By the Staff at Dirt Wheels – Photos by Justin Coffey

Photo by Justiin Coffey

At 27 years old, Julian Hoefert isn’t old enough to remember the time when Dean Sundahl dominated Baja on an ATC, and yet he just became the first ironman racer to finish Best In The Desert’s famed Vegas to Reno off-road race on an ATC250R.

His race machine was originally built nearly 40 years ago, and while it’s set up for the rigors of desert racing – with beadlock wheels, an oversized fuel tank, and plenty of storage for tools and spare parts – it still looks very much original. Hoefert oversaw and completed much of the build himself, along with some help from Goobtech Racing for electrical/lighting setup and final engine race prep from Paulbilt Racing.

Taking the green flag, the trike class was off, with Hoefert starting in fourth position out of five in the three-wheeler class. Hoefert was the only rider racing solo. One hour into his race, all was going well as Hoefert was battling through the dust ahead of him.

“I was following someone’s dust when a motorcycle passed me at race speed. A few seconds later, I saw the motorcycle flying above the dust,” said Hoefert. “I stopped to check on him, and I could hear him screaming before I even shut off my bike. He was awake and saying that he broke his femur.” Hoefert cut the rider’s pants to ensure there wasn’t any life-threatening bleeding and then made phone calls for assistance. He stayed with the injured racer for about an hour until a rescue team arrived to provide first aid and an eventual helicopter ride.

Back on course, Hoefert had clean air ahead of him due to the downtime, but he knew the 140mph trophy trucks, buggy, and side-by-side racers, which started a few hours behind the handlebar classes, would be knocking on his rear grab bar soon enough.

At pit five and race mile 200, the lead trucks caught and passed Hoefert in a wall of dust. This would be the norm for the next few hundred miles after good sportsmanship put Hoefert well behind the rest of his class. It’s enough to make most call it a day, but Hoefert pressed on.

“I think it was around miles 300 to 350 that I found three-wheeler #495 on the side of the track,” said Hoefert. The trike looked rough, but with a little help and MacGyvering, they got it rolling again. I let his crew know at the next pit what they needed to get it back into racing shape.”

Photo by Justiin Coffey

Near race mile 400, Hoefert hit a rock and blew out a rear tire but was able to get going with help from the #495 pit crew. Darkness had settled in when Hoefert lost another tire near race mile 450. His lights were also failing due to his battery coming loose. He secured the battery with zip ties and a tire patch and then limped the ATC into pit 12 for a fresh set of tires. He’d deal with a few more tire failures before the race was over.

The racecourse got progressively more challenging as Hoefert neared the finish line, with steep elevation change, embedded boulder sections, and mud. In one last act of sportsmanship, Hoefert helped a motorcycle rider get up a final hill leading to the finish line.

Hoefert’s 521-mile adventure ended as he crossed the finish line at 3:43 a.m., spending over 22 hours on and off the saddle of his trusty ATC250R. “I rode up on the finish line stage and broke into tears,” Hoefert recollected. “I was so happy it was over. I had to take a minute before I could give my finish line speech, which I had been thinking about for the last 300 miles.”

“It was an awesome experience. I’m glad I did it. I actually held up better than I thought I would,” claimed Hoefert. “I want to thank my awesome chase crew, who made everything seamless and did a perfect job. They got me to the finish line! I’d also like to thank Paul at Paulbilt Racing. I did not have a single hiccup with my engine the entire race. It ran perfectly 100% of the time, and I can still ride it this weekend. I’d also like to thank Wrangell at Goobtech Racing, who made me an awesome skid plate and the headlight setup that turned night into day. I’d like to thank Brian at San Diego Small Engine for going through my suspension. He definitely made my ride comfortable. Finally, I’d like to thank all my friends who donated funds and bought T-shirts. You allowed me to be able to live my dream!”

Best In The Desert rewards racers for the time they spend helping downed riders by tracking the minutes via transponder and then subtracting them from the racer’s start-to-finish time. When the dust cleared, Hoefert emerged in 3rd place.

Congrats Julian! You beat the desert riding solo, and that’s always a win in our book.

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