BIG 6 Grand Prix, Taft, CA, 2/5/12
By Robby Bell
I have one major rule going into the unclassified ‘practice’ race at Taft… Just cruise. The Taft racecourse has always been a bit of a tricky one and I’ve had a history of throwing it away in practice there. The track is mostly made up of fast, winding jeep roads interconnected with washes, ravines and the Honolulu Hills motocross track, but the silt holes and deep, square edged bumps that crop up make it a little scary to pin the throttle and throw caution to the wind. After an uneventful unclassified it was time to head to the start line of the heavyweight expert race.
The start procedure was to have your right hand on the rear fender and your left hand on the throttle; a green flag start. When the flag waved I got it into gear and off the line quickly and was racing Mark Samuels to the first turn. Halfway down the long start straight was a blind rise and when Mark lifted the throttle slightly I did the same, allowing a charging Timmy Weigand and Colton Udall to pass us into the first corner. I quickly got by Mark and a few corners later Colton lost the front end and went down putting Timmy into the lead and myself in second. It’s tough to memorize a 10-plus minute lap in three laps of practice and both Timmy and I were taking the first lap to feel it out and log the changing track conditions in a little bit. At the start of the second lap I made a big push to get right up behind him. The intensity was increasing and Timmy definitely knew I was right there as we headed into the off road. I was applying the pressure, trying to stick a wheel in, but Timmy was riding solid and wasn’t cracking. Half way around the lap he made a slight bobble allowing me right up alongside and I pushed hard for the pass. Unfortunately I was outside of him going into the next left handed corner and he was surely going to push me wide. I kept it on trying to sweep him but I was off the main line in the slick wet dirt and when I got on the gas I slid the back end around, almost crashing and losing a few seconds in the process. By now we were starting to get into lapped riders and the conditions made it slightly dangerous for us to carry the speeds we wanted through the beginner and novice lines. Timmy was riding well, maintaining his gap and was just around five seconds ahead of me heading into the final of five laps. I needed to make one last push to close the distance. Heading up a long silty uphill I could see a couple riders down at the top and just as I’m passing I see Timmy coming back on to the course right beside me. He’d clipped the downed rider’s bike and fallen, but got up quickly and was right on my rear wheel. He was attacking me with adrenaline over the next few corners and straights and I was riding a little defensively to keep him back. I pinched him off into a following right hand turn and he later told me he fell on the exit of it. I knew something had happened as I didn’t feel the pressure anymore and cruised in for the victory.
Up next was the Four Stroke expert race and as the green flag dropped I again got out quickly. I felt I had the hole shot to myself but, and I feel like an idiot I did it again, I lifted just slightly for the blind rise and Colton was able to get a wheel on me going into the first corner. He was taking his line into the first turn but I wasn’t backing out; we were leaning into each other and my front end was literally pushing his bike into the first turn. Luckily we both stayed upright, but he got the lead and I settled into second. This is where I should have pushed hard for the pass, but I was again feeling out the track a bit too much on the first lap and just kind of hung behind him. At the start of the third lap I finally made up my mind that I needed to pass him and picked it up around the moto track. He started riding a little defensive and I felt I had him as I was applying the pressure with vigor now. I wanted to get him before we went into the silty off road and came up the inside of him. I pushed him hard into the next corner, making contact with him, and almost forcing him off the track. Into the next left I was set up wide for an outside-in pass and just as I had it lined up he almost came to a stop, looked back, and brake checked me, taking my front end out and I went down. I got back up in third behind Timmy and I was fuming. Timmy went down just a few corners later and I got back into second with my mind set on catching Colton. I was riding on anger and made a mistake in the moto section, losing the front end and going down again which allowed Timmy to get pretty close again. I never felt a challenge come from Timmy and later learned he had crashed again. I was too far behind Colton and came through the checkered in second place. I definitely didn’t like the move Colton put on me and I let him know after the race as we exchanged heated words. I was frustrated and didn’t handle the situation too well as I was fueled by anger in the moment and I later went over and apologized to Colton and JCR for the scene.
