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Colton Haaker Navigates His Way to The 2017 King Of The Motos’ Crown

King of the Motos 2017 WinnersThe 11th Annual Nitto King of the Hammers Powered by Optima Batteries kicked off with a dramatic start to the week featuring the 6th annual King of the Motos.  Eventful finishes and navigation played a major role in this year’s race where Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Colton Haaker was crowned the 2017 King of the Motos in Hammertown, California, the virtual city that rises from the desert for this unique event. Haaker stayed consistent and safe, and the strategy paid off when he was the first rider to hit all of the checkpoints. The physical first finisher, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Cody Webb missed a vital checkpoint in the final Moto, which put him back on the results list. Event creator Jimmy Lewis stressed the importance of navigation and how it would take priority over physical finishes due to virtual checkpoints that the riders needed to hit. In the end, Beta’s Max Gerston and Topar Racing’s Mitch Carvolth respectively followed Haaker in the overall results.
A dead-engine start of 107 riders kicked off the dramatic Baja Designs night moto, the anticipation of the start signal lingered from the riders throughout the crowd in an eerie silence.  Engines erupted all at once and it was Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Cody Webb who took the holeshot around the sand hill turn, which would then loop the riders back into a climb up Chocolate Thunder. Most of the field piled up at the bottom of the rocky canyon incline, while Webb made his run look effortless with teammate Taylor Robert on his tail. Robert became hung up in a section and Haaker seized the opportunity to make a move into second place. At the finish line, two lights crested the hill just after the six-mile mark and raced down toward the finish line arch. It was neck and neck, but it was Robert that emerged as the winner of Moto 1 after a close battle with Webb. Gerston was the third rider and then appeared Haaker.

The desert moto first thing on Sunday morning would have the most difficult segment of the event, the start, which was true for most of the field. Webb lined up with a handful of other riders to take on the steeper and more direct line to the Nitto arch where he, again, took the holeshot. Webb was followed through the arch by teammate Taylor Robert, Gas Gas’ Noah Kepple and Colton Haaker who all lined up on the opposite end of the starting line from Webb. Taylor Robert and Cody Webb battled back and forth for the lead before Robert had a hard crash leaving him out of race contention.  Cody Webb was first through the finish claiming the checkered flag.

Eventual winner, Colton Haaker, along with other top riders following behind the lead duo came upon the downed Taylor Robert and stayed with him until help arrived, potentially sacrificing their race.  Motos Director, Jimmy Lewis, appreciated the sportsmanship and the results were adjusted accordingly to reflect the time loss.

The start of the final Moto, a hard enduro race, it was once again Cody Webb taking the fastest line up the mountain claiming the holeshot. Webb started to extend the gap between first and second, and had a strong lead when he crossed the finish line first. Later, he learned the missed checkpoint would place him further in the results than his physical finish. Fresh off an X Games podium last week where he earned silver, Colton Haaker was second through the final Moto finish followed by Max Gerston, which would later translate to the points Haaker needed to take the overall win and bumping Gerston up to second place. Rounding out the podium would be Arizona’s Mitch Carvolth. Before knowing he was the 2017 winner Colton stated, “This year wasn’t as hard as last [year], because last year we were wide open on laps and knew where we were going to charge hard. This year with the GPS, you were trying to figure out which way to go, make sure you were on course and didn’t miss any checkpoints. I think that was key for this race.” Max Gerston spoke on his strategy coming into the event, “Just to ride smooth and smart. Slow down, look at GPS, get your bearings and commit to your line.”

Colton Haaker, Max Gerston, Mitch Carvolth, Noah Kepple, Trystan Hart, Wyatt Hart, Cody Webb, Eric Rhoten, Kevin Dupuis and Tyler Kinkade respectively would conclude the Top 10 at King of the Motos 2017.

The amateur and women riders took on the same brutal course that the Pro riders made their way around. Finishing twenty-six minutes after the winner, Evan Ask was the first amateur to cross the finish line followed by Luke Sydor, Joseph Herriman. EnduroCross rider Morgan Tanke had a strong finish and put her two-stroke Beta in the top twenty-five percent of finishers placing her in 16th in the amateur class. ISDE & GNCC rider Rachel Gutish made the trek to the West Coast with her main focus of finishing the King of the Motos race, and that’s just what she did alongside Tanke crossing the finish line as the 22nd amateur. The two girls finished the race closely, “We stuck together the whole [Moto 3] race,” Tanke explains as the girls helped each other in sticky situations such as mechanical issues and difficult obstacles.