2015 WORLD TWO-STROKE CHAMPIONSHIP: SMOKE IN THE HILLS

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Photos by Dan Alamangos

2SHARRYOVERVIEWIf you can read in reverse, you know what the sign in the foreground says. Even if you can’t, you will recognize the massive scope of Glen Helen Raceway. Photo: Harry Leitner

There are races that defy explanation to the outside world. A world that takes offense to the phrase “World Championship” unless Giuseppe Luongo is making a buck off of it — even though they don’t recognize trends until after they have been established for 10 or 30 years. Take the World Vet Motocross Championship. American race promoters recognized the importance of the Veteran market to the sport over 30 years ago. That is three decades…not a couple years. They immediately formed a Championship race that invited Over-30, Over-40, Over-50 and Over-60 racers (from around the world) to come and race against riders of the same age. No other country in the world embraces older riders like the USA — thus, the most significant Vet races have always been held on American soil. No one is stopping Europeans from racing the event and, in fact, riders from 18 different countries raced at the World Veteran Motocross Championships last year.

2STROPHYCHILLAlthough winner Mike Sleeter took home $2500 in purse money, the iron was what he really wanted. Photo: Mark Chilson

2SJELDERDADANAJohnny Jelderda (86) borrowed John Basher’s Yz125 and rode it to a two-moto sweep of the 125 Pro class. Borrowed bikes are a major part of the World Two-Stroke Championship as most Pros don’t own a smoker and many have never raced one before.

By the same token, American promoters recognized the nostalgia for four-strokes as far back as 40 years ago. They organized a special race just for thumpers in 1976. At that time the four-stroke had been driven off the race tracks by the influx of light, fast and agile two-strokes. To keep the four-stroke alive, the World Four-Stroke Championship was established in ’76 and was very successful — it had no peers around the world. It, like the World Vet, was solely an American enterprise — albeit open to riders from all countries. Only two European riders ever won the World Four-Stroke Championship (Swede Gunnar Lindstrom and Dutchman Pierre Karsmakers), but many factory riders and teams contested it over the years — including winners Mike Bell, Ron Lechien, Ricky Johnson, Rex Staten, Goat Breker, Brian Myserscough, Donny Schmit, Doug Dubach, Ryan Hughes, Josh Grant and Weston Peick.

2SSLEETERDANAKTM test rider raced a KTM 300 to a 1-3 victory in the premier Pro class, but it wasn’t a sure thing until the last couple laps of the second moto. Mike has been the bridesmaid more times than he likes to remember.

2SCOLLIERDANASean Collier (1) was going to win his third consecutive World Two-Stroke Championship until the shock bolt on his KX500 broke. Sean had a big lead and was just cruising out front when his suspension collapsed. He came back to win the second moto just to prove who the fastest rider really was.

2SCOLTONHAAKERDANAColton Haacker (10) led the second moto and was mathematically winning the title until Sean Collier passed him for the lead. In the end, it took  a late moto engine malfunction on Killy Rusk’s YZ250 to determine the Champion between Sleeter, Haacker and Rusk.

When four-strokes returned from the dead with the Yamaha YZ400, CRF450 and KX450F, the World Four-Stroke Championship lost its cachet as the cool, retro, saving grace of the long-lost BSA era. Thus, it was discontinued in 2010 and replaced with the World Two-Stroke Championship. This was the logical move as the fond memories of four-stroke were displaced by fond memories of two-strokes. With each passing year, as two-strokes fade from the lives of young fans and racers, they become more iconic in the minds of the hardcore, who wish to preserve the two-stroke…and even see its return. This race will take on more meaning as the sport gets farther away from affordable, lightweight and easy-to-maintain motorcycles in favor of complicated and expensive four-strokes.

2SDUBACHDANADoug Dubach (15) was the oldest man in the Pro class, at 52, and he put a lot of kids to shame until he crashed in the second moto and ripped the throttle completely off the bars of his YZ250.

2sdrdthrottledanaDoug Dubach’s throttle was destroyed in a crash. It didn’t leave him with any choice but to call it a day.

2SKILLYRUSKCHILLKilly Rusk (58) was second in the first moto behind Sleeter and ahead of Colton Haacker. With a couple laps to go in the second moto Killy’s 2-3 was going to force a three-way tie between Sleeter’s 1-4 and Haacker’s 3-2 — then a bolt came loose on Killy’s engine and he dropped back to 4th. That mechanical problem ended Killy’s and Colton’s chances, putting Sleeter on the top step with a 1-3. Photo: Mark Chilson

2SLIPANOVICHCHILLSean Lipanovich (505) was fourth overall with a 4-8 day. Photo: Mark Chilson

For 2015 there were 230 riders at the FMF-sponsored World Two-Stroke Championships at Glen Helen. There were 34 Pros on the line in the premier class and there was an $8000 purse put up by the two-stroke diehards at L.A. Sleeve. The combination of the purse, the thrill of the smokers and the nostalgia for a simpler era brought bikes of every brand out to be raced. The premier Pro race had riders on Yamahas, Hondas, Kawasakis, Suzukis, KTMs, Husqvarnas and TMs.