Sunday’s Pro race would be an hour and forty five minutes plus a lap and would have a bit more competition than Saturday’s expert races. The start was motocross style, but with a green light release instead of a flag. When the green lights lit I got off the line really well and put my butt on the rear fender to get as much traction and speed as I could into the first corner. I was side by side with Kurt Caselli, but he had the inside of me and took the first turn for his own as I settled into second ahead of Timmy, Colton, Ryan Abbatoye, Gary Sutherlin and the rest of the pack. I stuck with Kurt through most of the first lap until we got to a section that was added for the pro race; they ran this section for the team race yesterday, but I didn’t participate in it like the rest of the pros so I was learning this section as I went. I ended up losing about twenty seconds to Kurt on the first lap and was just ahead of a charging Timmy and Colton. The next lap I was able to push a bit harder and pulled a bit on the riders behind, losing just a few seconds to Kurt. I saw I had stayed close and put it in my mind that with a little more speed I could reel him in, but coming into a silty right handed corner I pushed the front end through the berm and went down, losing time and the valuable sight of the leader. From there I was in a bit of no man’s land as I couldn’t see Kurt, who continued to pull time, and Timmy was a little ways back as he had made a mistake and gone down as well. The next hour felt like an eternity; I hadn’t raced this long of a grand prix in a while and I lost a bit of aggression as the laps winded down. Physically I felt good, but mentally I was just kind of in a pace. This was to bite me in the butt a little as Timmy, being the solid rider that he is, just kept putting in consistent laps and started to reel me in. With two laps to go I picked the pace up a bit and, in my mind, had him covered until the close of the lap. On the backside of a blind rise was a small silt berm and when I came into it my front end pushed through sending me straight to the ground and I hit my head pretty hard as I heard the “pop” of my helmet hitting the ground. As I was gathering myself Timmy cruised by and into second place and I got going in third as Colton was a ways back in fourth. The nock to my noggin took a bit out of me as I tried to clear the cobwebs and mount a last lap charge back up to Timmy. It just wasn’t to be and I came through the finish in third place. As it was Timmy had entered the Vet Pro class so, by technicality, I finished second place Pro on the day.
The Taft race track was a tough one and it was definitely a battle all weekend long, but I had a blast racing there and thanks to the whole Dirt Diggers crew for putting the event on. They did a great job keeping water on the course, which is a big undertaking, and the races went off on time all weekend long. Thank you to my team: THR Motorsports, Monster Energy, Precision Concepts Kawasaki for once again providing me with a great bike and unparalleled support. Thanks to Fox racing and Asterisk knee braces for their stellar support and everyone at the race for cheering us on. I had high hopes of sweeping the weekend coming in, but Kurt was just a bit too quick and I made a few too many mistakes, so I’m going to go back and work hard to close that gap, iron out the bugs and come back at the next round stronger. Next on my racing agenda is WORCS round two at Primm, NV. Look forward to seeing everyone there! You stay classy San Diego…
Thank you to the team sponsors: THR Motorsports, Monster Energy, Precision Concepts, Kawasaki, FMF Racing, Hoosier Precision Machining, BRP, Renthal, Dunlop, VP Racing Fuels, IMS Products, Kalgard, DT1 Filters, Hinson, Matrix Concepts, ZLT, QTM, RK/Excel, Acerbis, Works Connection, Zip-Ty Racing.
Heavyweight Expert: Four Stroke Expert: Pro Main:
1st: Robby Bell 1st: Colton Udall 1st: Kurt Caselli
2nd: Timmy Weigand 2nd: Robby Bell 2nd: Robby Bell
3rd: Colton Udall 3rd: Timmy Weigand 3rd: Colton Udall
4th: Gary Sutherlin
5th: Ryan Abbatoye
*Timmy Weigand was 2nd overall, first Vet
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