. Most racers coming to this event expand their list of goals, adding to the top of the pile: do not come into contact with a Cholla cactus at all cost; but as the desert surrounding Laughlin, NV is covered in these little demon plants, that goal is often the most difficult to achieve.
This year’s event had a good pro class entry as the Beta team of Nick Burson and Justin Morrow would be first off the line, followed thirty seconds later by Jason Parsons and Tallon Taylor. The second Beta of T.J. Hannafin and Shawn Strong would be third off the line, then David Pearson and myself, and finally, our teammates, Ty Renshaw and Ricky Brabec. The race would consist of three total laps, the lap consisting of two loops, and each team would split their sections the same, dividing the two loops between the riders and making an even share of the course mileage.
The sun was up, warming the Cholla for each racer’s arrival and as David took off from the line he looked really good; I had a feeling he would have a great ride. After about forty minutes the first bike came into view down pit row; it was Nick, who had a fantastic ride, but just thirty seconds later David came into view. David had already put us into second physically on the course and, as he had made up about a minute on Nick, given me the bike in the lead on adjusted time. After a quick pit I set out onto my loop and my first thought was about how sweet the conditions were as some mid-week rain had made for perfect dirt and minimal dust. The single wet tire mark ahead of me belonged to Justin, who had taken over for Nick, and from noticing his lines and how he was attacking the course, I felt confident I was gaining ground. I was having a blast on the course as the route traversed the surrounding hills, would shoot down into a canyon, fly across some low-ground desert and then climb back up over more rolling terrain. I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face as I raced, but as the miles clicked off, I began to realize the downside of not having dust to follow as I hadn’t seen any sign of Morrow and we were starting to get pretty close to the pits. Finally, with just a few miles left before I’d hand the bike back to David, I caught my first sight of the Beta just up the trail and felt a rush of adrenaline; I wanted to pass him before we pitted. I pushed and caught right up to his rear wheel, but by the time I did, we had arrived at the pit and I had to funnel in behind him. Justin pulled into the Beta pit just ahead of me, but our pit crew had a flyer and as David hopped on the bike, he took off in first place with a few seconds to spare as Nick set out after him.
Once again we played the waiting game in the pit, getting scattered radio reports that it was a close race out front, and as the bikes came into view, it was Nick leading with David mere seconds behind. Nick had definitely taken full advantage of the conditions, as with no dust he was able to key off of David’s lines and just before the pit, was able to make the pass when David blew a corner. I jumped on the bike with Justin literally seconds ahead of me and had it set in my mind that I would have to pass him and then ride a little above myself to get a gap so he wouldn’t be able to key off of my lines and keep the race close. I was able to close the few seconds down and found myself pacing just feet behind him, but with the course being quite narrow, I was left hoping for a mistake to make my way by at this point and I continued to apply the pressure. I few miles into the loop the course would make an off-cambered right hand turn up a hill and as we entered the corner, I could see the Justin was pushing a bit wide. I jumped at the opportunity to square up the corner and we were side by side for a moment, both wide open as we accelerated for the top of the following hill. Fortunately for me, I had the momentum from my line through the corner and was able to complete the pass as I reached the top just ahead of Justin and roosted down the downside with the trail all to myself. I was extremely focused for the following miles, riding a little on the edge in an effort to open up a gap as I envisioned Justin behind me, watching my lines and matching my pace. It was six or seven miles before I finally took a second to look back and I was happy to find myself completely alone, no sign of Justin behind. From there I kept my pace high, but brought it under a bit more control and I came into the pit having pulled about two and a half minutes of a lead. The Beta came in and had to change a rear tire as they later said their mousse had gone very dead, which gave us about a three minute lead as Dave set off on his final lap.
Dave brought the bike in without incident and I took off for my final loop free of pressure, as we had a comfortable lead, and I was able to really enjoy the course, the conditions and, most importantly, focus on completing my third lap without coming into contact with any dreaded Cholla. I had a lot of fun making my way through some of the ironmen and sportsman team riders, noticing how many Cholla cacti had been exploded on the trail and I finally came into the finish, crossing the checkers and taking the win for myself and David.
As if I haven’t mentioned it enough, I had such a great time at this race. Casey and the Best In The Desert crew marked out a heck of a course, we were fortunate enough to get the rain and the conditions couldn’t have been better. I want to thank my teammate, David Pearson, for once again having a great performance; I love teaming together and we definitely have some momentum heading into San Felipe. Thanks to the team: THR Motorsports, Monster Energy, Precision Concepts Kawasaki for putting together an incredible effort and having the fastest pits in the race. Thanks to Ty and Phil for throwing this bike together in all of their “spare time” as we prepare for Baja and Dallas, Dallin and the whole Pearson gang for helping in the pits. Thanks to my personal sponsors: Fox, Alamo Alarm, THR, USWE, Northland Motorsports, Ryan Abbatoye Designs, HookIt.com and my newest supporter, PODmx knee braces; the braces are extremely comfortable, easy to get use to and very confidence inspiring. I was so toked to come away without a trace of Cholla in my skin as after this race I headed straight to Competitive Edge MX Park for the Mammoth MX qualifier on Sunday as there’s no sense in racing just once per weekend!
