By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
Thrill seekers from all over the region travelled to a secluded spot of desert just to the west of Moapa Valley last weekend to compete in the Darkside Mountain Shootout, a major off-road racing event.
On Saturday, the Motorcycle Racing Association of Nevada (MRAN) held its second race of the 2018 series in an area about eight miles east of the Interstate 15 Ute exit. More than 170 motorcycle-racing competitors competed in the all day event.
This race was organized by the local MRAN team named The Darkside. Local resident and Darkside race coordinator Blake Monk said that the event was a success. “I think most everyone had a good time,” Monk said. “The feedback that I heard a lot from the riders was that it was a hard course, but a fun course. That is about what we wanted to have.”
The races began early and continued throughout the entire day.
The first race started at 7:30 am with a youth mini division including 85cc bikes as well as 65 cc expert and amateur classes. This race featured an 11 mile loop with a total of three laps. The top finisher in this class was Hunter Ray of Las Vegas who finished the three laps in 1:15:21. This was about two minutes ahead of the second place competitor, Otto Pearson of Pioche, Nevada.
Younger kids raced in the PeeWee class with 50cc bikes as well as novice riders in the 65 cc range. The overall winner in the PeeWee class was Dustin Ashley of Las Vegas who finished the shorter PeeWee course in 49:07, only about ten seconds behind second place winner Piper Wills, also of Las Vegas.
The final race of the day featured a total of 126 competitors in the big bikes division. These included everything from pro class racers to experts and amateur competitors.
The race took these riders on a grueling 30 mile loop which had to be run three times in order to complete the entire course of the race.
“This course has some real technical difficulties,” said Ashley Ross, who holds the title of 2017 Desert Women’s Champion. “There are some steep climbs, rough rocky areas and other things that pose some tough challenges.”
Ross had injured her hand in a crash during another race in Beatty, Nevada just two weeks before. As is common among competitive racers who have been injured, Ross went ahead and got a start in Saturday’s race, then dropping out right after the beginning so that she could at least accumulate the starter points for the season’s competition.
With the relatively dry winter, the racers quickly kicked up huge clouds of thick dust. This made visibility difficult for racers riding in the middle of the pack or further back.
Asked how the riders can see to drive through all of that dust, Dave “KornDawg” Martin, President of the Grounshakers team, said, “You don’t! You just have to get out there and hope for the best.”
Ross explained that this is when good positioning becomes a huge advantage. “That’s why you want to get the holeshot start,” she said. “It’s important to be out front, otherwise you can’t see.”
“But even if you do, you know the whole way that you’ve got the whole crowd pushing you from behind,” Martin added. “And even if you come out first in your group, if you keep going that way you’re still just going to end up eating the dust of the group just ahead of you pretty soon.”
Despite all of this, the injury count is usually pretty small at these types of races. Monk reported that there had been a total of seven injuries during the day. Most of these were minor. Only one was serious enough to require an ambulance to transport a competitor to the hospital.
But those more extreme injuries are fairly uncommon, Monk said. “Every race you have a few minor injuries,” he said. “But we hardly ever have to call the ambulance. It obviously happens sometimes, though.”
Of the 126 who started the Big Bike division race, only 39 finished all three laps. The first place racer was Tallon Taylor of Henderson who clocked in his final lap at 3:01:38. He ended up just a couple of minutes ahead of second place winner Taylor Stevens of Ogden, Utah who finished at 3:03:38.
“It is a pretty grueling experience,” Monk said of this year’s Ute course. “Some of the riders that finished were saying that getting into the second lap was still fun. But when they got around again, and were just starting their third time, a lot of them were saying, ‘Oh man, I got one more of this!’. So it was a challenging course.”