The world may not appreciate the two-stroke, by Americans do…and they came out to prove it.

2SSPIDERMANCHILLAlthough he doesn’t race very often, Spiderman is an aspiring AMA Pro.

2slaresDANAThe oldest rider at the World Two-Stroke Championship was 73-year-old Lars Larsson. The former Swedish GP racer, Trans-AMA Support class Champion, ISDT Gold Medalist, Swedish MXDN team manager and one of the founders of Thor races every weekend at Glen Helen.

2SADRIANDANAAdrian Young came the farthest to race the World Two-Stroke Championship as he flew in from Sydney, Australia. Lars Larsson lent him his Husqvarna TC250.

2SOCONNORDANAIrish ace David O’Connor showed up on a KTM 150SX .

2SPERRYDANAIf you want to race, you will find a way. John Perry wedged his Yamaha YZ250 into the back of a Hyundai Sante Fe SUV and made the 1600 mile round-trip from Durango, Colorado, for the race, then loaded it back up and drove home on Sunday.

2SRALFDANADutch rider Ralf Schmidt (73) fielded a TM team at the World Two-Stroke Championship.

RESULTS: 2015 WORLD TWO-STROKE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Glen Helen, California
Open Pro:
1. Mike Sleeter (KTM)…1-3
2. Colton Haacker (Hus)…3-2
3. Lilly Rusk (Yam)…2-4
4. Sean Lipanovich (Hon)…4-8
5. Tevin Tapia (KTM)…9-6
6. Preston Mull (Yam)…6-9
7. Griffin Dexter (Hon)…5-12
8. Scott Champion (KTM)…13-5
9. Dalton Shirey (Yam)…7-11
10. Colton Udall (Hon)…11-10
11. Preston Tilford (Suz)…16-7
12. Shane Post (Hon)…15-14
13. Tim Badour (Yam)…17-13
14. Tallon Newman (Yam)…12-19
15. Sean Collier (Kaw)…32-1
Other notables: 17. Daryl Ecklund (10-25); 18. Doug Dubach (8-27); 19. Ricky Yorks (22-17); 17. Shawn Wynne (27-22); 28. Matt Buyten (28-24); 34. Vicky Golden (34-34).

2SJONESDANAGary Jones was the most accomplished rider at the 2015 World Two-Stroke Championship. He won four AMA 250 National titles, the Baja 500, Mint 400, Score Off-Road World Championship, World Vet Championship in the Over-30, Over-40, Over-50 and Over-60 classes, owned his own motorcycle company (Ammex) and is in the AMA Hall of Fame.

125 Pro:
1. Johnny Jelderda (Yam)…1-1
2. Broc Shoemaker (Hon)…2-2
3. Kris Keefer (Hus)…3-3
4. David Gassin (Hon)…4-4
5. Kris Palm (Suz)…5-5
Other notables: 6. Brian Nelson; 7. Brett Hottel.

2ssleetdanaMike Sleeter: 2015 Champ.

WORLD TWO-STROKE CHAMPIONS (2010-2015)
2010 …Bobby Garrison (Hus)
2011 …Austin Howell (Yam)
2012 …Michael Leib (Hon)
2013 …Sean Collier (Yam)
2014 …Sean Collier (Yam)
2015 …Sean Collier (KTM)

WORLD FOUR-STROKE CHAMPIONS (1976-2010)
1976 …Gunnar Lindstrom
1977 …Mike Bell
1978 …Rod Kentner
1979 …Goat Breker
1980 …Pierre Karsmakers
1981 …Rex Staten
1982 …Eric McKenna
1983 …Ricky Johnson
1984 …Ron Lechien
1985 …Brian Myerscough
1986 …No race
1987 …No race
1988 …Goat Breker
1989 …Greg Zitterkopf
1990 …Greg Zitterkopf
1991 …Ty Davis
1992 …Mike Young
1993 …Gordon Ward
1994 …Shaun Kalos
1995 …Donny Schmit
1996 …Lance Smail
1997 …Shaun Kalos
1998 …Doug Dubach
1999 …Doug Dubach
2000 …Doug Dubach
2001 …Ryan Hughes
2002 …Doug Dubach
2002 …Ryan Hughes
2003 …Ryan Hughes
2004 …Ryan Hughes
2005 …Ryan Hughes
2006 …Josh Grant
2007 …Jimmy Albertson
2008 …Bobby Garrison
2009 …Weston Peick
2010 …Weston Peick

 

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