Ivan Ramirez Wins H&H Opener, James Stewart Reflects On Oakland SX, MX For Children, and More! - The Weekly Dirt: January 29, 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 we get James Stewart’s take on this past weekend’s race in Oakland, and we look at the new MX for Children promotion. Plus, Mark Kariya brings us coverage of this weekend’s H&H Opener. There’s plenty to talk about, so let’s get going.

Ramirez Opens H&H Season With first National Win

Ivan Ramirez learned from the best--Kurt Caselli--and plans to do his best to keep the memory of his friend alive by emulating his winning ways. He got off to a good start in his quest by winning the AMA/SRT Hare & Hound National Championship Series opener. Photo By Mark Kariya
Ramirez’s first-ever National H&H; victory was met with seemingly universal approval. Photo By Mark Kariya
The opening round of the AMA Youth National Hare & Hound Series got challenges aplenty just like the big guys the following day. Last year’s Super Mini number two Braydon Bland got his season started on a winning note in that division Photo By Mark Kariya

Ivan Ramirez knew that being trained and mentored by his late friend and teammate Kurt Caselli would pay off one day. That day turned out to be Sunday when the AMA Racing/SRT Hare & Hound National Championship Series kicked off with the 47th Annual Winter Classic, hosted by the Desert Motorcycle Club in Lucerne Valley, California, and saw Ramirez lead from start to finish.

The transformation began last year after Ramirez missed the first part of the season with health issues and moved from Ensenada to Caselli’s home in Palmdale, California.

“Kurt was always there to help me,” Ramirez remembered. “I screwed up a little bit in the first rounds . I wasn’t 100 percent in my shape and the bike--I wasn’t comfortable.

“The first time I ended up second here behind Kurt last year, I remember we were riding pretty close, like 15 seconds . He would look back on the dry lakes and he would thumbs-up while we were racing--he was like, ‘Good job! Good job!’ He was happy; he was happy to see me riding good. He knew I was able to every time.

“It was the same in Utah when I was ahead of him. He passed me right after . He kind of slowed down because I was tired and I was just cruising. He was almost full stop and so happy, like ‘Good job, man! Good job!’

“ just reminded me of that when I got to the finish, I was a little emotional. I miss him a lot.”

Whether Ramirez enjoys a career as wildly successful as his late friend and teammate on the FMF/KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team remains to be seen, of course, but winning round one is certainly a step in the right direction.

Behind him, on the other hand, was a very competitive race for second involving Ricky Brabec, Nick Burson, Justin Morrow and Gary Sutherlin. Morrow grabbed it right after the start, but Brabec and Sutherlin also took turns there before different bike problems dropped them back. (In Sutherlin’s case, the KTM 450 XC-F he rode apparently had lived a hard life as a Dirt Rider test bike and expired about halfway through the 80-mile race. Rock ripped first the front brake caliper and later the brake pedal tip from Brabec’s Precision Concepts Kawasaki KX450F and while he had to slow markedly, he salvaged fifth.)

Purvines Racing Beta teammates Burson and Morrow ended up fighting for second over the last half all the way to the finish with Morrow fending off Burson’s attacks. A few minutes behind in fourth came teammate Axel Pearson.

This race will likely be the last National to run east of Bessemer Mine Road in the popular Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area as it’s been turned over by Congress to the United States Marine Corps to expand its 29 Palms training area. In fact, the race was on hold until the BLM and Secretary of the Navy agreed on Friday to grant the necessary permits.

With the Dakar Rally a recent memory, interest in that facet of racing is still high, which makes this a good time to mention the Rally Diabolico. Planned to run in Mexico’s state of Sonora on April 2-5, it’s designed to offer competitors a taste of rally-raid competition in an area not used before. The closest U.S. border crossing is south of Yuma, Arizona, and the motorcycle entry fee is $1950 prior to February 11 (soon, in other words!). For more information, go to www.rallydiabolico.com.

While Colton Udall and the rest of the Johnny Campbell Racing Honda squad that won the Baja 1000 were dismayed that JCR's plans for 2014 didn't include SCORE and Baja racing, Udall refused to let go of that dream. He's currently negotiating with sponsors and forming his own team, choosing Mark Samuels as his partner, and the pair plans to be at the starting line for 28th Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 on March 1. Details will be forthcoming soon, Udall promises. —Mark Kariya

James Stewart Talks Oakland SX

James Stewart grabbed the runner-up finish for the second race in a row in Oakland. Photo By Shan Moore

James Stewart turned in a second-straight runner-up finish at Oakland this past weekend, and the Yoshimura Suzuki rider credited part of his performance to the fact that he’s finally over the cold that has been nagging him since the start of the season. Stewart looked comfortable on the bike and made confident passes to work from seventh up to second by the end of the race. There’s still a long way to go in this year’s title chase, and even though Ryan Villopoto seems to have the momentum right now, there’s no reason to count out JS7 from the championship picture.

James fills us in on his thoughts about the race:

“The last couple of weeks I’ve just been milking it, trying to get over a cold, and I felt a lot better tonight,” Stewart said after the race. “When you know you don’t have it physically and you’re tired, then you just ride around at a mellow pace, so tonight was better, and next week will be better.”

Stewart and team also struggled in practice finding a setup, but when main event time came, JS7 was all dialed in.

