Dirt Rider International …..It didn’t start to set in until I was eating lunch at the Honolulu International Airport that I was in route to Manila to go race dirt bikes. I just got off the phone with my good friend and fellow racer Dennis Stapleton as he informed me that he was not going to be able to make it to the race, he was stuck in an airport coming home from a different event. It looks like I would be the only American going to the race. This would be my first time traveling out of the country alone and my first time going to the Philippines. This could be the start to a bad movie, or the start to a great adventure. I wasn’t sure yet.
As I landed in Manila I was greeted by Glenn Aguilar. Most of you probably don’t know Glenn but I will fill you in. Glenn is the 14 time Philippine MX Champion. He speaks great English and has spent lots of time over the years racing and traveling back and forth from America. On the insanely scary drive back to the house we exchanged stories of racing and traveling. (They do not follow any traffic rules in the Philippines, it’s kind of like playing a video game through the streets) I had only known Glenn for 30 minutes but I felt as if we had been friends for years. The house that I was staying at in Manila was owned by Jay Lacnit. Jay is the CEO of Sel J Pharmaceutical, one of the biggest distributors of medicines in the Philippines. Jay is also a fellow racer and Executive lites Champion who I would become great friends with throughout the trip. When I got to the house I was greeted by the local kids in the neighborhood, the watch guard (with a gun) and the maid. Everyone was so friendly and happy to meet me, it was very welcoming. The next morning I came down stairs to discover that the maid had already toasted some bread and had sausages made for breakfast, I was pumped!
Friday morning we took an early flight from Manila to the Lanao Del Norte. I wish I could be more descriptive and tell you where that is in relation to Manila, but honestly I had no clue where I was going most of my stay in the Philippines. We landed into what seemed like an inhabited jungle. I was finding it hard to believe there was going to be a motocross track there. Sure enough after a short white knuckle drive, we arrived at the track. As I got out of the van I was instantly amazed how hot and humid the local weather was. It felt like stepping out of the van into a steam room. The track is built on the side of the hill and consisted of some decent jumps, whoops, lots of off camber turns and hard packed blue groove dirt,not one rut on the whole track. Shortly after a quick track walk, we headed back to our hotel. The hotel was very nice and had an awesome pool that I looked forward to using the next few days. Saturday morning came quick and so did practice. I met my mechanic Noel Paredes. He was super nice and referred to me as his “brother from another mother”, we hit it off instantly and he had me laughing all weekend with his humor. He threw some fresh tires on for me and I set my levers and bars on the 2012 kx 450F I would be racing. I went out for a few laps to get comfortable on my bike. The suspension was really soft , like it was either set up for a light kid or I was extremely overweight by Asian standards. I ended up going all the way in on the compression clickers to make it rideable. During practice I was following Glenn and he got a little sideways and high sided hard. He slammed the rock hard dirt and broke some ribs. I ended up giving him a ride back to the truck where he ended up going to the hospital later to get further checked out. My main competition and friend was now injured and out of the race. I was bummed for him. The first race was Open Pro. It was about to start and I headed down to the gate. The 30 second board went sideways and the gate instantly dropped. I guess they don’t wait 5-10 seconds like the states. I got a horrible start and went into the first corner in the back of the pack. I ended up making some good passes the first lap and caught up to the top 4. I battled with the top 4 guys most of the race and horrible arm pump. Apparently so was my competition, I ended up getting by the next few riders and pulled off a second place. Not bad, but the leader checked out and beat me by probably 10 seconds. I was a little disappointed with my results in the first moto. My second race was Open Pro International. This moto I got a much better start and went into the first corner in the front of the pack. I ended up coming in a little hot and wasn’t able to hold the inside line and came out of the first time in third place. I made a pass for second a few laps into the race and ended up passing the leader for the win with a few laps to go. It felt good to get a win. I was pretty happy after that moto. Later that afternoon I got a chance to meet Khalid Dimaporo, the governor of Lanao Del Norte. He was a motocross fan and racer himself. Come to find out he was responsible for having the track built. We all talked about motocross and politics for a few hours and I was honored to have the chance to meet him.
That evening my mechanic delivered a pizza to my room, it was good to eat some pizza since all I had eaten was white rice and chicken for the last 4 days. The next day the racing went great, I got good starts in both motos and won the next 2 races to get both overalls in Open Pro and International Pro. Every time I came back to the pit I was greeted by fans and racers. They all wanted to get pictures or autographs with me. I felt like Tom Cruise. It was a great feeling. Now would be a good time to plug my sponsors Troy Lee Designs and HJC helmets since I ended up giving all my riding gear and helmets away to the fans and kids. As I made my way up to the podium I stopped probably 20 times to take pictures with the fans. When I got to the podium they handed me an envelope with 30,000 pesos. I wasn’t sure how much money that was but it sounded like a lot. I was planning on retiring for the year and living off my winnings. I came to find out it was a little over $700 american dollars, looks like I wasn’t going to be retiring anytime soon. As I stood on the podium holding my 1st place number plate I couldn’t help but have a huge smile.
I talked with all the riders and they were all very polite and congratulated me on my winnings. After we all cleaned up and met up at the pool for dinner and ice cream. Most of the riders, parents, and mechanics were all horsing around in the pool and playing pranks on each other. They were more than just competitor’s, they were family that was brought together by the common interest of motorcycles. We all sat, talked and laughed till late hours of the night, regardless that we all had to be up at 4am for our flight home to Manila. Overall it was a priceless experience that I am glad I took. They asked if I would be interested in coming back in june and july to race, without hesitation I said I would for sure be there. Not only did I have a blast traveling and racing, I made some new friends for life. –Ricky Yorks