Taylor Robert Wins Opening Round of WORCS in Nevada
Words & Photos By Harlen Foley
Taylor Robert made his first step toward defending his WORCS number-one plate a successful one by winning the season opener at Buffalo Bill’s Resort & Casino. Robert, on the FMF/KTM Racing 450 XC-F, got out in front early and managed to keep his teammate, Dante Oliveira, at bay for the next two hours to take the win.
The Primm race, which is held on the grounds of the Buffalo Bill’s Resort & Casino on the Nevada side of California/Nevada border just outside Las Vegas, featured an approximately 10-minute-lap racecourse and a technical Pro section made up of logs, rocks and K-rails.
In the Pro class, Robert jumped out to a third-place start, but the defending champion wouldn’t stay there for long. He quickly moved into second early in lap one, and then he set his sights on the leader, Zach Bell, on the Precision Concepts/Monster Energy Kawasaki. With Robert close behind, Bell started having shifting issues with his bike and started to pull into the pits on the opening lap. The bike seemed to sort itself out and Bell instead went back out and started chasing Robert until the transmission finally let go, putting Bell out of the race.
“The team and I are gutted for Zach,” Race Team Manager Robby Bell said. “He had the pace to challenge for the win, so for his day to end so soon was extremely disappointing. We’ll diagnose what happened, and be better for it moving forward, but it’s unfortunate this put Zach in such a deficit [in the championship] so early. Zach’s a true professional, showed a great attitude, and I have no doubt he’ll bounce back.”
Meanwhile, Robert’s teammate, Dante Oliveira eventually settled into second (after making a few early passes and moving up another position when Bell pulled in) and did his best not to let Robert get too far out front. Oliveira was riding well and managed to keep pace with the leader. For the next six laps, Oliveira maintained an approximately 10-second gap on Robert in what would end up being a 12-lap race. In fact, Oliveira recorded the quickest lap of the race on the second go-around with a blistering 9:13.244. In comparison, Robert’s best single lap was a 9:17.406 that he posted on the same lap. Up until lap seven, Oliveira and Robert maintained a similar pace before Oliveira started to crack, as his lap times began to wane ever so slightly, allowing Robert to get away for good.
But Robert couldn’t completely relax knowing Oliveira was never all that far behind. Robert eventually took the checkered flag 43 seconds ahead of his teammate, Oliveira, after two hours and seven seconds of racing.
“After I got by Zach [Bell], I kind of put the charge down,” Robert said. “Dante was riding really well and I couldn’t shake him. I just kept pushing through the whole two hours, and I think I was finally able to break him and just kind of kept an aggressive pace all the way through. It felt pretty good though. The track was nice and rough, which I liked.”
Oliveira made an opening-race statement that he has no intentions of rolling over and letting his veteran teammate ride off with another championship. He plans to show good speed and tenacity all race long.
“I got as many passes as I could [right off the start] and I got up to third on the first lap,” said Oliveira. “Then I chased Taylor the rest of the race. I wish I could have [gotten closer and] battled Taylor there, but it was still a great ride.”
Robert and Oliveira were in a class all their own on this day, finishing well ahead of the rest of the field. The next-best rider was 2018 WORCS Champion Giacomo Redondi who spent the 2019 season competing in the FIM Enduro World Championship. The Italian, however, is back living in California and is hoping to win back the WORCS number-one plate in 2020. Now riding for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna (he won the 2018 WORCS title riding for KTM), Redondi came into the Primm race not quite one hundred percent having suffered a broken nose earlier in training. It seemed to take Redondi a little while to warm up to the Primm track and fast speeds. He completed the first lap in fifth place, drifted back to seventh for a while before working his way up through the field. Redondi held fourth place from lap six through lap 11, then passed Honda rider Cole Martinez on the final go-around to join Robert and Oliveira on the podium.
“At the beginning, I tried to stay with the pack but after the first bit I tried to make my own pace,” Redondi said. “I was gaining time and catching up to the guys in front of me. I started the last lap really close to third and we finished on the box.
“It’s my dream to come back and race here so a big thank you to Husqvarna USA for the opportunity,” Redondi added. “I gritted my teeth today and did the best that I could. We’re super happy about the podium.”
Former WORCS champ Gary Sutherlin (Hatch Racing/KTM) pulled into the finish area less than 10 seconds behind Redondi for fourth place. Like Redondi, Sutherlin got stronger as the race progressed. The KTM rider completed the first lap in seventh but slowly worked his way up through the field.
Honda rider Trevor Stewart started off in sixth place, climbed as high as fourth but eventually crossed the finish line in fifth place, well behind Sutherlin.
Austin Walton (Husqvarna), Justin Seeds (Yamaha), Martinez, Ryan Surratt (Husqvarna) and Mitch Anderson (KTM) rounded out the top 10 and were the only other riders to finish on the lead lap.
