Most of the REM track is protected by the surrounding hills and the fact that it's straights typically align with the wind's direction.
“Wind-er” (as opposed to winter) continues in SoCal leading into February and while it produces smog-free air—that air is moving about 25 mph. The Glen Helen motocross track, by virtue of its location at the base of a 2000 foot drop from the canyon above is a windy place—even when the wind isn’t blowing anywhere else.
Last week REM’s Frank Thomason was forced to cancel the weekly motocross races because of 50 mph winds (which would not only blow bikes out of air over jumps, but make it impossible for a medivac helicopter to land). This week, the wind had died down to an acceptable level. Luckily, the REM track (located on the exact site of the old Arroyo Motocross track from the 1970s) is aligned with the prevailing winds (with only one jump facing a crosswind)—so, the steady winds on Saturday were only a nuisance in the pits.
THE PRO CLASS GETS AN INTRUDER
Kris Keefer (120) was the only Pro that could run with 450 Intermediate Justin Jones (42). Jones wanted a challenge and he got it.
There is nothing that journeymen Pro racers dislike more than an upstate 450 intermediate who is working on his speed for the World Mini and Loretta Lynn to show up in their class—and that is what they faced at REM this weekend.
Justin Jones, the son of four-time 250 Champion Gary Jones, was signed up to race the 450 Intermediate class—which was scheduled to start in the gate behind the 250/450 Pro race. But, Justin wanted to see how he would fare against the Pro class...so, when the gate dropped for the Pro’s Justin Jones started with them (he had gotten permission to do it...and would be scored a lap behind the 450 Intermediates, who started 30 seconds behind the Pro gate).
Willy Musgrave was testing KTM mods on MXA's 300XC and used them to their fullest in his two-moto pursuit of Jon Ortner (right).
The only Pro who could stay with Jones was Kris Keefer who was faster on some parts of the hilly REM track, but slower on other sections. Jones used his holeshots to take the lead in both motos and as the motos wore into their later stages—Jones pulled away from the 450 Pros. As a 450 Intermediate, Jones was able to lap his way back on to the lead lap and ended third overall in the 450 Intermediates—but, of course, everyone watching, knew that he was the first Pro.
Kristoffer Palm. Photo: Mark Chilson
In the 450 Pro class Kris Keefer took the win with a 1-1 (in front of a top five of Cameron Camera, Glenn Fletcher, Kevin Lepp and Josh Van Den Henvel), but in truth the 250 Pro winner, Billy Musgrave on a KTM 250SX two-stroke, finished in front of all the 450 Pros save for Keefer.
Troy Lee's Supercross team was racing at Anaheim Stadium, but Troy managed to get in two motos and still make it to the stadium in time to deliver his Knute Rockne-inspired pep talk to the team. That is a hard-core racer.
In the 450 Intermediates R.J. Wageman, son of AMA Pro rider Russ Wageman, took the win over Swede Kristoffer Palm and the enterprising Justin Jones. The 250 Intermediate class went to Italian rider Lorenzo Brogi with a 2-1. Zac Henry got second with a 3-2. First moto winner Max Groom had issues in moto two and pulled out at the halfway point.
THE BATTLE FOR GAUDY PLASTIC
Dave Eropkin ended the day in second overall in the Over-50 Experts.
The unofficial premier class at REM on a weekly basis is the Over-50 Expert class. It is typically the biggest class and the most competitive. This week the action was spiced up when the Over-40 Pro class was put on the same gate as the Over-50 Experts. It turned out to be an epic move as Over-50 Expert Jon Ortner and Over-40 Pro Willy Musgrave ran away from the field and battled for moto wins.
This is the move that guaranteed Jon Ortner (upper right in blue jersey) the first moto win. He passed these lappers, while Musgrave (422) was trapped behind them. Photo: Mark Chilson
In the first moto, Ortner led on his CRF450, while Musgrave chased on MXA’s KTM 300XC project bike. Musgrave was always in striking distance of Ortner, but as they started to lap the riders from the second gate (the Over-50 Intermediates) it became a game of cat-and-mouse. In the end, Ortner lined up four Over-50 Intermediates on a fast uphill and put them between him and Musgrave with a lap to go—it was enough for the win (even though Jon and Willy were in different classes).
As with most of the older Expert riders at REM, Gary Jones isn't as fast as he was back in 1971-72-73-74 when he was winning the AMA 250 National Championships—but speed is relative and Jones can still haul the mail.
Behind Ortner in the Over-50 Expert class, Troy Lee (yes, the real Troy Lee) finished second after a titanic duel with Gary Jones (yes, the real Gary Jones) ended in the two colliding at the top of Mt. Whitney. They tried to occupy the same three feet of hillside at the same time and Jones went down. Lee was second, Dave Eropkin third, Greg Nelson fourth, Fred Nichols fifth and Dirt Bike’s Ron Lawson sixth (on a YZ125). Jones ended up eighth.
