Race Recap: 2018 California Nitro Nationals

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4/21/2018 10:04 PM

Probably a bad time to post with all the Eli/Musquin drama, but here we go anyways. . .

Last weekend was the opening round of the NAHA pro hillclimb series, right at my home spot Carnegie SVRA, and here is my recap of how things went:

Just a little lead up of how things went preparing for this race. We had a smaller local race about a month prior, which was a great time for everyone to get bikes tested out and get back into the swing of racing. Long story short, I had an absolutely terrible event and pretty much killed any confidence I had going forward. I knew my cr5 just wasn't a competitive bike in the 451-700cc class anymore, and I'd had enough of racing on equipment I knew I couldn't win on. Fast forward a week later, and I decided to take a play out of Reed's playbook and follow something he said a long time ago that always stuck with me, 'If you're going to bet on anyone, bet on yourself". I did just that and picked up a new 2018 YZ450F to race in the 450 class, and a cylinder works 470 big bore to put in my current 450 to make it eligible for the 451-700cc class. After rushing to get everything done and both bikes ready to race in about two weeks, I finally made it to the race with two bikes I was confident I could do well on, and that were very similar ergonomically (which is a huge help when you are switching back and forth from one to the other).

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After how crappy my last race went, and how much I had put into this one, I was pretty damn nervous I'm not gonna lie. The way NAHA works is you have to qualify on Saturday to make it to the main show on Sunday, and they only take 32 riders in each class. We had damn near 50 guys trying to qualify in each class, so 20 were going home early. When you only get two runs to put down a fast time it's pretty nerve racking, it would suck to do all this work and invest so much only to not even get to race. Luckily, qualifying went well, and I qualified easily in both classes, with an impressive 4th in 450 pro. Just to have both bikes work so well and function flawlessly like they did was a victory for me, my dad worked like crazy getting the 470 kit installed on the old bike, and I had some untested parts I can't really talk about yet that I was stressing on a little bit for the new bike. In the end, everything went well, bikes worked better than I imagined, and qualifying came and went without incident.

Sunday was the main show, and the final for all classes. I was feeling good going into the day since I had done so well on Saturday, and I was hoping to carry the momentum over. I started off awesome, setting a new fast time in the 450 pro class right off the bat, and held the lead for a while. Then the hill got faster, and times kept dropping. . . I dropped all the way from 1st to 11th, missing out of the final prize money paying position (10th), by less than 1/10 of a second. I felt like I had put down some awesome runs, but the competition is so tight at these races you have to be absolutely perfect and then some to break into the cash paying spots. Going into the 451-700cc pro class I felt like I still had a good shot, but unfortunately I would be the first rider taking to the hill. Essentially, that means your first run is going to be a throw away, since there is no groove cut in the hill and you have essentially no chance of setting a good time. I actually set down a pretty fast run considering I was the first rider, but I made a small mistake on my second run and was only able to finish in 13th. Again, the times were so close I missed 10th by about 1/2 a second, so both classes combined I missed out on almost $1000 in prize money by less than 1 second total. . . That's racing. . .

For X-Climb this year, they tried something different in having us start on metal grates, similar to how supercross and MXGP do it. There were mixed feelings, especially since we got no practice on them, but I honestly thought it was a good change that added some consistency and fairness to the starts. It was tough trying to adapt in a race situation, but it is what it is and everyone was in the same boat. I was able to win my first round, but on the second round I just had nothing. I thought I pulled a good start, but I just couldn't keep up, and after hitting a kicker mid hill that was the end of my race.

Ironically, these are the worst finishing positions I've had in a NAHA event, but I feel like I rode the best I ever have at one. That just goes to show how fast everyone is getting, and how much the intensity is stepping up every year. Hillclimb is in a serious growth period right now, and the change in competition and the speeds we're going now compared to just a few years ago is pretty amazing. The video below is a recap of the event and all of my runs, and should give an idea of how these events work. After watching the footage I still can't believe these runs were only good enough for 11th and 13th, the level of competition is just crazy now. I'll post pictures from the event as I get them, most of them are still not available yet.

If anyone has any questions about these events or the sport in general please ask away, we're making a big push to bring things back to the popularity it used to hold, and I think you'll see just how far things have come in the last decade. Riders and equipment are better than ever, and seeing one of these events in person really is a cool experience, video does no justice as usual. It's like supercross or outdoors, you can watch from your couch and get a sense for it, but until you're there and see it in person it's just not nearly the same.

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Make Hillclimb Great Again

Ratbeach Racing

Instagram / YouTube: @485Josh

3dpmoto.com



4/22/2018 12:05 PM

Very Cool!

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4/22/2018 5:32 PM

Always feel free to post info and videos about hillclimb racing, It is more entertaining than SX.

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4/22/2018 9:22 PM

RM Mike wrote:

Always feel free to post info and videos about hillclimb racing, It is more entertaining than SX.

