To the victor goes the spoils—and it’s all that much sweeter when you win after thinking you had thrown the victory away. Zach Bell gave it everything he had on the last two laps. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

Talladega. Photo: Dan Alamangos

If you had told a motocross racer in 1965 that the four-stroke was doomed in motocross, he would have laughed at you. Four-strokes dominated the sport and had so for almost 30 years. The prevailing thought was that nothing was ever going to replace them. Surprise! One year later 7 of the top 10 FIM 500 Grand Prix racers were on newfangled CZ two-strokes.

Everyone expected a battle between Mike Brown (3) and Zach Bell (100), but this is all they got. Mike suffered a flat tire on the first lap. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

This was the last lap pass. Zach Bell roared up behind Darryn Durham (159) and that caused Durham to run wide on this sand berm. Bell never hesitated, he cut so hard to the left that it looked like he was going to go down, but this move put him in the lead within 100 feet of the checkers. Photo: Mark Chilson

This was the margin of victory for Zach Bell (100) over Darryn Durham. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

If you had told a motocross racer in 1994 that the two-stroke was doomed in motocross, he would have thought you were crazy. Two-strokes had dominated the 500 World Championships since Jeff Smith took his BSA thumper to the World title in 1965. Nothing was ever going to replace the two-stroke—after all they had won every 500 World Championship since Jeff Smith was dethroned in 1966. Surprise! One year later. 1995, Joel Smets took his Husaberg 501 four-stroke to his first of four 500 World Championships. And two-strokes were relegated to the junkyard.

Dennis Stapleton (184) leads Richard Taylor (44) and Nick Schmidt (79). Dennis ended up 7th overall, Taylor 5th overall and Schmidt 14th overall (after crashing big in the second moto). Photo: Debbi Tamietti

The photographers in this corner each have their own idea of what to shoot. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

If you had told a motocross racer in 2018 that two-strokes were coming back, they would point to the AMA and FIM series and note that there were no two-strokes in any of those Championships—and they’d be right. But bubbling below the surface of modern motocross is a revolt over unfair AMA rules, the high cost of four-stroke machines, the complexity of working on a four-stroke and the cost of parts (and sheer number of them that need to be replace). For many riders, the two-stroke is the answer to their prayers, it is fast, agile, quick, light, cheap and easy to repair at home. And, in truth, without the Draconian AMA rules that allow four-strokes to have twice as much displacement, the two-stroke would still rule the motocross world. It’s that good.

Dr.D was able to get in every crash that mattered over the weekend, but Doug still managed to come through to finish 8th overall. Photo: Dan Alamangos

Marissa Polencheck was dominant in the Women’s class. Her bike graphics say, “Father Backed Racing.” Photo: Debbi Tamietti

True, you don’t see the factory stars on two-strokes anymore, but you don’t see them out in the garage wrenching on their own bikes either. Or, at the bank financing next year’s machine or hooking a computer up to their wonder steeds to get it to run right. They are the pampered rich—and have thousands of followers. However, way below Roczen’s, Tomac’s and Musquin’s world a revolt is brewing. Two-strokes have become an underground movement. It is often said that the best selling motocross bike every year is not that shiny four-stroke in your dealers showroom, but a well used Yamaha YZ250. Plucked out of dank corners of garages, traded like crypto-currency and lavished with upgrade plastic kits, used two-strokes are living second and third lives. Passed down like a family heirloom, Junior is now riding dad’s forgotten CR250. It’s affordable fun—and the thrills are no different on a $1500 two-stroke beater than on a $9000 2018 CRF450.

Wanna be like Darryn Durham? Start by spray painting your bike flat black. Photo: Dan Alamangos

Nothing looks better on the mantel than a big silver cup. Photo: Jody Weisel

Tracking the growth and interest in two-strokes is easy—just chart the rise of the World Two-Stroke Championships. Originally, the sport had a World Four-Stroke Championship, it was a way for dedicated thumper pilots of enjoy their cam-and-valve bikes during the 30-year-long two-stroke era. Started in 1976 it had a unique place in moto culture for three decades, but once every Japanese brand had committed to building four-strokes, and all but Yamaha dropping two-strokes from their products offerings, the World Four-Stroke Championship became silly—since every race across America was a four-stroke championship of some kind.

As always at Glen Helen, going up was a blast, but coming down was where you make the pass. Photo: Kyoshi Becker

We haven’t seen Kyle Mace on a bike since his AMA National days. He had a little ring rust, but he could still lay in over. Photo: Dan Alamangos

Thus, it was decided that they hold one final World Four-Stoke Championship in 2010 and replace it with companion 2010 World Two-Stroke Championship. The four-stroke faithful mocked the idea, but in 2010 the race came to life and it has grown every year since. For the 2018 edition, 400 smokers (non-smokers were not allowed) showed up for the 9th Annual event. To a two-stroke lover, every drop of the gate brought the sound of the 1980s pouring back into their central cortex.