The second Over-50 Expert race was a replay of the first moto, but this time Musgrave had learned his lesson. Heading into the last lap, Ortner and Musgrave came up on what they claimed was the exact same four lappers from the first moto. Musgrave guessed right and Ortner guessed wrong. Musgrave easily won the Over-40 Pro class over Bryon Friday, while Ortner went 1-1 in the Over-50 Experts. Dave Eropkin's 3-2 was good enough for second in front of Troy Lee’s 2-3, Fred Nichols’ 5-4, Greg Nelson’s 4-7, Eric Coffin’s 9-5, Gary Jones’ 8-6 and Ron Lawson’s 6-8.
Glen Helen's Top Ten were awarded jackets and trophies. The guy with the eagle (Ray Pisarski) was the big winner.
THE IMMIGRANTS ARE OLD, BUT THEY ARE FAST
The battle at the front of Over-50 Intermediate class was almost as tight as the Over-50 Expert/Over-40 Pro clash. It should be noted that as the Over-50 Expert class has become faster and more competitive, some of the older 50-year-olds were being outgunned. So, they did what every self-respecting 59-year-old would do—they moved to the Over-50 Intermediate class. It could be assumed that they weren’t welcomed with open arms by the existing Over-50 Intermediates, but they did bring a higher level to the Intermediate class and upped the rider count to the point that this week the Over-50 Intermediates were the biggest class of the day.
This might look like a duel between Brian Catterson (61) and Pete Vetrano (37), but if you look closer you see this is the battle for dominance between a Husqvarna TC449 and a TM MX450 for Italian brand bragging rights. Vetrano wins, not by virtue of his finish, but because he's wearing Italian UFO gear.
George Kohler, Mark Hall, Randy Skinner and Greg Groom are the riders who moved down to the Over-50 Intermediates...and they also were the top four finishers.
Randy Skinner took the win with a late pass on both Kohler and Hall to score a 3-1 day. That was good enough to break the three-way tie with Mark Hall (2-2) and George Kohler (1-3). Greg Groom went 4-6 to prove that the new transplants were beatable—but it was still good enough for fourth in front of a top ten of Gerald Sumner, Robert Collins, Brian Catterson, Jeff Fahy, Ray Glover and Pete Vetrano.
Over-50 Intermediate winner Randy Skinner puts a move on fellow RM-Z450 rider Ray Glover (414).
THE WINNERS LIST
Beginners: Max Lee (son of Troy Lee) won the 150
class. Chis Dorsey took the 125 Beginner victory. Peter Hartin won the
250 Beginners. Blake Fulton swept the 450 Beginners. Tim Smith was the
Vet Beginner victor.
Brian Martin (left) was named the "Sportsman of the Year" at Glen Helen in 2011, while his buddy, John Tookey, got the "Ironman Award" for racing two classes every week. Dr. John is a dentist, aerobatic pilot and helicopter flier.
Novices: Tyler Felix beat Jon Rice for the 250 Novice win and came back to win the 125 Novices also. Dirk Davidow used a 1-2 to win the 450 Novices. Steve Clevenger went 1-1 in the Vet Novices. Todd Wiseman was the Over-40 Novice winner. Jeffrey Lapere took the 85 Novice gold. Craig Johnston’s 2-1 edged out Maurice Diamond’s 1-2 in the Over-50 Novices.
These two motocross racers from the late '60s and early '70s are still at it 44 years later (only at a much reduced rate of speed). Lars Larsson (12), the European GP rider who introduced Husqvarna two-strokes to America, and Jody Weisel (22), MXA editor since 1976, engaged in one of their famous take-no-prisoner motos. When ask what he attributed his success to Jody said, "I never ride out of sight of an ambulance." Lars said, "Jag hatar den där killen."
SPEED FADES A TAD AFTER 65... OR IS THAT 62?
The next battle of note was an amazing race-long pass-a-thon between guys who could be collecting Social Security checks instead of racing motorcycles. The Over-60 Expert class was won by new REM number 1 rider Ray Pisarski, but behind Pisarski it was total war between Bill Seifert, Bengt Johansson, Lars Larsson and Jody Weisel. In the second moto, Larsson and Weisel passed each other ten times. These two old coots go back to the 1960s and always seem to find each other on the track. Second overall didn’t really matter, they just wanted to beat the other guy. On the last lap, the former factory Husqvarna rider and Trans-AMA Support class Champion made a pass that looked like the winning move—but, it wasn’t, because when they came down the big downhill for the last time, neither rider would shut off, but eventually Jody braked hard and dove for the inside rut. Lars missed the rut and jumped to the outside line—upon which Jody jumped out of the inside rut and blocked Lars approach to the next turn. It was an epic battle and the rantings of track announcer Tom White (yes, the real Tom White of White Brothers fame) attracted a crowd of young racers to the fence to see what racing looked like when done by guys who were born in the 1940s.
As for the Over-60 Expert results, Ray Pisarski went 1-1, Jody Weisel 2-2, Bengt Johansson 3-4, Lars Larsson 5-3, Bill Seifert 4-5, Earl Schuler 6-6 and Feets Minert (yes, the real Feets Minert) 7-7.
REM races again next Saturday, February 11. For more info go to www.remsatmx.com
Photos by Dan Alamangos & Ernie Becker