The 2005 national motocross season has started! Glen Helen, in San Bernardino County, California, was yet again the scene of the opening round of the Nationals. What is unfathomable is how someone decided to schedule the race on Super Bowl Sunday, February 6! We hope whoever did this has been fired, as this sport needs as many spectators as it can to help it grow and be strong. As it was, hardly any independent spectators showed up. The bleachers were filled mostly with the racer’s families and friends. Not a good start to the season.
FIRST MOTO ACTION
The two main motos ran at noon and 3pm. Skies that had been ominously cloudy opened up before noon, drenching the crowd with a cold rain and turning the track into a slick, muddy mess. Tires, suspension, and even goggle choices would be paramount. That, and the daunting prospect of ascending and descending the feared Mount St. Helens hill in slippery track conditions. This epic hillclimb sends the unprepared and unrepentant back to the pits in a hurry. Glen Helen is a track that separates the posers from the Pros.
A flurry of preparation was going on as every racer’s crew tried to prepare the starting line in the wet condition. The concrete pad was swept, the dirt in front of the gate tamped down, and the pros themselves were given last minute pep talks and advice. Every Pro is given one warmup last, staged about ten seconds apart. This gives them one last look at the track and its conditions. When all had returned from the lap, the lined up and waited for the gate to drop.
The gate dropped and twenty screaming quads bolted for famous "Talledega", the huge, sloped, bowl-like first turn. Honda’s Tim Farr took the holeshot, followed closely by Doug Gust, John Natalie, Jr, Jeremiah Jones, Harold Goodman and Keith Little. Last year’s winner, Yamaha’s Kory Ellis, had a horrible start and was way in back. In fact, anyone not in the top five by the first turn were already drenched in roost and feverishly using up their tear-offs.
THE BATTLE FOR FIRST
Battle? What battle? Tim immediately increased his lead over the nearest racer by about ten lengths. Natalie Jr was battling with Gust and Jones for the following positions. The fight was great and the crowd was getting pumped. Suddenly, John went flying over a berm.
"It was all my fault," said Natalie later. "I was trying to put a pass on Jeremiah and I went over the berm. The machine was running great, I screwed up the pass." Natalie Jr’s mistake left Suzuki riders Gust and Jones in the two and three spots. Gust simply could not make up any ground on Farr, while Jones was actually battling for second hard, hounding teammate Gust at every corner and trying to get by. The wily vet kept Jones from passing, however, and held on.
The number 708 machine of Harold "The Bee" Goodman had come out of nowhere to take fourth position, while Joe "The Professor" Byrd was in fifth and nipping at his heels. Natalie was back in ninth, while Ellis was clogged up in 14th. The wet, slick conditions made passing even harder to do than normal, and not too many positions changed hands. Tavis Cain had his engine explode and had to be towed off the track. At the end of moto one, it was Farr, Gust, Jones, Goodman and Byrd. Ever-fast Dustin Nelson just missed the top five on his number 94 YFZ450.
Between races, Dirt Wheels talked with some of the pros. Kory Ellis: "I just got a horrible start, which killed me. I also started having a problem with my brakes. My plan is to come back and win moto two when I get my brakes dialed."
Tim Farr: "The TRX450R is running great. It’s just so fast and smooth. The key here is the holeshot. You have to get it, period. I got it and it helped me get the win.
John Natalie, Jr.: "It was all my fault. I got eager to pass Jeremiah and missed a turn. It’s a drag to start the season with a ninth in the first moto, but I just have to come back and win the second."
A lot of angry pros were on the line, wanting to improve their first moto performances. The gate dropped and again it was Tim Farr, aboard his Baldwin-built Honda TRX450R, which took the holeshot. This time, Yamaha’s Kory Ellis pulled a much better start and was in second, followed by Gust, Jones, Little, Cain, and Travis Spader. The many-time champion came back to racing, which the crowd (and we) loved. It’s good to see Travis back and still a threat.
Farr again proved uncatchable. His Honda was way in front, leaving Gust again battling with teammate Jones for the two and three spots with Kory Ellis. It looked like Kory would hold on to keep second, but with about three laps to go, Kory bobbled at the base of Mount St. Helens. The momentary lapse was all Doug and Jeremiah needed to scoot by. Kory wasn’t able to retake his position by race’s end.
What about John Natalie Jr? The Honda mounted rider was stuck back in sixth, victim of a semi-poor start. He couldn’t catch Spader, who finished fifth, but he was able to hold off a charging Joe Byrd. In the end, last year’s number two overall finisher in the motocross series finished sixth in the moto and sixth overall. Keith Little had a few mistakes to end up 18th out of 20.
In a truly dominating performance, Honda’s Tim Farr led both motos from start to finish. If he keeps this up, he’ll be hard to beat in 2005. Suzuki riders Doug Gust and Jeremiah Jones finished second and third to give the factory Suzuki boys something to cheer about.
The next finishers were a hodge-podge of moto placements. Joe Byrd took fourth with a 5-7, followed by Travis Spader with a 10-5. Mud is the ultimate equalizer.
It’s only round one, and anything can happen. This is one of the first times a Yamaha YFZ450 wasn’t represented on the podium. Natalie Jr will surely bounce back and get on the podium very soon. Same with Ellis. All of the pros are saying this will be the toughest year ever in terms of competition. Glen Helen proved them right.
1. Tim Farr, Honda TRX450R, Honda/Baldwin/Four
2. Doug Gust, Suzuki LT-Z400, Suzuki/Yoshimura/IMS/Hinson/Fly
3. Jeremiah Jones, LT-Z400, Suzuki/Yoshimura
4. Joe Byrd, Honda TRX450R, JoeByrd.com/FOUR
5. Travis Spader, Yamaha YFZ450R
6. John Natalie, Jr, Honda TRX450R, East Coast ATV/Fox AirShox/Shift
7. Dustin Nelson, Yamaha YFZ450, Dubach Racing/Motoworld Racing/SRF
8. Kory Ellis, Yamaha YFZ450, Yamaha/Alba/Fox
9. Dustin Wimmer, Yamaha YFZ450
10. Matt White, Yamaha YFZ450