Dante Oliveira Outduels Taylor Robert To Win WORCS Season Opener
Words and Photos by Harlen Foley
KTM’s Dante Oliveira fought it out with Taylor Robert and held him off by a scant three seconds to win the season opening Rocky Mountain ATV-MC WORCS Series Pro Motorcycle race. RPM KTM’s Mateo Oliveira won the debut Pro 250 race, while SLR Honda’s Evan Stice was elevated to first place in the Pro-Am event.
The event was held at Crazy Horse Campground, home of the famous Lagoon Jump, which was redesigned to be bigger and better than ever, and more than 1400 racers were entered in the event. Intermittent rain started Sunday morning and lingered into the start of the Pro races, and the track was a rough as ever for the two-hour feature, but fortunately, the skies cleared shortly after the race got underway, though temps remained chilly in the mid 50s.
In the Pro race, Oliveira and Robert fell back at the start due to the drizzly and slick conditions. After two laps the rain tapered off and Oliveira began to charge, taking third place 30 minutes into the event, and then the lead about halfway through. Robert charged back and Oliveira held him off by three seconds at the finish.
Justin Hoeft finished third.
“I had an awesome battle with a bunch of guys today,” said Oliveira who scored his third consecutive victory counting last season. “Taylor kept charging on me and we played cat and mouse for the second hour. We were three seconds apart for the last three laps. It was a great battle and I’m beat right now, but it was a great win.”
Oliveira had a breakout season in 2020, leading the KTM team to sign him to a factory deal in the off-season. Teamed with the defending champion, Robert, with what is arguably one of off-road racing’s top factory teams, should pay off big for Oliveira in 2021.
“My bike was awesome and it was just eating up the bumps,” said Oliveira. “I don’t have to worry about the bike; I just show up and race.”
Fresh off winning his second consecutive championship, Robert was up to his usual competitiveness. He ran just behind Oliveira for most of the race and was definitely there at the end if Oliveira had a miscue.
“I made a mistake about two thirds of the way through the race and had to come back from that,” said Robert. “Dante just didn’t make any mistakes and he was riding really well. We were super close the whole time and we were both pushing really hard.”
Hoeft returned to WORCS competition this season after having last run the season as a youth racer. He left off-road to pursue a motocross career but elected to go back to his roots this season. He seems to have made the right decision as he scored the final spot on the podium.
“I grew up doing WORCS when I was eight years old, but then I started doing motocross,” said Hoeft. “There wasn’t a lot of racing going on, so I came back to WORCS, and I’m having a lot of fun. Two hours was definitely challenging, but I’m on the podium, and I’m planning to run the whole season.”
Austin Walton made his return to racing after being sidelined after scoring his first Pro win at Blythe last season, but in his 2021 debut he finished fourth on his Husqvarna.
“I had a few spills in the corners from going in too hot and getting a little lazy,” he said. “This track was very demanding. I made a last-minute change to my suspension and that made a world of difference. It was a grueling race.”
WORCS made several changes in the offseason, including replacing Pro 2 with Pro 250 and expanding the Pro 2 Lights class to allow for larger displacement motorcycles and renaming it Pro Am
In Pro 250, Mateo Oliveira came back in 2021 right where he left off last season, with a victory on his RPM KTM. After battling with Chance Hymas and taking the lead on lap five he charged hard to extend his gap. Hymas was second, followed by Tallon Lafountaine.
“Chance had a little more pace at the beginning, but after five laps in, I got around him and tried to put in a charge,” he said. “This track was super demanding and I’m grateful to get out here healthy and with a win. The new class is sweet and I’m super grateful for WORCS making this a premiere class.”
Hymas was contesting his first-ever WORCS race on his Kawasaki, though it didn’t show. He fought hard with Oliveira early on before settling into a good pace to finish second. He said his training regimen is going to expand so he can get used the longer the race format.
“This is my first WORCS race and this is super fun,” said Hymas. “I had a lot of fun, but two hours was something else. I need to work on my endurance for the next round.”
Lafountaine said he had trouble getting back into the groove and finding the right line during the race. Riding a Honda, he scored the final spot on the podium, but ever the professional, he was left hungry for more.
“I was okay for the first 30 minutes,” Lafountaine said. “I tried to start charging after the pit and I didn’t have it, so this was a long and grueling race. I had trouble finding the flow.”
In Pro Am, the first-place finisher was disqualified for going outside the pins, which elevated WORCS first-timer Evan Stice to victory on his SLR Racing’s Honda. Alex Morgan was second, ahead of Brandy Richards.
“This was my first WORCS race and it was long,” said Stice. “It was a good race. I was eighth off the start. I just rode my laps today and it worked out.”
Morgan’s runner-up finish marked his return to the WORCS podium. Aboard a Husqvarna this season, Morgan is looking for big things in 2021, and his riding showed he has the handle on his Husky.
“It’s been almost seven years since I’ve been on a Pro WORCS podium so this means a lot to me,” said Morgan. “I want to contend for this thing, and I feel like I have figured out how on this Husqvarna.”
Richards showed the boys how it’s done, as the Colorado native overcame an injured wrist to finish third on her KTM. Riding a 350 gave her more confidence on the tough track as she battled childhood friend Morgan throughout.
“I’m really stoked with the class change and giving more people a chance in the Pro classes,” Richards said. “Alex and I were having a great battle, but I had a wreck yesterday in Pro Women, and I have a bum wrist. So, I was just holding on for the last half an hour. Alex and I are good friends, and we grew up racing together so it’s always fun racing with him.”
Richards also kept up her winning streak in the Pro Women class, winning despite the crash. Taylor Allred was second, ahead of Ava Silvestri. All were riding KTMs. Richards is happy to see that the competitiveness of the Pro Women class has led to more woman and girls competing.
“I love seeing more and more little girls out here racing in the some of the youth classes,” said Richards. “Women in racing is really growing and I see more and more every year. That’s always good to see.”
- Dante Oliveira (KTM)
- Taylor Robert (KTM)
- Justin Hoeft (Hus)
- Mateo Oliveira (KTM)
- Chance Hymas (Kaw)
- Tallon Lafountaine (Hon)
- Evan Stice (Hon)
- Alex Morgan (Hus)
- Brandy Richards (KTM)