Welcome to the Weekly Dirt, your place for the latest in off-road news. Yippeeeee! Speed Week’s here, and we’ve got plenty to talk about: the opening round of the GNCC series, the Ricky Carmichael Amateur SX, the San Felipe 250, Caselli to KTM World Rally, and a look at the Atlas brace line and Matrix products. So let’s get to it!
Mullins Takes GNCC Opener
Charlie Mullins kicked off the 2013 Amsoil Grand National Cross Country Series by taking a hard fought win over FMF/KTM teammate Kailub Russell at round one of the series at Westgate River Ranch in Lake Wales, Florida.
On a treacherous and grueling course, mostly consisting of deep, whooped-out sand, Mullins and Russell battled back and forth for much of the early going. However, when Mullins finally got the advantage at the midway point of the race he was able to pull away to take the win, finishing with just over seven seconds to spare over Russell.
“This is a tough race and it’s good to come out of here with a win,” said Mullins. “Kailub and I had a good battle, but I had a good line in the whoop section and I was able to get around him and get a good lead.”
Third place behind Russell went to Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Racing Kawasaki rider Josh Strang, who passed defending series champ Paul Whibley for the position with two laps to go in the race.
“This is my first race back in a long time so I’m a little rusty, so I’m happy to make it on the podium,” said Strang, who spent a big part of last year recovering from a broken leg he suffered at the end of 2011.
Fourth place went to Am Pro Yamaha’s Paul Whibley, who grabbed the holeshot to start the race and led part of the first lap until he got a stick jammed in his back brake and dropped out of contention.
Fifth in the XC-1 class went to Team Shenandoah Honda/USWE-Sport’s Thad DuVall, while KR4 Performance KTM-backed Chris Bach rounded out the top six.
The XC-2 class featured a wild battle between FAR Husqvarna’s Andrew DeLong and Pro Motocrosser Zach Osborne, who was riding his GEICO Honda practice Supercross bike in just his second GNCC race.
DeLong got off to a slow start when he fell in the second turn, however, the Pennsylvania rider soon caught up to Osborne at the front of the pack and the two riders traded positions until DeLong managed to break away and take the win.
Late in the race, Dirtwise Schools/KTM-Parts.com’s Jason Thomas moved around Osborne, as well.
“I’ve been down here in Florida working really hard with Chris Borich and it feels good to see that all the hard work is paying off,” said DeLong. “I really had a good time out there and that helped me ride good.”
Second went to Thomas, while third went to Osborne, who is not accustomed to the three-hour race format.
“I had fun for about a lap, and then after that it was tourture,” Osborne joked.
Monster Energy Ricky Carmichael Daytona Amateur Supercross
The 4th Annual Monster Energy Ricky Carmichael Daytona Amateur Supercross event, the biggest two-day amateur Supercross event on the planet, took place on Sunday and Monday at Daytona International Speedway with hundreds of amateurs taking to the track for two days of competition.
The Daytona International Speedway is the legendary home to some of the most historic and high profile racing in the United States and for the riders participating, this was an incredible opportunity. Check out a few photos from Dirt Rider contributor Rob Koy.
Caselli To KTM Rally Factory Team
KTM Motorsports has announced that American Kurt Caselli will join Marc Coma and Ruben Faria in 2013 on the newly named Red Bull KTM Factory Racing world rally effort.
Caselli evidently won the job when he was called in at the last minute to ride for the injured Coma at this year’s Dakar Rally. He delivered an impressive performance in his first Dakar appearance, including two stage victories.
Meanwhile, Cyril Depres will be leaving KTM to pursue other options.
“Just as we always look to the future by constantly developing our rally bikes, we must also do that same with the structure of our factory team. It is essential to evolve, to engage new talent and have the kind of balance and harmony essential for the smooth operation of the team in extreme circumstances like the Dakar Rally,” said Pit Beirer, Head of KTM Motorsports. “We want to capitalize on the immense experience and talent of riders like Marc Coma, but also need to take advantage of those of ambitious up-and-coming riders like Caselli, Faria and Lopez.”
