DBT Race Report: 2020 BITD National Desert Cup

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Story by Trevor Hunter, Photos by Harlen Foley

When the news broke that BITD was headed to Glen Helen, Hayden Hintz and I were pretty excited. Spinning countless laps here through the years, and being a GP format, led to an advantage for us and we were hoping to capitalize and extend our points lead by the weekend’s end. The course was pretty basic, with no single track being used up on the ridges and the basic layout down low, though the backwards motocross tracks threw us for a loop.

Saturday morning kicked off our race weekend bright and early with a 7AM start. The two day format would see two 1.5ish hour races, with the combined time for both days determining overall finish positions. Hayden started the race for us, grabbing the holeshot and leading the pack around the moto track, backwards. Halfway around, he lost a spot to Nic Colangeli and wasn’t able to get back around before hitting the dusty ridges. As he came around the first lap, Hayden had fallen back around 25 seconds and continued to stay there for his time on the bike. The dust was unbearable and didn’t allow us to make up much time, if any, throughout the course. Hayden rode 5 of the 7 laps before handing the bike off to me to finish. 

Once I got on, I tried my best to catch Nic, but as soon as I got onto the ridges, my charge came to a stall. Most of my time was spent rolling around looking for any breaks in the dust as I traversed over hard packed, square edged, rain rut filled roads with minimal vision. My biggest close call came as I raced under the finish line heading out onto the final lap where I landed in a hole, nearly ejecting me over the bars at 50+ MPH. Luckily, I saved it and avoided crashing. By the time the checkered flag flew, we crossed the line 2nd Open Pro and 3rd O/A physically, but 4th on adjusted time as a quad had finished 2nd O/A on time!

Sunday morning came and we knew the start was everything with the dusty conditions and a short race. We decided to have me start in hopes of getting out front early and ahead of the dust. To our dismay, the BITD crew decided to put us Open Pro bikes on row 2 behind the 399cc Pros. After some discussion, they decided to move us back up, where we should be, for a stacked line with quite a few bikes. My dead engine practice starts were all flawless, starting up instantly and giving us hope. However, when the flag dropped, our KTM 450 XC-F attempted to start, but shut off, before finally starting. I finally got going outside the top 10 overall, and much further back from where I wanted to be. I instantly went into salvage mode and started trying to make passes. With all of the prior UTV races and the quads on the track, the moto track was very hard packed, wet, and slick making it difficult to get aggressive. I made a few passes rounding the first turn, then stalked Nic Colangeli and a few others as we raced around the track. I made a quick pass around the outside of Nic and knew I just needed to stay ahead of him. 

We raced off onto the west ridge with a pack of three of us battling for position. As we all swept across the trail trying to make a move, I was able to out pace Jason Parsons up one of the hills and claim the lead in the Open Pro field. There were still a few 399cc class racers ahead, so I took some small chances in the dust and started picking them off. I was able to pass two of them, leaving me 3rd O/A on the track, but 1st in class. I felt content and settled into a pace, trying to race smartly in the dusty conditions. I could see Clayton Gerstner just ahead of me as we came off the ridge and I tried to close the gap, but it was just too big before heading back into the dust. Lap 2 was fairly uneventful, though the first place quad made his way around me on the slick REM track. Near the end of the lap, I received a pit board with “Ride Smart” which made me instantly think that Nic was way behind or out of the race. Lap 3 saw us get into the lappers and the dust was prevalent up on the hills. I backed it down to play it safe knowing we had the Open Pro win and points in our grasp, with no one all that close to me. 

My fourth and final lap saw quite a bit of dust and slowed my pace considerably, which allowed Jason Parsons to close back in as he found his groove. After dropping down off the ridge and into the infield areas, the race was on. I picked it back up and was trying my best to hold off Jason. Racing the 450 in a GP setting was a little tough for me and is something I’m still learning, but I was feeling good enough to wick it up in battle. We were fender to fender for a bit, before racing side by side through the Lucas Oil Off-Road Truck Track. Jason made the move and got me, but I immediately switched up my lines to try to sneak back by. As we exited the track, we raced down a fast sandwash and up and over a blind rise. I drifted a little too far to the outside and actually jumped off the track, narrowly missing a big tractor tire, a hole, and a giant boulder all within about 3 feet of each other! Luckily, I was able to emerge unscathed without hitting the dirt. With the pits 50 yards away from me, I reentered the track and handed the bike off the Hayden.

Hayden put in solid laps to get us to the finish. Unfortunately, Jason went down the following lap and injured his shoulder, while the first place quad ran out of gas, moving us up to 3rd O/A physically and on adjusted time. It also meant we would get the Open Pro win for the weekend, our first of the year! We accomplished our goal of winning the race, and more importantly extending our points lead with one round left. 

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