Track Time: Everything Old Smells New Again at the Inaugural Two-Stroke World Championship

Ooh, Ooh That Smell

If my former editor at Cycle News, Jack Mangus, taught me one thing, it's that there's no such thing as "first annual." Far too many events touted as such are only held once, so there's never a "second annual." Better to say "inaugural" and hope for the best.

The other thing Jack taught me was that it's not racing unless there's more than one rider in the photo.

Both of those rules of thumb came into play at the "First Annual" (grrr...) MTA Two-Stroke World Championship. Held at Southern California's Glen Helen Raceway on April 11 (think April Fools' Day times two), the event was meant to celebrate how motocross used to be before the Four-Stroke Revolution. That started in 1997, for the Rip Van Winkles in the audience, which was when Yamaha introduced the all-conquering YZ400F on which Doug Henry won a supercross and the outdoor motocross championship. Not to be confused with the Two-Stroke Revolution, which came a few decades earlier when first the European and then the Japanese lightweight ring-dings made the previously dominant four-strokes obsolete seemingly overnight. It's true what they say about everything coming back into fashion.

For more than two decades, Glen Helen has hosted the Four-Stroke World Championship, but now that the vast majority of motocrossers sport cams and valves, it was time to turn the tables and run a Two-Stroke race. Attendance at this "first annual" event was good but not great, with plenty of amateur racers on hand but just 11 entries in the purse-paying L.A. Sleeve Pro class. (Granted, the purse was only $1500.) That said, the Pro field was deep, featuring such notables as multi-time Vet world champ (and former AMA supercross winner) Doug Dubach and off-road ace Kurt Caselli. And the action in the two 30-minute motos was intense, with the outcome uncertain until the bitter end.

Dubach, who's 46 years young, holeshot both motos, finished second in moto one and was repeating in moto two when he left the inside open in a tight hairpin. Caselli barged through, yanking Dubach off his Yamaha and stripping off its twistgrip. That should have put the KTM rider into second, but Husqvarna's Bobby Garrison snuck past.

Earlier, teenager Austin Howell (who aced the Two-Stroke Challenge at last year's Glen Helen National) had won the first moto and was running second in the second when he fell, breaking his Suzuki's clutch lever. Not to be outdone, Tye Hames (who was the fastest rider in practice) ran away with moto two, but had fallen and broken his Yamaha's clutch lever in moto one! Did no one want to win?

In the end, Garrison took the overall with 4-2 moto finishes, giving Husky its first notable U.S. victory in longer than anyone could remember. Howell's 1-5 gave him a lopsided second and KTM's Mike Sleeter went 3-4 for third.

While the sounds and smells were great, and the track was remarkably rut-free due to the lack of trench-digging "diesels," in my opinion this event would have benefitted from the inclusion of vintage classes. Not that there weren't any old bikes there: They were just competing in an AHRMA/CALVMX race that inexplicably was being run concurrently on the back (REM) track. Hopefully the second annual event won't suffer from such a scheduling conflict.

Assuming there is a second annual event...

Track Time - Everything Old Smells New Again at the Inaugural Two-Stroke World Championship
Veteran Doug Dubach (15) was in position to claim the overall in the purse-paying Pro race before he got taken out by off-road ace Kurt Caselli (66). Bobby Garrison (928) squeaked through for the win.
The way we were: Numerous vintage two-strokes were on hand at Glen Helen, but they were competing in a separate race on a separate track. Maybe next year they'll be part of the program?