If you’ve never seen a TM in person, you could have seen a bushel and a peck of them at the World Two-Stroke Championship. Photo: Kyoshi Becker

It is important to note that this is not a vintage race—Although watching the bikes go by in the amateur classes is like a lesson in motocross history. “Here come a passel of 2018 KTM 250SXs, chased by a 2006 RM250, five 2007 Yamaha YZ250s and, what’s that! A pink 1995 TM MX250.”

Justin Jones’ dad was four-time 250 National Champion Gary Jones. Justin doesn’t live in his shadow since Justin has a couple ISDE gold Medals and Baja 1000 wins to his credit. A flat tire in the first moto ruined Justin’s day, but at least he raced on it until the tire came off the rim. Photo: Mark Chilson

Richard Taylor is following in dad’s footsteps. The only Suzuki rider in the Open Pro class, Richard went 7-8 for fifth overall. Photo: Dan Alamangos

The big Open Pro race had all seven brands represented. You might be tempted to think that KTM and Husqvarna would dominated the field. Not so! Out of the 37 bikes on the Open Pro starting line 15 were Yamaha YZ250s, 7 Honda CR250/500s, 5 KTMs, 4 KX250s, 3  Husqvarnas, 1 TM MX300 and 1 Suzuki RM250. And, as luck would have it, the top five at the end of the day were on a Husky, Yamaha, KTM, Honda and Suzuki (five different brands in the top five). The 125 Pro class wasn’t much different. KTM swept the first three spots on the podium, but the top ten was made up of 4 KTMs, 3 Yamahas, 2 Hondas and 1 TM MX125.

The banked right-hand first turn allows riders to come through it five-wide. Photo: Dan Alamangos

The day was full of impressive performances, but none more so that Zach Bell’s amazing last lap charge to catch and pass Darryn Durham three corners from the checkered flag for the Open Pro win. Bell had fallen midway through the second moto and lost 6 seconds to Durham. Zach, a former Geico Honda rider, whittled the 6 seconds down to 6 feet on the last lap before forcing a Durham error within sight of the flag. Bell was ecstatic as he flew over the finish line with a 1-1 day, while Durham was angry that he let it all slip away to go 2-2.

These were the major players in the Over-60 Expert battle. Bob Casper, on a one-off KTM 380, leads John Atwood (50), Val Tamietti (31) and Gary Jones (72). Behind them is Randel Fout (13). Randel raced a stock YZ125 to a two-moto sweep. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

Equally impressive was Randel Fout’s victory in the Over-60 Expert class. Fout was on a box-stock Yamaha YZ125 in a field of big bikes. Even Randel didn’t believe that on a hilly circuit like Glen Helen that he stood a chance against the likes of Gary Jones, Val Tamietti, Bob Casper, Joel Harriott, John Atwood and Mike Mongahan on big bikes. The fans immediately recognized that the fifth-place bike on the first lap was a YZ125 and, as fans will do, they began rooting for the guy on the YZ125 (even though they didn’t have a clue who he was). In both motos he gave up ground on the giant hills, but made it back on the downhills, tight sand corners and tricky dual-lane finish section. With each pass the crowd screamed almost as loud as his full-tilt YZ125. When the day was done, Randel’s competition came over to congratulate him—even they knew that he had done the impossible.

Andy Jefferson won the Over-50 Expert class. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

Andy Jefferson, who works at Husqvarna, showed up on a two-year-old magazine test bike, and waxed the Over-50 Expert class. Last year Andy had finished second in a nail biter race against Rodney Smith, but this time Andy left no doubt as he motored away to a two-moto sweep.

Robbie Wageman had a perfect day. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

Robbie Wageman was the reigning 125 World Two-Stroke Champion and became a two-time Champ as he went 1-1 over a top five of Carson Carr, Sean Borkenhagen, Colton Aeck and Broc Shoemaker.

Robbie Wageman is way out front on the rush to the first turn. Kyle Mace (99) is clearly in second with Brian Medeiros closest to the camera. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

The total purse for the 2018 World Two-Stroke Championship was $9500—with TCX boots making a strong presence by posting the $8000 in prize money for the Open Pro class, with MTA kicking in $1500 for the 125 Pros. Additionally, the Open Pro class was a qualifier for the Two-Stroke Invitational race to be held at the May 27th Glen Helen AMA 250/450 National. The top 20 received automatic invitations to race in front of a packed house (with additional riders to be added to replace any racers who are racing the AMA National classes that day). The Glen Helen AMA National two-stroke race is not part of the AMA’s three-race 125 two-stroke series—but a stand-alone event from the track that has held more two-stroke half-time events than any other National track.

Even though the World Two-Stroke Championship was a big deal, most of the riders treated it as a cool return to the good old days. Here, Andrew Paul gets ready for his Over-25 Novice race, while the family enjoys the 80-degree weather. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

It’s one year until the 2019 World Two-Stroke Championship—but why wait? You can join the underground today. Just call dad and see if your old smoker is still out in the garage.


