Welcome to Weekly Dirt, your place on the Internet for off-road news from around the world. This week we have a look at Graham Jarvis’ bit win at Erzberg Red Bull Hare Scrambles, Cyril Despres surprising everyone by going to Yamaha, Kato checks in from the Baja 500 and Pete Peterson laments about Southwick’s farewell to the national MX series. There’s GNCC action too, so let’s get to it.
As Dirt Rider Editor Chris Denison can attest, the Erzberg Red Bull Hare Scramble is one of the most brutal and difficult – if not THE most difficult – extreme races in the world. And this year’s edition was made even more treacherous when torrential rains left over 500 riders taking off from the starting line in knee-deep water! In conditions like these, just finishing is an amazing task. This year, only 3% (14 riders) of the riders made it to the finish within the designated four-hour time limit.
Another amazing fact is that current “King” of extreme off-road racing, Graham Jarvis, had never won this race before! The factory Husaberg rider remedied that statistic this year, however, when he topped the 2013 version of the Erzberg Red Bull Hare Scramble over German Husqvarna rider Andreas Lettenbichler, and Spaniard Alfredo Gomez on a Husaberg.
After the start, Jarvis quickly raced to the front, and once in the lead he quickly pulled away from Lettenbichler, who could not keep up with the tempo. For Jarvis, who had previously been disqualified four times in the race for taking the wrong route, a long desired dream has been fulfilled when he took the win 19 minutes ahead of Lettenbichler.
“I am just speechless and delighted,” said Jarvis. “The course was harder than ever, at times I couldn’t see a thing as there was so much water on the track. Fortune was on my side today though!”
Results: 1. Graham Jarvis (UK/Husaberg), 2. Andreas Lettenbichler (GER/Husqvarna), 3. Alfredo Gomez Cantero (ESP/Husaberg), 4. Jonny Walker (UK/KTM), 5. Ben Hemingway (UK/Beta), 6. Dougie Lampkin (UK/Gas Gas), 7. Taichi Tanaka (JAP/KTM), 8. Ivan Cervantes (ESP/KTM), 9. Alex van den Broeck (NED/KTM), 10. Pierre Pallut (FRA/KTM), 11. Wade Young (RSA/KTM), 12. Lee Sampson (UK/KTM), 13. Dan Hemingway (UK/Beta), 14. Philipp Scholz (GER/KTM).
It was quite a surprise back in March when it was announced that rally star Cyril Despres was no longer with KTM, and there was some speculation he might go the same route as Stéphane Peterhansel and race a rally car. Yamaha Motor France recently cleared things up by announcing that the 2013 Dakar Rally Champion will spearhead Yamaha’s quest for victory in the 2014 Dakar Rally.
Despres, the most successful Dakar rider of the last decade, winning in 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013, will ride the Yamaha YZ450F based machine with Frenchman Michael Metge as support rider. Despres’ record in the world’s toughest endurance race is only surpassed by Peterhansel’s impressive six victories, all taken with Yamaha.
“I am very motivated by the idea of joining Yamaha’s ‘men in blue’,” said Despres. “I remember watching them on TV as a boy and dreaming… Within the brand I have discovered a strong feeling of family, with an excellent flow of communication and a technical staff that is motivated and open to feedback. I’m certain we will form a strong, united team, focused on one objective: achieving victory. I am also delighted to have Michael Metge as support rider. He is an ambitious newcomer who entered his first Dakar successfully this year and is extremely motivated.”
Check out the latest video of the Factory FMF/Bonanza Plumbing/KTM Team from the SCORE Baja/500. Link: http://youtu.be/5xoRA6YP2Z4
Russell Wins John Penton GNCC
Kailub Russell climbed back into contention for the Grand National Cross Country champion by taking a big win at this weekend’s John Penton GNCC in Millfield, Ohio. Russell topped his FMF/KTM teammate Charlie Mullins in the three-hour race and moved to within 14 points of Mullins in the series standings.
Russell took over the lead on the second lap of the race, passing holeshot winner Paul Whibley on the Am Pro Yamaha, to do so. Mullins soon followed, as did Shenandoah Honda/USWE-Sports.com’s Thad DuVall, and Rocky Mountain ATV/MC’s Josh Strang, as all five riders battled for the lead.
In the end, Russell took the win by some 30 seconds over Mullins, with Strang in third and Whibley in fourth.
“I have always liked this race,” said Russell. “It is always challenging. You never know what the weather will bring. Today was some of the best conditions I have seen at this track and I had a lot of fun.”
