Welcome to Weekly Dirt, your place on the Internet for off-road news from around the world. Spring is in full swing, which means off-road racing is going full bore. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get to it!
Wharton Talks About Emotional Win In Houston!
Blake Wharton’s Supercross win this weekend in the 250 main event in Reliant Stadium must have been a big relief after what happened in Indy, where the Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki rider threw away an almost certain win on the last lap. Wharton held steady in Houston, however, holding off fierce pressure from series point leader Wil Hahn at the end of the race. Hahn appeared to almost land on Wharton at one point, but it didn’t faze the Suzuki rider, as he kept his head down all the way to the checkered flag for the win – his first of the year. The win was an emotional one for the Texas native as three generations of Whartons were on hand to see the win.
“It’s nice to come back to Texas and see my family,” said Wharton. “This was the first race my grandpa has ever been to in his life. He had never been to one while my dad was racing, during my amateur career or since I have been racing professionally. It was cool to have three generations here. It was great to get the win in my home state, in front of my family and friends”
Wharton also made a bold pass on the first lap, taking Marvin Musquin high in a bowl turn to steal the lead away from the KTM rider.
“I just did what I felt I needed to do,” said Wharton. “Sometimes you can’t wait for things to happen, you have to make it happen.”
One key for Wharton might have been his diligent work during the Easter break.
“We had a weekend off with Easter, but I trained and did my thing,” said Wharton. “There’s no rest even with a weekend off; these guys are riding good. It’s the first win of the season for me. It was a little slower than I’d like to have done it, but it’s a win and it’s Houston, which is always awesome.”
Mullins Takes Steele Creek GNCC
So far, the battle for the points lead in the 2013 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series has been between two riders: FMF/KTM teammates Charlie Mullins and Kailub Russell. The two riders came into this past weekend’s race at Steele Creek in Morganton, North Carolina, with one win each, with Mullins having won the series opener in Florida, and Russell winning round two in Georgia. In effect, round three in North Carolina would be a tiebreaker, and Mullins emerged from that event with the series points lead after winning the grueling Steele Creek race, topping Russell by just over two minutes after three hours of racing.
After a fierce two-way battle in the beginning, Mullins began gapping his teammate mid-way through the seven-lap race after Russell made a couple of mistakes and wasn’t able to make up the time. In the end, Mullins cruised home easily with his second win of the year.
“This is my first time ever winning Steele Creek,” Mullins said. “I’ve had a few close calls but I finally sealed the deal today and it feels good to get the win.”
In the meantime, Carolina KTM/RidePG.com’s Chris Bach returned to the podium with a solid third-place finish, his first podium of the year, beating out Am Pro Yamaha’s Jordan Ashburn and FMF/RPM/KTM Team Maxxis’ Rory Mead in the process.
“Living here in North Carolina for the past couple of years, I’ve really gotten used to riding in this terrain,” Bach said. “I just felt comfortable out there today and I can’t even explain how good it feels to be back on the podium!”
Mullins now holds a five-point lead over Russell heading into Round 4 in South Carolina.
In the XC2 division, rookie Aaron Plessinger edged out defending champ Jason Thomas in the final moments to claim his first XC2 victory.
XC1 Event Results:
1. Charlie Mullins (KTM)
2. Kailub Russell (KTM)
3. Chris Bach (KTM)
4. Jordan Ashburn (YAM)
5. Rory Mead (KTM)
6. Nick Fahringer (HSB)
7. Ricky Russell (YAM)
8. Takeshi Koikeda (KTM)
9. Adam Bonneur (KAW)
10. Ian Blythe (KTM)
XC2 Event Results:
1. Aaron Plessinger (YAM)
2. Jason Thomas (KTM)
3. Grant Baylor (KTM)
4. Andrew DeLong (HSQ)
5. Jed Haines (YAM)
Taddy Blazusiak – Gaining A Little Rally Experience!
Known the world over as Mr Endurocross, Polish racer and USWE athlete Taddy Blazusiak has taken a little time out of his ‘normal’ competitive schedule to try his hand at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Competing among the best rally competitors in the world, Blazusiak is currently taking part in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge – round one of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship series. Keen to sample a taste of true rally racing. Here’s a cool interview Blazusiak about what brought him to Abu Dhabi.
Why did you decide to race the first round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship in Abu Dhabi?
