July 15, 2012
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Ryan Surratt (51) chases Jace Owen (in Blake Wharton’s chest protector) past Josh Lawrence (154). Owen would win the 250 intermediate class with Surratt second, Max Groom third, Cody Brownfield fourth and Kristoffer Palm (a Swede) fifth.

REM is famous for changing its track layout on a monthly basis, but since the track was totally redesigned after the Red Bull X-Fighters were at Glen Helen, no one really expected any major changes for awhile. Surprise! When the REM regulars showed up everything looked normal, but then they noticed a new first that didn’t lead where it used to go. Finally, there was a crackle over the loudspeaker and it was announced that the track would be going backwards. Every rider walked over to the fence and looked carefully at the layout. They looked at the very steep Mt. Whitney uphill and realized that would be a downhill and the step-up jumps were going to become drop-offs and the back straight wouldn’t be a 200-yard blast up hill, but a 200-yard blast down hill (there is a major difference when you are hanging on for dear life).

Dave Miller of DMC fame might be taking the two-stroke movement too far. Miller showed up with a custom-built, 1983 Yamaha YZ100. He wanted to shake it down before the Marty Tripes 100cc Revenge race.

Practice saw more than a few crashes as riders tried to come to terms with different ruts and tricky off-cambers that hadn’t been on the track a week ago. Everywhere you looked in practice there was a rider who thought he knew where the track went…only to find out that he was wrong. Then, the riders calmed down and began to iron out the best lines. Dirt is a strange thing. It has a memory, which is why the same bumps appear week after week even though the dirt has been ripped and disc. So, imagine what happens to the bumps when you attack them from the opposite side. It got rough. Square-edged, bumpy and grueling.

MXA’s John Basher raced four motos, splitting his time between a 2013 Kawasaki KX250F and a 2013 KTM 250SXF. Here, Basher and Brendan Crow (192) get a drive before a big uphill climb.

REM is famous as a motorcycle industry hotbed. Thanks to its proximity to the heart of American motocross, lots of SoCal racers have jobs in the industry that allow them to keep on racing when saner men would have quit long ago. Plus, REM is a serious test ground for products and its not unusual to see O’Neal Racing’s Jim O’Neal, Alias’ Jeff Surwall, Troy Lee Design’s Troy Lee, 100%’s Ludo Boinnard, LightSpeed’s Willie Amaradio, TM Motorcycle’s Pete Vetrano, Renthal’s Brad Cameron, Mechanixwear’s John Caper, Vance & Hines’ Alan Olson, KTM’s Tom Moen, Kite’s Tom White and lots of magazine test riders out testing their wares in moto combat.

As Kordel Caro blows up a berm in the foreground, George Kohler (52) on MXA’s 2013 Kawasaki KX450F and Paul Fitz-Gibbon (38) race downhill in the opposite direction.

It’s no secret that REM racers are a close-knit group. They know each other. They watch out for each other and, as a community, they help each other. Need help with your bike? There are a couple factory mechanics at the track. Got a medical problem? REM has several doctors and more than a few dentists spread out through the classes. Plumbing issues? Not a problem. Automotive help? Handled. AMA Hall of Famers? There are two or three racing every weekend. Need a Swede? REM boasts more Swedes per square inch than any track this side of Stockholm. Moto people are good people…and every track should aspire to have the kind of atmosphere that REM has.

South African Alan Julien (70), Max Groom (659), Kordel Caro (672) and Cody Brownfield (38) try a couple different lines down on the flat.

Because Frank Thomason wants to build tracks that test a motocross racer’s skill, jumps are not a priority at REM. Yes, there are a few that only the brave and fast attempt, but for the most part, REM is about racing, climbing hills, hitting bumps, finding lines, dealing with off-cambers and racing your motorcycle against other motorcycles. In a world littered with jump tracks, REM can be criticized for being Old School, but REM is where factory riders show up at when they want to get in a race to prepare for the AMA Nationals? It is not a jump track, but instead is a good, old-fashioned motocross track ? it is rough as a cob. In fact, in the month of April, leading up to the start of the AMA Nationals, REM holds 30-minute plus one lap motos for the Pros…and allows the Pros to enter a second “Open Expert” class for free so that they can get all the testing done they need for the Nationals.

In a blast from the past, Harry Leitner, son of ATK inventor Horst Leitner, showed up and raced for the first time in a couple years.

MXA sends ten riders to REM every weekend to test bkes, products, hop-ups, durability and the plastic on other rider’s bikes. Why do we race at REM? Because REM host 40 races a year, with a consistent format and a rough track. To us, it is a dirt dyno. So even though we went to Millville to test the 2013 Kawasaki KX250F, we brought it to REM to insure that it has been tested on dirt we know and love. Since we test during the week at Piru, Gorman, Comp Edge, Racetown or Cahuilla, we look forward to coming to Glen Helen to race with our friends. And even though many of MXA‘s test riders have been replaced by younger and more aggressive riders, we always support our old test riders. We don’t cut them loose. We value what they know..because they have been racing longer than our youngsters have been alive. So, we take every MXA test rider who still wants to race, give them test projects, provide them with bikes and gear and learn from the information they give back. MXA is happy that our test riders are loyal to us and we want to be loyal to them, so even if a guy was a test rider back in the ancient 1970s and isn’t fast anymore, we will support him if he wants to race. And, proudly, MXA guys are hardcore racers. We learn more in one moto than we learn from riding at three different tracks on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. That’s why we race.

Scott Lindley (99) finished second in the Over-40 Intermediate class.

The biggest classes at REM are always the Over-40 and Over-50 classes. This weekend the biggest class was the Over-50 Intermediates, the second biggest class was the Over-40 Novices and the third largest class was the Over-50 Experts. Lots of these over-the-hill riders bring their kids with them…and make racing a family affair.

Jeff Mason (459) went 4-2 in the Over-50 Novice class.

As with any race there are mortal enemies, but even at REM your biggest opponent is often a friend. Last week, the girlfriend of a rider was standing by the fence watching her boyfriend’s race and she asked a racer standing next to her, who the guy behind her boyfriend was. When the bystander said his name, she said,”Oh, that is his mortal enemy.” And then, when the mortal enemy fell, he sat by the side of the track and waited for his mortal enemy to come around on the next lap so that he could jump in behind him and renew the battle. Then, after the race, the boyfriend introduced his girlfriend to his “mortal enemy” and they shared a couple minutes of banter.

There must have been a crosswind as the pack lines up in a echelon in pursuit of Mike Borowski (204).

Racing is fun…and if it isn’t, you are doing it wrong. Might MXA suggest that you come to REM…if you like long motos, rough tracks, arch rivals and fun.

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Photos by Dan Alamangos and Ernie Becker


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