Photos by Debbi Tamietti, Jody Weisel, Rich Stuelke & Jon Ortner
Although most in-the-know motocross fans think of the weekly REM motocross races as a Glen Helen phenomenon, this past weekend (and on three others dates in 2019), REM will be traveling 75 miles south to race at Cahuilla Creek Motocross Park. In fact, REM was actually a Carlsbad Raceway series that moved to Glen Helen when the iconic Wide World of Sport’s track closed for good. Glen Helen took the Carlsbad REM gang in and gave them a track of their own to race on.
Not surprising, when REM moved from Carlsbad Raceway the 96 miles north to Glen Helen, it lost a lot of its regular racers — because of the distance they would have to drive. But, when they heard that REM was coming South to Cahuilla Creek this week they dusted off their gear and came out in surprising numbers—this was especially noticeable in the Over-60 class (and given the REM left Carlsbad 30 years ago it makes sense that the old Carlsbad crowd would be older now). There were 38 Over-60 racers at the REM motocross at Cahuilla Creek this weekend. That is without a doubt the largest turnout of riders over 60 years old at any local race anywhere in the world. It was a nice feeling to see old friends again—sort of like the Berlin Wall coming down.
The Pro race at Cahuilla Creek was a thing of beauty and four riders vied for dominance. Dominic Desimone, Justin Jones, Viktor Bjorklund and Carson Mumford all wanted to be at the front—and all of them got a shot at it during the day. Mumford, on his Geico Honda CRF250, shocked the 450 Pros by battling his way to the front of the combined Pro class in the first moto. But the second moto would be a different story.
For the first third of the second Pro moto, Jones and Desimone dueled. They gave no quarter and on occasion they made contact. Eventually Justin Jones took over and built a little lead over Desimone. Then, Carson Mumford arrived on the scene. He had fought tooth and nail to get through the other riders to catch up to the Jones/Desimone battle. His arrival shocked the two 450 leaders, especially when he blew by them—if only for a second before they responded. The pace of the top three went from fast to scary fast when Mumford’s screaming CRF250 joined the mix. The three riders passed each other several times a lap, with Justin Jones masterfully dictating the pace. Jones used incredibly smart lines and kept Desimone and/or Mumford behind him. If they passed him going into a turn, he would pass them coming out.
Justin admitted after the race that he had hit the wall with a couple laps to go in the 20-minute moto, but didn’t want to give up the lead. Finally, with two laps to go, Jones spun his rear tire coming out of a bowl turn and Desimone’s CRF450 shot by for the lead. Mumford knew that he had to get Jones quickly if he hoped to catch Desimone. But, Jones wouldn’t give up and the harder he fought the farther Dominic Desimone got in front. Finally, with one turn to go, Mumford made a move that stuck, but it was only 50 feet to the checkers. Desimone took the 450 Pro class win and bragging rights in the combined class. Mumford won the 250 Pro class, but really wanted to win both motos overall.
The next epic battle occurred in the Over-60 class—with 38 riders on the track at the same time, a bad start was the kiss of the death—except for three riders. First, Randel Fout struggled with traction on his Husqvarna TC250 two-stroke on Cahuilla Creek’s concrete start. His bad starts allowed his competition to put 13 riders between Randel and the lead. It didn’t take him long to start passing riders in droves as the combination of other Experts and lapped Intermediates meant that every corner was a log jam. But, Randel was great in traffic and the Over-60 Expert leaders weren’t getting through the slower riders fast enough. By the midway point of the moto, Randel was in second with only leader Doug Rupert in front of him. And, in an instant, Randel closed the gap, passed for the lead and pulled away. Both motos played out with the same scenario.
Meanwhile, a second rider was also back in the pack. Mike Monaghan was also struggling with the starts on his YZ250 two-stroke. Not helped by the fact that he just missed not making it to the starting line in time for the second moto (he was busy talking to the injured Val Tamietti). If you read the REM race report last week you know that Mike actually missed the start of this second moto (after winning the first moto of the Over-60 Experts at Glen Helen). In the end, he went 1-9. So, it was surprising that he almost did the same thing this weekend. With a bad pick at the gate, Mike started behind a lot of traffic. But, much like Randel Fout, he put his head down and started coming through the pack. There was no way that he could catch Fout or Rupert, but he had his sights set on Dave Eropkin, who had finished one spot behind him in moto one—and whoever finished in front of whomever, would get third overall. In almost a repeat of Carson Mumford’s pass on Justin Jones in the Pro race, Monaghan caught Dave Eropkin in the last couple corners before the checkered flag. Dave was distracted by lapped traffic, which Mike knifed underneath as though they weren’t there. Mike got third overall (3-3) , Eropkin fourth (4-4), Ron Lawson fifth (5-5), Bob Rutten sixth (6-6), Pete Vetrano seventh (10-8), Ken Ehlers eighth (9-9), Joe Root ninth (7-11) and Jim Hanson tenth (12-7).
The third man to put in an epic effort was 78-year-old former Grand Prix racer Lars Larsson. The Swede has done almost everything you can do on a dirt bike. He raced the GPs, won four ISDT Gold Medals (riding for Sweden, United States and Mexico), he was the first Grand Prix rider to come to America to demonstrate the then-unknown Husqvarna two-strokes, he won three World Vet Championships (one when he was 60, one when he was 70 and one when he was 71), he founded THOR racing with friend Torsten Hallman and Lars was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport.
Lars had trouble with the steep Cahuilla Creek start and concrete pad. In the first moto he hit the gate and got a last place start and in the second moto he spun. Lars said, “I never knew where I was in the race. I was passing a lot of guys, but I didn’t know who they were and what place I was in. About halfway through the moto I found my rhythym and things started to pick up.”
In the end Lars came from last to second in both motos, passing everyone in his class save for winner Bill Schultz. Lars was lucky to find a bike that suited his style when MXA asked him to race it’s 2019 Husqvarna TE300i fuel-injected two-stroke. In fact, after he won three races on the stock enduro-equipped TC300i, Jody took the bike away from Lars to have the enduro stuff stripped off and the enduro suspension replaced with WP Cone Valve forks and Trax shock. When Lars got it back, it was dialed in for him to a T. Unfortunately, Lars spends from October to April in the USA and the Summer in Sweden looking after his business interests. The Cahuilla Creek motocross was his last race until he comes back in October for the REM Octobercross and World Vet Championship. It’s always a pleasure to have true legends on the track.
Next weekend, Saturday, March 30, there is no REM motocross. REM will return to Cahuilla Creek in Anza, California, of April 6. For more info about REM motocross go to www.remsatmx.com or their Facebook page by Clicking Here. REM will be back at Glen Helen on April 13.
2019 REM RACE SCHEDULE
Apr. 6…Cahuilla Creek
Apr. 13…Glen Helen
Apr. 27…Glen Helen
May 4…Cahuilla Creek
May 18…Glen Helen
June 1…Glen Helen
June 8…Cahuilla Creek
June 15…Glen Helen
July 13…Glen Helen
July 20…Glen Helen
Aug. 10…Glen Helen
Aug. 17…Glen Helen
Sept. 21…Glen Helen
Oct. 4…Glen Helen
Oct. 19…Glen Helen
Oct. 26…Glen Helen
Nov. 16…Glen Helen
Nov. 23…Glen Helen
Dec. 14…Glen Helen
Dec. 21…Glen Helen