2016 WORCS round 5

WORCS Championship

Round 5 | April 17, 2016 | Sand Hollow, UT

The fifth round of the WORCS series headed to the picturesque red sand dunes that surround the Sand Hollow State Park, just outside of Hurricane, Utah. The same features that make this venue so unique—the deep-sand dunes and protruding rocks—also make it a bit of a gamble to race at speed, as evidenced by my crash high-speed crash a year before, and posed a challenge to racers throughout the weekend; in some areas, the sand would cover just enough of the rocks to give the appearance that they could be hit without chopping the throttle or bracing for the impact, potentially catching the rider out and sending them for quite a wild ride.

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I’d be lying if I said that the hidden rocks, and my pretty vicious crash last year on this course, weren’t in the back of my mind all weekend. I wouldn’t say I was afraid to go fast by any means, but I had a very defined game plan in my mind that I wanted to stick to: not to ride over my head and hang it out in the fast sand sections. Looking back, I know this held me back from pushing to the front early in the race, especially after starting outside the top ten. Instead, I methodically and very patiently picked my way through riders one-at-a-time, taking the opportunities to overtake as they came instead of forcing the issue.

I was able to work up into sixth place by the end of the first lap, and then made the move by my teammate—Justin Seeds—and Eric Yorba on the following lap to move into fourth place. I was making most of my time on the second half of the course, where the terrain was a little rockier and more technical, and on the third lap I was able to catch Blake Savage in just such a section. I had a better line over a slight rock drop-off in to a set of sand whoops, and was able to make the pass into the final spot on the podium, but by this time, Dalton Shirey and Gary Sutherlin were already over a minute ahead of me out front.

I felt I had a good pace, but I was still losing a bit of time to the leaders, and I just wasn’t going to step it up to the level that catching them was going to require. It’s not like I was riding slow, but I feel I was checking up a bit more than some of the other riders for the embedded rocks in the high-speed sections of dunes. I think the time I would lose checking up for the rocks was then compounded because the sand would suck up so much momentum, taking more time to accelerate back up to speed. This became even more evident to me late in the race when Eric Yorba put on a really impressive charge.

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On one of the later laps, I changed my line ever so slightly my line over a natural, small rock jump, as there was a lapped rider just ahead of me, and as I landed I clipped a lose piece of rock, losing the front end and sliding to the ground. The fall wasn’t bad at all, just frustrating and time-consuming, and then later that lap I again changed my line, this time thinking I was trying a straighter, faster line through a section of peaked downhill rocks. The rocks were quite a bit steeper than I was expecting and quickly sent me for a ride. I felt like I was on a bucking bull as my bike pitched forward and back, sending me off balance and crashing into a bush. Again, it was a very soft fall, but it consumed yet more time, and at the close of that lap, Eric Yorba had reeled me in.

As we headed up the dunes, my tentativeness showed through as Eric simply maintained more speed through a rocky patch of sand and over the following razor backs, passing by me and relegating me to fourth. He continued to stretch away through the dunes, nearly out of sight, but on the second half of the course I was able to reel him back in, closing the gap down to five seconds or so. The white flag came out and I did my best to stay with him through the dunes, hoping to be close enough to make a late pass in the technical rock sections, but between his speed, and my getting held up by a few lapped riders, I completely lost sight of him and came across the line in fourth.

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After the race we had learned that Eric was docked for a minor infraction, moving him back to fifth, and putting me in the final position on the podium. I definitely didn’t feel like it was an earned podium, as Eric surely had the better of me on the day, but getting third did help me out in the points standings, and aside from the two silly mistakes on one lap late in the race, I was content with the effort I had put in. I was definitely happy to get out of there healthy this year and feel I’ll be back up to speed as the series heads to the physical sand whoops of Mesquite, NV for round six.

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I want to congratulate Dalton on taking the win and putting on a clinic of how to ride in the sand dunes, and say that I’m stoked to see Gary getting back to form so quickly. It was also great to see Eric riding so well and backing up his 29 Palms performance. It’s fantastic to see so many different riders hitting their stride and putting in great results this year; it makes the racing more exciting for us and for everyone watching and taking interest.

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Thank you to my mechanic Phil, suspension tech John, my wife (and McKenna), my family, all of my personal supporters—Precision Concepts, MSR, Shoei, Sidi, 100%, EVS, USWE, Focus apparel, BRP, RAD custom graphics, GoPro, A’ME grips, IWC motorsports, ATP mechanix, Rekluse, CryoHeat, and the MotoXerciser—and all of our race team sponsors for the continued support!

Robby Bell

robbybellracing.com

Thank you to each of our team sponsors: Rocky Mountain ATV/MC, Precision Concepts, Maxxis tires, FMF exhaust, Maxima USA, Renthal, Dubya USA, Acerbis, Matrix Concepts, GPR stabilizer, CryoHeat, Rekluse, VP Race Fuels, IMS, BRP, LA Piston Co., A’ME grips, Braking, RK/Excel America, ARC levers, DT1 filters, RAD custom graphics, Zip-Ty, Boyesen, Seal Savers, MotoSeat, MotoHose, Next Components, Rigid Industries.