Zach Bell may have had a relatively slow start to the season in the AMA District 37/FMF Big 6 Grand Prix Series and its AMA Big 6 West Coast Grand Prix (WCGP) series-within-a-series, but the 3 Brothers/STI Husqvarna rider has just been getting better and better since.
He proved it by making a last-lap pass to win the 43rd Annual Hilltoppers Grand Prix, hosted by the Hilltoppers Motorcycle Club in 29 Palms, California, that served as round 4 of the series.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Dalton Shirey made it a Husky 1-2, holding on for second after working his way up from a subpar start, poking his head into the lead for a couple of laps at the end but unable to fend off Bell’s final-lap assault.
Likewise, Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda’s Trevor Stewart had a not-so-great start after going through a water hole he didn’t know about a few turns in and trashing his goggle setup, but he fought back to claim third, just two seconds ahead of Chaparral Motorsports/Precision Concepts/Kawasaki’s Blayne Thompson with Thompson’s teammate Justin Seeds a solid fifth.
With temperatures in the mid-90s with constant wind, Bell took his third victory over three straight weekends at 29 Palms. “I made a couple mistakes and I’ve been sick the last few weeks, so racing every weekend hasn’t helped trying to rest up,” Bell said. “Being hot out here, it’s hard to breathe and I was throwing up a little bit in my helmet. I knew if I took a couple laps to regroup, it would work better in the end instead of going hard [the whole way]. So I took my time, let him go by, regrouped, waited for the white flag, and then kind of put the hammer down again because I know I’m fit, I know what I can do, [and] I know what I’m capable of.”
Unofficially, Bell took over the point lead, his total now at 90, while Shirey has 86 and Stewart’s a close third at 85. FMF/RPM/KTM Racing Team Maxxis’ Eric Yorba led in points going into the Hilltoppers race but crashed and DNFed with a possible shoulder injury. In addition, FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team’s Kailub Russell opted to stay on the East Coast where he finished second at the GNCC, so he’ll use this one as a throwaway.