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By: Robert Janis

A Natural -- Wayne Matlock

Wayne Matlock
Wayne Matlock

You could say that racing ATVs is the Matlock family business. You could also say that deserts were, and are, the place of business.

Wayne is the second generation of the Matlocks to participate in ATV racing. The 29-year-old native of El Cajon, California builds custom cabinets, but his true passion is ATVs. He has been riding ATVs since he was 2 years old. His dad, Cliff, raced ATVs in SCORE and Best in the Desert competitions. He also serves as a member of Wayne’s pit crew in SCORE and Best in the Desert races. In addition, Wayne’s wife, Kristen, races ATVs in Best in the Desert events, and she is the captain of Wayne’s pit crew.

It should be to no one’s surprise that Wayne was encouraged into riding and later racing ATVs by his dad. His father had won the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 a couple of times, said Wayne. So it wasn’t out of the ordinary for his parents to take him to ride the sand dunes in Southern California when he was just a kid.

He actually started his racing career competing in Baja and local desert racing events in Southern California on a motorcycle. However, he had already developed a background of riding his dad’s racing quad. So after he began building a reputation for himself as a motorcycle racer, ATV racers Greg Rowe and Jimmy Knorr contacted him about racing ATVs.

That led to Wayne participating in his first ATV pro race in 1998 when he competed in the SCORE San Felipe 250. He won that race riding a Honda TRX250 that was not his. He prepared for that race doing a pre-run on a 50-mile section of the 250-mile course. However, as far as the race was concerned, “They gave me the roughest part because I was the young guy. I had to negotiate 60 miles of whoops,” Wayne quipped.

That ATV was fully customized and was re-built off the original chassis. “Back then Honda didn’t have production ATVs capable of winning desert races. Now they do,” said Wayne. So that first ATV included a Tommy Boy design frame, A-arms, and swing-arms among other things. “It wasn’t my machine so I don’t know everything that was done to it,” Wayne added.

Wayne Matlock
Wayne Matlock

Between then and now Wayne has also raced for Bombardier and Suzuki in 2006. He won every race he entered except three. His past victories include the Baja 1000 in 2005. In 2004, along with partner Chad Prull, he won the Quad Pro Championship and was the over all points leader in the Best in the Desert series. He has even competed in a GNCC race. The trees in the wooded areas slowed him, but he hauled ass in the open terrain.

Today Wayne is with Honda and competes in SCORE and Best in the Desert races on a Honda TRX450. This bike has been customized with Roll Design A-arms, stem, foot pedals and heel guards; a stock swing arm; Elka Suspension shocks tuned by Precision Concepts; a Hinson clutch; Ford connection levers; Douglas wheels; Maxxis tires; a stock radiator with fan; IMS-Roll front and rear bumpers; and AC Racing custom made skid plates. “The AC Racing skid plates are thicker than the normal aftermarket versions,” explained Wayne. He also noted that his mechanic with Precision Concepts did a lot more custom tricks to the ATV. The mechanic does customization on all the bikes of the Honda factory team, added Wayne.

His sponsors include American Honda, which helps in pit support in the Baja races; Alba Action Sports; Precision Concepts; Maxxis Tires; Elka Suspension; Roll Design; Douglas Wheels; Hinson Works Connection; Moose Racing Supplies; One Industries; Alpine Stars; AT Racing; Division 4; Baja Designs; and Leaggers.

He solicits potential sponsors by sending out resumes and making phone calls to the major companies involved in ATV desert racing. “Actually, my wife sends out the resumes. I contact people over the phone. I’ve been able to build up a reputation so they take my calls,” said Wayne.

As of this writing, for 2007, Wayne holds the number one plate for Best in the Desert, and he is currently ranked second in the SCORE series. He is not happy with that second-place ranking. He has a good reason to be. “We had a problem in the Baja 250,” he explained. “We got messed up at the starting line. With SCORE you have to have a working taillight on the bike or on your body. We had one, but my partner, Chad Prull, put his jacket on to ride his bike to the starting line about five miles from where we were staying. When he put on the jacket, he broke a clip off of the bicycle blinking light he was wearing on his chest protector. He didn’t know that the light was broken. A member of one of the other teams got an official before the start of the race and complained that we didn’t have a working taillight. It’s a timed event. A rider starts the race every 30 seconds. Instead of starting third where we were positioned to start, we had to start after the whole field had left. So we started 19 and a half minutes behind. We still finished second and we lost by a little less than 3 minutes. We had a faster time on the track than the first-place team, but it was hard to make up the time.” Wayne and his team have two more races in the series to amend the mistake.

According to Wayne, participating in ATV racing has helped to keep his family together. “My parents, my wife, and my in-laws participate in my pit crews and go to all the races,” said Wayne. “I think that if I had to go by myself, I probably wouldn’t do it.” He also enjoys the adrenaline thrill of winning.

Wayne Matlock
Wayne Matlock

On the other hand, he hates to lose. “I feel like I am letting a lot of people down when I lose,” he said. “I’ve been competitive my whole life. My family and friends joke that I am way too competitive. For me, everything is a race.”

His favorite races are the Baja series events held by SCORE International. He said that he often goes to Baja just to ride for fun. “I live just 20 minutes or so from the border. Baja is like my backyard. I get down there quite a bit.” And there is the added pleasure of meeting so many nice people who live in the area. “I’ve met a lot of nice people down there. Everyone is so willing to help, and they are honestly excited that we go down there,” said Wayne.

He concluded that the future looks bright for ATV desert racing. “I hope that it will only get better,” he said. “It has gotten better since I started racing quads. I also see more factory involvement for the future. With the factories getting involved it will become a lot more fun. Kawasaki may be putting a factory team together to compete in desert races and KTM and Can Am are supposed to be getting involved too. Honda is already involved. So things will be getting better. Also, there will be more TV coverage. Already the SCORE races are on NBC and even the local District 38 races are covered by local TV.”

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