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By: Ray Larez

Soboba Grand Prix

Soboba Grand Prix 2009

Now on its third year, The Soboba Grand Prix was once a legendary race, almost like the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix. Some of off-roads’ biggest names raced this one time huge race, greats like Malcolm Smith and Larry Roseler. Last year Malcolm was even in attendance as a spectator with his daughter. The race was started back in the 70’s and was later discontinued as most races either die off or encroaching housing and commercial development take over the land once used for the race. Like the recent change to the Elsinore Grand Prix, it used to go right thru downtown and is now held at a local motocross track. The Soboba Grand Prix was recently resurrected and came back with some great new additions like ATVs and UTVs, so they can make there own little stamp on history. Also, the race is now supported by the Soboba Casino and Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians and held on the reservation.

Dustin Nelson’s Machine being prepped for the muddy conditions.
Dustin Nelson’s Machine being prepped for the muddy conditions.
Off the line Yamaha’s Dustin Nelson takes the holeshot and is off to an early lead.
Off the line Yamaha’s Dustin Nelson takes the holeshot and is off to an early lead.

Last year’s event was won by Doug Echiner, and he was there once again to claim another Soboba win aboard his Polaris 450MX in the ATV class. Echiner also gave it a go in his RZR in the UTV class. Yamaha Factory Rider Dustin Nelson was on hand with his new YFZ450R, but this was his Quadcross machine. This ATV has a custom extra capacity aluminum fuel cell with a quick fill spout and larger tires. This is the machine he runs the WORCS series with. MCR Racing’s Beau Baron showed up with the other two members of the team as were prepping the machines. These three riders, all just off of their top five finishes from the WORCS race from last weekend, are looking to throw down for the win this weekend.

MCR Team’s machines ready to go, prepped and going to staging.
MCR Team’s machines ready to go, prepped and going to staging.
Mike Cafro battling the dreaded muddy conditions and riding without his goggles for most of the Grand Prix.
Mike Cafro battling the dreaded muddy conditions and riding without his goggles for most of the Grand Prix.

Believe it or Mother Nature was now stacking up to be the biggest opponent this weekend, a storm had blown in to Southern California and was only getting started as the ATVs were lining up for staging. It had been raining off and on the past few days, and the track was taking a beating. The track was getting sloppier and muddier by the minute as the rain got even worse as the pro riders set up on the starting line. As they did, it really started to pour! Most riders had taped the ATV in strategic places as well as gear (boots, gloves), to prevent the mud building up or getting into places it shouldn’t. Mud is definitely an enemy this weekend. It almost looked like a GNCC minus the trees.

ATV Pro

The riders lined up and the flag dropped for the sixteen pro entries. Unfortunately, there were only about half the pro entries they had last year. For some reason the Motoworks/Can-Am Team was a no-show, as well as Team Kawasaki. Last year the Motoworks Team was a contender here at Soboba and with all of their current success in the Quadcross/WORCS Series they could have had a good chance of turning in some more wins for this race team. Off the line Doug and Dustin were neck and neck. Doug took the outside line, and it looked like Dustin took the inside line which was paying off. Nelson took the early lead over Doug, followed by Beau Baron, Dustin Terry and Mike Cafro. The racers are only in sight for a few minutes before they headed into the hills. As the racers emerged from the foothills, Nelson was still in the lead by a few bike lengths. The third spot was held by Beau Baron. There was some distance between Baron and second. In fourth place his Honda teammate Mike Cafro had some catching up to do as well. Cafro made a pass on Dustin Terry somewhere up in the hills. The top four had put some distance between them and large group of racers that where battling it out. Of course, the race up front was the main attraction and kept heating up. By the third lap Dustin Nelson had put a little more distance between himself and Doug. As for Baron he was closing the gap and was gaining on the pair, as did Cafro.

Jumping the mud puddle Beau Baron trying to maneuver his machine to the front of the pack.
Jumping the mud puddle Beau Baron trying to maneuver his machine to the front of the pack.
Dustin Nelson hard charging, now you can see benefits from being up front.
Dustin Nelson hard charging, now you can see benefits from being up front.

