Though the weather forecasters practically promised a rainy mud race, the Dirt Diggers Motorcycle Club’s 78th annual Honolulu Hills Grand Prix at Honolulu Hills Raceway turned out to be a relatively dry but very rough race.
As round two of the Parts Unlimited AMA National Grand Prix Championship (NGPC) Series, Presented by FMF, it also saw a repeat of round one’s top three, with four-time and reigning series champ Dante Oliveira as the winner, followed by Dare DeMartile and Justin Hoeft.
Purvines Racing/Simi Valley Cycles Yamaha rider Hoeft grabbed the holeshot at the start of the $8000, 90-minute feature race with FMF KTM Factory Racing Off-Road Team’s Mateo Oliveira, Slam Life Racing (SLR) Honda’s Cole Martinez, Liqui Moly Beta standout DeMartile and the rest of the pack in tow.
Dante Oliveira was of course in that pack too, though the FMF KTM Factory Racing Off-Road Team’s champ said he wasn’t concerned.
“I didn’t get the best start, but I think it might have been for the better because I was able to see the track a little bit more,” Oliveira said. “It opened it up and [let me] find a couple of smoother lines that ended up working out for me. Everybody was on it today and it was a brutal course—you had to be on your toes,” he added. “It was choppy with the ruts and everything. There was no smooth line!”
Those smoother lines he did find got him to the front after about 30 minutes with DeMartile glued to his rear fender. In fact, DeMartile’s persistent speed let him get around Oliveira less than an hour in, and he sprinted to put his Beta 480 RR nine seconds ahead of the champ—the biggest gap of the race between them.
“I got off to an okay start and put my head down and started making some moves,” DeMartile said. “I didn’t know where Dante was until he ended up getting around me. When he got around me, we got around Justin quickly, and then it was just the me-and-Dante show. Basically, we were running as hard as we could and really pushing the limit the last two laps. Unfortunately, on the second-to-last lap, I made a little mistake, and he got a little gap on me, and in the final lap, the lappers didn’t really go my way.”
“I had a little arm pump in the beginning laps, and it was hard,” Hoeft said after finishing 21 seconds behind DeMartile. “This was one of the gnarlier tracks I’ve done in off-road, and being so rutty—I was fighting bike setup—I had too soft of a setting, but it was good overall. I’m super-happy to be on the podium [again]. Dare and Dante were on the gas!”
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Off-Road Racing Team’s Austin Walton was just three seconds off the podium (and had the welts to prove it!), while SLR Honda teammates Martinez and Tyler Lynn took fifth and sixth.
Purvines Yamaha rider Trevor Stewart overcame a “near-death” moment to claim seventh, followed by Mateo Oliveira and Pro II winner Mason Semmens. Proving his 12th overall finish at round one in Delano was no fluke, the Australian native and new FMF/KTM RPM Racing Team recruit, Semmens, said, “I pumped up a little bit in the first laps and was just trying to read the track and made a few mistakes. Once we got to the gas stop, I put my head down, and fortunately for me but unfortunately for my teammate Jake [Alvarez], he had a little bit of a crash, and that gave me a little bit of a breather.”
Semmens and his KTM 250 XC-F ended up with a 26-second cushion over his teammate Alvarez. Hatch Racing Kawasaki rider Colton Aeck rounded out the Pro II podium and was 11th overall.
Though 3Bros./Hatch Racing GasGas-mounted Ava Silvestri got a rare holeshot, SLR Honda’s Mikayla Nielsen repeated her round-one victory with a 20-second cushion over Silvestri at the finish.
“Taft is always one of my favorites. I really flow on it—at least, I think so!” Nielsen said. “I felt good the whole race, but my body was hurting from how gnarly this track was! I rode smoothly the whole time and tried to push towards the [Pro II] boys, just to set a goal to keep my pace going.”
That, of course, gives Nielsen and her SLR Honda CRF250RX a perfect 1-1 in this young season while Silvestri’s record is 2-2. Let’s Ride KTM-mounted desert racer Ashley Gage earned her first podium with her third-place effort.
1. Dante Oliveira (KTM)
2. Dare Demartile (Bet)
3. Justin Hoeft (Yam)
4. Austin Walton (Hus)
5. Cole Martinez (Hon)
6. Tyler Lynn (Hon)
7. Trevor Stewart (Yam)
8. Mateo Oliveira (KTM)
9. Mason Semmens (KTM)
10. JP Alvarez (KTM)