2019 Taft Grand Prix Race Report

Zach Bell makes it three wins in three years on three bikes

Zach Bell
Rain during the main race at Taft made this a common occurrence, but it didn’t seem to slow Zach Bell as he led practically the entire way to win for the third year in a row on his third different bike.Mark Kariya

Nearly every rider has a favorite track and it’s safe to say that Honolulu Hills Raceway in Taft, California, has to rate highly with Zach Bell. The pro motocrosser got his first-ever off-road race victory there in 2017 on a Honda, going on to win the AMA District 37 Big 6 Grand Prix Championship. He followed that up in 2018 by winning on a Husqvarna, ending up second in the point chase.

And though he and the rest of the Chaparral Motorsports/Precision Concepts/Kawasaki team aren’t chasing the series this year—now known as the FMF AMA National Grand Prix Championship Series—when schedules permit, they’ll return, and they did so with a bang at round 2 of the series, the Honolulu Hills Grand Prix hosted by the Dirt Diggers Motorcycle Club.

Trevor Stewart
Although unable to keep pace with Bell, Trevor Stewart’s runner-up finish gave him a good enough point haul to take the point lead.Mark Kariya

The result? Bell’s third straight triumph at the track with defending series champ Trevor Stewart second and Bell’s teammate Blayne Thompson third. Even in the Pro II class, the team made a mark with Clay Hengeveld running the number-one plate for the first time and ending up second behind Ciaran Naran, the 3 Bros./SRT/Husqvarna rider winning in only his second GP.

Bell remarked, “I love coming back to this round! Like I said, this [was where I got my] first off-road win, so I love coming back here. This is three for three racing here now, so I love this place!” Asked why he gets along so well at the venue, he replied, “I don’t know! I love the rolly hills and the chop, the square edges and stuff—that’s kind of what I grew up doing. Then, getting my first [off-road] win here, always coming back here I have this positive vibe.”

Justin Seeds
Round 1 winner Justin Seeds had the speed, but a pileup off the start put him too far back for that to vie for the win and he had to settle for salvaging points, eventually coming back to eighth.Mark Kariya

Although Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda’s Stewart led off the line and through the first two turns, he couldn’t keep Bell behind for long and had to settle for second, admitting, “I just rode to my potential today.” However, in the big picture, he was satisfied since Bell (and Thompson) aren’t contesting the entire series so he ended up taking the point lead, assisted by the fact that round 1 winner Justin Seeds had problems off the start by being involved in a pileup that left the Purvines Racing Yamaha rider last. From there, he did well and demonstrated more than competitive speed by coming back to eighth.

Ciaran Naran
Another motocrosser delving into off-road, Ciaran Naran got the Pro II lead off the start before yielding to off-road specialist Austin Serpa. But after following him for half the race, Naran regained the lead and kept it to the end for his first victory in only his second GP.Mark Kariya

In Pro II, another motocrosser made his mark in only his second off-road race. 3 Bros./SRT/Husqvarna’s Ciaran Naran chased FMF/Maxxis/RPM Racing KTM’s Austin Serpa for most of the first half of the 90-minute race before making his move. From there, he was untouchable, Serpa getting passed by Hengeveld in the last moments and settling for third.

Brandy Richards
No stranger to GPs, Brandy Richards took charge of Women Pro off the start and sailed away to a convincing triumph over Tarah Gieger and Micah Diaz.Mark Kariya

Colorado Recycling KTM’s Brandy Richards dominated the Women Pro class, winning handily over JCR Honda’s Tarah Gieger and Yamaha-mounted Micah Diaz.

Ryan Reina
While the Honolulu Hills Raceway has been greener, things still looked good, though Ryan Reina probably didn’t have much time to take it all in as he sped to top the Vet race on Saturday.Mark Kariya
Tony Bienert
The roost at Honolulu Hills can be painful, though Tony Bienert came up with this temporary solution during the Magnum race.Mark Kariya
Talon Hawkins
Talon Hawkins demonstrated his ample motocross skills en route to winning three classes over the weekend: Mini Intermediate, Super Mini, and 200cc Expert.Mark Kariya
Cole Timboe
Cole Timboe showed a little leg swag on the big uphill step-up during Saturday’s 65cc race. Amazingly, the top three 65s were able to clear it.Mark Kariya
Max Shane
Just because they’re racing minis doesn’t mean they don’t exhibit the same focus as the pros, as Max Shane shows here.Mark Kariya

2019 Taft Grand Prix Overall Results

Position Rider Brand
1 Zach Bell Kawasaki
2 Trevor Stewart Honda
3 Blayne Thompson Kawasaki
4 Dalton Shirey Husqvarna
5 Dante Oliveira KTM
6 Derek Kelley Honda
7 Ryan Surratt Kawasaki
8 Justin Seeds Yamaha
9 Ryan Reina Kawasaki
10 Justin Hoeft Yamaha