Beirer underlined that KTM had enjoyed a great era with the Coma-Despres partnership in the factory team but underlined that when a rider of the high caliber of Despres indicated that he wanted to move on and face new challenges that the company had to respect his wish. He said KTM had experienced an era of unprecedented success while Despres has been a member of the company’s factory rally team. “His exemplary achievements are recognized throughout the world of motorsports and he will always be part of the history of our company. We thank him for his contribution and I join with everyone at KTM Motorsports and our entire company to wish him well for his chosen future.”
Looking forward, Beirer emphasized that it was important to remain open-minded and embrace change. “We must invest in new talent, just as we invest in new technology and I am confident that with the new team structure we will continue to play a dominant role in rally sport.”—Shan Moore
After a fun morning of roosting at the local motocross track, the Dirt Rider crew stopped by the Atlas Brace Technologies/ Matrix Concepts headquarters last week to check out some of the latest products. Industry icon Eddie Cole and his son Chadd personally took a few hours to sit down and discuss the latest aspects of the Atlas brace, which is well known for being the brace that Ryan Villopoto has been rocking in the 2013 Monster Energy Supercross championship.
Atlas now produces several different variations of the neck brace, with more in the works. The Atlas Original runs for $299.99 and comes in three different sizes to fit a wide range of riders; similarly, the Atlas Carbon runs at $499.99 and weighs just 635 grams. A lineup of kid-sized braces, as well as braces for mountain bike riders, round out the Atlas line. To learn more, visit www.atlasbrace.com, and check out www.matrixracingproducts.com to see what else the Coles are cooking.—Chris Denison
JCR Honda Wins San Felipe 250 As New SCORE Era Gets Off To Shaky Start
The 40th year of SCORE desert racing got off to a somewhat shaky start with uncertainty in the days before the race as well as finger-pointing afterwards.
Now run by casino owner and former truck racing champion Roger Norman (after 39 years with Sal Fish at the helm), the biggest issue seemed to be the late issuance (online on SCORE’s Web site on Monday before the Saturday race) of a ruling pertaining to allowable deviations from the marked course (500 feet). Further muddying things, at the rider’s/driver’s meeting the night before the race, officials declared that competitors would be allowed more than 500 feet in sand washes, silt beds and lines determined to be parallel. However, what officials didn’t announce was what the penalties would be for straying from the 500-foot rule.
“Right away we were kind of frustrated, obviously, with the organization and just the way things were kind of last-minute, and it seemed like we were all taking a shot in the dark as far as the rules go,” defending race champion Kurt Caselli said. “We were [also] uncertain [about] the penalties–what was what.”
On race day, both the FMF/Bonanza Plumbing KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team pair of Caselli and Ivan Ramirez as well as the THR Motorsports/Monster Energy/Precision Concepts Kawasaki team of Robby Bell, Steve Hengeveld and David Pearson gambled on SCORE liberally interpreting the rules, which is how it’s been done for years as bikes seek almost any avenue to avoid the rougher truck/buggy lines. Hitting the “virtual check points” instituted a few years ago was the most important criteria.
The second KTM duo of Mike Brown and Toby Price, Johnny Campbell Racing/Rock Star Honda’s Colton Udall and Timmy Weigand, and dark horse privateers Kendall Norman and Ryan Abbatoye decided to play conservatively and aimed to stay within the 500-foot guidelines.
Unlike last year when crashes played a large role in the outcome, all teams seemed just a little more careful to avoid those incidents–but that didn’t diminish the intensity of racing. Caselli/Ramirez were quick to grab the lead and hold it to the finish, followed physically by Bell/Hengeveld/Pearson and Udall/Weigand, but the Honda team was close enough to earn second on adjusted overall time on course.
However, the race wasn’t really over just because they’d completed the new 254-mile course. SCORE gathered everyone’s tracker as they finished and spent the night overlaying each team’s actual track on the official course. They discovered discrepancies and assessed penalties; those penalties changed the official outcome, but nearly all seemed to get hit.
Instead of celebrating a repeat San Felipe victory, Caselli/Ramirez found themselves dropped to second behind Udall/Weigand. And instead of third, Bell/Hengeveld/Pearson found themselves fourth, replaced on the podium by Red Bull’s Norman and Abbatoye. Brown/Price rounded out the top five bikes overall.
