Dakar 2014 Wrap Up, Gary Sutherlin Wins WORCS Opener, Taddy Blazusiak Wins In Brazil - The Weekly Dirt: January 22, 2014

By the DR Staff

Happy New Year and welcome to Weekly Dirt, your place on the Internet for off-road news from around the world. This week Mark Kariya gives us a wrap up on Dakar, Dirt Rider test rider Gary Sutherlin wins the WORCS Opener, and we hear from Taddy Blazusiak after his SuperEnduro win in Brazil. There's plenty to talk about, so let's get going.

Dakar Recap And WORCS Opener

From left: third-place Olivier Pain, winner Marc Coma and runner-up Jordi Viladoms celebrate on the Dakar podium in Chile. Photo By M. Maragni/KTM Images
Longtime U.S. ISDE supporter/volunteer/team leader Richard "Gunny" Claypoole accepts the 2013 AMA Sportsman of the Year Award from Jeff Massey, the AMA

Those who dismissed the South American version of the Dakar Rally as a simple two-week-long dual-sport ride got a serious reality check during the 36th edition of the longest running and most famous rally in the world. The 2014 Dakar Rally will be remembered as the toughest one yet due to extreme heat (over 110 degrees during many stages), altitude (the Andes aren’t mole hills) and huge navigational challenges during the 13 days of racing over 3249 miles of timed special stages and 5427 miles overall.

In the end, Spain’s Marc Coma earned his fourth victory in the storied event, the Red Bull KTM Factory Rally Team rider taking control for good after stage five--winning three stages and finishing among the top three in seven other stages--to prove his mastery of navigation, tactics, endurance and, of course, riding skill. Of the 196 motorcycles to start, just 78 finished.

For Coma who missed last year’s Dakar due to injury and was replaced at the last minute by Kurt Caselli, this win was somewhat bittersweet and he dedicated it to his fallen friend before paying tribute to the enormous team effort: “Last year I went through a very difficult situation not being able to compete because of injury and I came back to win the race. I think this says a lot about the people I have around me.”

He added, “What was key to winning the Dakar was not to make any mistakes.”

The first days of the rally that started in Argentina, spent two days in Bolivia for the first time and concluded in Chile belonged to Team HRC’s Joan Barreda and the new CRF450 Rally.

However, two consecutive days of mistakes and then suspected vapor lock dropped Barreda to second place overall among the bikes. He managed to hold position, though the next-to-last stage proved to be his undoing as a heavy crash cost him more than two hours as he effected repairs. Physically okay, he dropped to seventh, though he won the final stage--his fifth triumph of the rally--after defending Dakar champ and apparent stage winner Cyril Despres was docked five minutes for inadvertently exceeding the speed limit in a controlled section. Despres thus officially finished fifth in the stage and fourth overall, 35 seconds off the podium in his first race on Yamaha’s YZ450F Rally.

Besides the inaugural stage victories for the new Honda, new KTM and second-year Yamaha, Sherco celebrated its first Dakar win when Joan Pedrero topped stage four, the first half of the first of two marathon stages.

Coma and KTM’s experience showed with a definitive 1-2, Jordi Viladoms (Caselli’s replacement) backing up his teammate solidly. Coma’s time totaled 54 hours, 50 minutes and 53 seconds, Viladoms 56:43:20 (yes, almost two hours) behind. Despres’ fellow Yamaha rider Olivier Pain ended up third, 2:00:03 behind Coma after clawing back 40 minutes in the second half of the rally to achieve that cherished final podium spot.

Team HRC’s Helder Rodrigues claimed fifth, the first Honda rider, 2:11:09 behind the winner. (None of those on the new Honda changed engines. Amazingly, Spain’s Laia Sanz was one of those Honda riders, finishing 16th overall and claiming an astounding seventh in one stage, the best female result in Dakar to date.)

Mike Johnson was the lone American to survive, placing 74th after two weeks of dealing with bike issues, testament to his tenacity after starting 138th.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC World Off Road Championship Series (WORCS) kicked off its nine-round tour with a well-attended weekend in Taft, California. FMF/RPM/KTM Racing Team’s Eric Yorba seemed to take up where he left off last year in winning the Pro 2 championship when he holeshot the Pro race, though he couldn’t hold pace, a cold having sapped his strength.

Teammate Justin Jones took his place in front for a couple laps before yielding to R&D; Motorsports Kawasaki-mounted Bobby Bonds.

“Bondo” controlled most of the race and looked like a sure winner--until the last lap when the foam inner tube in his rear tire disintegrated.

As he struggled to maintain forward progress at a much reduced speed, three riders sped by with Gary Sutherlin taking the win on his KTM followed by Jones and defending series champ Robby Bell aboard his Precision Concepts/Alamo Alarms/Northland Motorsports Kawasaki that had burned up its rear brake after the pedal moved from its original position. Bonds held on for fourth.

The late Kurt Caselli earned yet another honor at the 2013 AMA Championship Banquet on Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, being named 2013 AMA National Championship Series Athlete of the Year.

Caselli’s fiancée Sarah Jean White accepted the award on his behalf and in a videotaped said, “On behalf of myself and the family, we want to say thank you so much for all the support we’ve been getting, and thank you so much for selecting Kurt for the AMA National Championship Series Athlete of the Year. That is such a huge deal, and Kurt would be so honored to accept this award.”

Another notable award winner was Richard “Gunny” Claypoole, named 2013 AMA Sportsman of the Year. Claypoole is best known for leading the Team USA’s efforts at the International Six Days Enduro. He started as a volunteer who’d take vacation time from his duty as a young Marine assigned to U.S. embassies in various European countries in the 1970s and eventually became the team’s leader as well as the AMA’s representative on the FIM Jury at the ISDE, retiring from the post last year.

