|2013 WORCS Round 6 at Pala Raceway
Photos and Text by Seth Fargher,SethFargher.com
After more than a month off, side by side racing resumed at Pala Raceway in southern California for the 6th round of the World Off-Road Championship Series. The time off proved to be beneficial as it allowed racers ample time to make some much needed repairs to ensure their UTVs would survive the four remaining rounds of racing.
As is always the case, anything can happen in racing and race fans were in store for more surprises at Pala as well. Despite dominating the first few rounds and capitalizing on mechanical issues of some of the other top drivers, series points leader Beau Baron has had a few mishaps himself, opening the door for some new faces on the podium.
The motocross heavy course at Pala would favor the top drivers and prove to be a thorn in the side for many of the others. The shorter than usual off-road section limited both visibility and passing opportunities, which left most of the racing to be done on the motocross track, making for great spectating and even better racing action.
Motocross in a side by side presents several issues. It can be extremely hard on equipment if you dont judge your speed correctly but it can also cost valuable time if you opt to play it safe and roll the bigger jumps.
Over 50 UTVs turned out for Saturdays race with 18 competing in the Side by Side Pro class. Racers would leave from two lines separated by 60 seconds. The start straight was shorter than normal and featured an extremely narrow hairpin turn, making the furthest inside line the optimal starting position.
As expected there was plenty of bumping and grinding as the first group left the line with points leader Beau Baron claiming the holeshot. Defending champion Ryan Piplic was able to round the corner directly behind Baron but a hard charging James Hill in the number 91 Can-Am Maverick forced Piplic sideways and almost off the track.
As they made their way around portions of the motocross track Baron lead the way but his lead, and his race, would be short lived. Much of the off-road portion of the track was one lined and very rough. Baron charged a little too hard through one particularly rough section and snapped a ball joint, ending his day without even completing a lap.
This opened the door for RJ Anderson who was flying and proved to have absolutely zero fear as he charged the course, airing it out over virtually ever jump. James Hills aggressive pass on the start kept him among the leaders until a mechanical issue on lap two dropped him to 13th and ultimately out of the race.
Ryan Piplic, who has yet to earn a win this season, seems to have figured out better than anyone that the fastest guy doesnt always win. With Hill out, Piplic moved into the second position and charged hard after Anderson who seemed to be putting distance on the field.
Unfortunately for RJ, it seems the gremlins that plagued the beginning of his season reared their ugly head again as he suffered a broken ball joint, ironically in the exact same section as Baron. With RJ and Baron both out, Piplic knew his greatest threats were out of the race but he still had to be mindful of the time adjustment and keep the hammer down.
With so many drivers breaking down in the first few laps, it was almost impossible to keep track of who was where in the standings. Cognito Motorsports Nic Granlund had the lucky draw of the inside line for the second group of starters and managed to nab the holeshot and quickly made up time on the first group.
Despite the majority of the course being on a motocross track, there were more issues with flat tires at this race than any weve seen at any race this year. Apparently there was an extremely rough and rocky uphill section that wreaked havoc on tires. Doug Eichner made several laps with a rear flat however it didnt seem to phase him much he continued to jump almost every jump on the track, including the 6 pack section of doubles, with virtually no trouble at all.
As the white flag came out, it became apparent that Piplic might have issues with Granlund who, despite having to stop and change a flat tire, was in physical second place and gaining ground. A situation like this is when a pit crew is a necessity and all members have to be on top of it, knowing exactly where the greatest threat is coming from.
When the checkered flag flew Piplic crossed the line ahead of Granlund but it was a tense couple of minutes as officials calculated the final results. In the end, Granlund, who also posted the fastest lap time of the race, finished just 6 seconds ahead of Piplic on adjusted time, giving him his first podium of the season and leaving Piplic to continue chasing that elusive first overall win.
An ecstatic Pablo Veglia driving the Murray Racing/Del Amo Motorsports Can Am Maverick rounded out the pro podium, giving him his best finish of the year and giving Can-Am their first podium since round 3. Veglia was elated with his first ever WORCS podium and dedicated his performance to his Can-Am teammate Josh Frederick. Josh has been greatly missed by the WORCS family since his accident in Havasu, however his long time mechanic Gilbert Flores piloted Fredericks 603 Can-Am Maverick to a career best fourth place finish.
In the production 1000 class, Mitch Guthrie Jr. battled with Michael Speedy Gonzales for the first few laps, securing the lead on lap four and cruising to his fifth win of the season. Gonzales, whos holding down 2nd place on the season would finish in fourth, giving him enough points to maintain his 2nd place overall standings however hell have to hope for a catastrophe for Guthrie if he has any hopes of being able to win the class.
A newcomer to the podium, Richie Laatz from North Las Vegas Nevada took second behind Guthrie and Robert Mowrer earned his second podium finish of the season.
It was a rough day for over half of the Production 850 class as six of the eleven racers suffered mechanical DNFs. Coming off his commanding win in Taft, Cognito Motorsports Justin Lambert looked strong off the start and seemed comfortable on the MX track, but he and 2 others would fail to even complete the first lap. Sara Price, Adam Levings and Alfredo Ramirez would also be bested by the course with Kawasakis Nolan Remlinger claiming his first win of the season, followed by Michael Redhead and Chris Willing.
David Haagsma continued his dominance in the Production 700 class, claiming his fifth win and finally edging Michael Bunyea out of the top spot in the season points standings. Bunyea won the first round in Arizona which Haagsma opted to skip out on due to the conditions and though hes won every race since, Bunyeas 25 point advantage from that first race of the season has kept him solidly in the lead until now. Bunyea suffered a DNF which essentially leveled the playing field and Haagsma now sits comfortably in first place. Josh Edwards and Brian Maclean rounded out the podium with UTVUnderground.coms Joey DiGiovanni coming in fourth. Joey D has been covering the series for years and for the first time, got to experience the race from the cockpit of a UTV, racing a Cognito Motorsports/FOX equipped Polaris RZR 570.
As this weekends race proved, having a solid strategy and good people on the ground can make more of a difference in the long run than a good driver behind the wheel of a fast car. There were major upsets, new season points leaders and more than a few first timers making the podium in almost every class, proving once again why WORCS is the most popular side by side series in the country.
WORCS Racing Round 6 SxS Results:
2013 WORCS Racing: