2018 24 Hours of Glen Helen Report —
Hot on the heels of the previous weekend’s double header [WORCS Saturday and BIG 6 Sunday; read more about those events here and here] came the single most demanding race of the year: the 2018 24 Hours of Glen Helen. Mother nature improved the conditions for the racers by opening up the skies the night before and early in the race. However, as good as the rain made the dirt, the mud and water led to increased challenges from the mechanical side. Fortunately, Chaparral Motorsports, Precision Concepts, Kawasaki Team Green was able to overcome any hurdles to take the overall event win for the second year running. The team of Justin Seeds, Blayne Thompson, Clay Hengeveld and Michael Del Fante (in that riding order during the race) lead from start to finish.
Justin started the event off for the team. Because of the muddy conditions, getting out front early was a priority in order to keep the bike from getting too caked with mud. Importantly, Seeds was able to get the holeshot and the team never relinquished the lead. The race wasn’t without some drama, a virtual guarantee in an event this long. After a crash during the night, the team had to change to there back-up set of lights. However, aside from a couple other minor issues, the team had a very smooth run completing sixty-nine laps in just over twenty-four hours.
Robby Bell, Team Manager
“I feel this year’s 24 Hours of Glen Helen became more about bike maintenance than years past. The rains, and resulting mud and gritty-sand played a big part. Because of the conditions, many things that don’t typically wear out, showed a lot of wear. Fortunately, we have a great team of people and mechanics who were able to spot any problem areas early to keep the bike in the best condition possible. Last year, we had an issue with the lighting system, but this year the lights ran flawlessly, crash-damage aside. I want to give a ton of credit to Phil and Bob for dialing the lights in before the event. In my opinion we have the best lights on the track.
“Definitely would like to give credit to the Glen Helen staff. They put on a great event and faced plenty of their own adversity. I also want to show a ton of appreciation and gratitude to all of the family members and friends who stayed up most of the night—all night in some cases. The amount of support we had in the pits was fantastic and was a large part of the ultimate success. Additionally, I want to thank the riders for their commitment and preparation. Each guy took excellent care of himself physically, which showed as they all got stronger throughout the event.
“Lastly, I want to say how well our Kawasaki KX450 came through the grueling conditions. The riders mentioned how the performance didn’t drop off at all, even in the final couple hours. The bike ran cool and strong the whole time. It shows how good and durable the bike is, and how well the products and services of each of our team supporters perform.”
“[The race] could have been a lot gnarlier with the mud. But we didn’t have any bike issues, which is really good. Besides the one crash at night it was smooth sailing. I was able to get off to a solid start. I played it a little safe, didn’t want to hit any puddles or wreck the bike early. We were able to get a decent gap there by the time I handed it off to Blayne. From there we were able to stay out front, stay smooth and run solid lap times. When we did have little problems, [the team] was able to fix them and not lose too much time. The track ended up becoming really good [especially] in the later stages of it.
“What stood out to me is that I could’t really figure out the pace the first two stints compared to the other guys. But once we put the lights on to go out at night, I think everything came together [for me]. I feel like I ride a little bit better at night. Then, the next morning came and I was surprised at how good I felt. Not gonna lie, it was a bit of a lap-time battle there towards the end [within the team], but it was all in fun. [The win] was awesome, especially with the conditions we faced. I wish some of the other competitors didn’t have the issues they did, but we all had to face the conditions. We were able to come together and really make it work.”
“The first daytime [stints] went pretty well. The first was about staying on the bike and keeping it on two wheels. Pretty much trying to keep it out of the [deep] mud. Then, the track was a little better so we got to throw down some faster lap times. For sure no complaints from the first couple stints! I was pretty excited for the nighttime, but a quarter of a lap into it, ended up crashing the bike. That bent the front end up pretty good, but the whole team over at PC Kawasaki straightened it all out and got me back out there.
“From there, the last couple stints, I actually went out there and threw down some really good lap times for the night. I was pretty happy with that. Maybe a little bummed I didn’t get a chance to get back on the bike in the morning. The track looked perfect! But that wasn’t a big deal. I’ve been doing this race every year since 2012 and [winning] is what I’ve wanted. The past two years are the first times I’ve actually been able to win the 24 hour in the overall. Now that I’ve got it once, and twice, I don’t want to lose again!”
“I actually have a ton of fun in the mud. So, I was pretty stoked about [the rain] going into the race. The last mud race was actually at Glen Helen, a grand prix, and I did really well in the mud. So, I was really looking forward to it. My first couple daytime stints were pretty good. Actually, I felt kind of like a squid out there in the rain and all the mud. Then, as the day went on, I had a really good time. My second stint on the bike I was having a ton of fun, really feeling the flow. And I actually set some really good lap times, so I was happy about that.
“Then, at night, I enjoyed it. I did struggle a bit in some sections. Sometimes with some lappers, or stuff like that, but I had a ton of fun in the night. Even though we don’t do it a whole lot, riding at night’s probably one of my favorite things to do. I just wanted to keep the bike rolling straight and didn’t want to have any issues. Took it a little easy [at times] and handed it off to the boys and we had a good run!
“Oh man, my last stint on the bike was awesome! I had so much fun. The track actually shaped up really, really well. Honestly, I didn’t want to get off the bike. It was so good. I really enjoyed the track, all the ruts were shaping up well. The single-track was awesome! That early morning stint was probably my favorite time of the entire race, just because the track was so good. This was my first 24 hour in the pro class. I’ve always wanted to do the four-man team. I’m pumped to be able to say that on my first pro 24 hour team we won. That brings a huge smile to my face.”
Michael Del Fante
“Overall, looking at it, [this race] was unreal. I definitely don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Friday night I was laying in bed, listening to the rain, and I was so curious of what everything was going to look like. Then, getting on the bike the first time I was definitely a little cautious. The motocross track was really slippery and muddy. But the trails were unreal the whole time. The second time I got on the bike I definitely felt a lot more comfortable. By then I had a good feel for the bike and the track and I found a really good flow.
“[In the night] I toned it down just a bit. It was right after that whole light [change] and that opened my eyes to how this is such a team event. So, I did four laps that time, just smooth and consistent. And I can’t say enough about the course. I really like these endurance races [at Glen Helen] because they put so much single-track in. I don’t really go up in the hills and ride [those trails] a lot, so most of it was new to me. The fourth stint, I went back to a little faster pace and that’s when I noticed the track finally started to roughen up a bit. I was surprised, actually, that the course didn’t get super rough. I’m not sure what that was, the weather maybe. Definitely the single-track got choppy, but that just made me like it more.
“My last couple times on the bike I was having some goggle problems, with them fogging up. Maybe because my helmet pads weren’t drying off [from previous stints], so I’d already be hot and wet when I put my goggles on. But that wasn’t that big of a deal. My last time on the bike was definitely the best. It was light and I just didn’t want it to end! The track was so good. The bike was unreal. Overall, it was probably the funnest 24 hour I’ve ever done. It was such a great experience and I’m super grateful for it.”
For full results from the 2018 24 Hours of Glen Helen, click here.