Having wrapped up the overall Pro Championship at round eight of the Viewfinders MC’s Desert Classic GP, FMF KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team’s Dante Oliveira had nothing to prove at the Vikings Motorcycle Club’s Lake Havasu Grand Prix, the ninth and final round of the FMF AMA National Grand Prix Championship (NGPC) Series. But that didn’t mean he was going to let up at the season finale. After he and brother/teammate Mateo started at the back of the pack, they steadily worked their way forward until Mateo took the overall lead about 30 minutes into the race aboard his Red Bull/Motorex/Thor-backed 450 XC-F. He had his eye on the $8000 purse.
Words and Photography By Mark Kariya
“It took a little longer than I was hoping for to get up front, and I was obviously kind of spent by the time I got up there, so there wasn’t a whole lot of sprinting going on,” Mateo admitted. “The goal with the whole team this week was to go out there and give it everything and, honestly, if we go from first to last, it doesn’t matter—just drain the tank and get some good knowledge for next year.
“I got to race with my brother for the first time this year, so that was pretty sweet and just leading laps again was pretty cool for me. I look forward to doing that more.”
Mateo slipped back to third late in the race, giving way to his brother Dante and Honda rider Cole Martinez.
Dante’s ride to the front of the field wasn’t an easy one by any means, after getting a bad start and then encountering a downed motorcycle on the track.
“I definitely had my work cut out for me,” Dante said. “Oh, my goodness, the start? And then I landed on some kid’s bike off the lagoon jump and went over the bars. I was frustrated trying to charge after that—almost went down a couple of times more, spun out in the pits. I had to relax a little bit [and] regroup.”
Regroup he did. He took the win 25 seconds ahead of SLR Honda’s Cole Martinez with Mateo rounding out the podium for the first time this season.
Purvines Racing’s Justin Hoeft took fourth ahead of teammate Trevor Stewart, Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda’s Ryan Surratt, 3 Bros./Hatch Racing GasGas rider Giacomo Redondi (who went undefeated in 30+ Open AA this season), Walker, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Austin Walton and Pro II runner-up Parker Ross.
In final Pro points, Dante Oliveira came out on top with 232 followed by Surratt’s 175 and Walton at 167.
There were several titles on the line coming into the finale, one of which was in the Pro2 division. Purvines Racing Yamaha’s Jack Simpson entered the finale tied at the top with Slam Life Racing (SLR) Honda’s Kade Tinkler-Walker at 186 points. The math was simple: whoever beat the other would earn the championship.
“It was all just pretty much on this race,” said Simpson, who’d led the points until round eight.
“It honestly played out pretty much how I expected. Me and Kade always seem to find each other on the track—not dirty or anything like that. For some reason, we don’t have the best of starts, and we’re always coming through the pack together. He didn’t really make any mistakes today. It was brutal out there, and we had our tongue in our sprocket.”
Though he trailed Walker by only a few seconds for much of the afternoon on his Berkeley Yamaha/Precision Concepts/O’Neal Racing YZ250F, a late-race spill spoiled his rhythm and left him with too large a gap to surmount. Walker’s teammate Parker Ross also slipped past him.
Recalling his equally poor start aboard his Monster Energy/Lava Propane/Fly Racing CRF250RX, Walker said, “My sense of urgency to get to the front has always been pretty good so I just wicked it and got to the front before the halfway mark.
“I was out front, then I crashed, and I lost a lot of energy from that. It was hot, so I was just trying to maintain the lead and was just clicking off laps until the end. Sick! I got the championship, and big thanks to the team.”
He finished eighth overall on the day, with Ross 10th and Simpson 11th. Points-wise, Walker ended up with 216 to Simpson’s 207, while 3 Bros./Hatch Racing KTM’s Colton Aeck—who was fourth in class on the day—was third in points at 167.
“I think I’m going to skip water polo practice tomorrow,” an exhausted Mikayla Nielsen said after finishing second in the Women’s Pro class, which was decided at the last round, too. She chased the eventual winner and fellow KTM rider Brandy Richards.
But, in doing so, Nielsen stayed ahead of 3 Bros./Hatch Racing GasGas rider Ava Silvestri, and that’s exactly what she needed to do to supplant perennial champ Richards, whose early season injury forced her to miss too many rounds to figure in the championship picture.
Dunlop/Piston Bones/Alpinestars KTM-mounted Nielsen started the weekend one point behind Silvestri, so whoever beat the other would claim the crown.
“It was a little hard mentally [knowing that] and psyching myself out,” first-year Pro Nielsen said. “But I know I’m a good rider, so I came to the line thinking, ‘I’m just going to put it all out there,’ and ended up on top, but I didn’t have the best race if I’m being honest. I fell twice, and halfway through, I was kind of losing energy.”
For FMF/Dunlop/Troy Lee Designs EX 250F rider Silvestri, treating this like another race was the plan. “Last year, when I was in this same situation in the Hare and Hound series, I think I just let it get to me a little too much, and I think it affected my riding. So, I came to this one and tried to stay calm—it’s just another race. Clearly, it didn’t work out to my liking, but we’re still happy to finish out the year successfully.”
The final points showed Nielsen with 216, despite missing one round, Silvestri at 213, followed by FMF/RPM Racing KTM’s Kaitlyn Jacobs with 169 and Richards at 150. CN
- Dante Oliveira (KTM)
- Cole Martinez (Hon)
- Mateo Oliveira (KTM)
- Justin Hoeft (Yam)
- Trevor Stewart (Yam)
- Ryan Surratt (Hon)
- Giacomo Redondi (GG)
- Kade Tinkler-Walker (Hon)
- Austin Walton (Hus)
- Parker Ross (Hon)