“When I looked at my calendar of events I realized that I had a small break between the end of the SuperEnduro series and the start of X Games and Endurocross, so I decided to give the Abu Dhabi event a try. I spoke to a few people about my idea and things quickly moved forward. One of my sponsors, Orleans, actually runs a team in the series, so together with them, KTM, USWE and the rest of the guys that support me I was able to make it happen.”
Your first rally experience was at the Desafio Litoral in Argentina during July 2012. But racing in Abu Dhabi will be your first true taste of a desert rally. Are you enjoying the experience so far?
“Yeah, it’s great out here. I really enjoyed the Desafio Litoral, but there were no sand dunes to contend with. Here in Abu Dhabi there are only sand dunes and some of them are huge. This is what rally racing is all about and why I wanted to compete in this race.”
Have you ever raced in true sand dunes before?
“No, not even on my enduro bike! Last Wednesday I did some testing with the team and I began to get a feel for things. We only rode for about 50km so it was hard to learn anything in that short amount of time.”
What goals and expectations have you set yourself for the event?
“I’m just here to have fun and enjoy the experience. This is not my sport so I won’t be risking anything to win. My main goal is to learn as much as possible and get a feel for things. In Argentina my main issue was navigation. Reading the road book at high speed is still difficult for me. If, by the end of the week, I can get comfortable reading the road book while racing in sand then I’ll have achieved a lot.”
Given your interest in rally, are thoughts of a possible start in the Dakar Rally in the back of your mind?
“As soon as I sat on a rally bike people immediately asked me about Dakar. Of course it’s something that interests me. It’s a race that every guy that ever raced an enduro bike wants to do. But for now those thoughts are buried in the back of my mind. Endurocross is my only focus – it takes up all of my time. It’s not possible to jump from my EnduroCross bike to a rally bike and be competitive on both.”
With X-Games Brazil just around the corner many people might question why you’re racing a rally bike in Abu Dhabi. How are preparations for X-Games going?
“I’m ready. I’ve been working my butt off to be ready for Brazil and I can’t wait to get there. Racing the SuperEnduro World Championship was a big part of that preparation and since the final round of that series in France I’ve put a lot of laps in on my test tracks. I’m really excited about going to Brazil. The X-Games series is going to be huge and I’m in it to win it.”
Celebrate Fifty Years Of Baja Racing
To prove the durability of its motorcycles, America Honda sent a CL72 Scrambler on a 950 mile trek through rocks, sand washes, dry lake beds, mountain passes and paved roads. Fifty years later, that 1960s run is remembered for initiating one of the most significant off-road races for both two and four wheeled vehicles in the world—the Baja 1000. Legendary racers Parnelli Jones and Dave Ekins will help the Petersen Automotive Museum honor Baja with a tribute dinner, one-day off road show, and summer-long exhibition: Braving Baja, 1,000 Miles to Glory.
The Petersen will host its Baja Tribute Dinner on May 2 at 6:00pm. Parnelli Jones, a renowned racer of all genres will be honored at the tribute for his off-road racing success, including multiple Baja 1000, Baja 500 and Mint 400 wins in his famously fabricated Bronco, “Big Oly.” Dave Ekins and Bill Robertson Jr. will be honored for their daring, first timed run down the Baja peninsula with America Honda. Both Ekins and Jones will answer questions from the audience. Tickets for the evening of food, drinks and legends are available at www.BravingBaja.org.
The Baja Day Off-Road Show is Saturday, May 4, from 9:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. The off-road show is included in the daily museum admission rate for spectators, and participation is open to anyone with a vehicle that is off-road capable, including trucks, buggies, motorcycles, sand rails and more. Vendors will be on-site as well. Participant and vendor registration is located at www.BravingBaja.org.
The Braving Baja: 1,000 Miles to Glory exhibition will run from May 4 through Sept. 2, 2013 featuring artifacts of all sizes including significant motorcycles, trucks, buggies, clothing and ephemera. This never-before-seen collection of historic off-road racing vehicles will show where it all began and how it has evolved.
