Stung by immediate post-race rider reviews calling last year’s race too easy, Jimmy Lewis designed a far more difficult course for this year’s Schampa 2018 King of the Motos (KOM).
In fact, at the end of three different races, or motos, around Hammertown at the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area outside of Landers, California, FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team’s Cody Webb was the only rider to complete the entire 2018 King of the Motosm race within the allotted time. All others missed the cutoff time to go out on the final loop of the extra-long third moto, many having lost significant time searching for a waypoint that Webb also overlooked, though he successfully gambled on putting enough distance on his pursuers that it outweighed any penalty.
So, after much discussion and calculations, Lewis declared Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Colton Haaker the 2018 King of the Motos runner-up with Beta’s Max Gerston third.
Ironically, missing a check at the 2017 King of the Motos stripped Webb of the win so when he realized he’d missed one this year, he said, “I started thinking, ‘Oh man, I lost the race again!’ “But I knew a lot of the other guys…they told me when I came in [to the pits] that a lot of other guys missed it, so I started thinking in my head about the points, like, ‘Kamo got fourth this morning and if he gets first, that might be enough [to win], I don’t know, but I’ll finish!’ “As soon as I heard that, I put my head down and pretty much sprinted that whole last lap. I changed my [rear] tire [to one with a stickier compound] and messed with my clickers because I was getting beat up that first lap. I felt I ripped that second loop around there, trying to make some time and it ended up working out that those guys didn’t make it to the [pits by the cutoff time].”
Webb started the 2018 King of the Motos weekend by dominating the short first moto, run on Saturday night at the 2018 King of the Motos, that started by going up Jackhammer, out on a loop that for Pros visited Jackhammer again a few miles later (when it was still littered with Amateurs who’d only made it that far) and finished by going down Chocolate Thunder. Defending KOM champion Haaker was a few minutes back for second with Gas Gas North America’s Noah Kepple third.
The first thing Sunday morning found the Pros only going out for an even shorter but tougher moto, including a run up Backdoor. Again, Webb ran away with Haaker second and Gerston third in a preview of things to come.
However, the biggest challenge lay in the third moto. Not only would riders need to tackle a lot of extremely difficult desert, they’d also have to be on the bike for at least six or seven hours, constantly paying attention to navigating. The first loop saw them go west towards The Rockpile off Bessemer Mine Road, and this is the area that proved to hide one particularly elusive waypoint.
As Webb noted, “At the beginning of the race, I felt like I had the GPS following pretty good, but somehow I missed that check. Every time Colton would get in the lead, all of a sudden I found myself in the lead right after again because he’d make a navigation error. The GPS did a lot of people dirty this year. Me, I was one of them,” Kepple said. “It’s a little confusing with the GPS. There’s no arrows on the [GPS] tracks so you don’t really know if you’re going the right way on which track and some of them overlap.”
He continued, “[Lewis] built an awesome course for us to test our skills on, but I’m pretty bummed with how the last race went.”
Haaker added, “I was right behind Cody when I went to fix my mistake [and find the waypoint], but it ended up costing me an extra 45 minutes to run this extra [distance] so by the time I came back to do my third loop, I ran out of time because I went to fix that mistake where Jimmy’s throwing [that waypoint] out and saying it doesn’t matter because I did it out of order, but out of order to me doesn’t matter when you don’t put the checkpoints in sequential order [on the GPS track].”
Gerston was likewise confused with how the 2018 King of the Motos results were determined, saying, “I was told when I finished that if you didn’t hit the checkpoints in order, then they didn’t even count and I did the whole loop backwards. I hit all the checkpoints but not in order, then now it looks like that’s okay. The main emotion of the day was frustration.”
After being the first of the top finishers to hit all the waypoints, PCI Race Radios KTM-mounted Kamo believed he was runner-up to Webb. Instead, he was informed later that he’d earned fifth place, a frustrating turn of events for him as well.
But those who looked for a tougher KOM this year got their wish, and it proved to be a popular way to kick off the hugely popular 12th Annual Nitto King of the Hammers, Powered by Optima Batteries week.
Results available at www.ultra4racing.com.