1. Kailub Russell – KTM
2. Charles Mullins – KTM
3. Josh Strang
4. Paul Whibley
5. Chris Bach – KTM
6. Jordan Ashburn
7. Takeshi Koikeda
8. Adam Bonneur
9. Thad Duvall
10. Ricky Russell
The 2013 Do The Ride Thing Video Contest Starts Tomorrow
The Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and the Right Rider Access Foundation have announced the 2013 “Do The Ride Thing” Video Contest. The contest is open to kids only and there are several cash prizes. The videos are based on SVIA’s ‘Golden Rules For ATV Safety’ or MSF’s ‘Dirt Bike Riding Tips’. Remember! Follow the rules and the tips in your video or your video will be disqualified.
Information about the contest, rules, prizes, etc, can be found at http://www.atvsafety.org/atv_psa_contest/
Don’t delay, the contest is only open June 1st to Aug 15th.
See NOHVCC’s introduction YouTube
JCR Honda takes Baja 500 win
The 45th Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 500 turned into a last-man-standing sort of race. Of the four pre-race favorite teams, a crash or other issue seemed to take three of them out one by one until only the Johnny Campbell Racing/Rockstar Energy Honda trio of David Kamo, Colton Udall and Timmy Weigand remained upright, unscathed and undefeated so far at the second round of three events in the SCORE Desert Series.
“I know with KTM and Kawasaki, we’re pretty evenly matched and it all boils down to who makes the least amount of mistakes,” Weigand said at the finish. “That’s how it was last year. Each one of us won a race last year. Just limit your mistakes, put your head down, do your homework and learn the course.
“Today went well. We all rode smart and kept it on two wheels.”
THR Motorsports/Monster Energy/Precision Concepts Kawasaki Rider of Record Robby Bell enjoyed clean air for a while, having drawn the first starting position, but they fell out of the lead when David Pearson crashed while negotiating the always treacherous Summit, hurting his back and forcing Bell to get back on and ride the rest of Pearson’s section. Baja newcomer Taylor Robert later made up some of that lost time, but veteran Steve Hengeveld would then get off at speed, breaking a leg and ankle.
“David and Steve are two of the most solid guys and for them to have issues shows just how treacherous this race course is,” Bell noted. “Anything can happen in Baja and, unfortunately, it happened to us.”
They would eventually finish fifth in Class 22 (Open Pro) and sixth motorcycle overall.
When THR dropped back, JCR moved to the front with the FMF/Bonanza Plumbing KTM factory team of Mike Brown, Kurt Caselli, Justin Jones (a team reserve rider) and Ivan Ramirez now second. But then Caselli hit a hole at speed and cartwheeled heavily.
“I hit my [arms,] chest and my stomach when I crashed and was worried about internal bleeding so our guy in the helicopter (Jones) got on the bike and rode the next few miles,” he reported. “I hit a rock and it’s just so dangerous because the trucks pull the rocks up, making them bigger. There are so many trucks [pre-running] and they really beat up the course before the race even starts. I feel like we’re motorcycles racing a truck race. You can’t always see the rocks when you’re doing 90 miles an hour.
“As bad as [my crash] was, it was a good finish. I feel like I let the team down, but we were still able to get a good finish. I was about a minute and a half behind the Honda when I had the accident.”
They would retain second place all the way back into Ensenada, completing the 501 miles in 10 hours, 12 minutes and 10 seconds; the JCR team finished in the only sub-10 of the entire field, stopping the clock at 9:46:50.
The newly formed Kendall Norman Racing/Red Bull KTM team of Ryan Abbatoye and Kendall Norman plugged along for third. Norman shared, “Right off the start, I almost T-boned a truck crossing the wash and it set the tone of the morning–not the best way to start my morning.”
Privateers Chris Brown, Justin Morgan and A.J. Stewart put together a fourth-place finish on their DP Racing Honda. (Stewart started the race a bit banged up after a couple pre-run crashes, including one when he hit an oil spot on Highway 1 and Brown tweaked his bike descending The Summit and rode the rest of his section in pain.) The THR team regrouped to finish fifth while Francisco Arredondo, Ryan Dudek, Shane Esposito and Scott Myers won Class 30 (riders 30 and older) and were sixth motorcycle overall.
Class 30 runners-up Rex Cameron/Shane Esposito (yes, rode on two different teams)/Mike Johnson/Francisco Septien, Class 21 (450cc and under) winners Dale Herron/Adam Neuwirth/Arnulfo Vergudo Ruiz/Bryce Stavron, Class 30 team Ricky Brabec/Max Eddy, Jr./Jim O’Neal/Roberto Villalobos and Class 22’s Cory Freeman/Mark Samuels rounded out the top 10 bikes.
While all that was going on south of the border, the So Cal Motorcycle Club hosted its Round-up at The Ranch, round five of the AMA District 37 Big 6 Grand Prix Series. Since Weigand was in Baja, a new winner was guaranteed in the feature AMA West Coast Grand Prix and it turned out to be Kawasaki-mounted Justin Seeds on the top of the box after a third and a second at his previous Big 6 outings.
