Photos by Dan Alamangos & Ray Pisarski
MXA's John Basher (22) cranks it hard to keep in front of 250 Intermediate winner Zac Commans (103).
This weekend was an important race in the REM structure. It was the annual Awards Day, in which the best racers from 2012 received their trophies, jackets and accolades. It was scheduled for this weekend because it was the first one of the year where most of the top ten would be present and because next weekend was the Indianapolis Motorcycle Show (and lots of REM’s racers work in the motorcycle industry).
Tom White interviews REM's Frank Thomason with the Jon Ortner painting looming behind them. To learn more about Jon Ortner's art go to www.weatheredwalls.com/jon-ortner-art-santa-barbara/.
But, on Friday the race looked iffy as a torrential downpour, that included hail in many beach cities and the snow level almost down to the top of Mt. Saint Helen, fell on Southern California. SoCal racers have a history of not showing up to rain races (the aversion goes back to the clay-based dirt roads that led into the Saddleback and Carlsbad pits–and it still is in effect 30 years later). Thankfully, REM’s Frank Thomason decided to hold the race anyway and the race day was held under clear skies. At 57 degrees it was freezing cold by SoCal standards, but they braved it anyway. They are a hardy crew.
These are Glen Helen's top ten racers from 2012. The guy with the shiny cup is number 1—Randy Skinner.
After a muddy practice the track crew went to work fixing the gooey spots, helped by the bright sun, while at the riders meeting the 2012 Top Ten Awards were handed out along with several special awards. It is nice to see the most dedicated racers get their just reward after a 40-race long season. But, in a surprise move, promoters Frank and Myra Thomason were presented with a large abstract painting by renown painter Jon Ortner, who also happens to be very fast. It’s not often that a race promoter is so appreciated by his racers that they give him a present.
With the ceremonies out of the way, the racing began. If there is a theme to any REM race it is almost always the presence of foreign riders—normally Swedish riders, but this weekend it was Australian riders, as Dean Porter, Tyler Whincup, Travis Curtin, Steve Butler and Dan Alamangos were all flying the yellow and green colors.
Dean Porter was the fastest Aussie rider of the weekend. Heck, he was the fastest rider from any country.
And the Aussies had a good day. Porter won the 450 Pro and Open Expert classes, while Steve Butler won the Over-40 Intermediates. Dan Alamangos was third in the Over-40 Intermediates, Travis Curtain was third in the 250 Intermediates and Tyler Whincup was second in the 450 Intermediates.
Aussie Steve Butler starts down the hill towards the lower portion of the REM track. Butler was Jeff Emig's mechanic, the Yamaha team manager and today runs Yamaha's in house testing program.
The two biggest classes of the day were the Over-50 Intermediates and Over-50 Experts. These two classes have grown in size and stature over the last few years—as many former racers from the 1970s have returned to their roots and began racing again (along with those that never quit).
Dean Porter, Travis Curtain and Tyler Whincup had a good day at REM before heading home to Oz.
Over-50 Experts: Jon Ortner swept both motos of the Over-50 Experts riding a KTM 250SX chassis equipped with a Kawasaki KX500 engine. MXA has been testing this project bike for the last week and Ortner was one of three riders chosen this weekend to spend quality time in the saddle to iron out any bugs. Ortner loved it and even grabbed the holeshot in the second moto...nothing unusual about that except that Jon started in third gear and let the massive torque of the KX500 pull him to the first turn. Dave Eropkin, another throwback to the Saddleback and Indian Dunes days went 3-2 for second in front of LightSpeed carbon fiber owner Willie Amaradio (4-2), Hollywood actor Bryan Friday (2-6), former Pro Circuit Husqvarna Pro Mike Monaghan (5-4), Joe Pena (6-6) and two-stroke-mounted Ray Poltack (7-7).
Broc Armbruster won the 250 Pro class on a TM.
Over-50 Intermediates: Joe Sutter took the win with a 3-1 over Manuel Gaspar’s 1-3. Russell Brown got third with a 5-2 in front of a top ten that was made up of Lyle Sweeter (dropping down from the Over-60 class), Mark Hall, Mike Phillips, Randy Skinner (who finished second in the first moto, but crashed in moto two), Larry Boulware (who came out to honor the memory of his late brother—four-time REM number one Dennis Boulware—at the riders meeting), Ken Ehlers and Pete Vetrano (still rocking his TM 100MX two-stroke).
Aussie Dan Alamangos has a little trouble with this deep rut. No worries mate.
THE FAST CLASSES
Broc Armbruster was TM-mounted for the first time and easily won the 250 Pro class.
Aussie Dean Porter lost the first 450 Pro moto to MXA test rider Trent Pugmire, but when Pugmire lost second gear in his transmission in the second moto, Porter took the overall victory with Iowa’s Klint Stapes in second.
Zac Commans, Willy Simons Jr., Travis Curtain, Dylan Anderson and Jim Loginer made up the top five in the 250 Intermediate class.
Aaron Collins took the 450 Intermediate victory while Willy Musgrave won the Over-40 Pro class.
MXA enlisted Jon Ortner as one of several test riders chosen to race FMF's 2013 KTM 250SX two-stroke...with a KX500 engine. It is being tested for a future issue of MXA.
THE RETURN OF THE VETS
For the first time in awhile, there were more than a handful of Over-30 vet riders. The Vet class has been decimated by the economic recession and has all but disappeared. This week there were solid Vet Novice and Vet Intermediate classes. Ryan Abler and MXA’s John Basher split moto wins and second place finishes in the Intermediates, with Abler taking the win with a 2-1. Travis Ellis was third, Craig Bouman fourth and Sean Boulware, son of Dennis Boulware, fifth.
Zac Commans took advantage of the rain-soaked dirt to get it down low in the deep ruts.
Justin White went 1-1 in the Vet Novice class in front of a top five of Todd Huegel, Pete Vetrano (again on his screaming 100), Ricardo Gonzalez and Mercedes AMG racing instructor Ernie Becker.
Lyle Sweeter (55) and Tom Holmes (510) try to share the same piece of land in the Over-60 Expert class. Sweeter's 3-1 beat Holmes 1-3
Other notable victories were Steve Butler’s win in the Over-40 Intermediate class—notable because he did it on a Yamaha YZ125 two-stroke. Terry Varner continued his hot streak in the Over-50 Novices with another 1-1 sweep in front of a top five of Brian Underdahl, Paul Doebereiner, Anders Kajander and Michael Healy.
Lyle Sweeter took the Over-60 Expert victory with a 3-1 over a top five of Mic Rodgers (2-2), Tom Holmes (1-3), Jody Weisel (5-4) and Bengt Johansson (4-5).
Willy Simons Jr. throws up a barrage of roost on his way to second in the 250 Intermediate class.
One of the best races of the day was the 65cc battle between Jeff Reynolds and Ford Heit. The two riders traded moto wins and were never more than a couple bike lengths apart all day. REM, with its big hills, deep ruts and infamous square-edged bumps is not a 65cc track, but Reynolds (2-1) and Heit (1-2) made it look smooth.
REM races again next weekend February 16. For more info go to www.remsatmx.com
DOWN AND DIRTY
MORE JON ORTNER ART
KTM Motorcycle tests