REM GLEN HELEN RACE REPORT: RACE TO THE CLOUDS
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Photos by Debbi Tamietti and Jon Ortner
REM Motocross has been trying to get the “Last REM Race of the 2016” done for a couple weeks. It was been thwarted by rain storms so stormy, in California terms, that the whole motocross park was closed for one weekend when the road into the track was covered in mud. The San Bernardino County work crews would remove it one day and it would cover the road again the next day. But REM’s Frank Thomason wanted to hold the final get-together on December 31 (New Year’s Eve) for his loyal band of racers — even though the “First REM Race of 2017” was on the schedule for the day after the opening round of the AMA Supercross Series on January 8.
Frank thought he saw a window of good weather wedged in between two Pacific Ocean storms. The weathermen predicted rain on Friday, with clearing on Saturday morning from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., before a new rainstorm would roll off the ocean. It was a small window, but with REM’s amazing efficiency, that five-hour gap in the rain could have been enough to squeeze in the last race of the year. It was hard to believe, but a healthy number motocross racers drove through the morning rain, even though in their heart of hearts they could tell that the weathermen were wrong. There would be no break. Worse yet, the REM track, which sits 2000 feet above sea level was socked in. Even if it hadn’t been raining, the track was stuck inside the low hanging clouds.
Riders came in surprising numbers, and a small number were sent out to test the conditions. Most of the riders congregated at the fences, under umbrellas, looking down on the slop below as the guinea pigs splashed through the puddles and went through tear-offs faster than kids went through Christmas wrapping last weekend. Unfortunately, the cloud never went away and with each passing minute, the looming time gap between the non-existent sunshine and the new Pacific storm got shorter. When it became obvious that the two storms were forever married together, and there would be no window, Frank Thomason canceled the race and told the riders that they could stay and ride the track if they wanted to—but there were very few takers.
For a few laps, there was hope as Kenny Clark (82) and Jason Goss (828) made it look good. The track had been redesigned to run on high ground and was extended back towards the old Blockbuster Pavillion, but to no avail.
But a lot of riders didn’t leave. They didn’t ride their bikes in the soup either. They hung around and chatted about all things moto. Yes, they would all be back together the next weekend, but they wanted to say goodbye to the 40 races they spent with each other in 2016. Some dribbled out to go to the desert to ride on their secret sand tracks, some went to breakfast together and some just stood in the rain (hoping for a 15 minute sliver of sunshine). No matter what their post-race plans were—2016 was over. In fact, it rained so much that Glen Helen was closed completely the next day, Sunday, January 1, to start repairing the rain damage.
Holland’s Ralf Schmidt is a good mud rider, but since he came to REM to help the MXA test crew with the only 2017 TM 300MX-FI four-stroke in the country, he was glad when he didn’t have to get it covered in mud.
And so, REM’s 2016 motocross season came to an end with a whimper instead of a bang. 2016 was REM’s 30th year of hosting races at Carlsbad Raceway and Glen Helen. As always Debbi Tamietti shot photos of the riders—even if they weren’t riding, while Jon Ortner took portrait photos. Their photos tell the story of a day spent in a cloud.
Even though it was still raining when Dan Alamangos (left) and Jody Weisel (right) got back to the MXA workshop, they decided to roll Jody’s 1970 Suzuki twin-cylinder road racer out and ride it. It hadn’t been started in 44 years, but once they cleaned the jets, it fired right up. MXA test rider Randel Fout volunteered to be the first to try it. He made it 100 yards before it spit him off. Dan and Jody decided to roll it back into the barn.
Kent Reed chose the last race of 2016 to bring his daughter Tracy out to watch him ride. She didn’t get to see that, but she got to spend some quality time with her dad before starting college after the New Year’s break.
Jody’s friends secretly commissioned artist Jon Ortner to paint Jody an 8 x 4-foot painting commemorating his life-long friendship with the late Feets Minert. The painting features the two things that Feets and Jody loved to do — fly aerobatic airplanes and race motorcycles. It was touching tribute to two guys who spent 40 years scaring each other for fun.
NEXT WEEKS “DAY AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE” RACE
The “Day After The Night Before” race will be held on January 8, 2017, on the Glen Helen USGP track. For more info go to www.remsatmx.com