THE CHAMP STRIKES BACK! | TAFT NGPC | ROUND TWO

KTM DEFEATS HONDA!

Round two of the National Grand Prix Series took its circuit to the oil fields of Taft, California, at the beautiful Honolulu Hills. With the recent rain over the past few weeks, the Dirt Diggers MC (south) took advantage of the elements which perfected the soil on the weekend racing. A seven-mile race course was in store for racers, which saw the Dirt Diggers piece together a very familiar race course from times past, using shortened canyons, lower speed hills, and the facilities motocross track, which is roughly about 3 miles of the race course. Though, that didn’t matter to many; smiles were had all weekend, and comments of the race prep were nothing but positive remarks, which made for a great weekend of racing.

The Pro race saved the best race of the weekend and the best race seen in quite some time. Sixteen pro racers lined up to take their shot at the glory of the two-hour pro race; the 2-minute warning sign came out, and bikes were killed for a dead engine start. When the green flag dropped, it was the Precision Concepts Kawasaki-backed Zach Bell who made his return to the series at the opening round. Bell nailed the start with Purvines Yamaha racer Justin Hoeft on his heels. The two glued together during the opening lap, seeing Hoeft make his move passed Bell and leading the race’s opening laps.

JUSTIN HOEFT SEEMS TO HAVE THE SPEED TO RUN AT THE FRONT BUT MAY NEED A BIT MORE ENDURANCE TO FINISH IT OFF.

Behind Hoeft and Bell was a freight train of guys striving to make their way to the front of the pack. Mateo Oliveira, on his Red/Bull Factory KTM, was making strides to get around Bell but also had pressure from his brother Dante Oliveira, points-leader Ryan Surratt, Talon LaFontaine, and Cole Martinez. Finally, Dante Oliveria found his stride on lap three and made the pass around his brother, Zach Bell, and racer leader Justin Hoeft, positioning him at the front of the pack for the first time this season. The three-time champion quickly sprinted away from the group leaving the battle for the final podium spots and an all-out duel.

OLIVEIRA STRUCK BACK AFTER A MEDIOCRE FIRST ROUND. HIS SPEED AND HARD WORK SHOWED WHY HE HAS THE NUMBER ONE ON HIS PLATE

Justin Hoeft and Mateo Oliveira were battling for the second position, with JCR Hondas Ryan Surratt fighting to make his way to the front after a bad start left him near the end of the pack. Surratt started to find his pace halfway through the race and quickly made the pass on both Oliveira and Hoeft, positing himself in the second spot. Surratt seemed to have discovered his speed in the later part of the race and tracked down a twenty-two-second gap down to the rear wheel of the KTM rider of Dante Oliveira.  The two were seen almost mimicking each other’s lap times and only were keeping each other accountable for any mistakes. While the two at the front were creating a natural nail bitter, the fight for third was just as exciting to watch. Hoeft, Martinez, and Mateo Oliveira were trying to solidify the final spot on the podium. Martinez struck on a small mistake from Hoeft and found himself in the third position, creating a cushion for the final podium spot.

IF THERE’S ONE GUY THAT IS MAKING THE MOST NOISE IN OFF-ROAD AT THE MOMENT, ITS JCR HONDAS RYAN SURRATT. HE WILL HOLD THE POINTS LEAD INTO ROUND THREE IN BLYTHE

When the checkered flag dropped, the Red Bull/KTM rider Dante Oliveira fought off the points leader and JCR Honda of Ryan Surratt, making for one of the closes race finishes to date. SLR Hondas Cole Martinez rounded off the podium with a quiet third-place finish. Early race leader Justin Hoeft on his Purvines Yamaha and Factory Husqvarna racer Austin Walton ranked among the top five in the class.

MARTINEZ MAY BE ON TO SOMETHING HERE, THOUGH A 4TH AND 3RD TO START THE SEASON ISN’T IDEAL. CONSISTENCE MAY PAY OFF IN THE LONG RUN. HE WAS A SILENT THIRD ON THE DAY

If the excitement of the Pro race had you wanting more, the Pro 250 race was just as exciting if not better than the Pro Class. RPM/KTM rider Jake Alaverz inked a deal with the team for 2023, though his first race of the year was quickly stopped after a mechanical issue; his speed was there to run at the front of the pack. That quickly transpired into Taft at Round Two. As the 30-second sign came out and the bikes drew silent, the KTM rider captured the opening laps and established himself as a threat to the class. Blood was in the water for the racers behind, 3-brothers Husqvaranas Kai Aiello, Gaingslinger Kawasaki Cole Zeller, Purvines Yamaha and points leader Jack Simpson, SLR Hondas Collier Martinez, and 3-brothers Hatch racing Colton Aeck were all in a 10-second bubble vying for the chance of the lead.

WALKER MOVED UP THROUGHOUT THE RACE AND PULLED AWAY NEAR THE END

Jack Simpson was the first to bite at Alvarez, and the two were fighting for the lead position as their lives depended on it. Simpson made his move on the KTM rider but never could break away. The RPM/KTM rider kept him honest and countered by taking the lead back from the Yamaha rider. In doing so, Kai Aiello was watching all of it unfold right in front of his eyes, trying to make his move on both but keeping the hard-charging Zellar behind him. As the top five practically had a blanket over them, Factory Beta racer Kade Walker started finding a quicker pace than the riders in front of him.

AECK HAS BEEN SILENT AS OF LATE. REBOUNDING TO A PODIUM POSITION ON THE WEEKEND AND THROWING HIS HAND AT A TITLE THREAT WAS WHAT HE NEEDED

A little more than halfway through the race, Walker found himself with the lead in hand and started to break away from the storming pack of pro 250 racers. However, as Walker solidified his run at the front of the pack, the fumbling for the remaining podium spots was at hand. Alvarez, Simpson, Aeck, Aiello, and Zellar had combined a group of swapping positions until the very last lap. Aeck moved from fifth to second with a lap to go while Simpson followed suit.

SIMPSON DIDN’T SEEM TO HAVE THE SAME SPARK HE HAD AT THE OPENING ROUND. LOOK FOR HIM NEAR THE FRONT OF THE PACK IN TWO WEEKS

Alvarez tried to counter but couldn’t quite match the pace toward the end. At the finish line, it was Walker and his factory Beta getting his first win of the season, with Aeck finding himself on the podium and Simpson salvaging a third on the day. Jake Alvarez followed in fourth, with Cole Zellar rounding out the top five. A notable mention goes to Kai Aiello, who finished sixth closely behind.

RICHARDS DOMINATED THE WOMEN PRO CLASS AND WAS UNCONTESTED

The next round is right around the corner, as the NGPC folks will head to the sand track of Blythe, California, located at Shorty’s Race Track. The race is one of the three sand tracks on the circuit, but it seems to be the deepest sand in the series , creatingexciting racing. If you’re interested in racing the NGPC series, visit ngpcseries.com. 

Here is a race recap from Blythe last year for a little track preview!

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