Welcome to Weekly Dirt, your place on the Internet for off-road news from around the world. We’re less than three weeks into the New Year, and there’s already lots if racing to dig into, so let’s get to it!
AMA Supercross Heating Up
It’s still early in the season, but with two races in the books we’re starting to get an idea of who the players are in this year’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross series. For sure, Muscle Milk Honda’s Justin Barcia put his name near the top of list of potential 2013 title hopefuls with his spectacular win at Chase Field this past weekend in Phoenix. BamBam nailed the start and pulled away from the field in an impressive manner. Consistency may be the New York rider’s downfall, however, after winning the Monster Energy Cup and round two of the SX series, Barcia seems so far to be the most consistent of all.
Defending champ Ryan Villopoto had a much better day in Phoenix than he had at A1, although he’s still struggling with starts, plus he had one tip-over on the slippery Phoenix course which dropped him back aways after the start of the main. Still, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider came away win the runner-up finish, which was impressive in that he had to come from about eighth on lap two on a course that was both treacherous and hard to pass on. Will RV1 be able to redeem himself at the second go-round of Anaheim after a disastrous first race there? We’ll find out this coming Saturday.
Among the rest of the hopefuls, Trey Canard is looking the best of the title contenders behind Barcia and Villopoto, although you can never rule out James Stewart or Ryan Dungey, however both need to pick it up a little and start scoring points. Dungey had a particularly bad day in Phoenix, getting taken out of at the start of his heat race. In the LCQ, the Red Bull KTM rider had several chances to pass Jimmy Albertson for the win but looked unwilling to take a chance. In the main, Dungey fell again and was relegated to a mid-pack finish. With the talent in this year’s series, it’s my opinion that Dungey is going to have to get aggressive if he is to have any chance at all.
Of course, we can’t forget about Davi Millsaps or Chad Reed. Millsaps leads the series standings after two rounds, and has already proven he can win. Meanwhile, Reed has been relatively quiet while turning in a pair of fourth place finishes. Maybe we’ll get a better idea this weekend when the series visits Anaheim for the second of three trips.
Caselli Wins Stage 11, Despres Back In The Lead At Dakar
Cyril Despres maintains his lead in the overall standings at the Dakar Rally, however it was Despres’ Red Bull KTM teammate Kurt Caselli with today’s stage 11 win, the Californian finishing the 118 mile test in the Argentine dunes a little over four minutes faster than Husqvarna Rallye Team By Speedbrain’s Paulo Goncalves. Meanwhile, Despres finished third, some six and a half minutes behind Caselli. This is Caselli’s first attempt at Dakar and he is certainly proving to have the speed to compete.
Despres moved into the overall lead with a second place finish during yesterday’s stage, finishing behind stage 10 winner Joan Barreda. For Barreda, riding a Husqvarna TE449RR by Speedbrain, yesterday’s win was his fourth of the rally, the most of any other rider and certainly proves he’s one of the fastest, although the Spaniard sits 18th overall after a disastrous 144th place finish in one of the earlier stages.
“I managed to keep the pace,” Despres said. “The bike again worked well and suffered less than yesterday. The selective side is what makes the Dakar different and stand out when compared to all the other rallies. Picking up seconds in the general standings is not the most important thing. What matters is making statements, making a difference, gaining in confidence and letting the racing do the talking.”
Barreda, who started behind Despres in the 10th stage, eased his way through the course, catching up with Despres near the end of the special test during yesterday’s stage.
“I’m really pleased with my fourth victory in this Dakar,” said Barreda. “I rode very well today, very cleanly and didn’t take any risks once the special got going.”
Overall Standings After Ten Stages:
1. Despres (KTM)
2. Faria (KTM) 2) 1’37”
3. Lopez (KTM) 13’41”
4. Jakes (KTM) 18’21”
5. Botturi (Hsq) 24’25”
Jarvis Takes Tough One Enduro
Husaberg-mounted Graham Jarvis made a victorious start to his 2013 Hard Enduro campaign by claiming a dominant win at The Tough One. Facing a strong line-up of international Hard Enduro riders, Jarvis made light work of the three-hour race to finish ahead of KTM’s Jonny Walker and Gas Gas rider Danny McCanney.
With just four riders completing twelve gruelling laps of the slippery and technical course, it was Jarvis who quickly worked his way into the lead and, after overcoming an early dose of arm-pump, was never headed. Crossing the finish line in a time of three hours and five minutes, the former trials ace collected his third consecutive Tough One victory.
Placing an eventual eight minutes ahead of runner-up Jonny Walker, Jarvis delivered the sort of performance his rivals feared he might. Although slow to get going, he began to stretch out his lead once he had found his rhythm, getting his head down during the second half of the race to open up a commanding margin. In the end, it was a thoroughly deserved victory and one which again highlights why Jarvis is the current king of Hard Enduro.
