Bell Keeps His Cool For Big 6 WCGP Win At Hot 29 Palms

Last-lap pass gives him point lead

Zach Bell
This is the only view Zach Bell provided for the competition during most of the WCGP at the Hilltoppers race in warm, windy 29 Palms, California. After letting Dalton Shirey lead a couple of laps in the latter stages, Bell sprinted the final lap to take the win and move into the series’ point lead for the first time this season.Mark Kariya

Zach Bell may have had a relatively slow start to the season in the AMA District 37/FMF Big 6 Grand Prix Series and its AMA Big 6 West Coast Grand Prix (WCGP) series-within-a-series, but the 3 Brothers/STI Husqvarna rider has just been getting better and better since.

He proved it by making a last-lap pass to win the 43rd Annual Hilltoppers Grand Prix, hosted by the Hilltoppers Motorcycle Club in 29 Palms, California, that served as round 4 of the series.

Dalton Shirey
Dalton Shirey expended a lot of energy on a hot afternoon after working up from a relatively poor start and took the lead with a few laps to go. However, he had nothing left when Bell attacked on the last lap and had to settle for second, putting him second in points, unofficially.Mark Kariya

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Dalton Shirey made it a Husky 1-2, holding on for second after working his way up from a subpar start, poking his head into the lead for a couple of laps at the end but unable to fend off Bell’s final-lap assault.

Likewise, Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda’s Trevor Stewart had a not-so-great start after going through a water hole he didn’t know about a few turns in and trashing his goggle setup, but he fought back to claim third, just two seconds ahead of Chaparral Motorsports/Precision Concepts/Kawasaki’s Blayne Thompson with Thompson’s teammate Justin Seeds a solid fifth.

Trevor Stewart
Although he didn’t get the greatest start after hitting a water hole he didn’t know about a few turns into the race and soaking his goggles, Trevor Stewart kept his cool to come out third for the second round in a row and hold third in points, unofficially.Mark Kariya

With temperatures in the mid-90s with constant wind, Bell took his third victory over three straight weekends at 29 Palms. “I made a couple mistakes and I’ve been sick the last few weeks, so racing every weekend hasn’t helped trying to rest up,” Bell said. “Being hot out here, it’s hard to breathe and I was throwing up a little bit in my helmet. I knew if I took a couple laps to regroup, it would work better in the end instead of going hard [the whole way]. So I took my time, let him go by, regrouped, waited for the white flag, and then kind of put the hammer down again because I know I’m fit, I know what I can do, [and] I know what I’m capable of.”

Unofficially, Bell took over the point lead, his total now at 90, while Shirey has 86 and Stewart’s a close third at 85. FMF/RPM/KTM Racing Team Maxxis’ Eric Yorba led in points going into the Hilltoppers race but crashed and DNFed with a possible shoulder injury. In addition, FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team’s Kailub Russell opted to stay on the East Coast where he finished second at the GNCC, so he’ll use this one as a throwaway.

Eric Yorba
A crash and possible shoulder injury left Eric Yorba (280) unable to make it three in a row at 29 Palms, the 2016 series champ losing the point lead he held going into the race due to his DNF.Mark Kariya
Clay Hengeveld
Another whose bad start didn’t seem to affect his final result, Clay Hengeveld is proving nearly unbeatable in the WCGP Pro II category as he rolled to his third class win, padding his point lead, and earned seventh overall, more than three minutes and four spots ahead of class runner-up Trevor Hunter.Mark Kariya
Brandy Richards
Although a 450 might have been a great advantage at 29 Palms, Brandy Richards made do with her 250 XC-F and railed to her third consecutive WCGP Women’s Pro win, having missed round 1 due to injury.Mark Kariya
Kacy Coy
Her Hare & Hound experience didn’t prepare Kacy Coy for how fast and rough the 29 Palms course was and it took her a while to adapt, but she found her groove at the end to claim second. More shocking later was the realization that she wouldn’t be able to fly home with her trophy, the Hilltoppers M.C. always coming up with unique ones for the pros.Mark Kariya
Justin Wallis
Focus Apparel hosted a mentor clinic after the races Saturday evening with pro Justin Wallis providing tips for anyone interested plus free food.Mark Kariya
Justin Jones
Justin Jones put his long legs to good use en route to sixth in the WCGP.Mark Kariya
Hilltoppers M.C.’s 29 Palms Motorsports Complex
The Hilltoppers M.C.’s 29 Palms Motorsports Complex is considered the fastest overall race of the series with its plethora of high-speed, flowing turns in the flat portion of the property as well as a long uphill straight on pavement. But it quickly becomes full of chop that makes it impossible to rest and often negates the advantage gearing up might otherwise promise.Mark Kariya
More and more kids are showing up, which is definitely great for the sport.Mark Kariya
Mikayla Nielsen
Mikayla Nielsen once again dominated in the Girls classes with three wins over the weekend. In addition, she finished a creditable third overall behind Clayton Roberts and Connor Eddy in the combined Super Mini/Girls Senior/Junior Mini race.Mark Kariya
Andrew Schulz
Andrew Schulz continued to be the fastest of the 65cc riders, winning both the WCGP 65cc 10-11 Year Advanced and 65cc 10-11 Year Advanced classes, both times finishing second overall to Mikayla Nielsen since the Girls classes ran at the same time.Mark Kariya
Hilltoppers ran four water trucks
The Hilltoppers ran four water trucks nearly 20 hours a day to minimize dust, but with the wind, it was at best a draw. In addition, a grader tried to smooth the course in between races.Mark Kariya
Michael Burns Jr.
Due to the more high-speed nature of the Hilltoppers race, it’s popular with the Sidecar crowd with nine lining up. The Michael Burns Jr.-piloted rig led the early going just ahead of eventual winner Mark McDade.Mark Kariya
Blayne Thompson
After his season-best fourth in the WCGP, Blayne Thompson came back on Sunday to cap the weekend with the Heavyweight Expert victory.Mark Kariya
Nick Burson
A rare rear brake problem dropped Nick Burson way back in the WCGP. Credited with 51st on the first lap, the Purvines Racing Yamaha crew replaced the entire system and he rallied back to ninth overall. On Saturday, he had no such problems and earned second in Heavyweight Expert behind Thompson.Mark Kariya