WORCS Peoria, AZ RD3 Robby Bell Race Report

The racecourse that was laid out by the WORCS crew at Canyon MX Park had nearly every kind of terrain the southwestern United States could offer- rock covered washes; wide-open straightaways; technical single track; a few trees; deep sand whoops; even deeper silt ruts; even more embedded rocks- and after the high-speed courses of Taft and Primm, promised to make for a more technical and demanding pro race. It proved to be brutal.

The race would begin on the concrete start pad, with a motocross-style gate drop, and though all of my focus was upon weighting the rear wheel, I spun massively as the gate finally fell. I was instantly shuffled back around sixth or seventh, but was able to push into fifth through the second corner. I was right behind Blayne Thompson as the racecourse turned left into a tight rock-wash, and as he stumbled slightly toward the end of the section, I mirrored his mistake as I took a wide line to avoid him. While I was sorting myself out, Travis Coy was pushing a fast pace up my right side. He forced his way up the inside of me, shuffling me back to sixth place, and in that moment I decided to cool my jets, take a couple deep breaths, and not push the issue in the tricky terrain; I would simply take what the course was going to give me.

Not far into the first lap I was able to accelerate up the outside of Travis as the course entered a sweeping left-handed corner, and I saw my opportunity to make the pass. I was on the edge of traction through the slippery corner and Travis was fighting me hard for the spot. I could see his front fender just to my inside, and feel his momentum pushing me wide, but I was just able to pinch him off as the corner turned sharper and I took over fifth. The course then entered the silt/sand section and I was edging closer to Blayne. Through a whoop-filled right-hander, Blayne blew a little wide, off the course, and I saw another door open in front of me. I twisted the throttle a little harder to try to make the pass before Blayne corrected his mistake, and we nearly hit just as he re-entered the course. Luckily for me, I had the momentum and was able to make the pass, moving into fourth.

It took me another lap to catch up to Justin Jones (in third) and Ivan Ramirez (in second), and as we entered the sand section once more I took a different line to see if I could make a pass. Unfortunately the deep silt caught my front wheel, sending me off balance, and I torpedoed myself straight into a tree. I thought I was done for, but I had enough momentum to push through the braches and stay upright, losing a little time, but no positions. A bit later in the lap, Jones had made the move on Ramirez and I had closed right on to the back of Ivan. We were speeding down a fifth-gear straight and as we began to slow for the following left-handed corner I took the chance to push the pace a little deeper into the turn, sweeping around the outside of Ivan and into third place.

Halfway through the third lap I had closed the gap to Justin and was just a second behind him as the course turned onto a third-gear straightaway that was littered with embedded rocks. At the end of the straight there was a rocky uphill and I was carrying a bit more speed than Jones through the section. I positioned myself to Justin’s left and my momentum pushed me past him as we crested the top of the hill. Now it was just Destry Abbott left out front.

I closed the distance to Destry toward the end of the lap, as the course entered a pro-only section with multiple lines through a wide wash and over a rocky plateau. I took a different line than Destry as we entered the wash and pushed hard to try to make the pass before our lines merged. I was able to close a little more of the distance, but wasn’t able to make the pass and Destry flashed across the front of me. Our lines diverged once more, as I again took looked to make the pass, and this time I was successful as Destry suffered an unfortunate crash on the line that he had chosen. Destry ended up pulling out of the race as he re-injured his ankle, which was such a lamentable end to his day; it was wonderful to see him out front again and riding brilliantly, and would have been great to see him finish it out.

I finally had my first taste of clean air out front, but as I entered the fifth lap, Ivan had made his way into second place and was pushing hard to try to reel me in. I helped his cause as through a sand-whoop corner my front end got caught higher than the berm. I struggled to get the front end back down and into the berm, losing that battle, along with all of my front-end traction, and fell to the ground. The combination of my tip over and Ivan turning the fastest lap of the race had put Ramirez right on my rear wheel after each of our pit stops. This lit a bit of a fire underneath me as I found a bit more pace, and I was ready for a battle to the finish, but later that lap Ivan suffered a horrible crash just behind me and was unable to continue. I felt pretty disheartened for Ivan, as this was shaping up to be a breakout ride for him, but luckily he wasn’t seriously hurt.

After Ivan had crashed, I was left with a pretty comfortable lead out front and was able to settle into a safe pace. The only issues I had came on the last lap, when I dropped my pace and concentration too much and suffered two tip-over crashes. I was actually pretty mad at myself after the race for losing focus on the last lap the way I did, but luckily I had enough of a gap that I was able to hang on to the lead and cross the checkers with the win.

This was a brutal race that claimed quite a few riders, and upon reflection I feel so fortunate to have had such a successful outing, experiencing just a few minor mistakes. Even though the terrain did take its toll, I believe the course was fantastic; it was technical and challenging, and I think the risk came from the fact there was opportunity to carry a lot of speed on the course, and its always a gamble pushing the pace over tricky terrain. I have to shamelessly plug Precision here and say that my bike was dialed in for the challenging conditions, I felt I could charge the rocks with confidence, only having issues when I was riding like a nancy.

I want to thank all of my personal sponsors for providing such a great program for me this year: Precision Concepts, MSR, Shoei, Sidi, Spy, EVS, USWE, Focus apparel, FMF, BRP, RAD custom graphics, A’ME grips, IWC motorsports, ATP mechanix, Northland motorsports, Rekluse, CryoHeat, and the MotoXerciser; it also looks like GoPro is jumping behind me and I can’t wait to see how their support improves my videos! I also want to thank my mechanic: Phil Valdez, my wife, family, our team sponsors, and all of my supporters.

In the end this turned out to be an outstanding weekend for me, but if there’s a lesson to be learned from the race, it’s how easily, and quickly, things can change. I think Gary Sutherlin may be back at Havasu, at least I hope so, along with Justin Seeds, and they’ll surely be fired up to get the right result, and get back in to the points chase. Hopefully Ivan and Eric Yorba will be fully recovered for Havasu as well, as they’re both showing they have the speed to challenge for wins, plus JJ will be back stronger. Blayne and Travis will be feeling the momentum of their first pro podiums (huge congrats to them by the way), and the rest of the pro field will be looking to make a big impact. All things considered, Havasu has all the ingredients for an exciting pro race; there’s just one month to prepare for those glorious sand whoops!

Robby Bell
www.robbybellracing.com

Thank you to each of our team sponsors: Precision Concepts, Dunlop, FMF, THR Motorsports, Maxima USA, Renthal, GPR stabilizer, CryoHeat, Rekluse, VP Race Fuels, IMS, BRP, LA Piston Co., A’ME grips, Braking, RK/Excel, ARC levers, DT1 filters, Acerbis, RAD custom graphics, Matrix Concepts, Zip-Ty, Boyesen, Seal Savers, MotoSeat, MotoHose, Northland Motorsports