Wearing a tank top to race in is against the rules, yes, the racing rules, but also those of common sense. Rachel Van Dipen demonstrates. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

This is Joe Bennett. He paid a lot of money for his tattoos and he wanted everyone to see them, but since he DNF’ed three of his four motos they had to look quick. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

There’s no point in wearing all of that protective gear on a warm 80-degree day, plus a Hawaiian shirt allows you to get some sun on your tummy at speed. Steve Heredia might have gotten both sun burned and wind burned in his git up. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

Arik Swan comes from Northern California where everything is made of flannel. The seat cover on his CR500 would have been flannel if he had another week to get ready. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

We can forgive Chris Fillmore for dressing like a goofball, after all, he is a road racer. Photo: Dan Alamangos


Mike Brown came to race, but it didn’t go so well. Photo: Kyoshi Becker

1. Zach Bell (Hus)…1-1
2. Darryn Durham (Yam)…2-2
3. Talon Lafountaine (KTM)…4-3
4. Ryan Surratt (Hon)…3-6
5. Richard Taylor (Suz)…7-8
6. Dalton Shirey (Hus)…6-9
7. Dennis Stapleton (KTM)…9-11
8. Doug Dubach (Yam)…11-10
9. Justin Jones (Hon)…19-5
10. Beau Baron (Hon)…12-13
Other Notables: 11. Brian Medeiros (KTM); 14. Nick Schmidt (Yam); 17. Arik Swan (Hon; 18. Sean Lipanovich (Hon); 22. Mike Brown (Hus); 24. Sean Borkenhagen (Kaw) 28. Chris Fillmore (KTM).

Broc Shoemaker is the son of former Pro racer Mike Shoemaker. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

1. Robbie Wageman (KTM)…1-1
2. Carson Carr (KTM)…2-2
3. Sean Borkenhagen (KTM)…3-4
4. Colton Aeck (Yam)…5-3
5. Broc Shoemaker (Yam)…4-5
6. Robby Schott…8-6
7. Mitch Anderson (Yam)…9-7
8. Brian Medeiros (KTM)…6-10
9. Brent Rouse (Hon)…11-8
10. Jake Osborne (Hon)…10-12
Other Notables: 11. Dustin Nowak (Yam); 12. Cody Whitsett (Kaw); 13. Kyle Mace (Yam); 14. Bradley Olsen (Yam); 15. Kevin Jones (Yam).

Ralf Schmidt went 3-4 for fourth in the Over-40 Expert class. He spent most of the day herding his giant TM effort. That’s Kyson Palmer (88) on the high line. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

1. Pat Foster (Yam)…1-1
2. James Lavender (TM)…2-2
3. Justin Crawford (KTM)…4-3
4. Ralf Schmidt (TM)…3-4
5. Scott Mooney (Yam)…5-5
6. John Haskel (Yam)…6-6
7. Drago Atanasovski (Yam)…7-8
8. Dan Bonham (Hus)…9-7
9. David Cincotta (Hus)…8-9
10. Aaron Howell (Yam)…10-13

Pasha Afshar brought his YZ465 to race in the vintage class, but he raced a TM in the Over-50 Experts. Photo: Dan Alamangos

1. Andy Jefferson (Hus)…1-1
2. Jonathan Levey (KTM)…2-2
3. Jim Chamberlain (Suz)…3-4
4. Val Tamietti (Yam)…5-3
5. Mike Monaghan (Yam)…6-5
6. Dan Alamangos (KTM)…7-6
7. Dean Olsen (Yam)…8-7
8. Pasha Afshar (TM)…10-8
9. Rob Deeds (Yam)…9-9
10. Gary Dellegatte (Yam)…4-DNF

Randel Fout (13) is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet—unless you meet him on the entrance of a one-line corner. Photo: Debbi Tamietti

1. Randel Fout (Yam)…1-1
2. Bob Casper (KTM)…2-2
3. Val Tamietti (Yam)…3-3
4. Mike Monaghan (Yam)…5-4
5. John Atwood (Yam)…4-6
6. Joel Harriott (Yam)…6-5
7. Chris Cumbo (KTM)…7-7
8. Pete Vetrano (Yam)…8-9
9. John Fitz (Kaw)…8-10
10. Mike Marion (Yam)…10-12

If you thought the downhills were steep at the 2018 World Two-Stroke Championship, you should have been at the inagural event in 2010. Husqvarna-mounted 2010 Champion Bobby Garrison demonstrates the angle of the dangle. Photo: Jody Weisel

2010 …Bobby Garrison (Hus)
2011 …Austin Howell (Yam)
2012 …Michael Leib (Hon)
2013 …Sean Collier (Yam)
2014 …Sean Collier (Yam)
2015 …Mike Sleeter (KTM)
2016 …Mike Alessi (Suz)
2017 …Ryan Surratt (Honda)
2018 …Zach Bell (Hus)



2018 two-stroke nationalandy jeffersonDarryn Durhamgary jonesglen helenhondaHusqvarnajoel smetsKAWASAKIktmmxarandel foutSUZUZKITCX BOOTSTMval tamiettiworld four-stroke championshipyamahaZACH BELL