Thank you to all the Monster Energy, THR Motorsports, Precision Concepts Kawasaki team sponsors: FMF Racing, IMS Products, Hoosier Precision Machining, BRP, Renthal, Dunlop, AME Grips, AP Brakes, LAPC, VP Racing Fuels, Kalgard, DT1 Filters, Hinson, Matrix Concepts, ZLT, RK/Excel, Acerbis, Works Connection, Zip-Ty Racing, SealSavers.
Top 5 overall:
1. David Pearson, Robby Bell (KAW)
2. Nick Burson, Justin Morrow (BETA)
3. Ricky Brabec, Ty Renshaw (KAW)
4. Matt Gosnell, Nick Pearson (KAW)
5. Axel Pearson, Ryan Smith (BETA)
WORCS Round 2 Race Report by Starr Savage
Coming into the second WORCS race of the year located in Primm Nevada I was extremely excited. My training during the few weeks before the race went very well and I knew that the WORCS crew would have a great track set up for us to do battle on. For the first time in WORCS history the weekend would be a “super event” in which bikes, ATV’s and side by sides all race in the same weekend, providing a packed, busy, and exciting schedule. Something new to the super event schedule was the fact that unclassified practice was on Friday instead of Saturday leaving us not much of a warm up for the 450A race Saturday morning. In the 450A class I pulled an impressive holeshot and lead for quite awhile before I struggled with some arm pump and a few major mistakes that would drop me back to finish 5th place. After the race I felt confident that I had the speed and endurance to finish on top in the Pro2 race on Sunday, and after some bike maintenance and throwing some fresh Maxxis tires on we were ready to go! On Sunday the dead engine start always provides a challenge and including the pro class that started with us Pro2’s I was in the top 10. I rode smooth and smart for the first hour and found myself in 4th place and reeling in 3rd. I knew I was catching 3rd and I was pushing very hard to get on that podium, however at about 65 minutes into the race I got a flat tire and lost a huge amount of time. After I had to make a long pit stop to replace the entire back wheel I found myself in 5th place, and extremely frustrated. I charged very hard, quickly reeling in FMF/RPM/KTM’s Ty Tremaine and passing him for 4th place. After this there simply wasn’t enough time left in the 120 minute race for me to catch the 3rd place rider and I finished a frustrating 4th place in the Pro2 class. Although I am satisfied with my speed and endurance, the mechanical error causing me the podium was very frustrating. I know that I will be competing for wins at Round 3 in Lake Havasu, and I am excited to get my sponsors even further recognition throughout the season. I would like to express a huge thank you to everyone at All American KTM, Precision Concepts Suspension, Maxxis Tires, Maxima Racing Oils, Sidi Boots, One Industries, EKS Brand goggles, and my family for supporting me.
Gary Jones Western Off Road Championship Series GP
February 17th, 2013
Glen Helen, CA
After getting some speed work in through an intense set of motos the previous day at REM MX, the Gary Jones Grand Prix offered a perfect opportunity to get a little endurance training as the format called for a two-hour long pro race. With Gary seemingly familiar with every spec of dirt the Glen Helen property has to offer, it was no surprise this race course was incredibly entertaining as it provided an all encompassing mix of the national and REM motocross tracks, the high speed truck track, the sweeping roads of the upper hills and the tight, technical single track canyons. Justin Seeds and Justin Jones turned out, among a few others, to add some quality competition and as we lined up for the pro race I was just anxious to get out and enjoy the course.
