Havasu has always held a special significance for me. It was the site of my first WORCS podium WAY back in 2007, which was instrumental for my confidence that I could compete with the best in the off-road world, and the finish carried me onward to third in the series that year. Though I’ve always put in a good performance at Havasu, I’ve never been able to achieve my ultimate goal of getting a win there, an accomplishment I definitely wanted to realize this year.
The start would be dead engine, for which I finally feel like I’ve found some consistency. We had a special guest holding the thirty-second-board, and as the freshly dubbed “WORCS wookie” turned the board sideways, the starting line fell silent. After a few moments of restrained anticipation, the green flag flew, and the pro line fired their machines to life.
I had a strong kick through the kick-starter and my bike instantly responded, firing straight away. I accelerated down the short start line, feeling like I’d done enough to get the holeshot, but Ivan Ramirez had a perfect start of his own and reached the first turn just ahead of me- I can’t be too upset that Ivan beat me off the line, I think he’s holeshot every Hare & Hound this year. Travis Coy also had a great start- positioned to my inside as we entered the first turn- and as I scrubbed speed into the first corner to try to cut under Ivan, Travis caught me by surprise, pushed me wide, and back to third as we exited the first turn.
I was directly behind Ivan as the three of us accelerated down the second straightaway and I instantly started to feel a feature of the Havasu racecourse: the rock-filled roost. Ivan sent a slew of rocks in the direction of my face and one of them had a lottery hit on the tear-off post of my goggle lens, breaking the post into my goggles, and making for a sizeable floater I’d have to deal with until my pit stop hallway though the race (when I would change goggles).
As we raced down the jump-filled third straightaway I swung to the right side of Coy, which would give me the inside position entering the next turn, and I was able to carry enough speed to get up alongside Travis, take control of the corner, and take second position behind Ramirez.
I pushed hard to get up behind Ivan, as I didn’t want any more roost thrown my way, and just as we left the motocross portion of the track I had a run around his outside. Ivan tried to hold a tighter line through a sweeping left-hander and I held the throttle on around the outside of the corner, carrying more momentum, and taking the point position on the racecourse.
I instantly felt a gap open up and I started to find a smooth rhythm through the sand, but little did I know that Justin Jones was flying though the pack, pushing his way into second place behind me. As I started the second lap I began to feel a bit of pressure; Jones had carried his momentum from coming through the pack right up to my rear wheel. I may have been capable of a little more speed, but I felt confident in my pace, that I would be able to hold that intensity (or thereabouts) to the finish, and didn’t really want to expend any excess energy trying to pull back away. In fact, for a couple laps I thought Justin was going to find a way by me, but I stuck with a pace with which I felt comfortable and as we neared the hallway point of the race, I began to pull a bit of a lead.
I had opened up a modest gap just before the hour mark, but then a couple mistake crept in to my race. The first mistake came in the form of a stall: I had fluffed my entry line into a left-handed corner and as I used the rear brake to try to compensate, I drug the brake a little to hard and killed the engine. My bike re-fired quickly, mitigating the loss of time, but on the very next lap I made a mistake that had a bit more of a consequence.
Just after the scoring shoot there was a right-handed, small “hip jump” tabletop, which was easy enough to clear, but I lost traction right before the face of the jump. My front end then caught traction, as I compensated for the loss of it, and shot me too far to the right of the track as I began to take to the air. I came down right on the edge of the course, where the tractor berm had built up, and as I was off-balance to begin with, I had little chance to save the crash and I low-sided the bike to the dirt. Luckily I was able to keep the motor running and get going quickly, but most of the advantage I had opened up over Justin was now wiped away.
My crash reignited Justin’s fight as he kept me very honest over the next few laps, through each of our pit stops, but he wasn’t quite able to hold the pace deep in to the race and I stretched back away late- I know Justin has been struggling with some stomach issues so pushing as hard as he did was in impressive feat. A few laps later I crossed the finish line and was thrilled to take my first Lake Havasu WORCS win.
This was a win I’ve wanted for a very long time, and to finally achieve a goal like that feels fantastic. I want to thank all of my personal supporters for making it possible: Precision Concepts, MSR, Shoei, Sidi, Spy, EVS, USWE, Focus apparel, FMF, BRP, RAD custom graphics, GoPro, A’ME grips, IWC motorsports, ATP mechanix, Northland motorsports, Rekluse, CryoHeat, and the MotoXerciser. Thanks to my mechanic Phil as the bike was amazing once more, to my beautiful wife, my family and friends and each of the team sponsors. I also want to thank all of the spectators at Havasu for cheering us on every lap. Havasu is unique as we race right along the lake, allowing spectators to get up next the course, so we racers can really feel their enthusiasm; it’s a pretty incredible feeling.
Up next on my schedule is the fifth round of WORCS at Sand Hollow, Utah. It has to be one of the most picturesque stops on the WORCS circuit, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite races of the year. I was able to get the win the first time WORCS went to Sand Hollow in 2013, but last year Gary Sutherlin and Justin Seeds were too strong for me. Hopefully I can carry the current momentum I have into the deep sand, but I’m sure the rest of the pro field will be incredibly fired up to get the win. Either way it promises to be an incredible event and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone out there!