The first race of the year is always a special one as everyone’s excited to get back underway after the winter holidays. This weekend I traveled out to the Best in the Desert Parker 250 to kick off the season, have some fun, and hopefully get a first win of 2012.
The course was fun and fast with a high speed sand wash taking the riders from the start and main pit out to the “midway” pit at mile 27. From there it was 30 miles of high speed sweeping roads where you could feel like a hero, throwing the back end out and flat tracking in fourth and fifth gear. The final miles were made up of fast and technical washes littered with rocks and small whoops leading you to the “Parker Python”, a two mile bladed track that winds around the main pit to give the spectators some descent viewing.
There was a bit of last minute confusion surrounding who my partner would be, but in the end I would team with David Pearson. I would ride the first and third of three 79 mile loops with David riding the second lap. Best in the Desert usually starts at first light and this race was no exception. I’d never started a BITD race before, and I would run into some troubles on the first lap. The JCR Honda team of Colton Udall and David Kamo came out and they were first off the line, then a two- minute start gap back to the Purvine’s Kawasaki of Justin Morrow and Nick Burson, before I would take off (three minutes behind the Honda).
The green lights lit and the race had begun. I felt confident on the line that I could get by Justin, but as I took off from the line the sun still hadn’t quite raised and I started getting a bit nervous in the low light. I caught just up into Justin’s dust, but I didn’t want to take any risks of clipping a rock I didn’t see and just sat there to the midway pit. Nick got on the Purvine’s bike, the sun started to peek over the mountains and I remember saying to myself, “game on; let’s go get him”.
I still struggled to catch right up to Nick as the dust was pretty thick and it seemed like every time I got close to him the course would turn into the sun and I’d run into a wall of white-out. Finally around mile 55 we got into some rocks and I could just see him ahead of me. I pushed hard to catch him, but my front end clipped a rock and I lost it. Luckily I was able to keep the clutch in and quickly picked the bike back up, losing just a handful of seconds. I caught back up to Nick and just a few miles later I was able to squeeze by him and into some clean air. I realized I had probably lost a bit of time to the Honda in the dust and went hard to try to make it up. I felt pretty good until around mile 68 when I was rounding a tight left hand corner. I was in the fluffy berm on the outer edge, starting to accelerate; suddenly, before I knew it, I was off the bike doing a head stand/ windmill break dance move in the dirt and didn’t know what had just happened. My first thought was, “Oh man, I just wrecked my Monster helmet!” and then my second thought quickly followed, “Oh no, I hope I didn’t just ruin the bike”. In any race a crash is bad, but especially in a lengthy team race where a bent bike can wreak havoc on your pace and minimizing downtime in the pits is crucial. I got up and looked back to see the buried, bowling ball sized, rock that sent me on my head, remounted and felt lucky that the bike came through pretty unscathed. Through the last few miles, I made it to the pit and sent David on his way. It was a tough first lap and I had lost about a minute and forty five seconds to the Honda. I hoped David was up for the challenge…
David’s ride went really well. He rode fantastic and pulled almost a minute in on the Honda boys, plus the pit crew had an amazing rear wheel change and gained another ten seconds on Honda’s wheel change. I got on the bike with just forty five seconds to gain and 70 miles to do it.
From main pit to midway I felt on top of the world; I was hitting the corners flawlessly, getting by the lapped traffic pretty clean and knew I had to be making up time. It was one of those times on the bike where you feel completely connected to it. I could put the bike wherever I wanted and ride as fast as I pleased, it’s the feeling every racer loves. From midway I stayed strong and felt like I was still making time. I was getting through the last of the lapped riders pretty quickly and with just 15 miles to the finish I finally had clean air again. I came down the finishing straight wide open and my team was all standing there screaming and fist pumping; I crossed the line just over two minutes behind the Honda physically, but fifty three seconds up on adjusted time. David and I had just started the year off on a winning note…
The race was really enjoyable, the course was well marked (typical of Best in the Desert) and the terrain was great fun. I was stoked to see the JCR Honda team come out and make a race of it. I know Colton was still recovering from an injured hand, so Kamo had to pick up a few more miles, but they rode a great race and kept it very interesting. I’d like to thank my team: THR Motorsports, Monster Energy, Precision Concepts Kawasaki; the bike ran flawlessly, the motor was incredibly strong and I still don’t think I found a limit of how fast I could hit everything with the suspension. My teammate David Pearson rode so well; I gave the Honda team quite a head start, but he definitely started the comeback for us. I’d like to thank FOX Racing for their continued support; it was a first race test for me with the Fox Main goggle and the new Fox Instinct boot and both passed with flying colors. The goggle didn’t let any dust inside the lens which is so critical since I was in billowing dust for around 100 of my 160 total miles. The boots are so light, comfortable and confidence inspiring and offer an incredible grip and feel for the frame and foot controls. Thank you to Asterisk for joining my program and supporting me this year, I’m looking forward to a great relationship with them. It was a great start to the year and I’m looking to keep the momentum rolling into Glen Helen next week for round one of WORCS. See everyone there!
Thank you to all 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.