If you happen to be near McCall, Idaho, this weekend, check out the McCall public golf course on Saturday because there's going to be a snow-bike race that includes a couple former ISDE racers. Among those entered are Destry Abbott, Jimmy Jarrett and FMXer Ronnie Renner.—Mark Kariya

Gary Sutherlin Takes WORCS Opener

Gary Sutherlin won the opening round of the 2014 Rocky Mountain ATV/MC WORCS series. Photo By Emily Murphy
Sutherlin overcame arm-pump to take the win. Photo By Emily Murphy

Dirt Rider test rider Gary Sutherlin took the win at the first round of the 2014 Rocky Mountain ATV/MC WORCS series in Taft, California this past weekend. Gary piloted our 2014 KTM 450 SX-F test bike for an upcoming article in the May issue called "Off-Roading the MX'ers". It's a unique look at what it takes to make a motocross bike into a true off-road weapon.

Gary worked his way through the pack after suffering some arm pump on the opening laps, but he managed to work through the discomfort eventually to catch leader Bobby Bonds (who was having mousse tube issues) on the last lap to take his second win of his WORCS career.

For those of you that don't know Gary, he is a single father that completely races on his own dime, works on his own bikes, finds time to train, and goes to each and every off-road race that he enters being a threat to win. We all here at Dirt Rider Magazine would like to congratulate him on a well-deserved victory. His next race will be this weekend in Lucerne Valley, California for round one of the National Hare n Hound series.

Don't forget to check out the May issue to find out what we did to the 2014 KTM SX-F to make it a off-road racing winner! -Kris Keefer

Pat Smage Back With Sherco

Pat Smage has signed for another season with Sherco. Photo By Shan Moore

Sherco USA, importers of Sherco Trials Motorcycles, announces the signing of six-time National NATC/AMA MotoTrial Pro Champion Patrick Smage.

Pat, from Wisconsin, will be competing in the eight-round AireS NATC/AMA MotoTrials championship in 2014 on a Sherco ST300.

Smage originally signed with Sherco at age 12, and has been on the Sherco USA team for 12 consecutive years, winning eight championships, one in the youth category, one in a support class, and six while in the Pro class of the NATC/AMA MotoTrials Championships.

Ryan Young, Team Manager of Sherco USA (himself a six-time national champion), says “We are extremely pleased to continue with Pat in Mototrials competition. Each year he continues to amaze us with his riding ability, just when you think he cannot get any better he pulls off new moves that blow you away. Pat has been a major innovator in this sport, young riders will be imitating his riding style and moves for years to come. Pat is unbelievable how he can be so smooth and explosive all at the same time.”

For more information about the AireS NATC/AMA MotoTrials go to www.mototrials.com. For more information about Pat and Sherco USA go to www.shercousa.com.

Taddy Blazusiak Is Back On Form In Brazil

Photo Courtesy Future 7 Media

The 2014 FIM SuperEnduro World Championship reached its halfway point last Saturday, where round three took place in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Getting back to the top of the podium Taddy Blazusiak secured his second overall win of the series, mastering the challenging Brazilian track. Holding a 19-point advantage at the head of the championship with events in Mexico, Spain and France remaining, here Taddy gives his thoughts on a winning night in Brazil...

It must feel great to get back to the top step of the podium again?

Taddy: "It feels awesome to win again but it was a tough night – it didn't come easy. I felt my speed was good – the best it's been – but I didn't get one decent start and I made a huge amount of mistakes. I might have won but I crashed a lot too. The dirt was so slick and if you misjudged it by the smallest amount then you were on the floor."

The guys that build the US Endurocross tracks built this one. What was your take on it?

TB: "I always enjoy riding what they build. Eric Peronnard and his crew know how to build a track for great racing. It wasn't the most technical course of the series but to ride it fast was a challenge. Any amateur rider could ride a lap but to string a race together at full speed is where it got difficult. You needed to be so precise in everything you did and to gain those extra tenths of a second you had to commit to some big lines. That's why you saw me crash more than usual."

You had a big crash in Final #2, following the reversed order start. What happened?

TB: "It's that reversed start for Final #2 – I hate it. I don't think it's safe. We start last and have to race through guys that we don't normally race with. Some are a lot slower and it's impossible to guess what lines they're going to take. I was going triple-triple in the matrix section all night and as I came into it the rider in front almost stopped. But it was too late – I was already committed – so I crashed. It was my biggest crash of the series and I was lucky not to be hurt. It could have ended my championship right there."

How important was your fitness in being able to get back to the front of that race?

TB: "In the heat and humidity of Brazil my fitness made a huge difference. Even with those mistakes I was able to put my head down and hammer all the way to the finish of each race. I've worked hard on it during the winter and I know I'm feeling fit and strong. It's made a huge difference to my confidence on the track. In Poland I was tired from a long season, now I feel great again."

How would you sum up your time in Brazil?

TB: "It's been incredible. The support from all the fans has been amazing. It felt like a home race. The crowd and the atmosphere inside the stadium were fantastic. You could hear them cheer during every overtake and crash – it was a real buzz to race. It has definitely been worth the trip, hopefully we can come back next year."

Finally, next weekend in Mexico will mark the second half of season, what are your plans for the rest of the championship?

TB: "There are three rounds and nine races still left to go so that's a lot of racing. Anything can happen – it's way too early to think about the championship. I've got a 19- point lead – that's a nice cushion to have – but I just want to win races. That's all I'm focused on doing. I'll be giving it 100 per cent to win all the time...". —Shan Moore

That’s all for this week, be sure to check in next week for more news from the off-road world.