Following a personally disappointing third-place finish at the series opener a few weeks ago, FMF KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team’s Dante Oliveira bounced back at round two—the Dirt Diggers Motorcycle Club’s Samantha Clark Memorial Taft Grand Prix—and came out on top of an action-packed round two of the FMF AMA National Grand Prix Championship (NGPC) Series.
In doing so, he moved up to second in points behind round-one winner and round-two runner-up Ryan Surratt of the Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda squad. Slam Life Racing (SLR) Honda’s Cole Martinez rounded out the podium on a day marked by a number of come-from-behind rides as well as spills on the 6.8-mile course around the Honolulu Hills Raceway property that provided the best conditions seen at the venue in years.
Former series champ Zach Bell got his Chaparral Motorsports/Precision Concepts Kawasaki’s engine fired and launched into the first turn at the head of the pack followed closely by Purvines Racing Yamaha-mounted Justin Hoeft and Oliveira. However, it was Hoeft in front at the end of a lap. Less than 30 minutes into the 90-minute, $8000 feature race, Oliveira and his Red Bull KTM 450 XC-F had the lead that he’d keep the rest of the afternoon.
“Everybody goes and they send it super-hard the first couple laps,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but I don’t feel it sometimes, so I take a breather myself and find my lines, get my groove in and once it hits me, I’m freakin’ on.” Reflecting on his third place at round one, he added, “It was a good slap in the face and I needed it, like a little reality check, like, ‘Calm down, dude!’ All in all, I think it was good for me.”
Surratt had a mediocre start (as a motocrosser, he’s unfamiliar with the dead-engine starts which are now mandatory in NGPC) but made some moves on his JCR CRF450RX to complete the first lap in seventh. Having won more than he’s lost so far this year, he picked off rider after rider, finally climbing into second place less than an hour in.
“I got close to Dante, but once I got close to him, we got into lappers and the lappers would let him by then push me off the track, so I started losing time [when that happened], then we went back and forth,” Surratt said. “Overall, it was still a really good day. I showed everybody I’ve got the speed on wet dirt and dry dirt. I came from the back and made a lot of passes on a track that you can’t really make too many passes on.”
But Martinez had even more ground to make up after getting off the line last when his SLR CRF450RX balked at the dead-engine start.
“I knew I had my work cut out,” he said. “I didn’t get to ride practice yesterday due to some family stuff, but I made the most of [track time today]. I really had to be smart and be focused today. I feel like I focused really good and I’m happy with how it turned out. Maybe at the halfway mark, I was like, ‘All right, I need to make it happen. Big picture, if you want to [have a shot at the championship], you’ve got to make it happen!’”
Surratt retains the points lead with 55 compared to Oliveira at 51 and Martinez at 39.
Hoeft held on for fourth, which is where he also sits in points at 33. Ninth early on, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Austin Walton also clawed his way through the pack and ended up fifth followed by FMF KTM’s Mateo Oliveira, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Dalton Shirey, 3 Bros./Hatch Racing GasGas rider Giacomo Redondi and Canadian motocrosser/FIM Enduro GP veteran Kade Tinkler-Walker, the Pro II winner in his series debut.
“I’ve been in Europe for the past 10 years and I’ve been looking at this championship for a long time. I’m just happy to be over here [until I go back to Canada for my contracted races],” the LiquiMoly Beta/Leatt 250 RR rider said. Second Pro 250 at the first AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series race two weeks ago, Tinkler-Walker said, “This week, [Ty Davis and I] came in with a little better bike setup and a little bit more of a game plan ahead of this race. At the hare & hound, I didn’t go in with a game plan; I kind of went there and winged it.”
Pro II runner-up Colton Aeck on his 3 Bros./Hatch Racing KTM and Purvines Racing Yamaha’s Jack Simpson were a second apart at 10th and 11th overall, respectively.
Not too far behind them in 21st overall was Pro Women winner Brandy Richards and her KTM 250 XC-F. Despite being in the middle of high school water polo championship time, KTM-mounted Mikayla Nielsen went one better than her class debut and claimed second with 3 Bros./Hatch Racing GasGas rider Ava Silvestri third after a hectic week recovering a stolen van, bike and associated gear.
- Dante Oliveira (KTM)
- Ryan Surratt (Hon)
- Cole Martinez (Hon)
- Justin Hoeft (Yam)
- Austin Walton (Hus)
- Mateo Oliveira (KTM)
- Dalton Shirey (Hus)
- Giacomo Redondi (GG)
- Kade Tinkler-Walker (Bet)
- Colton Aeck (KTM)
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