Out of most of the local So cal races I enjoy doing, the 6 hours of Glen Helen is one of my favorites. It offers a great course layout that keeps you entertained from beginning to end. Also, the options given to participate in the race, whether you want to do it by yourself or as a team brings tons of excitement to the event.
This year, I teamed up with Alfredo Contreras and Cody Brownfield in the Business class. Our bike was provided by Jay Clark, a 2011 CRF 450R that sported an FMF full system with a power bomb header, a 3.5 gallon tank, 47 tooth rear sprocket and some hand guards. Other than that, the bike was pretty much stock. Our mission was to race this bike and see what the outcome was so we could fix the weaknesses and make it a better bike for the 12 and 24 hours of Glen Helen.
We arrived at the track and saw a great number of riders present for the race. It was pretty nice to see that even though the Baja 250 went on the day before, there was still a great number of desert racers at this event. The race took off at 8:40 am and the weather could not have been any better, the skies were somewhat clear with sunshine coming through and the track was nice and humid with plenty of loose sandy dirt.
The course had plenty of fun obstacles, from logs and tires to tight single tracks up over the backside of the mountain. Some sections were so tight, that if a rider went down, it jammed the passage with riders racked up waiting to get by. There were muddy sections; gnarly up hills and down hills, rocky sections, pavement sections and my favorite was the section where you had to ride down a small creek that was flooded with water and rocks.
The average lap time was about 25 minutes and the track was about 10.5 miles long. We each did two laps at a time and it worked out pretty well. Towards the end of the second lap, you felt like you wanted to ride a third lap in a row, but towards the end of the race, two laps at a time, turned out to be perfect.
The bike we raced was pretty much out of the box new and it only had .2 hours on the engine timer before we started the race. None of us had ridden the bike before so we were not sure how it was set up. However, midway through the first lap, I already started to feel comfortable on the bike. It took 7 laps for the suspension to set in because at the beginning, the suspension was too stiff and the bike was no easy to control. When the suspension broke in, it worked a lot better and it was easier to maneuver the bike. The head shake was really bad at the beginning and towards the middle of the race it got a lot better to the point where it was almost gone. During the middle of the race, the rear shock got hot and the rebound loosened up to the point that it felt like the rear tire was flat. The sensation was so strong, that I slowed down and rode the bike cautiously, thinking that my rear tire might pop out of the rim because it was flat. When I got to the pits, we checked the tire and it was fine, so I looked like a fool because it turned out to be our slowest lap. Later the shock felt normal, but the rear wheel became unbalanced and in mid air I could feel its vibration.
At this year’s six hours of Glen Helen, dust was not an issue. We ripped off the skin filter with a quarter of the race left and the skin filter was not even that dirty. The front brake went low towards the end of the race and the clutch got really hard to the point where it was uncomfortable to pull in with one finger. Our gearing was good but it was somewhat too relaxed in the tight single-track sections. One thing that truly stood out was the power gain and smoothness the FMF system gave the CRF 450R. I know that the stock pipe is not so great, but the FMF pipe and the power bomb header fixed it all. There was power everywhere so you had to get used to using high gears even though the gearing was relaxed and fast. It was too much fun blasting through sandy berms and climbing those insane steep hills. The bike felt like it was fully equipped with some crazy engine steroids.
The CRF 450R also felt very light and easy to maneuver, especially through the tight single tracks, it felt like I was ridding a 250F instead of a bulky 450F. The rest of the track was easy to ride aboard the CRF 450R because of its power and ease of control. For the most part of this race, the bike performed really well, except for some minor issues, the bike comes equipped ready to race.
Some changes will be made to the CRF 450F for the 12 and 24 hours of Glen Helen, like suspension and some other aftermarket parts. To be honest, this bike could be raced the same way for the 12 and 24 as we did for the six hours of Glen Helen.
When that checkered flag went down and our teammate went through the finish line, we were all stoked at how our day’s performance had turned out. Our mission to find out how the CRF 450R would perform nearly stock at the six hours was accomplished. Now we know what changes need to take place so we can get a dream race bike ready for the rest of the series.
As a team, we really are looking forward to participating in the rest of the grand prix Glen Helen series and as a wrap; I would like to thank all our sponsors, Dirt Rider and Jay Clark for providing us with a race bike. Stay tuned for the next race write up and get the inside scoop on our dream race bike that Jay will be putting together.