Vehicles on display will include:
- 1962 Honda Scrambler 250 (Bud Ekins)
- 1963 Triumph Cub
- 1964 Meyers Manx
- 1964 Triumph Desert Sled TR6-SC
- 1969 Husqvarna 500 Twin
- 1970 DKW 125
- 1970 Miller Havens VW single-seater (Drino Miller)
- 1971 Husqvarna 400 Cross (Gunnar Nilsson)
- 1971 Harley-Davidson
- 1974 Husqvarna 250CR (Mary McGee)
- 1975 Honda C&J 440 (replica / Baker-Cannaday/ Bell Honda overall winner)
- 1975 Rokon Automatic
- 1960 Bilstein VW Baja Bug (Doug Robertson)
- 1995 Honda XR228R (Mulder, Johnson, Dunlevey)
- 2003 Honda XR650R (Mouse McCoy “Dust to Glory”)
- 2004 Honda XR650R (Winningest Bike in Baja)
- 2012 Honda CRF450X
Parnelli Jones and Dave Ekins will answer audience members’ questions at a tribute dinner that kicks off the Petersen’s one-day Off-Road Show and summer exhibition,
Braving Baja: 1,000 Miles to Glory.
Go to www.BravingBaja.org to purchase tickets. Proceeds from the Tribute Dinner and the Off-Road Show benefit the Petersen Automotive Museum’s educational programming. —Shan Moore
Weigand Survives To Keep Big 6 Win Streak Alive
Attrition isn’t normally a big factor in the AMA District 37 Big 6 Grand Prix Series, but it played a prominent role at round three, the 39th Annual Hilltoppers Grand Prix/Dave Oakleaf Memorial hosted by the Hilltoppers Motorcycle Club at the 29 Palms Motorsports Complex outside of Twentynine Palms, California.
In the GPR Stabilizer AMA West Coast Grand Prix Series feature event, only two Pros and two Vet Pros managed to finish–a testament, perhaps, to the strain that the course (generally acknowledged as the fastest of the series) puts on equipment.
While FMF/KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team’s Kurt Caselli jumped out to the early lead in that one, he pulled off just after the halfway point in the 90-minute race with no rear brake.
“Last year I ran out of gas. This year, more bad luck,” he said of his first Big 6 since that disappointing result (also at 29 Palms). “I always try to get out to as many Big 6s as I can, and it’s tough with the schedule and stuff. It’s good; it’s my off weekend and I come race.
“I wish I could do more. A lot of people ask why I can’t come to Big 6s and it’s just [due to all the] conflicting races [on my schedule].
“Myself and Ivan Ramirez are out here; we’re trying to train for the National hare & hounds and for Baja–we’re trying to get him on a good program. The Big 6s are good races, there’s good competition.”
And at the head of that list, of course, were the two Johnny Campbell Racing/Rockstar Energy Honda riders, Colton Udall and Timmy Weigand. For this race, Udall chose to ride the very same CRF450X that he and Weigand won the San Felipe 250 with last month, feeling that the fast 29 Palms course favored the X more than the R he’d used in the previous two rounds. For Weigand, it was the same old thing–at least after Caselli pulled off the track.
“It was cool to have somebody else out here, especially somebody like Kurt who’s always on his game,” Weigand said. “It was cool to just be in his dust; I felt like I was doing my job being in his dust and hanging with him.
“Three wins in a row feels nice, but there’s still a lot of racing left. I’ll try to keep my head down and keep doing what I’m doing.”
Weigand pulled double duty. Not only did he win that Pro race as well as the Vet division earlier, he also watched–nervously–as one of his sons rode the Pee Wee event. “I don’t know if I’m a minibike dad because I just like him riding just for fun,” Weigand insisted. “I don’t want it to become anything more than that; I want him to enjoy it and [be] good family time and stuff.
“But it’s way more nerve-wracking than racing myself! I know what it’s like for parents now because I’m scared so bad every time he gets on the bike–and he goes slow on a 50 so I can’t imagine when he starts jumping!”
While discussing team bikes, Johnny Campbell shared a bit on the CRF450R that his crew built for new JCR rider Colton Haaker to use in the upcoming global X Games Enduro X opener in Brazil. Besides suspension tuning, they developed a new cam profile, removed a couple cogs to make it a three-speed, lightened it further with liberal amounts of titanium, then put a little weight back on in the flywheel and clutch.