We would use the concrete start gate for the race and as I had the feeling of getting off the REM gate fresh in my mind, I got off to a flyer of a start. I found perfect traction off the cement, started shifting through to fifth gear, hanging off the back of the bike with the throttle wide open and commanded the first turn as we rounded the high speed Talladega corner. I instantly found my groove and as there was a little bit of dust in the back sections, I completed the first lap with a pretty comfortable gap already. Justin Jones had moved into second place and, being one of the few riders that could rival my familiarity with Glen Helen, he started to find his pace and held the gap constant for the next half a lap. Then I gave him a little more incentive. It’s ironic how neutral can be so hard to find when you’re searching for it, but come the most inconvenient time, your transmission seems overjoyed to find it and as I was rounding a corner of the REM motocross section, my big foot bounced into the shifter and managed to find neutral. I instantly lost my balance, fell to the dirt, and had a “turtle on it’s back” moment, as it seemed to take me forever to get back to my feet. In that time, my bike stalled and I rushed to re-fire the beast before Justin could overtake me. My machine sparked to life just in time and I took off, grabbing gears, with just a couple of seconds over Jones. He was riding inspired and held me right within his sights as we made our way to the tighter canyons, but after navigating the technical sections, I had regained a more comfortable cushion. I had planned on that crash being my one and only, but apparently I was full of mistakes this day (specifically in the REM section) and as I was exiting the motocross track, my front tire caught a hidden edge and sent me to the earth yet again. This time I was able to keep the bike running, kept from losing too much of my lead over Justin, and started pushing hard yet again. It wasn’t even a lap later that I started getting the “you have a big lead” signals from people around the track as, sadly for Jones, his race took a turn for the worse when something happened to his rear brake system, forcing him to come in for a lengthy spell in the pits. From this moment on I used the race as a training session, continuing to push the pace and my fitness, all while having such a blast with the racecourse. My race wouldn’t be complete without a little more drama, though, as with a couple laps to go I stuck the front tire into a silty berm, which brought the bike to an abrupt stop. Unluckily for me the laws of physics dictated that I must continue my momentum and I flew into the bushes as I high-sided off the bike, polishing off my third crash of the day in exciting fashion. I was able to brush myself off and, aside from a few grains of sand in my gloves, wasn’t too worse for wear as I finished out the race and took the checkered flag.
I had such a fun time at the Gary Jones GP and can’t wait for round two when it hits The Ranch as that has to be one of my favorite places to race; that facility is purpose build to produce smiles. I was impressed with Justin’s speed today and he’s really improved since turning professional; it was quite unfortunate that he had the bike issues this weekend as it was shaping up to be an exciting race. I’m stoke to get another win this year and I’d like to thank the team: Precision Concepts, Alamo Alarms racing for building a damage proof bike, because I did my best to test it’s resistance through all of my crashes. Thank you to all of the wonderful team sponsors and my personal sponsors as well: Fox racing, THR Motorsports, USWE, Northland Motorsports and HookIt.com. I’d also like to thank all of my friends from CrossFit-Foothill for coming out and watching me race; perhaps that was the reason for my continual crashing as I was probably trying to show off a little bit. Well my busy February continues next weekend as I’m teaming up with David Pearson at the BITD, GPR, Laughlin Hare Scrambles on Saturday and then rushing to Competitive Edge on Sunday for the Mammoth MX qualifier. Just can’t get enough of this whole racing dirt bikes thing I have going!
Thank you to all the Precision Concepts, Alamo Alarm racing team sponsors: FMF Racing, GPR, IMS, BRP, AME Grips, Kalgard, Ryan Abbatoye Designs, Renthal, Dunlop, VP Racing Fuels, DT1 Filters, Hinson, Matrix Concepts, RK/Excel, Acerbis, Works Connection, Zip-Ty Racing, SealSavers.
February 16th, 2013
Glen Helen, CA
With the unfortunate news that the Adelanto GP had called off the pro race, I was left with an appetite to race on Saturday and decided to satisfy it by heading out to Glen Helen for REM and a bit of MX training. I rather enjoy the REM series races and so it came as a small shock when I realized it had been over a year since I’d made it out to one. I must say that the new (well, new to me) course design since the X-Fighters has made the track flow better, added a few options for racing lines and allowed for some better racing. After burning some hot laps in practice I felt great on the bike and, as I lined up for the first moto, was looking forward to a bit of sprint training.
I hadn’t started with a motocross gate, let alone one on concrete, for some time, so when the gate fell I was very happy to get off the line well and headed into the first turn in second position. I was soon applying massive pressure on the leader trying to push past him and just a few corners into the race I made a move around the outside and jetted into the first place. Tony Amaradio quickly made the move behind me and showed he still has plenty of speed as he clung to my back tire. A couple laps in, I began opening up a gap and after finding a couple better lines I had stretched out over ten seconds, allowing me to focus solely on how I was riding the track and I continued to enjoy myself through the checkers, winning the first moto and putting myself in a great position for the overall.
For the second moto I wanted to improve my start by one, but as the gate dropped I found myself slightly off balance and as much as I fought to keep the throttle pinned, I finally had to lift, regain myself and settled into fourth through the first turn. I quickly made my way into third behind Brandon Brady and Amaradio and it was apparent the intensity had increased from the first moto. Brandon was hanging it out looking for a way by Tony and a lap later he made his way into first. I soon worked my way onto Tony’s rear fender, anxious to get by before Brandon pulled too much of a gap, and as we headed down Mt. Whitney I pushed hard down the inside, out braking him into the corner. Unfortunately for me my momentum had carried me a bit wide and Tony made a cheeky move as he cut back underneath my line and took
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