Thanks brother, I'm with you on being bored of supercross at this point.laughing

And we don't drug test!tongue

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Make Hillclimb Great Again

Ratbeach Racing

Instagram / YouTube: @485Josh

3dpmoto.com



4/22/2018 9:36 PM

Cool I don't follow hill climb much
But I have never seen them do a corner
1st at the bottom like that
Is that something new ?
I like it

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4/22/2018 10:27 PM

^ is that a haiku?

The hillclimbs with smaller jumps/turn/non straight runs look pretty fun actually. What do you guys do to the engines in your class?

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-'09 KX500AF

- '19 KX450F

4/23/2018 7:09 AM
Edited Date/Time: 4/23/2018 7:27 AM

Good stuff Josh, nice recap and congrats on the new scoot! How’d you decide on a 470 kit? Is that one of the more effective mods for a 450? Any other future tweaks planned for this new bike?

Keep on keeping on!!

Edit: Obviously no replacement for displacement and eligibility for a new class. But, why that kit? And displacement?

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4/23/2018 12:37 PM
Edited Date/Time: 4/23/2018 12:40 PM

JBernard_401 wrote:

^ is that a haiku?

The hillclimbs with smaller jumps/turn/non straight runs look pretty fun actually. What do you guys do to ...more

Tarz, occasionally the hills will have jumps and turns before then, which I live because I can put my moto skills to use!

JBern, I’m not at all a fan of hills with no turns or anything in them, it becomes a test of horsepower rather than a test of rider skill. The motor mods are really whatever you’re willing to spend. My 450 is bone stock and as far as I can tell it’s competitive, but there are a few 10k 450 motors out there as well. The issue becomes making them rideable, you can make a ton of power but if it’s only in a narrow rpm range, that’s really hard to ride effectively in a race as technical as a hillclimb. The 700 class is where you see some of the more exotic mods, like full nitro bikes and nitrous on big bore thumpers. I don’t have the budget to make that happen though, and when you push a motor that hard they don’t last long. . .

Ted, I’ll give a detailed explanation later on tonight when I’m off work and can explain everything out.

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Make Hillclimb Great Again

Ratbeach Racing

Instagram / YouTube: @485Josh

3dpmoto.com



4/23/2018 7:50 PM

Ted722 wrote:

Good stuff Josh, nice recap and congrats on the new scoot! How’d you decide on a 470 kit? Is that one of the more effective ...more

Ok, sorry for the wait, but now I have a minute to give a decent explanation.

I decided on the 470 kit for a couple of reasons. You can either do a 470 kit or 490 kit on this bike without having to stroke the motor or do any major mods. For me, I wanted a straight forward kit that didn't require any major modifications, and something that would be reliable as it could be. The Cylinder Works kit pretty much fit this description, and they seem to have a pretty good reputation for quality stuff, especially considering the piston is a well known name brand part (I'm blanking and can't remember which company it came from, but I think it was Vertex). The reason for choosing the 470 over the 490 was I felt that going that much bigger on the bore without stroking the motor would cause a big loss in top end and make the motor feel sluggish when reving, which I absolutely did not want to happen. I didn't want to lose the great motor character that Yamaha has going, and the benefits I feel for hillclimb just don't show up on the dyno from what I can see. I take dyno charts with a grain of salt, there's only so much you can tell without actually riding someone else's bike and comparing how the motor feels in real life situations.

As far as performance, I do notice that the 470 is a little slower reving and vibrates a little more, but overall it is an improvement. It might not seem evident at first when riding it, but when climbing I'm able to use a taller gear and the bike is less inclined to fall off the power. Believe me, I'm absolutely nowhere near the V-twin or four cylinder nitro bikes power wise, but at least I'm bringing a machete to a gun fight now rather than a butter knife like I was with my 500. It still sucks to get out powered, but I'm doing what I can and making it work. Compared to the new 2018 engine, the big bore just feels like it has more meat behind it, but it isn't quite as free reving and lively as the 18 engine. I haven't ridden a ton of different 450s, but from what I have ridden the 18 is the best hillclimb engine I've experienced. It's not going to show on the dyno, but Yamaha has something figured out.

As for future tweaks, I honestly think both bikes are pretty damn good as is! I'll probably play with mapping a bit more on both, but overall these bikes are great machines right out of the box that are obviously competitive in stock form. Without riding all the other bikes I can't sit here and claim Yamaha is the best, but for me it was the right choice since I already had an older one, and I'm still able to swap wheels and feel at home on both. The wifi connectivity is just way too cool and easy to use, everyone else better get their act together because without quick tuning available on a power tuner or phone app, they're living in the stone age. My plan is to just keep hours low and trade up each year for a new one, it seems like the most cost effective way to stay on competitive equipment, and I'm building a good relationship with the dealer around here to help facilitate that in the future.

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Make Hillclimb Great Again

Ratbeach Racing

Instagram / YouTube: @485Josh

3dpmoto.com