Zach Bell Wins Third Big 6 Before Going To ISDE
The pressure is on as the AMA District 37/FMF Big 6 Grand Prix Series winds down. While a few riders were able to wrap up their respective class championships at round 7—the Prospectors Motorcycle Club’s Gorman Grand Prix near Gorman, California—other classes will go down to next month’s finale.
Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda’s Trevor Stewart entered round 7 with a comfortable but not insurmountable point lead over current champion Zach Bell of the STI/3 Bros. Husqvarna team, 145–116. Since a race win earns 30 points, Stewart’s focus is simply on protecting that lead and basically finishing within sight of Bell, who’s running out of time since only the finale remains after the Prospectors race.
But then there’s the issue of Bell’s next race which is potentially the most important of his career and begins next week in Chile when he’ll be on the US World Trophy team for the first time in his International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) debut. While he’d certainly like to repeat as the Big 6 champ, he knew he had to temper that desire somewhat and keep it on two wheels at Gorman because you don’t want to start Six Days with an injury—or worse, have an injury prevent you from even starting!
“It was more just get through this race,” Bell acknowledged. “I wanted to win and get through it [without getting hurt], get to Chile, then we can do what we need to do.”
And he couldn’t have asked for a much better day, following the $200 Blud Lubricants Holeshot winner Justin Seeds for almost two laps then going by to control the rest of the afternoon’s 90-minute, $2,000 AMA Big 6 West Coast Grand Prix (WCGP) Series feature race.
“I put myself in a good position and rode like I knew how,” Bell shared. “I didn’t make any mistakes and kind of walked away with it not trying as hard as I could, just riding smooth, and it put me in a good position.”
Former WCGP Pro II champ Stewart came in with a different mindset, saying, “Coming into today, obviously myself, my pops, and Johnny, we talked and it came down to ‘If it’s your day, go do what you do and if it’s not, settle for a second place, settle for a third.’ ”
In other words, don’t screw up and throw the championship away.
He continued, “I think he’s got just about as much pressure on him as I do when it comes to Six Days especially.”
But it turned out to be Bell’s day, riding comfortably to a one minute, 17-second margin over eventual runner-up Stewart.
After nailing the holeshot, Seeds put in his best ride of the season and claimed third, his first podium of the season, 12 seconds behind Stewart.
“I have a lot of confidence right now,” Seeds declared. “Some things changed about a month ago and I think I got some weight off my shoulders or I have something to prove, and I want to show these guys I can actually do it.”
FMF/Maxxis/RPM Racing/KTM’s Eric Yorba finished third for the third time this year. Like Bell, he also had a red-eye to catch, though he’ll be on Mexico’s World Trophy team in Chile.
Slam Life Racing/Monster Energy/Honda’s Derek Kelley rounded out the top five overall while Seeds’ teammates Blayne Thompson and Clay Hengeveld, who wrapped up the WCGP Pro II title after topping the class for the fifth straight round. Fellow WCGP Pro II riders Mitch Anderson (CST KTM), Austin Serpa (FMF/Maxxis/RPM Racing/KTM), and Preston Campbell (JCR Honda) rounded out the top 10 overall.
In addition, Kacy Martinez wrapped up the WCGP Women Pro championship, having flown in from clinching the EnduroCross crown in Boise, Idaho, the night before. Since Martinez had no time on the course and knowing she could make it a double-header championship weekend, the FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team star was content to finish second behind first-time winner Lauren Woods, the Motor Medic Racing KTM rider ecstatic afterward.
Although there was much to celebrate over the weekend, the mood was tempered by the passing of Steve Kirk Jr., who apparently suffered a heart attack during the Magnum race on Saturday. Many times a class champion over the years, the Checkers Motorcycle Club member had just passed D-37 President Brian Nasif during the latter stages of their race, and Nasif reported that Kirk let out a happy “yahoo!” when he went by. Kirk is survived by his wife Tamara, daughter Kaitlyn, and father Steve Kirk Sr. In a podcast later, Nasif shared that Checkers and members of several other clubs lined both sides of the entrance road as Kirk left the races one last time.