For Jonny Walker, the race ended with the young Brit claiming a hard fought podium result on his first visit to The Tough One. One of the pre-race favourites along with Jarvis, Walker’s challenge for the win was derailed when he fell during the early stages of the race, forcing the 2012 Erzbergrodeo winner to stop and change his gloves. Losing precious time and sight of Jarvis, Walker battled on and claimed a comfortable runner-up result.
The final rider to claim a podium result was Manxman Danny McCanney. Hoping simply for a top ten result before the start, the Enduro World Championship regular surprised many, including himself, with his late race charge to make it three different manufacturers on the podium (Husaberg, KTM and Gas Gas). One of the standout performers of the event, McCanney, who confesses to not being ‘much good at the hard stuff’, finished ahead of numerous other experienced Hard Enduro racers.
Taking to the start with a heavy cold, Paul Bolton was one of the fastest riders during the opening laps of the race. Enjoying the track and feeling strong, he worked his way into second position at the end of lap two but soon after was demoted to third by Walker. Despite remaining in contention for a podium result for the majority of the race, Bolton simply ran out of energy during the final 30 minutes and was powerless to keep McCanney behind him.
Spain’s Alfredo Gomez claimed a creditable fifth having never raced in conditions as wet and slippery as those at The Tough One. Ben Hemingway placed sixth on his Beta debut, with French Sherco rider Fabien Planet seventh. Wayne Braybrook, Xavier Galindo and Alex Wigg rounded out the top 10.
Event organisers opted to reduce the severity of a number of the tougher sections of the track in anticipation of bad weather, a decision justified when heavy snow started to fall moments before the start of the morning’s Clubman race. With visibility severely reduced for much of the warm-up race, the weather thankfully eased for the Pros, the sun making a welcome appearance shortly before the checkered flag flew for winner Jarvis.—Shan Moore
Betas make mostly winning desert debut at BITD Parker 250
As announced here late last year, the desert-focused Purvines Racing team will campaign Betas in 2013, following its first year on Hondas and last year on Kawasakis.
After plenty of speculation and predictions, Purvines Racing Beta officially kicked off its 2013 season on the Italian machines at the THR Motorsports Parker 250 in Parker, Arizona, round one of five in Best in the Desert’s American Off-road Racing Series.
The results? Somewhat mixed but mostly positive. The two Open Pro teams–2012 BITD runners-up Nick Burson/Justin Morrow and new additions T.J. Hannafin/Shawn Strong–ran closer to each other in third and fourth, respectively, than to the leading Kawasakis of Ricky Brabec and defending series champs Robby Bell/David Pearson.
But miscalculating on fuel mileage left Burson/Morrow out of gas on the last lap, leaving them stranded until they got enough to reach the alternate pit a few miles away. That left Hannafin/Strong to claim third Open Pro and fourth overall behind eventual winners Bell/Pearson of the powerful THR Motorsports/Monster Energy/Precision Concepts team, solo rider Brabec and Open Expert winners Kyle Hucklebridge/Kurt Sofka, Jr. Fuel shortage issues would also slow Purvines Racing’s 250 RR two-stroke-mounted Curtis Bradley/Jeremy Purvines, the eventual 250cc Pro winners and ninth overall motorcycle. (Purvines teams would also top Over 30 Pro and Over 40 Pro.)
Afterward, Dennis Belingheri (who teamed with Dan Capparelli for the Over 30 Pro win) reflected the general feeling of the entire team’s riders regarding their first outing on the 450 RR: “The suspension’s a little soft, but the chassis felt good, the power’s there so once we get the suspension dialed I think it’ll be a really good bike for the rest of the series.”
Strong said of his stint aboard the new machine, “I definitely took it easy, especially in the beginning. I hit a rock and it kind of caught me off-guard and that’s when I went down. I was definitely getting used to it–it’ll take a little bit of time. Being up in Utah, we haven’t had a lot of time, really, to ride at all.”
But, he promised, “This is just a testing race and the next one we’re going to go at it and go for the win.”
Of course, they’ll have their work cut out for them since Bell/Pearson are proven winners on a thoroughly dialed machine backed by an experienced crew. —Mark Kariya
The Passing of Yamaha France’s Jean Claude Olivier
When someone becomes more than just a man in our minds, their passing seems to be harder to take, especially when unexpected. On Sunday, Jan. 13, former head of Yamaha France Jean Claude Olivier was in a traffic collision on the A1 in France, which took his life. Olivier, better known as JCO, was 67 years old.
As a participant in the very first Dakar Rally in 1979, JCO has been a major influence in France’s Dakar efforts throughout the years, and, as race team manager, collected six wins in his career. JCO had an abundant ability to gather and cultivate great racing talent including Jean Aureal, Patrick Pons, Christian Sarron, Jean-Philippe Ruggia, and many more.
Jean Claude Olivier will be sorely missed and Dirt Rider would like to extend our condolences to his family, his team, and all the people that were important in his life. —Sean Klinger
That’s all for this week, be sure to check in next week for more news from the off-road world.