“What frustrates me the most as a rider is the fact that it was really inconsistent [in the way penalties were applied],” Caselli shared. “Honda ended up missing a VCP and they were docked five minutes. Four other bikes missed the same VCP and they weren’t docked any time! Mike Brown [and partner Price] rode right down the center of the whole course for 250 miles and was docked 20 minutes, and myself and Ivan were docked 15 minutes.
“It’s just frustrating. We spend a lot of time and a lot of money down there, and to not even know, really, the rules of the race and to not have anybody involved with the race tell us a straight answer really felt way more unorganized than any local race I’ve ever done.
“I don’t like expressing my negative thoughts, but it really was a letdown on the whole organization and the promoter and how everything was run.
“I hope things get sorted out and fixed and we can go on racing this year without any more issues.”
Bell expounded on that in his race report, saying, “It is my personal opinion that the results should have stood the way the race ended. The KTM was the best team on the day, the Honda beat us fair and square, and I think Kendall and Ryan were probably the only Open Pro team to pound the arrows around the entire track (maybe we should start a petition to give them the win!). I don’t feel we took any lines that ‘cut’ the course so I’d be interested to see what lines we took that were deemed to be illegal.
“Moving forward, I am a fan of the 500-foot course width, but I feel there needs to be open discussion about it and the rules need to be solidly in place before pre-running starts. I feel the tracking data should be visible to all of the teams after the race so we can have a candid meeting over any deviations and more of a consensus rather than blaming and finger-pointing. I believe narrowing the course boundaries will make the sport more competitive and affordable as racers who can’t spend a week and a half pre-running to find all of the lines will be on a more level playing field. Hopefully, it will have an added benefit of pre-runners (cars and bikes/quads) putting in fewer miles over the already beat terrain, allowing the race courses a little more recovery, and it will also be safer from the standpoint that a rider won’t crash a quarter of a mile off course, making it difficult to find him/her.
“I feel there are a lot of positives that can come out of this rule change and I applaud Roger and SCORE for implementing it. It’s unfortunate all of the controversy that arose from San Felipe, but I feel it will improve our sport in the long run and allow us to continue to enjoy racing the sport we love in an ever-developing country.”
Caselli played a big role in other news released yesterday by KTM. To no one’s surprise, he’s been picked to join the factory KTM rally team, having signed a contract that’ll see him on the official Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team alongside three-time Dakar winner Marc Coma (whom he subbed for at this year’s Dakar) and Chile’s Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez. Five-time Dakar winner Cyril Despres will no longer be a part of the team, leading to speculation that the father-to-be is negotiating a car deal.
“First off, I’m happy to continue my relationship and to stay with KTM,” Caselli began. “I’ve been with them 12 years now and after this contract, that’ll put me into 15 years with them.
“It was in the back of my mind a couple years ago when I really wanted to get back into the hare & hound racing, and I knew that would hopefully take me into Baja. I was just kind of hoping and thinking that eventually that would turn to something for Dakar.”
In other words, it fits perfectly into the master plan. “That’s cool; I get to travel a little more and experience some different races. It’s a different format that I really need to get used to and get comfortable with so when I show up to Dakar, I’m ready to race on day one and not on the last day.”
Caselli made it clear to the factory that he wanted to finish what he started this year by concentrating on the hare & hounds and Baja, though he may do a rally or two this year. But after that, he’ll most likely forego the AMA series though the current plan is to keep chasing the SCORE championship.
He also confirmed the existence of a new KTM rally bike, concept photos of which have circulated on the Internet for a few months: “KTM’s actually developing a new-from-the-ground-up rally bike that’s supposed to be out shortly. I’ll be able to test that bike and put in my two cents and give them my feedback as far as what I’d like to change.
“They really want to test the new rally bike and get it proved and work all the bugs out before we get to Dakar for 2014.”
Testing would be primarily in Africa, but Caselli believes there’s the possibility of a prototype being sent here for him to ride.
In closing, Caselli offered, “I feel like Dakar is a huge event and it’d be cool to see a lot more Americans going. I want to be another one of them–kind of like ISDE–that’s able to go over and be competitive and make an impression on more of a kind of European- or world-based event coming from the U.S. Hopefully I can get with [Husqvarna’s] Quinn [Cody] and do some riding and practicing, and we’ll be able to hold up our American side of it come race time.”—Mark Kariya
That’s all for this week, be sure to check in next week for more news from the off-road world.