Early leader Brett Hottel was runner-up in his Big 6 debut while JCR Honda-supported Evan Kelly took third. (Kelly was supposed to be racing south of the border, but the bike he was sharing with Ian Young refused to start when he got to the line. With that race a quick DNF, he jumped in his van and headed back across the border, arriving in time for the WCGP race but with no practice.)
On Sunday, Purvines Racing Beta’s Nick Burson got the Heavyweight Expert win in the weekend’s final race aboard a new 300 RR that had needed a few nuts and bolts tightened the day before. Overall, he was followed by Lightweight I (250cc) Expert winner Chance Wyllie and Lightweight II (200cc) Expert Jamie Lanza.
Quinn Cody helped out in the KTM pits at the 500, his rally career apparently hitting a bump. It came to light last week when Yamaha Motor France announced it had signed five-time Dakar champ Cyril Despres. A few hours later, Honda officially announced its Team HRC would include five riders: Javier Pizzolito, Helder Rodrigues and Sam Sunderland as previously revealed, plus Joan Barreda and Paulo Goncalves.
Those familiar with rallies will note that Barreda and Goncalves were most recently linked to the factory Speedbrain team.
So what happened?
Team HRC decided that it wanted more riders to run its CRF450 Rally to speed development, but having five riders on one team would be rather unwieldy. Thus, it contracted Speedbrain to run a second team.
“This decision was taken by HRC Rally General Manager Martino Bianchi,” Speedbrain’s Wolfgang Fischer said.
Asked if he was still with Speedbrain and what the latest announcement meant for that company, Fischer answered, “Yes, I do remain CEO of Speedbrain and inside the new formation I am the Team Manager for the new HRC Honda team with Joan Barreda and Paulo Goncalves. The Speedbrain Rally Team with its new production racer will take care of customer racing support in a separate structure.”
Unfortunately for Cody, he was not included in this new, separate structure. —Mark Kariya
Last Year of Southwick
Interview with Track Manager Ralph Pittello
MX Sports announced late last week that this year’s 2013 pro national at Southwick Moto-X 338, to be held on June 29th, will be the last time the series goes to that location. This summer will be the 35th, and final, running at the facility. We got track manager Ralph Pittello on the phone for more details:
Pete Peterson: Could you give me the short story of why the national’s not going to come back?
Ralph Pittello: Currently we’re at the end of a five year lease with the land owner. And current negotiations have come to a collapse. We had been negotiating since November and the current amount of work that needs to be done for the track, to bring it up to national level, is expensive. And we just feel that the current contract that was offered to us would be a very difficult number to reach to get the whole thing done to what the riders and fans deserve.
PP: Is the track going to stay open for locals to ride and race on it?
RP: We plan on finishing up this year. We have a current contract that’ll go to the end of the year with local races, and after than we’re not sure what’s going to happen. We have not heard the future plans of the American Legion [the land owners].
PP: Is there anything the locals in New England can do to save their track?
RP: I think the best that they can do right now, because that track needs so much… It’s actually kind of small for what we need for a national caliber track. We’ve been able to get by in the last few years with renting some other property, but it just needs a lot of expensive work and some upgrading. For the nationals, to try to bring [another] one into the New England area, we have the opportunity to show MX Sports this year with the national that there is enough interest. We had, in the last five years, we had two years that were really dismal rain days, so our average numbers have been down. So we’re hoping that whether it’s a stellar day out there with weather [or not], we need to show MX Sports that New England fans care about having a national in New England and this would be one way of showing them, in person, that they care about having a national. As for the local races, support your local [racing] organizations because [riders] make the organizations thrive to where the track itself can be supported even without a national… Show anybody that is currently looking at the property, or interested in renting from the American Legion, that the organizations are there and the numbers are there.
PP: When you say the track’s too small, what do you mean by that?
RP: The track is located on 67 acres of property and for what we need for the track itself, and the parking facilities that are asked for for the different teams and sponsors, we just don’t have enough. We have to lease out from other entities that are next to us. A high school, a rec center, a park that’s next to us. We’re right smack dab in the middle of a town. We’ve been very lucky and actually the town has been very good with us in keeping this sport right in the middle of a town.
PP: One last question. How’s John Dowd going to do this year?
RP: John Down, I’ll tell you. Rain or sand, I think he’s going to do great this year. Unconfirmed, but verbal through them, this is going to be his last national also. We spoke to him at a race this last Sunday, and he’s getting pretty beat up himself and he’s not going to chase the points, so it’ll definitely be the last year that he runs number 16. And I think he’s going to have a great day and he’s going to give it 100% like he always has.
PP: Yeah, but you didn’t actually answer the question. How’s he going to do?
RP: You want me to pinpoint a position? I will tell you, he will be in the top ten. —Pete Peterson
That’s all for this week, be sure to check in next week for more news from the off-road world.