2019 Taft Grand Prix Race Report
Nearly every rider has a favorite track and it’s safe to say that Honolulu Hills Raceway in Taft, California, has to rate highly with Zach Bell. The pro motocrosser got his first-ever off-road race victory there in 2017 on a Honda, going on to win the AMA District 37 Big 6 Grand Prix Championship. He followed that up in 2018 by winning on a Husqvarna, ending up second in the point chase.
And though he and the rest of the Chaparral Motorsports/Precision Concepts/Kawasaki team aren’t chasing the series this year—now known as the FMF AMA National Grand Prix Championship Series—when schedules permit, they’ll return, and they did so with a bang at round 2 of the series, the Honolulu Hills Grand Prix hosted by the Dirt Diggers Motorcycle Club.
The result? Bell’s third straight triumph at the track with defending series champ Trevor Stewart second and Bell’s teammate Blayne Thompson third. Even in the Pro II class, the team made a mark with Clay Hengeveld running the number-one plate for the first time and ending up second behind Ciaran Naran, the 3 Bros./SRT/Husqvarna rider winning in only his second GP.
Bell remarked, “I love coming back to this round! Like I said, this [was where I got my] first off-road win, so I love coming back here. This is three for three racing here now, so I love this place!” Asked why he gets along so well at the venue, he replied, “I don’t know! I love the rolly hills and the chop, the square edges and stuff—that’s kind of what I grew up doing. Then, getting my first [off-road] win here, always coming back here I have this positive vibe.”
Although Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda’s Stewart led off the line and through the first two turns, he couldn’t keep Bell behind for long and had to settle for second, admitting, “I just rode to my potential today.” However, in the big picture, he was satisfied since Bell (and Thompson) aren’t contesting the entire series so he ended up taking the point lead, assisted by the fact that round 1 winner Justin Seeds had problems off the start by being involved in a pileup that left the Purvines Racing Yamaha rider last. From there, he did well and demonstrated more than competitive speed by coming back to eighth.
In Pro II, another motocrosser made his mark in only his second off-road race. 3 Bros./SRT/Husqvarna’s Ciaran Naran chased FMF/Maxxis/RPM Racing KTM’s Austin Serpa for most of the first half of the 90-minute race before making his move. From there, he was untouchable, Serpa getting passed by Hengeveld in the last moments and settling for third.
Colorado Recycling KTM’s Brandy Richards dominated the Women Pro class, winning handily over JCR Honda’s Tarah Gieger and Yamaha-mounted Micah Diaz.