In the Pro 2 class, KTM rider Austin Serpa took the early lead but slipped back to sixth before completing the first lap. The new leader was Mateo Oliveira (GasGas) but hot on his heels was Mason Ottersberg (Purvines Yamaha) of Arizona.
Oliveria led for the next eight (of 12) laps but, as hard as he tried, couldn’t shake Ottersberg. The largest gap Oliveria had over Ottersberg across the scoring chute each lap was just three seconds but most of the times it was a second or less!
By lap nine, Ottersberg had taken over the lead, but Oliveria stayed tough and pressured the new leader all the way to the finish line.
Ottersberg held on to take the win by just eight seconds over Oliveria.
“I just ran a steady race and I was able to wear him out,” said Ottersberg of his battle with Oliveira. “But those last two laps were stressful. Every time I hit those K-rails I tried to hit them clean. This is my first national win, so I was scared to death on that final lap.”
Oliveira admitted that the pressure of leading and being pursued so closely by Ottersberg finally got to him.
“For the first hour-30, he’d get me in the K-rails, and I’d get him back in the off-road,” said Oliveira. “I stayed in front of him, but we pitted, and I got a little tight after that. So, Mason got ahead of me and opened up a 13-second lead. I tried to charge on the final lap, but he was riding too good.”
Early leader Serpa finished out the race on the podium in third. But it was an adventure for him all the way. After taking the holeshot, seemingly nothing went right for KTM rider, Serpa. While picking his way through the first Pro section, he damaged the bike’s front wheel. After pitting for repairs, he later lost much of the use of his rear brake.
“My front end got tweaked on the first lap, and after the pit [stop], I broke my rear brake pedal, so I had minimal rear brakes,” said Serpa. “With all that considered I still got third so I can’t be too upset about it.”
Husqvarna rider Noah Kepple took fourth and was the last Pro 2 rider to finish on the lead lap (among all Pros). Kepple ran as high as third in the opening few laps and had the honor of recording the fastest Pro 2 lap time of the race on the first full lap with a 9:53.148. Oliveira was next best with a 9:54.503.
In Pro 2 Lights, Tyler Lynn had an eventful race. He struggled to get his bike to fire on the start line, spotting his competitors a big head-start in what would be an 11-lap race for the Pro 2 Lights riders. However, Lynn didn’t waste any time slicing his way through the 17-rider field. He was already in third place heading into the second lap, where he set the fastest lap time of the race with a 9:47.832. By the end of the lap, Lynn was leading the way and pulling away. He snatched the lead away from Kawasaki rider Jake Alvarez (Precision Concepts Kawasaki) and ended up taking the checkered flag 47 seconds ahead of him for the win.
“I was dead last at the start,” said Lynn. “I took off and made some quick passes before the first K-rail section. Once we got there, only three people hit the K-rails and that moved me to fourth. I made it up to second and just trailed Jake for a couple of laps. I got past him and just tried to build a lead from there.”
“I came out of the first lap in first,” Alverez said, “but Tyler was on it, took the lead, and I couldn’t catch up to him. I’ve been off the bike for a while so it’s awesome to kick off the season with a podium.”
KTM rider Angus Riordan, who has a lot of experience in endurocross racing, bounced back and forth between third and fourth place throughout the race, but the Californian nabbed the final spot on the podium with no one in the class around him. For a while, he diced with his brother, Will, before pulling away after lap seven. Will Riordan ended up fourth.
“My experience in endurocross really came in handy today with the pro sections,” said Riordan. “My brother and I were battling at the halfway point and then he got stuck in the pro section. I got by him, and beat my brother!”
KTM rider Thomas Jones of Nevada rounded out the top five in class.
Five riders made up the Women’s Pro division, where Brandy Richards (KTM) began her defense of the Pro Women title on the right foot. She got off to a great start by winning, finishing well ahead of Lauren Woods (KTM) and Kaitlyn Jacobs (KTM). Richards led from start to end and had plenty of room to spare at the finish line, taking the checkered flag more than seven minutes ahead of Woods.
However, it was much closer—just 20 seconds—between runner-up Woods and third-place Jacobs.
Britney Gallegos (Husqvarna) and Sharon Mowell (Yamaha) completed the finishing order. CN
- Taylor Robert (KTM)
- Dante Oliveira (KTM)
- Giacomo Redondi (Hus)
- Gary Sutherlin (KTM)
- Trevor Stewart (Hon)
- Mason Ottersberg (Hus)
- Mateo Oliveira (GG)
- Austin Serpa (KTM)
- Noah Kepple (Hus)
- Kai Aiello (Hus)
PRO 2 LIGHTS
- Tyler Lynn (Yam)
- Jake Alvarez (Kaw)
- Angus Riordan (KTM)
- Will Riordan (KTM)
- Thomas Jones (KTM)