Arredondo/Esposito Win BITD Vegas To Reno 2015

THR’s Eddy likely saves championship with third place

Over his long career, Shane Esposito has proven himself a winner any time he climbs aboard a motorcycle. However, with factory-level rides basically non-existent for racers in their 40s, the 41-year-old former motocrosser has become one of those go-to guys that others turn to when seeking a teammate in long-distance events. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Vet-class team or Open Pro, “Espo” is one of the first calls you make.

So, it was no surprise to see Guatemala’s Francisco Arredondo sign Esposito to be his partner in the 19th Annual General Tire Vegas to Reno, Presented by Fox, round four of Best in the Desert’s American Off-road Racing Series.

Arredondo is no stranger to desert racing, having raced the Baja 1000 numerous times, so he knew Esposito and figured they’d make a good team for Vegas to Reno, Esposito having been on the winning team four times in the past. And he had the good sense to let Esposito do most of the riding, the veteran tackling about 500 of the race’s 545 miles.

In the end, the pair savored victory after crossing the finish line in nine hours, 29 minutes and 29 seconds aboard their Bremen Racing CRF450X.

Francisco Arredondo drops into a sand wash 170 miles into the race while leading by 12 seconds physically. His partner, four-time winner Shane Esposito, rode the majority of the race as they came from behind to win.Photo by Mark Kariya

But Arredondo/Esposito aren’t regulars in the series, only interlopers. The battle for the championship was another story involving defending champs Robby Bell/Ricky Brabec on their THR Motorsports KX450F and Purvines Racing Beta 498 RR-mounted Nick Burson/Axel Pearson.

Bell/Brabec held the upper hand, having won all three previous rounds, but with one throwaway in the five-race series, a good Vegas-to-Reno result was imperative and Burson/Pearson knew it.

Making matters more dire for the champs, both were injured and unable to ride!

However, Brabec took advantage of a rule that allows the Rider of Record (him) to have a substitute, and he asked another THR rider, Max Eddy, Jr., if he’d ride the N1 machine in order to salvage whatever points he could.

“Ricky pretty much called and asked if I would ride his bike for him to keep him in the points,” Eddy shared. “I said, ‘Yeah, sure!’

“He goes, ‘If we finish sixth, we’ll still walk away leading the points.’ ”

With seven Open Pros entered, one would think finishing sixth would be a piece of cake, but a long, high-speed race like Vegas to Reno isn’t kind to engines and crashes tend to be violent.

But it’s hard to keep the racing mentality in check and Eddy rode like it was just another race, saying, “I just kind of rode my normal pace. I felt good all the way up to about the 400-mile marker then the wrist that I broke at San Felipe started getting real sore on me and hurting and stuff and I was like, ‘I’ll have to back her down a bit.’ ”

Incredibly, Eddy actually took the lead less than 200 miles into the race and led for a good stretch before yielding to pain and fatigue, allowing both Esposito and Burson to get past.

Knowing their championship rivals were relying on a single substitute rider, Axel Pearson (shown) and Nick Burson pushed hard all day to end up second overall. That probably won’t be enough at the end of the year to overtake the points leaders, though.Photo by Mark Kariya

Try as they might, the Burson/Pearson team couldn’t catch Esposito, thus settling for second in a close 9:23:23, the less than three-minute gap to the winners largely accounted for by a pit snafu when they did a scheduled rear-wheel change at pit 10, 354 miles in. It turns out the sprocket on their race wheel was mismarked as a 50 when it was actually a 51 so when they popped the spare wheel in, the chain was extremely loose.

“We thought the chain stretched,” Burson reported. “We were all pretty much freaking out, but it pretty much cost us like three minutes where a [normal] wheel change should’ve only cost us a minute.”

He continued, “I caught back up to where I could see Shane’s dust, then I don’t know—he just got a second wind or something, he said. It got super-sketchy with all the rain ruts and everything and he just went fast.”

So Arredondo/Esposito enjoyed victory, Burson/Pearson came in second and Eddy completed his mission in fine style by soloing to third in 9:52:17. Eddy’s originally planned partner, Justin Morgan, ended up soloing as well, taking his DP Racing YZ450F to fourth in 10:15:41 after stopping around mile 80 to stay with Taylor Stevens, who’d crashed hard, suffering a badly broken femur among other injuries. Former winner Steve Hengeveld teamed up with one of his sons, Clay, to win 250cc Pro and finish fifth overall in 10:21:19 aboard their Northland Motorsports CRF250X.

Faced with a relatively last-minute call to salvage points for defending (though injured) BITD champs Robby Bell/Ricky Brabec as a solo rider, Max Eddy, Jr., stepped up in a big way. Having led overall in the middle stages, pain and fatigue forced him to settle for third, which was still a good enough performance to maintain Bell/Brabec’s points lead with one round left.Photo by Mark Kariya

As for Eddy, third place behind Burson/Pearson should’ve been sufficient to maintain a healthy lead in points over the Beta riders, and he revealed he looked to 2010 V2R winner Quinn Cody (the only solo rider to overall the race) for advice.

“I didn’t really have much time—10 days—to get ready to solo it, and you’ve got to change your diet all around and totally change everything for something that long,” Eddy pointed out. “Ten days ain’t quite enough to do it.

“When you’ve got time to prepare for something like that, I makes a huge difference. Quinn’s badass, and I was thinking about that when I was leading; I was thinking, ‘Man, I wish I could finish this off and be like Quinn or whatever!’

“I did call Quinn before the race for advice and the advice that he could give me helped out a lot! I talked to Quinn a couple days before the race and asked him on some food and stuff to eat during the race. It was stuff I’d never even thought of! He told me to eat red potatoes and I was like, ‘Really?’

“So I cooked up some red potatoes and put them in the ‘fridge and cooled them off and took them [to the race] with me. They made a huge difference; kept me going!”