2012 AMA Racing West Hare Scrambles Championship Round 1 Arizona Cycle Park
By Dave Brosius
Photos by Blue Shift Images
Kyle Summers Repeats in Arizona.
Out in the Wild Wild West, the AMA off-road racing season kicks off the first full weekend in January. For the third year in a row Arizona Cycle Park played host to the AMA West Hare Scrambles Championship opening round, presented by GPR, MotoCity, Flexx Bars and Leatt. The Arizona desert welcomed riders from Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Nevada, Montana, California, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Texas, the AMRA gang from Arizona and two racers from Canada. All of the riders shared the same comment as KTM’s Patrick Garrahan after walking the 8.2 mile course, “This is going to be one tough race. A true off-road national course, man is it going to take skill, conditioning and proper bike preparation just to finish this race.”
With 22 Pro/AA riders on the line the tension was high. Riders only had one question on their mind before the dead engine start, am I ready for two and half hours of all out racing? With a wave of the green flag, the 2012 AMA National off-road racing season would roar to life. Taking the IGY Recovery hole shot would be Justin Bonita on a borrowed KTM 2-stroke with Valli Yamaha rider Kyle Summers in his roost. The course started on the motocross track and as the riders attacked a short endurocross section they began to sort out the running order. Kyle Summers took the lead just before blasting into the desert. Also on the move was Canadian Cory Graffunder on his “box stock” Husqvarna TC 511. Graffunder used his endurocross skills to move from seventh, off the starting line, into fourth, just behind Ross Neely, as they hit the single track. With clean air, Summers increased his lead over Bonita, Neely and Graffunder. “Once in the lead I had to sprint. I put my trust in my team [Valli Racing] to see if all of our hard work would keep me up front. The bike was working great and the team had done their job; now it was just up to me to do mine.” said Summers at the finish line. The race for second was a full on war to find clean air. Bonita’s KTM was still in second, but Graffunder had made the pass on Ross Neely for third. Not far behind was Colorado’s Eric Rhoten in fifth keeping his Yamaha pinned in the sand. “I have two new bikes at home” said Eric, “but I won’t see my big tanks till the end of the month, so I prepped the Yamaha and came to race.”
Leading the AMRA riders was Eric Bailey on his Future Shocks, Steve Hatch Racing KX 450, followed by teenager David Broderick and Yamaha racer James Koch. Broderick’s race was almost a DNS. As David kicked the bike, to warm it up for the dead engine start, the kick starter broke on his 450. In a panic, the team ran back to the pits, gassed up his AEO Kawasaki 250F practice bike and hoped he would make the start. He just made it to the line before the flag was waved and was off on the back-up bike. At the end of the eight laps and in a time of 2 hours and 31 seconds of true off-road racing it would be Bailey on the top of the box with Honda rider Mitch Carvolth in second. Broderick took his Kawasaki to a well deserved third place after all of the drama at the start of the race
In the Open A class it was a brake out ride for the Maxxis, Leatt, Northland Kawasaki rider Killian Woder. The Las Vegas racer was on a KX450 for the first time and took the top position in the A class. “I unloaded the bike and had a fork seal leaking. My dad was ready to take the fork apart when Bruce, from Seal Tech, came over and used a tool he invented and cleaned out the seal. It worked perfect, stopped the leak and now we have one in our tool box.” Chasing Woder from the start was Mason Otterersberg riding a KX 250 two stroke. The two riders were within 5 seconds of each other swapping the lead numerous times in the first 3 laps. Luck would run out for Mason on lap four as the bike would let him down ending his day. Taking advantage of the situation was Montana’s Wes Luly and Yamaha rider Mike Morretino. All three of these riders would total eight laps, one more lap than the rest of the A class riders except one old guy. Having an amazing ride was 50+ rider Ned Lowerre. The racing fireman not only won his class on his Maxxis, UFO Suspension, KTM , but he also finished third overall in the A class and sixth overall in the combined AA/A classes.
At the half way point Summers was still in the lead, but Cory Graffunder and Jordan Brandt had taken advantage of a mechanical problem for Bonita and a big crash by Ross Neely, to take over second and third. Behind the front runners, both Eric Rhoten and Patrick Garrahan were using their experience to move into the top five. Just as it looked like all of the Pro riders were set in their race pace, Husky rider, Graffunder would make an extended pit stop. “The rear brakes started to fail and they just stopped working. The bike I am riding today is a 100% stock TC 511 that was loaned to me by Husqvarna. I guess I should have changed the brake fluid.” he said at the end of the race. The Woder pit crew tried to bleed the brakes, but no luck and Graffunder would ride the next 45 minuets with only front brakes to maintain his second place position. Trying to gain ground on the Husky rider was Brandt, but he was having some minor bike problems as well. A small oil leak was seen on his last gas stop and the decision was to ride smarter not harder to the finish line.
As time ticked away, Kyle Summers realized he would have to make another lap and put his Valli Yamaha on cruise control with a solid eight minute lead over Cory’s Husky. Brandt was saving his bike, but at the same time was closing the gap on second place. Graffunder told his friends at the finish line “I was looking at my watch mounted on my bike and thought that time would be up when I got to the finish. I saw the flagman with the checker in his hand, but he wasn’t waving it. The clock showed there were thirteen seconds left and now I had one more lap to survive, so I pushed on for one more lap. Brandt’s day was over as the flag waved when time was up, but out on the course Summers and Graffunder would have to keep there machines running and stay off the ground one more time.
As the fans gathered at the finish line, to see who would survive this truly challenging off-road course at Arizona Cycle Park, the strong sound of of Kyle Summers Yamaha could be heard in the distance. Then Summers, with his Valli team members cheering him on, would take his second victory at the opening round of the AMA West Hare Scrambles Championship. Another seven minutes passed before the strong Canadian racer Cory Graffunder on the “loaned” Husqvarna would cross the finish line for a well deserved second place on the stock 2012 Husqvarna.
On the podium all three riders agreed that was a “true national course and tested all the skills the riders had.” Kyle thank the Valli crew for giving him a great bike to ride, “We have been testing and our hard work paid off today. This was a great course, I have a great team and the Yamaha YZ 450 was the perfect bike today.” Second place rider, Cory Graffunder was all smiles up on the box. “I didn’t have a bike until last week. I don’t have a ride for 2012, things are kind of weird right now, but Husky said I could use a new 511 so, I said thanks prepped the bike myself and came to the race.” Graffunder went on to thank his sponsors AXO, Bell Helmets, Rich Taylor at X-Brand Goggles, Dunlop, IGY Recovery Products, Fasst Co, Motion Pro, Acerbis, the Woder family and Kris Goolsby. Jordan Brandt earned a hard fought third place on his Mach 1 Yamaha and said “I want to thank my dad for all he does, Richard at Dick’s Suspension, his set-up just works and the guys at Mach 1 for providing this Yamaha for me to race.”
The gang at ACP and the Club OHV85 want to thank the racers, their families, friends and the off-road community for there support of this event. Round 2 of the AMA HS Championship will take the riders to Paicines, California February 18-19, so make your plans for great season of off-road racing..