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Photos by Debbi Tamietti, Jon Ortner, Rich Stuelke and Dan Alamangos
No matter how popular the REM Glen Helen motocross races are, you can’t avoid the fact that they are just local races. Yes, they do draw factory riders looking for a rough track to test out a recently healed knee, visiting Pros from Europe looking for a challenge and racers on vacation in SoCal who want to squeeze in a moto or two. But, this is still a down-home American race—the kind where “everybody knows your name.” There are minimal rules, it is family-run (by a incredibly nice family), the motos are long, the track is tough and the regular motocross racers are loyal.
Ever since the “Commotion-by-the-Ocean” race moved from Carlsbad Raceway to Glen Helen, and changed its name to the “Octobercross,” because Glen Helen is nowhere near the ocean, it has been fortunate to be held exactly one week before the Dubya World Vet Championships. By being scheduled 7 days before the World Vet, the Octobercross has the opportunity to try out new track designs before the big yearly World Vet extravaganza. This year was no different.
Most of the Glen Helen track had been left intact after the USGP in September—but World Vet promoter Tom White wanted something more Vet friendly and a little less intense. You wouldn’t think he would want the same track designer who built the Glen Helen National Motocross track, with its unbelievable “Unrhythm” section, or the USGP with the massive “Triple Step-Up,” to build the World Vet track. But, that is exactly who Tom White wanted. Jody Weisel came in three days before the “Octobercross” and gave Glen Helen a make-over that didn’t diminish its magnitude, but made it more fun and produced jumps and obstacles that could be ridden by the Pros in the Over-30, Over-40 and Over-50 classes, yet still safe for the Novices in the Over-50, Over-60 and Over-70s classes
Most interesting was a new turn at the top of Mt. Saint Helen that was just below the flag pole instead of behind it. This made the big hill 100% visible (with no riders going out of sight) and opened up more possibilities on the downhill side.
Thanks to a rare rainstorm early in the week, the dirt was epic when the crowd began to arrive in the pits. In a strange twist, the pits were filled with the regular REM crew (who never miss a race), a new group of younger riders (who normally avoid REM because it is too rough and not jumpy enough to their Milliennial tastes) and a massive influx of foreign motocross racers (who came a week early to get a chance to race on the World Vet layout in advance of the rest of the world).
There were motocrossers from Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Sweden, Uganda, Italy, France, Kuwait, South Africa, Holland, Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Israel and Denmark. For many of them, they just wanted to be able to go home and say they raced at Glen Helen. Others had hopes of not just winning the REM Octobercross, but carried that victory over to the World Vet Championship on Nov. 5-6.
THE OCTOBERCROSS WINNERS
Not surprisingly most of the motocross riders and fans were focused on the important classes for the upcoming World Vet. With a lot of the big players in the premier classes at the REM race, it was a good chance to handicap what might happen in 7 days. Although, riders who have won the Octobercross in the past, claim that what you do at Octobercross has no bearing on what will happen at the World Vet,
The Vet Pro class was won by Mike Sleeter, who has been putting in some serious laps for the last months to try to shake his perennial bridesmaid string of second place finishes at the Vet race.
England’s Kurt Nicoll won the Over-40 Pro class, even though Kurt is over 50 years old. Kurt is the current Over-40 World Champion and plans to defend that title in one week against Josh Coppins, Doug Dubach, Greg Albertyn, Daryl Hurley and Daryll King.
The REM Over-50 Pro class is one of the toughest weekly races in the country for riders a half-century old. And the Octobercross field didn’t disappoint in the first moto as Pete DeGraaf, Andy Jefferson, Luther French, Bob Weber, Ron Engel, Jon Ortner and Pete Murray were all contenders —with untouted Luther French taking the win over a fast charging Pete Murray (on a YZ250F). Unfortunately, the second moto was marred by a crash over the hip jump when two riders collided in mid-air and blocked the track. Since the race was past half-way when it was red flagged, the result were back up one lap and made official. Luther’s 1-2 was good enough for the win, while three-time Over-50 World Champion Pete Degraaf (who is over 60 years old) ended the day with a 3-1 in front of a top five that included Andy Jefferson, Rob Engel and Jon Ortner.
Pete DeGraaf returned to win both motos of the Over-60 Expert class over 1980 AMA 500 National Champion Chuck Sun, who just turned 60, with New Zealand’s Tony Cooksley in third. Cooksley raced for Team New Zealand at the Motocross des Nations 29 years ago.
If you think that the Over-60 class is filled with white-haired old men, then you are correct, but they are very fast…and, amazingly, there were 37 riders over the age of 60 on the line at the REM Octobercross. The oldest was three-time World Vet Champion Lars Larsson at 75.
As for the 250 and 450 Pro races, those riders are too young to race at the World Vet, so the Octobercross was their chance to race the new motocross track before it goes into full old-fogey lockdown.
It was a good day for the Wageman brothers, who’s father Russ was an AMA Pro, as they won the 250 Pro class (Robbie) and 450 Pro class (R.J.). Willy Simons, Jr., who’s dad was also an AMA Pro, won the second 250 Pro moto, but was involved in a crash in the first moto that left him with a 4-1 day. Third was Kai Mukai (2-3).
This is the breakdown by the brands that the riders rode this weekend:
REM does not race on World Vet weekend, but return to the following Saturday, November 12, for the final 5 races of the 40-race-long 2016 REM motocross season
REMAINING 2016 REM SCHEDULE
Nov 12…Glen Helen, CA
Nov. 19…Glen Helen, CA
Nov. 26…No race (Day in the Dirt)
Dec. 3….Glen Helen, CA
Dec. 10…Glen Helen, CA
Dec. 17…Glen Helen, CA
Dec. 25…No race (Christmas Day)
Dec. 31…No race (New Year’s Eve)
PEOPLE IN THE PITS AT REM
For more info about REM motocross go to www.remsatmx.com