pictures courtesy of Kinney Jones
From wicked washes, each littered with rocks just waiting to end your day in an instant, to deep sand whoops draining precious energy lap after lap, the opening round of the 2013 WORCS series was every bit an “off road” event. The common phrase used through the pits the entire weekend seemed to be, “man that was sketchy!” as seemingly half of the course was covered with embedded or loose rocks, which made attacking sections with speed a “do so at your own risk” proposition. But it’s that same heart in mouth sensation that made this course so fun: when you hit a section faster than you previously thought possible (and pulled it off) the rush of adrenaline was unmatched. The pro race was definitely going to lend itself to the toughest and grittiest athletes and whether you were up front or mid pack, the biggest battle was going to be between you and the unforgiving terrain.
With a solid field of Pro and Pro2 riders lining up for two hours of brutality, a good start would be key; in such a physical race, expending excess energy coming through the pack was the last thing anyone would want as it could leave racers reaching deep into their reserves later in the race. I lined up right in the middle of the start line, and after few solid dead-engine practice starts, I felt confident and determined that I was going to get an excellent start. As the green flag flew I gave a solid kick, but the bike didn’t fire and it would take a rather panicky second kick to ignite the motor and send me down the start straight. Luckily I wasn’t the only one to get a multi-kick start and I managed to come out of the first corner around twelfth. I made a couple moves through the pack and got up into eighth place, but a quick look up the track showed me that Taylor Robert had taken the holeshot and was already putting time on the field. I started taking a few risks pushing past more riders and was working my way inside of the top five when I found myself behind Ryan Abbatoye. Ryan has just started his own graphics company and he’s supporting me this year so I wasn’t sure about the etiquette when battling a sponsor, but down an extremely rocky straightaway I had a little better line to the right and was able to grab the number four spot; now Gary Sutherlin and Destry Abbott were the only riders between Taylor and me. It took about half of a lap for me to close the distance on Gary and as we headed into the “Pro Section”, arguably the most technical part of the course, I was hot on his heels. I was trying different lines to get by, but Gary could feel the pressure and answered by picking up his pace. We were almost out of the section when I got a run on him and I could tell he noticed as he got a little whisky throttle and clipped a rock with too much speed. Unfortunately for Gary, his momentum sent him into a pretty thick patch of boulders and he lost the bars, falling to the ground. In all of this excitement, I was also pushing a little above my limits and I was pinging this way and that, nearly crashing myself as I pulled up along side Gary, but luckily I was able to save it and move my way into third.
I could see Destry just up the course and I worked hard to close the distance, but he was riding really well and it took me another lap to finally get up behind him. As with Gary, once Destry felt me he instantly wicked up his pace and both of our bikes were swapping side to side through the whoops as we each pushed for more speed. Down the rocky straight where I passed Ryan I thought I could get a run on him, but he had plenty of speed to keep me at bay until we reached the following right-handed corner. The exit of the turn was incredibly rocky and Destry stumbled a bit as he hunted for traction, allowing me up alongside, but Destry still held the inside into the next corner and could easily push me wide. I tiptoed for a second to see if he would take me high, but he held his line tight, which I appreciate as he could have punted me into the cactus, and I made my way into second position. Now was the time to push hard to close the gap on Taylor as he already had nearly thirty seconds on me, but in all of the excitement, the adrenaline rush of pushing through traffic mixed with the sketchy conditions, I hadn’t really been breathing properly and was suffering from a bit of arm pump. In what I feel was a key lap, where I should have pushed to put a bit of pressure on Taylor, I settled in a little too much and dropped a further fifteen plus seconds to him, putting the gap beyond forty seconds. For the next hour I’d make a little time only to have Taylor stretch out more time than I had put into him and with the laps winding down the gap was around a minute. I got the two-lap signal from the WORCS scoring crew and as I came through the pits my crew was frantically waving and pointing up the course with a pit board that said PUSH! Taylor had suffered a crash and was less than thirty seconds ahead so I broke out of the pace I had been setting and pushed for more speed. It wasn’t until we came back into the motocross section that I could see I had only broken about even with Taylor and, with one lap to go, I didn’t have much more to give. I rode hard on the final lap but Taylor did what he needed to do and as we came onto the moto for the last time, I put it into cruise mode and passed through the checkers in second.
This was a good race for me, but I feel my poor start kept it from being a great one as I lost too much time early and spent valuable energy coming through the pack. All in all I’m happy with my performance; I was carrying a slight wrist injury from the Parker 250, but I was able to manage it quite well and it wasn’t until the closing laps that it started to bother me. I definitely want to thank the team for all of the hard work: Precision Concepts, Alamo Alarms racing, my personal sponsors: Fox Racing, THR Motorsports, Asterisk, HookIT.com, GPR, and Alamo Alarms for their continued support. I want to congratulate the entire WORCS crew for putting together a great event; the course featured the widest variety of terrain that I’ve ridden at a grand prix and as always the event was very professional. It was a solid start to the series for me, but I want to be winning and I’m going to be working my butt off to come into Primm with a little more speed and a better rehearsed start so I can finish one step further up the box.