The weather grew worse by the minute and the rain poured, well at least for Southern California. Mud was only getting worse and more rain meant more slop. Some riders were so covered they could barely see. Mike Cafro at one point had to ditch his goggles because they were covered in mud. Mud is Mike’s worst enemy it seems, when he was nearly blinded at last year’s WORCS race in AZ. The fifth lap meant trouble for Nelson as he and Doug had to pit their ATVs. Fuel for their machines, a fresh set of goggles, and nice set of mud-free gloves, then back out in the mud. Dustin Nelson had taped his gloves on and was having a problem getting them off slowing him up considerably and letting Echiner, who was behind him as they entered the pits, get into the lead. Also, Beau Baron had made his way around into second place. Now Nelson was back in third out of the pits and playing catch up.

Polaris’s Doug Echiner putting up with whatever Mother Nature was dishing out, mud covered, but still enjoying being up front after Nelson had a problem in the pits.
Polaris’s Doug Echiner putting up with whatever Mother Nature was dishing out, mud covered, but still enjoying being up front after Nelson had a problem in the pits.
Putting in a great race and awesome start to the season, Beau Baron takes home the overall Pro win and now gets to go home and take a shower.
Putting in a great race and awesome start to the season, Beau Baron takes home the overall Pro win and now gets to go home and take a shower.

There was one cool spectacle that most could see was the big water hole that was forming in the infield. Most would slow and ride through it, and the jump prior wouldn’t give you enough momentum to jump the puddle, but some would try. As the race started to wind down, disaster struck. Echiner’s machine started to sputter and smoke. Shortly thereafter he had to pull off the track because his 450 was starting to get worse. So now Beau was in the lead and Nelson had some distance to go until he would catch him. Then it happens again--another victim of the muddy sloppy conditions. Nelson’s machine quits as well. We asked him later what had happened, and Dustin said his battery cable had broken. This race was grueling, a full hour of racing in the pouring rain. It was pretty disappointing for the two that were leading the race. Now team MCR racing was capitalizing on the others’ misfortunes. Cafro has moved up to second place and Dustin Terry is in third. That’s how it would round out as well, top two spots go to Team MCR, and Terry takes the last podium position.

UTV Open Pro

What economic slow down?? With just under fifty entries in the Pro UTV class you may be asking yourself that, and these machines aren’t stock. It was great to see such an awesome turn out in this class. If it weren’t for the horrible conditions, this race would have been the one to watch. All 49 UTVs lined up in two rows of over 20 UTVs wide. The flag dropped and off they went. As they rounded the first turn, they headed down a narrowed straight away, about two UTVs wide. Which, needless to say, wasn’t wide enough, and they began to bottleneck. Most racers decided to make their own trail and turned it into a free-for-all. With UTVs darting down both sides of the course to get around the now bottlenecked track, it was pure chaos. Some of the spectators ran from the start over to this straight away and didn’t pay attention to the mud and how easily these machines could lose control in these conditions. With UTVs slipping and sliding they made their way to the hills. Now the machines were out of sight and one came out of the foot hills and some through the infield section to only head back out to the hills. As everyone eagerly waited for second place to emerge from the hills, a good five minutes had passed. I overheard a team that was being radioed by their driver who had stated that they were all stuck in the back hills. The whole pack of 40 some UTVs were now bottle necked in the canyons somewhere. The event coordinator decided to stop the race and line up all racers in single file to restart the race. This took some time and most were getting soaked at this point. Also, now all the UTVs were completely covered in mud and made it nearly impossible to score the race. After all was said and done, only nineteen UTVs finished the race, and the rest were broken down or were stuck in the mud. As for the final results, Gary Gall took home first, followed by RJ Anderson, Jason Dudley, and Nick Nelson of Quad Magazine took home fourth place.

UTV Open Pro Class lined up for the mud feast.
UTV Open Pro Class lined up for the mud feast.
 Funco/Montclair Kawasaki Teryx was off to a good start; look for an upcoming review on the Funco Chad George Replica Teryx in the upcoming weeks.
Funco/Montclair Kawasaki Teryx was off to a good start; look for an upcoming review on the Funco Chad George Replica Teryx in the upcoming weeks.

What a race to watch! They also had a pro motorcycle class that ran on Sunday as well. So there was an event for everyone, even the little ones. It was a three-day event with plenty of racing and some good food. Hopefully, next year it won’t be raining.

Race Results [PDF Format]


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