As a rule of thumb, the weekly REM motocross races don’t travel from track to track very often, except for moving from the REM track down to the Glen Helen National track a couple times a year. This week, because the Prairie Dog’s “Last Dog Standing” cross-county race took up all of Glen Helen Raceway, REM Motocross traveled South to Cahuilla Creek MX Park in Anza, California. It is about 90 miles farther South than Glen Helen, which makes it a long haul for REM’s Santa Barbara, Malibu, San Fernando Valley and L.A. County racers. Apart from a small contingent of out of state racers, Jon Ortner and Zaca Station’s Ed Guarjardo made the longest trek, coming from Santa Barbara to Anza (a 450-mile round trip). This was REM’s last scheduled race at Cahuilla Creek for 2019—from now on they will be back at Glen Helen.
Other notables at the REM Motocross this week included noted orthopaedic surgeon Brad Baum, who came to race for the first time in 20 years. Dr. Baum works on lots of motocrossers—including MXA’s Jody Weisel and Pro Circuit’s Mitch Payton. Surprisingly, Dr. Baum and Jody were both at Cahuilla Creek and never saw each other. Kawasaki Media head Brad Puetz, who last week raced his first motocross in a decade and came back this week for more—and hopes to make it three in a row at next week’s REM race at Glen Helen. Former Grand Prix star, KTM team GP manager and now Champion Motocross Vacation owner Kurt Nicoll is a hard worker and when he is preparing for a big race he rides and races constantly to get ready. We assumed Kurt is prepping for Farleigh Castle’s Vet MXDN race because he has been at REM every week.
Former Vertemati, LEM, Falcon, VOR and TM importer Pete Vetrano was racing at Cahuilla and so was current TM importer Ralf Schmidt (who cut his big toe badly with a weed whacker this week, but rather than skip a race, Ralf wrapped his foot in a towel and duct tape. Then, he borrowed a right boot from a friend that was two sizes larger so his makeshift bandage would fit in and went racing).
As always at REM industry guys were plentiful. They included ASV Lever’s Bob Morales, 6D Helmets’ Robert Reisinger, former Suzuki Amateur Coordinator Cole Gress (on a Kawasaki), Stacyck electric bike’s Brock Harden, Kawasaki project manager Patrick Flynn, MXA test rider Brian Medeiros, KTM Media Relations Head David O’Connor, Kawasaki Media head Brad Puetz and MXA’s Jody Weisel.
The biggest surprise to the REM racers when they went to the starting line was that they found themselves lined up next to John Hinz, the President of KTM North America. The telling statement from the riders in John Hinz’s race was, “That was a first. I’ve never race against the President of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki or Kawasaki, but now I can say that I got beat by the President of KTM.” They might also add that John is also in charge of Husqvarna USA and WP Suspension USA.
It was a day of great races. The best battle was between Hawaiian Brian Medeiros on MXA’s 2019 Honda CRF250 and Kurt Nicoll on a KTM 450SXF. Medeiros was assigned to race the CRF250 on Friday by MXA. He had to race it in stock condition before starting a project to get more low-to-mid power from it for an MXA hop-up story. Nicoll, in the Vet Pro class, and Medeiros, in the 250 Pro class, were the fastest riders at the Cahuilla and immediately shot out of the gate running 1-2. The layout favored Nicoll’s 450 over the smaller CRF250, but the Hawaiian found that he could pressure Nicoll if he never shut off until the CRF250 hit its 14,000 rpm rev limiter. It took Brian Medeiros most of the first moto to set up a pass at the end of the fastest straight, by scrubbing a blind downhill, and beating Nicoll to the next sweeping bowl turn. From that point on he pulled away to a safe victory.
In the second moto, Medeiros got by Kurt much quicker and opened up a bigger margin early in the race—only to lose the front end in one many of the many repetitive bowl turns and went down. By the time he remounted he was 12-seconds behind Nicoll with only a couple laps to go. He brought that down to 3 seconds on the last lap—but Nicoll won the battle of old versus young. As for Brian Medeiros, he was happy with the stock CRF250, but felt that he needed to find better power from low to mid and especially in the transition from mid to top. Next weekend, he’ll start with the first few mods.
The Santa Barbara duo of Jon Ortner and Ed Guajardo engaged in a real war in the Over-50 Elite class. They passed each other back and forth over the last three laps of moto one to the point that you couldn’t tell who would be leading in the next turn. They raced each other clean for the majority of the race, but the passes became more hurried as the laps wound down and the distance between the two riders got really close—and after Guajardo made the last pass and won the moto they were still on speaking terms, but some of it sounded more like yelling than speaking. In the second moto, the war commenced where it left off, but this time Jon Ortner took the moto win and his 2-1 beat Ed Guajardo’s 1-2.
No one truly understand why the Over-60 age group has exploded, but REM’s biggest age group is for riders over the Big Six-Oh. And the battle to win the Over-60 Expert skirmish came down to Tracy Hrach versus Dave Eropkin versus Mike Monaghan. In the first moto Hrach led, but Eropkin was all over him, while fending off the constant charges by YZ250X-mounted Mike Monaghan. Monaghan managed to keep the four-strokes in his gun sights by going in deeper in every corner. Finally, Hrach was able to slip away as Monaghan made a successful passing attempt on Dave Eropkin (by taking a tight inside line in one of the seven bowl turns, which got him side by side with Dave going down the hill. Eropkin had the inside to the next turn, but Monaghan kept his smoker on the gas just a second longer to nip in front of Dave just before they got to the berm). The first moto was Hrach first, Monaghan second and Eropkin third.
The second moto of the Over-60 Experts saw a the same three at the front from the drop of the gate, but with Eropkin in the lead. Now it was Tracy Hrach trying to move in on Dave Eropkin, while Mike Monaghan kept pulling along side. Finally, Eropkin and Hrach got a little gap on Mike Monaghan (who had just raced the Over-50 Expert moto before going straight back to the starting line for the Over-60 Expert moto).
It boiled down to Hrach versus Eropkin—only this time it was Hrach taking the inside lines. It had worked for Monaghan in moto one and Hrach figured that the inside was his best shot. Lap after lap, Tracy would pull along side of Dave, but the higher speed of the outside line always pulled Dave back into the lead. They were pushing hard, making mistakes and keeping it tense. It was close at the finish line, but Eropkin took the second moto win, but it didn’t give him the overall victory. Hrach went 1-2, Eropkin 3-1 and Monaghan 2-3.
REMAINING 2019 REM RACE SCHEDULE
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