Photos by Dan Alamangos, Jon Ortner, Rich Stuelke, Kyoshi Becker and Debbie Tamietti (click on images to enlarge)
Normally the Pro classes are the big draw of any REM motocross, but this week all eyes were turned to a showdown in the Over-50 Elite class. How so? REM attracts a phenomenal number of Over-40, Over-50 and Over-60 motocross racers. How many? More than 60% of the racers at Glen Helen this weekend were over the age of 40 and by far the 50-year-olds (born before 1966) were the biggest classes. The draw this weekend was Doug Dubach. Doug is not only the current Over-50 World Champion, but he has won an AMA Supercross, been a factory Yamaha rider and holds World Vet Championships in the Over-30, Over-40 and Over-50 classes. In a nutshell, Doug doesn’t lose. That was about to change when REM came to the USGP track for this week’s race.
Additionally, two-time World Vet Champion Pete Murray was also in the Over-50 Elite class. Murray won the Over-40 World Vet crown in 2000 and backed it up with the Over-50 crown in 2012. Pete prefers to race a YZ125 two-stroke when he can and he and Dubach both showed up with matching tiddlers. Their little bikes faced not only Glen Helen’s big hills (although they were lucky because REM decided not to run the biggest uphill this week), but a veteran field of Over-50 racers—including Jon Ortner, Luther French, Phil Dowell, Kevin Barda and Gary Renko. They would also be joined in their gate by the Over-50 Experts making for an almost full gate.
Exactly what you expected to happen did happen — Murray and Dubach got mid-pack starts—while the rest of the Elites ran free up front. Jon Ortner had won the Over-50 Elite class the week before on MXA’s 2017 Husky TC250 two-stroke and this week he was on a 2017 KTM 250SX two-stroke. Something was in the water because it didn’t take long for the three two-strokes to become the front three with Ortner, Murray and Dubach (who was hampered by a first moto fall) pulling away from the rest of the field. Dubach pushed his way past Murray for second and on the last lap closed the gap on Ortner’s 250cc smoker. Dubach would close on the downhills and Ortner would open the gap on the uphills. The final five corners were tricky flat-land corners that varied from on-camber to off-camber. Dubach’s YZ125 was ultra-fast in the twisties. As the checkered flag fell, Dubach blasted by Ortner over the finish-line double for what looked like the win—but the transponder wire was buried in the face of the jump and Ortner beat Dubach to the wire for the first moto win.
The second moto was like a instant replay of the first moto. Ortner had his starts nailed on his 250 two-stroke (the 2017 KTM 250SX only weighs 211 pounds) and Dubach and Murray had to work their way through traffic. It didn’t take long for Dubach to get close enough to play a cat-and-mouse game with Ortner (gaining ground on the downhills and losing it on the uphills). Finally, with two laps to go, Dubach decided to make his move under the bridge. Dubach dove inside in the berm and turned tighter than Ortner, but this gave Ortner the inside line in the next right-hand turn. Unfortunately for Doug Dubach, there was a lapper in front of them. The lapper had no where to go and both Ortner and Dubach were forced to go the long way around him—except there was only room for one rider in the tight right. Dubach and Ortner collided and Doug’s front wheel was swept out from under him. Down he went.
As Doug Dubach picked his bike up, Pete Murray flew past into second place. It looked like it was over for Dubach. But, Glen Helen is Dubach’s happy hunting ground. Doug pulled the plug and rode like a man possessed. With one lap to go he passed Pete Murray and closed back up on Ortner — with high hopes of making his move in the five sweeping corner down on the flat land. Ortner had never beaten Dubach in his life—not during their days on the AMA circuit and not in the years since. Because Ortner was also on a two-stroke, some of Dubach’s line choice advantage, that he would normally have over a four-stroke, was lost as Jon blunted every move the Doctor made in the final five corners. They crossed the finish line nose to tail, but Ortner had blipped the transponder wire first again.
You wouldn’t think that 50-year-old motocross racers would act like giggly kids, but Ortner had done something that had escaped him his whole life. He was babbling. He beat Doug Dubach, at Dubach’s home track, in both motos. It didn’t matter that Doug was on a 125 and Jon was on a 250—because Doug Dubach always wills his way to the win—even if he was on a minicycle in the 450 class. It didn’t matter to Jon that Doug fell—because Doug has gotten up off the mat many times during his run of 25 World Vet Championship.
Motocross pays dividends to those who apply themselves — although it may take 30 years to get that pay-off. Maybe the pay-off never comes, but there is joy in the pursuit. Congrats to Jon Ortner and to Doug Dubach who rode brilliantly all day long to lose by bike lengths. The scorecard may say different, but nobody at REM lost.
JON ORTNER PHOTO PIT PARADE
You can see photos of almost every rider who was at REM on July 2, 2016 by going to www.motophotollc.com/IMOTO-Racing/REM-7-2-16/
REM races again next Saturday, July 9, at Glen Helen (on the REM track this time). For more info go to www.remsatmx.com.