FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team’s Dante Oliveira wrapped up his fourth-consecutive FMF AMA National Grand Prix Championship (NGPC) Series title by winning the eighth and penultimate round of the series, the Desert Classic Grand Prix hosted by the Viewfinders Motorcycle Club, September 30–October 1.
Based on rider feedback, the club revamped the course centered at the Desert Empire Fairgrounds and surrounding city streets to slow speeds somewhat, making it a bit longer in the process while keeping the water trucks and heavy equipment rolling all weekend to provide great conditions for Ridgecrest.
It also seemed to result in closer racing, with former series champ Zach Bell and his Chaparral Motorsports/Precision Concepts Kawasaki leading the early going and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Austin Walton finishing just three seconds behind Oliveira at the end of the 90-minute, $8000 feature race, his second runner-up finish in a row. Purvines Racing Yamaha-mounted Justin Hoeft claimed third, 21 seconds farther back for his second podium of the season.
“[Bell] came up, I think, on lap three and started really pushing and got in front of me for a few miles then blew off the track, and I ended up getting back around him,” the Red Bull/ Motorex/ Thor-supported 450 XC-F rider said. “I put my head down from there, just trying to be smooth and continued charging. I saw Walton was back there charging; Justin was there and [his teammate] Trevor [Stewart] was there, and [Ryan] Surratt—they were all within, like, 10 seconds right there behind me so there was really no room to let off. It was a good way to come back after summer break.”
After eight rounds, Oliveira has five wins and 202 points on his Bobby Dawson-prepared bike, 42 points ahead of fourth-place finisher JCR Honda’s Ryan Surratt at 160 points, Walton sitting third with 154 and the series finale in two weeks at Lake Havasu City.
For Walton and his Motorex/ VP Racing Fuels/ Fly Racing FX 450, his runner-up result validated the ongoing testing he’s done over the summer.
“It feels good to be back on the podium. Dante’s riding awesome—congrats to him—but we were pushing hard, and I think we were catching him,” Walton said. “We had the pace for a first-place finish, but we didn’t have enough time.
“It is what it is. It’s awesome to put that kind of performance in and feel that good on the bike and see the progression and feel the progression we’ve made. I feel like the team’s coming together; we’re working our butts off, and we’re finding comfort for me [in bike setup]. I can’t thank my mechanic Dave Feeney enough—this one’s for Dave. I didn’t get the win, but it’s still for Dave. I’m bummed he’s not here, but I’m super glad to have Tanner [Tremaine] filling in this weekend.”
Third place was Hoeft’s first podium since his runner-up finish at round six, the Berkeley Yamaha/ FMF/ Fasthouse YZ450F rider, said, “They were right there on the white flag! They weren’t too far ahead, maybe 10 seconds. But that last lap, I made a couple of mistakes because I was trying maybe a little too hard, and I was over-riding a little bit.
“All in all, it was a really good day for me—I came through the pack to the podium, so it’s good.”
After fourth-place Surratt, Stewart, LiquiMoly Beta’s Dare DeMartile, Slam Life Racing (SLR) Honda’s Cole Martinez and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna-mounted Dalton Shirey crossed the finish line.
Ninth overall and first Pro II went to SLR Honda’s Kade Tinkler-Walker. Five points behind Purvines Racing Yamaha rider Jack Simpson going into the weekend, his class victory combined with Simpson’s runner-up finish means they go into the finale tied at 186 points. Basically, whoever beats the other wins the Pro II title.
“I’ve never been here before, so I kind of tried to see how the race would come to me,” the CRF250R-mounted Canadian said. After sitting behind early leader JP Alvarez and his FMF/RPM Racing Team KTM, the Honda Pilot moved into the lead.
“Normally, I’m not the greatest on wide-open tracks, but I’ve been working on that a lot with Ty [Davis],” Walker said. “I had to win today—that was my sole goal. When I saw I was catching Jake [Alvarez] a little bit, I just dropped the hammer, and I gave it all that Honda 250 had.”
Walker stayed two spots ahead of Simpson throughout the afternoon and ended up besting the Australian by 23 seconds, with FMF KTM’s Mateo Oliveira splitting them at 10th overall.
In Pro Women’s, KTM’s Brandy Richards came out of the summer break with a thumb injury that’s prevented her from training normally.
“I was out there hiking it seems like 10, 15 miles a day,” she said. “My fitness is very, very good; I’m happy with where it’s at with all the cycling and stuff. The riding, just not being on the bike much lately, I felt a little bit uncomfortable at first but then kind of got into it. The last half hour, I was just trying to survive—my thumb hurt so bad!”
Richards earned 36th overall, while class runner-up Mikayla Nielsen finished 41st, one minute and 25 seconds behind on her Dunlop/Piston Bones/Alpinestars KTM. Hatch Racing/3 Bros. GasGas-mounted Ava Silvestri claimed third for the day.
With just the finale to go, however, Silvestri leads Nielsen in points by a single point, 192-191. Having missed four rounds due to an early-season leg injury, Richards holds fourth with 120 points, FMF/RPM Racing KTM rider Kaitlyn Jacobs sits third at 151 points after finishing a mechanically slowed fifth on the day.
- Dante Oliveira (KTM)
- Austin Walton (Hus)
- Justin Hoeft (Yam)
- Ryan Surratt (Hon)
- Trevor Stewart (Yam)
- Dare Demartile (Bet)
- Cole Martinez (Hon)
- Dalton Shirey (Hus)
- Kade Tinkler-Walker (Hon)
- Mateo Oliveira (KTM)