Toughing It Out At The 10 Hour
Story by Trevor Hunter, Photos by Trevor Hunter, Mark Kariya, Full Throttle Photo
Similar to the 6 Hour earlier this year, the decision to race the 10 Hours of Glen Helen was pretty last minute. With it being a night race, I was able to do a small amount of light testing the week before to be ready to race just in case, but no real plans were set until Friday morning before. With just myself and Tyler Belknap on the team, we tried furiously to find a third partner but by the end of the day on Friday, we were out of luck and were going to be racing with just the two of us. At DirtBikeTest, we just got our hands on the all-new 2021 Yamaha YZ450FX the week prior and our early testing of the bike was pretty favorable. In the desert, the motor, suspension, and handling were all very comforting and easy to ride, yet still fast and potent.
To get the bike ready to race for 10 hours straight, we again just stuck to the basics. First up was the IMS 2.8 Gal Dry-Break tank, a necessity for a race this long. Next up is lights. We’ve been running the same KC Hilites setup since 2016 so we broke out the lights again and wired up the bike to power as much as we could. The last few components were for durability more than anything. We mounted some fresh Dunlop MX53’s front and rear thanks to Jay Clark at DirtBikeTV, Nitromousse’s front and rear, Acerbis Handguards, AME Grips to help save our hands, and a TM Designworks Chain Guide to avoid bending or breaking a guide in the rocky sections. With a minimal amount of time on the bike and really only riding it in the desert, we stuck to a GYTR map we liked on the ‘21 YZ450F we rode at GH last year, the “Magic Map.” It smooths out the power, but still builds and pulls really strong making it easy to ride yet still fast. With those changes in place, we went racing!
Come Saturday afternoon, we determined I’d start the race for us at 4PM. Like the 6 Hour, we started with both hands on top of our helmet, and as the green flag waved, I found myself midpack entering Talladega. In the first few minutes, I was able to make some passes and found myself running 4th, with all of the fastest teams ahead of me. The first few laps were spent getting a feel for the bike and course, which ended up in a battle with Connor Kilmartin, one of the 11 Pro teams signed up for the race. Eventually, he was able to get around me and we raced wheel to wheel through the fifth lap. When he went to pit, I decided on doing one extra lap to get ahead of their team’s dust and give Tyler some more breathing room when he got on the bike. After the sixth lap, Tyler took over for his five-lap stint.
Through the first few hours, nothing crazy went on. We pretty much sat all alone in 4th place with a few minute gap up to 3rd and a few minute gap back to 5th. My 2nd stint of 5 laps was pretty smooth and I felt like I was getting a good feel for the new 450 and how to ride it in the fast, choppy terrain. Lappers were all over the place with 65+ teams entered and short 12 ½ minute lap times, we were constantly passing riders every second of the way. Once done with my second stint, we held steady and were about where we were when I got on. When Tyler hopped on again, he was able to do 2 laps before having to pull in and do our full service pit consisting of lights, a rear wheel, and an air filter. We were able to get back on the track in less than 3 minutes, which we felt happy with considering everything that needed to be done. From there, Tyler did his last 3 laps before handing it back off to me.
As I got back on the bike around 8:30, the dust was getting thick, lappers were out and about, and the course really beat up. The third and fourth trips out were again uneventful, but the bike continued to impress me with how good it worked. Shifting up and riding a gear tall, the bike was still plenty fast but it smoothed out the chassis and soaked up all the chop and square edges really well. Tyler’s fourth and final trip out saw a little bit of drama. A couple of laps in, the center light pod broke off and flew off the bike. While it wasn’t a deal-breaker as we still had enough light, it wasn’t ideal and served as a sign of things to come.
As I got on the bike for my 5th and final time, the lights soon began to start flopping around and looking loose. I’ve had this problem before and it was the rubber grommets being worn down and loosening the fit of the lights in the mounts. It continued to get worse and worse and I pulled into the pits one lap to take a quick look, only to see that the light bracket had broken in half. Hoping we only had 3 laps left, I continued on, albeit a lot slower to avoid breaking the lights off completely. With the lights bouncing around and causing some uncertainty in if they’d hold up, I finally made it into the finish at 2AM after riding 27 laps myself and nearly 6 hours of seat time for the night. We crossed the line 4th O/A and 4th Open Pro, right where we started. Riding with just two people was tough as we expected, but it was a fun experience and a good race test for the new YZ450FX.
Stay tuned for an in-depth look at what went into making the race bike, along with the wear and tear after 10 hard hours of racing. Big thanks to everyone who helped in the pits, along with the sponsors who made it possible!
Yamaha | KC Hilites | Dunlop | IMS | Kilmartin Racing |Nitromousse
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