Terror and triumph
In Mid-September the WORCS ATV series rolled into Southern California for round seven of the eight race series, and sweltering temperatures came right along with it. The location for this venue was Glen Helen Raceway in Devore, CA that is considered one of the premier locations for both MX and Off-Road racing, and the course that was laid out for this weekend lived up to its reputation. A full weekend of racing left an extremely rough course for the pro riders to combat for their two-hour race that took place in the middle of the day where temperatures were well over 100 degrees.
Not only did this round see extreme temperatures, but there were new faces throughout the pits as well. Just before the weekends race, the Motoworks/Can-Am had just signed on John Natalie and Chad Wienen for the 2010 ATV MX season and John decided that he wanted to give WORCS racing a go much like Chris Borich in the previous round. Keith Little also made and appearance on his Kawasaki KFX 450R with his longtime mechanic Scott Butler. With new competition at the track, the spectators for this race were sure to see some fierce racing action.
Before any of the racing action ever went down, there was a grave incident that involved long time WORCS pro racer and past champion Doug Eichner. In a Friday practice session, he was involved in a serious crash with John Natalie that resulted in a broken arm, lacerated liver, broken ribs and punctured lung. This incident sent Eichner to the hospital for several days while Natalie also went to be treated for broken ribs suffered in the accident. While Eichner was out, Natalie still opted to ride for Sundays race.
As the gate dropped and all of the pro riders put the hammer down on their machines, it was Dustin Nelson that took the holeshot coming out of the infamous Talladega turn followed closely by the #62 of Jeremie Warnia. Shortly after leaving the infield of the course Warnia would make a pass on Nelson for the lead and then turned on the afterburners. Warnia rode like a machine that kept on pushing through the extreme heat and rough terrain and would never look back from that point as he took the win for the day over thirty seconds ahead of second place finisher Beau Baron. While the racing was fast up front, behind is were all of the action was taking place and some of the racers were furious.
With the points battle for the championship being so close there was rumor of "team tactics" coming into play as both Dustin Nelson and Beau Baron had individual run-ins with Motoworks/Can-Am's John Natalie during the 2 hour long race. It was easy to see that tempers were raging but that only made them ride harder resulting in better finishes for the day. After all was said and done, Warnia stood atop the podium followed by Baron and his Motoworks/Can-Am teammate Josh Frederick rounding out the top three. Nelson would finish his day aboard his Yamaha YFZ 450R in fourth and John Natalie would round out the top five, even with broken ribs from Fridays incident.
Josh Row would finish in sixth for the day aboard his MCR Honda TRX 450R followed by DATS Racing teammates John Shafe and Robbie Mitchell who placed seventh and eighth respectively. Ninth place went to Ryan Piplic aboard his Kawasaki KFX 450R and to complete the top 10 was Justin Waters aboard his Yamaha. With one round left in the series, MCR's Beau Baron holds the lead with 21 points over Josh Frederick who only has one point difference from his teammate Jeremie Warnia. Fourth through sixth places are only separated by 5 points and seventh through twelfth place are separated by a mere ten points.
Duel in the desert
The weekend of October 16th and 17th saw WORCS ATV racing roll into to the town of Mesquite, NV for the final round of the series. Weather in the early part of the week was cool and wet as a small storm system rolled through, but come race weekend the sun was shining and there wasn't going to be a cloud in the sky for the pro race on Sunday. Aside from growing anticipation over the points battle for the championship between Beau Baron and Josh Frederick, many people were excited to see a few GNCC pro riders make the trek from back east for this final round. Jarrod McClure, Jonny Gallagher and Round 6 winner Chris Borich made the 40-hour drive from back east just for this event. Chad Wienen, who also raced in round one of the series, arrived with his new Motoworks/Can-Am team to do battle with the best in the off-road business as well.
As the green flag was thrown, Jeremie Warnia launched his Motoworks/Can-Am DS 450 out of the gate and narrowly edged out Yamahas Dustin Nelson for the holeshot, but was quickly passed by his new team mate Chad Wienen for the lead only a few turns later. As the riders blazed through the scoring chute before heading into the off-road section it was Wienen, Warnia, Nelson, Josh Frederick and finally Chris Borich. The off-road portion of the course featured extremely sandy riverbed sections that would have whoops big enough to swallow small cars by the end of the day, so the riders would have to pace themselves if they wanted to finish their race.
Roughly between the 8 and 9-minute mark of the race, the leader made his way out of the off-road desert section launching off of the massive downhill ski-jump back into the motocross track. This was none other than Chad Wienen who already had almost a 30 second lead over second place just after this first lap. While Wienen was having the time of is life leading the race, there were plenty of heated battles as much of the pack behind him was still relatively bunched up and banging nerf bars as they came out of the pits and back on to the course. Early in this race Borichs' Suzuki QuadRacer 450 started belching white smoke as he left the MX portion of the course, and not long after he found himself sidelined with a blown engine. This was a huge disappointment to the rider who was on top of the podium at round 6 in Straddleline, WA.
It wasn't long after Borich had troubles, that race leader Wienen would have troubles of his own. With a healthy lead he overshot a turn and went off of the track. This incident would allow teammate Josh Frederick to make a pass for the lead, but would also cause discomfort to a knee that was injured during the get-off. Not one to give up, Wienen continued on through the remainder of the race. Borich and Wienen were not the only racers to encounter problems through the race. Points leader Beau Baron, who would only need an 11th place finish to secure his championship, found himself on the side of the race course within the first hour of the race with electrical problems on his MCR Honda TRX 450R. Team Captain and owner Mike Cafro found Baron and quickly began to tow him back to the pits so the team could diagnose the problems to the machine. This was no easy ride for Baron as Cafro towed him as fast as he could, even continuing to jump the MX portions to get to the pit area as quickly as possible.
After almost two laps of downtime, the MCR pit crew had Baron up and running again putting him at a serious disadvantage in position and points. This ignited a fire in Baron and he turned on the afterburners as he started picking off riders one after one in the attempt to get to the finishing spot that would get him the championship for the year. For the remainder of the race, the front-runners wouldn't change much as Frederick, Nelson and Warnia continued their blistering pace putting time on every rider in the field, but Baron wasn't to be counted out. Lap after lap he kept putting his sights on the riders in front of him continuing to charge his way back to the front. Coming into the final lap of the race the MCR team pulled Josh Row, who was having his best ride of the season in 4th place, into the pits to help secure a better finishing position for Beau Baron. When the checkered flag finally flew it was Frederick taking the win for his hometown crowd, followed by Yamahas Dustin Nelson and Jeremie Warnia.
Chad Wienen completed an astounding ride to finish 4th for the day followed by Robbie Mitchell on his DATS Trucking Kawasaki KFX 450. In 6th position was Jarrod McClure who was on his Yamaha YFZ 450 that he normally rides for the Can-Am GNCC series while WORCS course worker Ryan Piplic finished his day in 7th. In his Pro debut, Dillon Zimmerman finished 8th followed by John Shafe in 9th and in 10th was the 2009 WORCS ATV series champion Beau Baron. As Baron pulled through the pits for the final time before clearing the scoring chute, the MCR pits roared as they had already done the math knowing that he had clinched the championship.
This final race of the season was an emotional rollercoaster for many racers as the season went like this as well. There were injuries and mechanical problems that plagued the front-runners but in the end, it was a knockdown fight to the end. While Frederick was happy with his win for the day, he absolutely would have liked to take the championship home as well. This will only make him try that much harder starting at the first round of the series in 2010 which kicks off at Speedworld Cycle Park in Surprise, AZ. Till then look through the photos of the last two rounds to keep your racing desires satisfied.