“We kind of struggled all day, but we got the 10 o-clock setup, made good changes, and had a good race tonight. I feel all year, the best I have ridden, even the last two weeks, has been in the main event. That’s what I pride myself on, I pride myself on relying on my fitness. Like I said, that flu took it out of me, but tonight is more like how we should be racing.”

During practice, the whoops were a lot more treacherous than they were in the evening program. Part of that is due to the fact that Stewart went to the AMA officials after practice and asked them to re-evaluate the whoops section.

“I think in the main event, the track was better for me,” said Stewart. “But the whoops this year, the way they’ve been building them is dangerous. They’ve been building them really steep. You can build them tall, but when they’re really steep and guys miss them, then guys endo. So in practice, I told them they were going to get people hurt, so they changed them and it was better,” said Stewart.

After Oakland, Stewart sits sixth in the standings, 18 points out of first.

“You take away that crash at A1 and we’re on the podium three out of four races, so over the last three races I’ve been really consistent,” said Stewart. “I’m looking at the big picture and when we go back to the east coast I think we’ll get stronger as I get over this cold and my fitness comes around.”

Check out Stewart’s Oakland “Behind The Scenes Race Report” at

MX for Children Drops the Gate on the 2014 Jackpot Challenge

**MX for Children has been doing some very important work for quite some time now when it comes to helping sick kids through their illnesses, and does so through motocross by creating a positive bond between motocross enthusiasts and Children's Hospitals across the country. Here's some info on the MX for Children's latest promotion:******

With a packed line-up of Monster Energy Supercross teams for MX for Children’s 2014 Jackpot Challenge, we are pleased to drop the gate for this year’s team competition! Great support from the following teams/riders affords a tremendous opportunity for Supercross fans in Canada and the United States to participate in the Jackpot Challenge and raise funds for children’s hospitals and earn great incentive prizes:

• BTO Sports racing KTM – Andrew Short, Matt Goerke

• Geico Racing Honda – Zach Bell, Matt Bisceglia, Justin Bogle, Wil Hahn, Zach Osborne, Eli Tomac

• MotoConcepts – Mike Alessi

• Monster Energy Kawasaki – Ryan Villopoto, Jake Weimer

• Muscle Milk Honda – Justin Barcia, Trey Canard

• Pro Circuit Kawasaki – Blake Baggett, Adam Cianciarulo, Martin Davalos, Darryn Durham, Justin, Hill, Dean Wilson

• Red Bull KTM – Ryan Dungey, Ken Roczen, Marvin Musquin, Dean Ferris

• Rockstar Racing KTM – Davi Millsaps, Ivan Tedesco, Jason Alexander, Joey Savatgy

• Troy Lee Designs Honda – Cole Seely, Malcolm Stewart, Jessy Nelson, Shane McElrath

• TwoTwo Motorsports – Chad Reed

• Yoshimura Racing Suzuki – James Stewart

The Jackpot Challenge raises funds for brain research at the following children’s hospitals: Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital of Alabama, Houston’s Texas Children’s, Nashville’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital, Salt Lake City’s Primary Children’s, Seattle Children’s, St. Louis Children’s, Toronto’s SickKids and Vancouver’s BC Children’s Hospital. The funds go to support the hospitals’ research to improve the brain condition hydrocephalus – the #1 cause of brain surgery for children.

Jackpot Challenge participants also can root for one of their favorite Jackpot Challenge teams. The Jackpot Challenge teams are Supercross race teams that support the MX for Children cause by donating their time at MX for Children events. The funds raised by individual fundraisers are also credited to the team they select. MX for Children awards the Jackpot Challenge Team award with the highest total fundraising for the season. Chad Reed’s TwoTwo Motorsports won the Jackpot Challenge Team award in 2013. Finally, fundraisers who exceed $500 in 2014 will qualify for the Inside Line Experience – offered in Toronto, St. Louis, Houston and Seattle.

In the U.S. please visit http://mxforchildren.kintera.org/2014 to sign up for the 2014 MX for Children Jackpot Challenge.

Maxxis Cash At GNCC

Big news if you’re an off-road racer and you use Maxxis tires. Maxxis is offering a total of more than $1.2 million in 2014 for various off-road series.

Here’s a list of the series participating:

AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series Presented by Maxxis (GNCC); World Off-Road Championship Series (WORCS); ATV Extreme Dirt Track National Series (EDT); Transworld MX Series (TWMX); Mid America Cross Country Racing Series (MAXC); New England ATV Motocross Series (NEATV); Mountain Dew ATV-MX National Championship; and the AMA District 37 Big 6 Grand Prix Series.

The cool part is that riders in all classes are eligible, and contingencies will be available to riders posting a first, second or third place finish.

To be eligible, riders must display a minimum of four (4) 6½-inch Maxxis decals on their motorcycle or ATV. Riders may only submit one contingency request per race weekend, for an event with a minimum of ten racers competing in the relevant class. Racers should submit contingency forms as soon as possible, because forms postmarked later than 30 days after a race will be denied.

Don't miss out on this opportunity to win generous cash contingencies! For forms and additional information, please visit http://www.maxxis.com/MotorcycleATV/Contingency-Programs.aspx today. —Shan Moore

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