Superstition West Hare Scrambles Race Report 2016

Privateer power prevails at AMA WHS round 7, but Nick Burson takes title.

If you were to stand at the top of one of the dunes at the Superstition Off-Highway Vehicle Area west of El Centro, California, and look south, you’d be looking into Baja California, Mexico. As the crow flies, it’s less than 10 miles to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Being that close geographically, it’s not surprising that the area is similar terrain-wise to Baja, and that makes it much different than other rounds of the Kenda/SRT AMA West Hare Scrambles Regional Championship Series.

For round seven—the Rattlesnake Chase hosted by the Roadrunners Offroad Club—series regulars discovered just how different it is when privateers Justin Morgan and Grant Statley who almost grew up riding around Superstition went 1-2. Equally noteworthy, Purvines Racing Beta’s Nick Burson clinched the series championship after finishing a conservative third with one round remaining.

Justin Morgan, Round 7 WHS 2016
Justin Morgan took full advantage of his home field advantage and felt right at home at the Superstition OHV Area, winning the Rattlesnake Chase fairly easily. It was his first major individual victory, backed up by fellow San Diego County resident Grant Statley finishing second in his Pro-class debut after wrapping up the Open A title earlier.Photo by Mark Kariya

“I’d say for sure [I have a home field advantage]! [AMA] District 38 is way different than anything; it’s a lot like northern Baja, a lot like San Felipe,” Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/Precision Concepts Yamaha rider Morgan said. “It’s wide-open and you’ve got to know how to read terrain and see those road crossings coming up or a berm track or whatever it is out here.

“I think in the fast stuff is really where I would make my time here.”

He added, “A Baja bike is the best bike for this race.” Therefore, he went up a tooth, giving him an estimated top speed of 95 miles per hour—definitely not your typical Eastern woods hare scrambles!

Morgan and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Jacob Argubright battled back and forth for the first couple of 17-mile laps that featured high-speed desert, tricky sand dunes and twisty, rocky canyons as well as temperatures approaching 100 degrees.

“I was really pumped up from being so nervous from leading for the first time,” Morgan confessed. “I was really nervous to make a navigational mistake.”

But a gearbox problem prevented 2014 series champ Argubright from continuing much past the halfway point, and his departure left Morgan all alone out front where he continued to set the pace in clean air—at least until the wind picked up so much that sand and dust diminished vision on the fast, flat desert sections.

Nick Burson, Round 7 WHS 2016
Nick Burson knew he didn’t have to ride all-out to seal the championship; he just needed to stay close to rival Justin Bonita (451 in background) and he did just that, riding a conservatively paced race to third overall while Bonita found himself unable to cope with the terrain and finished fifth.Photo by Mark Kariya

Statley likewise tussled with Burson for a while before securing second place, one minute and 24 seconds behind Morgan’s final time of 2:44:42. Burson backed off to ensure he made it to the finish in order to wrap up the championship, yet still held on to third in 2:50:12 while Ryan Smith took fourth in 2:53:13 on his Rick’s Custom Shutters & Blinds Yamaha. Bonita traded the YZ250 he’d used earlier in the season for a little more horsepower with his IRC Tires YZ450F and was the last rider to complete six laps faster than three hours with his 2:55:12.

Dante Oliveira, Round 7 WHS 2016
After a disappointing flat tire the day before at the Big 6 GP, Dante Oliveira made up for it with a convincing triumph in the FMF Pro 250 division for the sixth time this season. That wrapped up the class championship for the rider from Northern California.Photo by Mark Kariya

Austin Serpa won 250cc A, finishing sixth overall, with Maxxis/FMF/RPM Racing KTM’s Dante Oliveira wrapping up the FMF Pro 250 championship by winning that class for the sixth time and finishing seventh overall. Purvines Racing Beta’s Damon Bush and Open A riders James Shafer and Brad Millikan rounded out the top 10 overall.

Sharon Mowell, Round 7 WHS 2016
Though she’s locked into second place in Women A points and didn’t have to race, Sharon Mowell decided to line up for her first-ever time this far south and was glad she did. Not only did she win, she enjoyed the variety of desert terrain presented.Photo by Mark Kariya
Mason Matthies, Round 7 WHS 2016
After playing two water polo games the night before, Mason Matthies had enough energy to easily top the Big Wheel class and overall the morning mini race.Photo by Mark Kariya