EVENT: 2023 WORCS OPENER
The Pro enduro-cross sections are no joke!
Seasoned pros and talented rookies battle! By the staff of Dirt Wheels
We have reached the summer break of the 2023 World Off-Road Championship Series, with only three rounds remaining. Surprisingly, we have already witnessed three different pro ATV riders taking the top spot on the podium. Honda rider Beau Baron still holds the lead by 11 points, but he needs to up his game to stay ahead of Travis Damon, who won the sixth round in Cedar City, Utah, riding a Yamaha. The next round of the series will take place in Vernal, Utah, from September 15 to 17. It has been a thrilling journey so far, and you can relive all the high-flying ATV and UTV action from round one!
The 2023 World Off-Road Championship Series began at Buffalo Bill’s Resort and Casino in Primm, Nevada. Below-freezing morning temperatures made for cold morning starts and icy conditions in the lower parts of the seven-mile racecourse.
For 2023, hybrid sport quads are allowed in the Pro ATV class. WORCS classifies a hybrid as an ATV with stock frame geometry that is fitted with a current production dirt bike engine. Stock versus stock, the dirt bike engines are lighter and more powerful.
For Sunday’s pro race, two hybrid Hondas with late-model CRF450R engines entered. Ten-time WORCS champion Beau Baron built his hybrid with a 2014 frame, suspension components from his 2022 Sparks/Roll Design/Elka race quad, and the engine out of the 2022 CRF450R dirt bike that he raced in two-wheel classes. Roberto Villalobos was riding a similar Honda hybrid built by Avina Prep.
Pro and Pro-Am classes race an extended track that includes a gnarly downhill rock garden and what WORCS refers to as “raw” sections of the racecourse that force racers to pick their lines through ungroomed natural terrain. A new EnduroCross section presented racers with the biggest challenges. Two-foot-tall tractor-tire obstacles required racers to carry a wheelie with momentum to get up and over. The lead pros got through the section with minimal difficulty, but most pushed their quads over the tires. The section quickly turned into a bottleneck, forcing officials to direct traffic around the section.
Baron wasn’t sure his hybrid was ready for 90 minutes of racing, but in the end, the 42-year-old prevailed. “I lost my lower motor-mount bolt in the final laps,” said Baron. “I’ll have to figure a way to keep that from happening. It was vibrating badly, but it held together.”
Travis Damon moved to the lead on the first lap. Baron caught him on lap four, but Damon secured second. Damon is still adjusting to a Yamaha YFZ450R after racing a Honda TRX450R last year. “I’m still figuring it out but I’m liking it, and the extra power has been great,” said Damon at the podium. “Beau and I went back and forth a few times, leaving the motocross section,” said Damon. “He got the best of me this time, but I’m going to do some homework and hopefully have something for him at the next round.”
First-time pro and two-time Pro-Am champion Braxton Grosse grabbed the pro holeshot but crashed in the raw pro section. He remounted, fought the EnduroCross bottleneck and still managed to earn the final podium spot. “I got the holeshot! That was crazy,” claimed Grosse at the podium. “I got stuck in the tires, but it would have been cool if they hadn’t cut that section out. Sections like that shake races up. Hopefully, we will see more of that.”
With Braxton Grosse out of Pro-Am, it was siblings Cole Fryar and his sister Lane Fryar in first and second place at the start. Lane got hung up in the EnduroCross section, and Cole suffered a mechanical failure. Uriah Tsinnijinnie set a blistering pace to move from fourth position to first. Pedro Montes finished in second, just 25 seconds behind. El Paso’s Steven Lopes picked up the final podium spot.
WOMEN’S PRO ATV
2022 women’s champion Torey Matajcich put more than a five-minute gap on second-place Heidi Coleman. It was Coleman’s first race as a pro. Veteran Pro Donna Espensen picked up third. The Women’s Pro class has doubled in size from 2022.
PRO PRODUCTION SXS
2022 combatants Beau Judge and Shawn Saxton hit the first turn with dirt flying. Judge moved the #1 Can-Am into the lead, but Saxton was relentless trying to pass. At the end of the third lap, Judge’s car was handicapped to just one-wheel drive. He slowed, but picked up points with a fifth-place finish.
Saxton advanced to the lead with the fastest lap of the race in his new Polaris Pro R, and finished over a minute ahead of second place. Larry Heidler ran a consistent race in his Polaris RZR for second. Braden Judge, son of Beau Judge, picked up the final podium spot in his first race as a pro, passing the Honda Talon of Beau Baron on his final lap.
PRO STOCK SXS
Casey Sims pulled off the fastest lap of the Pro Stock race after passing Sebastian Marquez for the lead on lap three. Sims finished 18 seconds ahead of Marquez.
Beau Baron finished comfortably in third place. Baron is taking advantage of Honda’s generous new racer contingency program. Aside from Elka shocks and a few bolt-ons, Baron is driving a stock machine. It will be interesting to see how his car progresses as the season goes on.
1. Beau Baron (Hon)
2. Travis Damon (Yam)
3. Braxton Grosse (Hon)
Pro Production SXS
1. Shawn Saxton (Pol)
2. Larry Heidler (Pol)
3. Braden Judge (C-A)
Pro Stock SXS
1. Casey Sims (Pol)
2. Sebastian Marquez (Pol)
3. Beau Baron #549 (Hon)
1. Uriah Tsinnijinnie (Hon)
2. Pedro Montes (Hon)
3. Steven Lopes (Hon)
Women’s Pro ATV
1. Torey Matajcich (Yam)
2. Heidi Colman (Hon)
3. Donna Espensen (Hon)