After a somewhat disappointing showing at the Adelanto GP two weeks prior, finishing fourth, I wanted to make a statement at the opening round of WORCS; a statement of intent that I want the championship plate back. One of the weaker aspects of my racing that I really wanted to remedy, that would help me be the dominant force I craved, was my early-race speed. Even in the races I’ve won I’ve tended to be a bit cautious off the start, which has put me in a hole when the likes of Gary Sutherlin and Justin Jones set a fast pace early. Pushing the pace in the beginning of the race was my highest priority as I headed to Taft.
The conditions at Taft couldn’t have been much better: low clouds were holding in a lot of moisture so the dust was very minimal and the wet conditions allowed the WORCS crew to expand the course a bit, using some virgin trail and creating a flowing racecourse with which I really gelled. Dense fog rolled in on the morning of the race, which was going to make vision, and especially goggle prep, key factors as the hanging moisture was sure to stick on the goggle lens and add a challenging aspect to the race. I felt I was as prepared as I could be, with a couple sets of SPY roll off systems and a fresh back-up set of SPY goggles for each lap, should the conditions call for drastic measures. I also have a bit of experience racing in dense fog from my career down in Baja so I wasn’t really fazed by the low visibility.
On the line I was focused on one goal: the holeshot. I had a lot of confidence on the line that I was going to have the most speed so I wanted to get out front quickly and not have to deal with any roost. Since the Taft facility has a cement starting gate, we’d abandon the dead engine start and use the concrete pad for a motocross-style beginning to the race. As the gate dropped I put all my weigh on to the rear of the bike and I could feel my rear tire getting perfect traction as I popped off the starting line with an instant lead. Clicking gears up the starting straight, I had the whole first turn to myself; it was probably the best start of my career, but it only lasted to the entrance of the first corner. I wanted to fly through the first turn and pull a quick gap, but I had too much speed, came in way too hot, shot at least thirty feet wide, nearly off the track, and opened the door on the inside. As I finally got turned I saw Gary and Justin Jones ride by on the inside; I must had looked like such a squirrel.
I settled in to third behind Jones and quickly applied the pressure as I looked for a way by. Halfway through the lap the course turned up a pro-race only double hill climb that we could only walk beforehand, and I felt I had picked out a nice line. As Jones drifted toward the right side of the hill, and a steeper climb, I edged left and was able to carry more speed around him, accelerating up the hill and into second place.
Gary had pulled a small gap, but as we headed to a long, fifth gear downhill section I was able to close the gap down to nothing. Toward the bottom of the hill I think I caught Gary a little by surprise as I sped down his left side, but he quickly recovered and was able to pinch me off at the base of the hill. I checked up and darted back the right side of the course, setting me up on the outside of the next corner, and as Gary hit a couple deep holes under braking, I maintained a little more speed around the smoother outside of him and took over the lead. I could feel Gary trying to push hard to counter my move and I came in to the next couple corners really hot, nearly blowing them, but I was finally able to edge a small gap and relax into my pace.
From that moment on I never looked back, inching away each lap. I made a quick stop in the pits on lap three for a fresh set of goggles, but aside from that I had the perfect race and was able to take the win with a fairly comfortable lead. It felt really good to take the checkered flag, nearly as good as my first WORCS win, because the race went so perfectly and I felt so strong. My bike handled the vicious chop incredibly well and Precision Concepts and FMF had the motor/exhaust combo dialed, giving the bike so much useable power, the perfect combination for maximum traction.
I definitely want to thank all of my personal supporters: Precision Concepts, MSR, Shoei, Sidi, Spy, Focus apparel, EVS, USWE, RAD custom graphics, Alamo Alarm, FMF, BRP, A’ME grips, and ATP Mechanix. Thanks to my mechanic Phil, my wife, family, friends and fans for the continued support, and all of the team sponsors for making our effort possible. I also want to give the WORCS crew some love for making a great atmosphere and putting together a really fun racecourse; it made for a very enjoyable weekend.
I’m not taking this win for granted, I know the conditions were challenging with the fog and Gary had some vision problems. I also know Jones will be stronger and I’m expecting my teammate Justin Seeds to be running up front along with Morgan, Ramirez, Yorba and Coy as they find the pace so I’m anticipating some great, close racing this year; in fact, I’m hoping for it. I’m having a lot of fun racing right now and want to have some epic battles that I can hopefully catch on the GoPro and share with all of my fans and followers. That’s why we race after all: the physical and mental challenge during, and the stories we can share afterward.