WORCS round 7
June 23/24, 2012
It’s a common opinion through the WORCS pits that the series has evolved away from being an “off-road” series in favor of a “grand-prix” layout with faster, more open tracks. There is a lot of truth to that as a more open course allows for closer racing, better track preparation and, in some cases, better spectating, but for the seventh round the WORCS crew went back to a truer off-road layout. The terrain surrounding the On The Edge Raceway motocross track was a veritable mix of open desert, creek crossings, fast fire roads, silty rises with embedded rocks and, as many racers found out the hard way, low hanging tree branches. With tight terrain that has become more novelty than normalcy, round seven would surely favor the more technical rider and I was looking forward to testing my skills on a course that I’ve never considered to be my forte.
With the absence of a starting gate the procedure would be dead engine start to a green flag wave. I’ve been gaining confidence in my dead engine starts and felt relaxed on the line as we awaited the slightest twitch from Homer. I always find it tough to hold back from saying something childish in those moments of absolute silence, as the focus is so intense, but I was concentrated enough on the flag to hold my tongue and as the flag flew, my bike fired up and I rifled down the start line. I got into the first turn in the lead, but was coming in a bit hot and flew wide into a giant mud hole on the outside. I lifted the front end and tried to power through it, but the thick sludge was enough to slow my momentum, allowing Taylor Robert and Gary Sutherlin by my inside. I sped down the first hill and scrubbed by Gary, into second place and set out to catch right up to Taylor. Through the first rocky section I was just a few seconds behind the lead and thought I was going to inherit first as Taylor clipped a rock just wrong and his rear end launched sideways. Somehow he was able to stabilize his scoot and got straightened out, maintaining the lead as I settled into second with the dust flying. I stayed within five seconds of Taylor on the first lap and as we started the second, I had a mind to give it a go and push for a pass. Coming down a cobbled downhill, the dust was hindering my view slightly and I got off balance as the rear of my bike started to slide sideways. It caught and whipped back, throwing me off into a slow speed body drag downhill and right off the track, but I was fortunate enough to keep it upright and did a quick one-eighty back on course, maintaining second place. I lost about twenty seconds in the incident, but pushed hard again and on the third lap was able to cut a few seconds out of Taylor’s lead. I felt inspired and pushed harder, but in the pro section I didn’t do a great job of setting up for a low hanging tree branch and smacked my head hard, throwing me off balance again. As I was trying to regain my composure I hit a few softball sized loose rocks and hit the deck, losing more valuable time, but preserving my second position. From there I started to tighten up a little as I was over thirty seconds down from Taylor and started riding behind me a bit. I had lost a spot of pace allowing Gary and Josh Strang to pace me and as the laps wound down, they began to make up some time. As the white flag came out, Strang made his move into third and was pushing hard to catch me, but just ran out of time and I was able to hang on to a second place finish for moto one.
My mindset for moto two was to get another great start and push hard from green to checkered; I wanted to ride looser and keep driving forward throughout the race. Unfortunately my start was quite deleterious to my master plan as it took me four kicks to get my bike fired up and I headed into the first turn in fifth. I was right behind Ryan Abbatoye and up the silty, rock littered uphill I threw caution to the wind, adjusted the throttle to maximum and went for a pass in a stretch not quite wide enough for two bikes. Ryan said he heard me coming and the resulting adrenaline rush forced his wrist to the lock as he pinned his bike to keep me behind. We almost came together as he closed the door on me and as my front end washed out, both my feet came off the pegs and I almost lost it. I gathered myself and pushed back up to his rear wheel, looking for my opportunity to make a move. He almost handed it to me in the same rocky section that Taylor had the “oh dear” moment the previous moto, as he flew off the track, but he got going quick enough to keep me back and I had to settle down again. This is where my race took a turn for the worse: I was heading down the same dusty downhill I body-dragged the day prior and at the bottom I couldn’t really see the berm through the silt. My front end plowed through and sent me straight to the ground, setting the stage for the rest of my day. I just couldn’t keep the bike upright in the second moto; I’d push and gain a bit of time and then lose it in a corner, or through the creek and lose half a minute. I was in quicksand and my frustration was quickly making it worse and before I knew it I was forty seconds behind Ryan, who was in fourth, and unable to string enough clean laps together to make any real time. I crossed the line a dissatisfying fifth.
The weekend definitely developed into a bit of a mixed bag; I was really happy with my ride in moto one, but extremely frustrated that I just imploded in the second moto and couldn’t keep off the ground. Overall it was positive as I showed some good speed in unfamiliar terrain, but I’ll be working on my composure the next time I’m faced with similar terrain in the future. I want to thank my team, Monster Energy, THR Motorsports, Precision Concepts Kawasaki, my sponsors, Fox Racing, Asterisk, Hookit.com and John Burr Cycles and all of the team sponsors for their continued support. I’m writing this report from Mammoth Lakes, CA for the Monster Energy Mammoth Motocross and I can’t wait to unload the scoot and burn some hot laps. It’s b-e-a-utiful up here; the air is crisp, the temperature’s perfect and to use one of my favorite phrases: it’s gonna be epic!
Thank you to all the Monster Energy, THR Motorsports, Precision Concepts Kawasaki team sponsors: FMF Racing, IMS Products, Hoosier Precision Machining, BRP, Renthal, Dunlop, VP Racing Fuels, Kalgard, DT1 Filters, Hinson, Matrix Concepts, ZLT, QTM, RK/Excel, Acerbis, Works Connection, Zip-Ty Racing, SealSavers.