When I got the chance to ride the MotoUSA 2011 Yamaha YZ250 Project Bike at one of the longest running races in the U.S. I was psyched. Mammoth Motocross Race is nothing short of extraordinary. From the road trip, to the week that you spend in this beautiful resort, to having so many activities at your disposal: mountain biking, fishing, snowboarding, cycling, hiking, great food and an absolutely beautiful back drop for my favorite race. It’s a shame that Mammoth doesn’t run more races… Here is how my weekend went:
Practice on Thursday was rougher than a night in a Tijuana jail (not that I’d know, but I’ve heard it get rough). Fortunately, the folks over at Factory Connection provide trackside support so they helped out by installing a slightly softer fork (0.44kg/mm) and shock spring (0.54kg/mm). They also put three more millimeters of sag in the bike (100mm).
As soon as I went out for more practice laps the bike worked great and it made the crazy rough downhills and square-edged straightaways almost bearable. I can’t say enough about how the bike worked through the really rough sections. It was near perfectly balanced and inspired a lot of confidence, though I
have to say that a 450 four-stroke would have been better when the track got slick and one-lined due to its less abrupt power delivery. Speaking of power, I felt like I was a little down on it so I rolled the bike over to FMF (who also provided trackside support, including jetting, which is always a big plus with a non-EFI bike) and they installed its FMF Fatty Pipe with the FMF Shorty Silencer. We went two leaner on the main jet to a 175, one leaner on the pilot to a 48 and went half a turn in on the airscrew. I went out for a few more laps and the FMF set-up was damn near perfect. I couldn’t wait to rip it up on Saturday for the FMF Two-Stroke Challenge.
Saturday morning was rough to say the least as I wasn’t feeling so hot. I rode three laps of practice right away in the morning when the track was smoother then the I-5 freeway, so I pulled off to conserve my energy for the qualifiers and main. My qualifier was stacked with the likes of former pros Ryan Hughes and Michael Lapaglia. If that wasn’t enough there were quite a few other fast guys.
In the first heat our boy Nick had a terrible start but worked his way through the field to finish 12th despite his health issues.
In my first heat, I got a horrible jump off the gate and crossed over, funneling to the inside through the first corner which actually turned out good as I was in the top-10. I made some aggressive passes on the first lap and couldn’t help but grin as racing with a bunch of two-strokes brought back so many awesome memories of when I used to race as a kid. The only thing you could hear was the buzz of two-strokes bouncing off the hills and the smell of unburned fuel in the air. Halfway through the qualifier I caught what felt like a dump truck load of roost that sent dirt right in the back of my throat.
Unfortunately, it made me throw up twice in my helmet which was pretty gross, and it allowed a few riders to get by which dropped me to 12th place. I rode the rest of the race defensively and was lucky enough to snag the last qualifying position for the main event.
With the 24th gate pick I was basically wishing and hoping my way to the first corner. I ended up getting a great jump off the line and was in the top-ten going into the front straightaway. Since I was coming from an outside gate I got pushed wide and rounded the first corner toward the back of the pack. With a full 40-rider gate the first lap was exciting, nerve racking, and a bit sketchy, but still a whole lot of fun. I made it across the first lap in 20th position and set my sights on a few
With all the focus on four-strokes these days our racer had a good time wailing on the YZ250 two-stroke.
guys ahead. The riders in front of me were getting tired more quickly than I, so I got through them fairly easily and made my way up to 12th place by the halfway point. Then I threw out the anchor…
I wasn’t tired as far as cardio and breathing went, but I just wasn’t in optimum riding shape having been off a dirt bike for a few months prior to the event. I rode the remainder of the race conservatively – just trying to have fun and trying to minimize the damage as best as I could. It was really nice to be able to just ride on such a beautiful track and have no expectations. I finished in 15th but was docked two positions for passing on a yellow on the first lap.
I had such a blast riding and racing at Mammoth that next time I plan to take it more seriously. There is something about riding a YZ250 two-stroke that gives you a euphoric sensation like no other. I really don’t want to ride or race any other motorcycle because I am doing this strictly for fun now and that’s what two-strokes are all about nowadays.
From the moment you light-up the engine and hear that high-pitched “ra-a-ang” to when you’re wailing around the track with the throttle pinned, it brings a smile from ear-to-ear. Plus it’s light, flickable and fast enough to get you in trouble (in a good way). See you next year Mammoth!
For more information, directions or to rate this track, check out the Mammoth Mountain Motocross entry in the MotorcycleUSA.com Ride Guide.