By the way, when Caselli says KTM’s trying to get teammate Ivan Ramirez on a good program, that means putting him on the Caselli program. To that end, besides being teammates, they’re now roommates, Ramirez a temporary resident of Palmdale, California. They now use the same trainer for PT, plus it’s far easier for them to go testing together–something they hope will pay off at the Baja 500 in a couple months.
One of the biggest desert races in the country takes place not in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona or one of the other places that come immediately to mind when you think “desert.” It happens in Washington! (Odessa, in eastern Washington, to be specific.) It’s called the Desert 100, put on by the Stumpjumpers Motorcycle Club, and with over 1000 riders is bigger than any National hare & hound. They take off in two huge waves and there’s no practicing the bomb run or even walking it. After the field is escorted on a paved road to the start, you basically line up in the order that you arrive.
Canadian Bobby Prochnau won the latest edition, after a reportedly race-long battle with Jon Seehorn; Geoff Nelson rounded out the podium. David Kamo finished fifth, having put up with greasy conditions on the first loop due to overnight rain but then having more fun the second time around in much drier conditions while working his way around lappers. —Mark Kariya
The 2013 MTA World Two-Stroke Motocross Championship kicked off this past weekend at the world famous Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, CA. Along with a huge contingent of amateur classes there was $9500 in purse money between the Open Pro class and the first-ever Husqvarna sponsored 125 Pro Challenge. The overall Winner of the Husky challenge took home $1000 in prize money and, as a bonus, a brand new 2013 Husky CR125. Husqvarna supplied ten of their CR125s for many different media outlets along with a few extras for other local fast guys to battle on. DR test rider Ricky Yorks breaks down his weekend and what its like to race two strokes again.
A week prior to the MTA World Two Stroke Nationals I ripped into my YZ250 for some much needed attention. I yanked the forks and shock off the bike and took them down to MB1 suspension where Mike Battista, the owner of MB1 made sure it was all fresh and ready to go. I then pulled the cylinder and head off and took it down to Pro Circuit. They ported, decked and milled the head for race gas and added power. Knowing that people were going to be racing 500s and running big bore kits in the open class I figured I could use the extra power. With the carb jetted to PC’s specs, I threw on their works pipe and shorty silencer and finished it off with some fresh Dunlop MX51s. Starting it for the first time Friday morning before the race the once mild mannered YZ250 now sounded like the two-stroke race bikes I remember hearing growing up at the outdoor nationals. I was smiling ear to ear. Later that day I got a call from Dirt Rider asking if I wanted to race the Husqvarna 125 challenge since Dirt Rider Associate Editor Kris Keefer broke his collar bone and could no longer hold it wide open. Of course I agreed to double class it and I picked up the Husky Saturday. I realized quickly I bit off more than I could chew. As the gate dropped for the first Open Pro moto I grabbed an awesome jump off the concrete. My PC YZ250 was a rocket ship and I went into the first turn in the top three. I made a few mistakes the first lap and got bumped around but was still running inside the top 10. I felt pretty good the first couple laps until, I got hit by a sharp rock in my wrist or what I thought was a rock. A few laps later I noticed the pain was still there and it turns out it was a bee sting. At the half waypoint I faded back even more positions and the race felt like an eternity. Come to find out they messed up on the timing and we wound up doing a 30 minute moto instead of the 20 minute moto that was advertised on the flyer. My plan of saving energy for the three following moto’s flew out the door. Obviously my training regimen of play riding, not doing moto’s and riding freestyle ramps was not working to my advantage. For the Husky 125 challenge I lined up on the very outside gate and planned to Mike Alessi the start. To my surprise it actually worked. I got another great start and went in the first turn in the five only to ping pong off a few riders in the second turn and fly off the track right to the back of the pack. I pinned the poor little Husky for the rest of the race and tried my best to catch anyone ahead of me. I caught a few riders but the leaders checked out on me. I would go into detail about my next two races but honestly it’s not that interesting. I improved my results by a few spots in the second motos but still nothing that I was proud of. If the motos had been four laps I would have had some pretty good results, but I guess that’s why the top motocross guys make the big bucks and I am here writing this story. Really I can’t complain, I left the event safe and I had a blast riding the Dirt Rider Husky CR125 and I was happy to finally get a few good starts on my YZ250. I have a little under a year to get ready for next year’s Two Stroke National. Time to hit the gym…—Ricky Yorks
That’s all for this week, be sure to check in next week for more news from the off-road world.