Road to New Zealand Starts in Oklahoma

Memorial Day Weekend, 2006

Cooperland Raceway, near Stillwater, Oklahoma, hosted the first of four rounds of ISDE Qualifiers. Minnesota riders, Dylan Debel, Craig Holasek, and several others from the Midwest, made the journey south to begin their quest for gold at the 81st ISDE. This year, the world’s biggest and most storied off-road motorcycle race is to be held in Lake Taupo, New Zealand, November 14-19.

Freestyle star, Kenny Bartrum, as well as Guy Cooper, Chuck Cooper, David Forrest, William Forrest, JD Hammock, and Cooperland provided the land for the event and assisted in the design and creation of the track. Although the event was scheduled in Memorial Day weekend, which can be mild this time of year, as luck would have it, it was 15 degrees over average, with strong winds and thermometers at the check points claiming triple-digit readings. The entire central Oklahoma area was also in the midst of one of its worse droughts, leading to very dry and difficult conditions. The second day was shortened a bit because of this and the riders seemed to all agree with the call.

For Debel, a silver medalist at last year’s ISDE, this represented the first step in his plan to reach New Zealand. This year, he has factory support from Husaberg and will be riding selected rounds of the AMA National Enduro series, the two World Enduro rounds held in the US, and a few rounds of the OMA series. When closer to home, he plans to race as many as District 23 Hare Scrambles rounds as possible. Shortly before this race, he took his first AA win at the dual-sanctioned Hare Scrambles in Arkansaw, Wisconsin.

Debel is on the gas coming out of one of the bowl turns on the motocross track

Holasek was originally planning on just trying some qualifiers, but was warming to the idea of going to the ISDE and said he would go if he qualified. A regular winner in the District 23 Enduro series, he will again pursue that championship. As in years past, he receives a lot of his support from Larson’s Cycle as well as KTM, Moose Racing, and Amsoil.

Holasek shows how to go over a log at speed

The overall winner of the event, and seven of the top ten, came from the E-2 class, which consists of 175-250cc two-strokes and 290-450cc four-strokes. Arizona rider, Destry Abbott, initially known for his desert-riding prowess, has shown himself to be an excellent rider in this format as well, winning the overall both days. Jason Thomas (the British Off-Road racer, not the Floridian Motocrosser) was second overall and in the class, with Jimmy Jarrett third in class and fourth overall. Holasek was competing in this challenging class. After finishing 9th on day one, he slipped slightly to 12th. A few position ahead on time was a familiar foe from Illinois, Tim Tabor, who finished 9th.

Third overall in the event was from the E-3 class. These big bores, 290-500cc two-strokes and 475-650cc four-strokes, proved to be quite a handful in the dry conditions, but were still being ridden to competitive times. Local legend and former Motocross national champion, Guy Cooper, once again displayed his ability to ride anything with two wheels very fast, just barely missing out on second overall and easily topping the class. Washington state’s Paul Neff was next and seventh overall, with Colorado rider, Eric Bailey third. Debel was in good shape after this first round, finishing seventh, but sixth in the points, because Cooper did not ride as a LOI rider. Daniel Janus, from Illinois, was ninth in the class.

Further down in the overall standings was the E-1 class, the smaller bikes not fairing as well in the conditions. Class winner, Ron Schmelze of Colorado ended up 10th overall. The only 125 among the front-runners was New Jersey’s Fred Hoess. The long-time ISDE veteran was riding well, but found it difficult to be competitive against the 250Fs. He still finished an impressive third in the class with fellow Jersey native, Aaron Kopp, in second. Further back in the class standings, Minnesota rider, Brian Hasslam, was eleventh, with Kiel Mueller of Illinois in 15th.

As Oregon’s Derek Steahly demonstrates, off-road riders can jump.

On the other end of the experience spectrum was Illinois resident, Jeff Fredette, who easily won the Senior (E-5) class, and looks to be well on his way to qualifying for yet another ISDE. Long-time Oklahoma fast-guy, Chuck Cooper was next, edging Washington State’s Michael Bronn. Other riders in the top ten included yet another Illinois rider, Brian Neihaus, in seventh, and Iowa’s Joe French in tenth.

After the race, Debel and Holasek’s most immediate impression was that it was quite hot. The nature of the competition doesn’t result in a lot of close racing directly against the other riders, but there’s still something special about racing on the same course with many of the top off-road riders in the county. Riders for the USA teams will be selected based on the combined results of the rider’s best two qualifier events, so in order to qualify, they will both need to compete in at least one more round, the closest being Tennessee in mid-June.

Almost before the race is completely over, the riders and crews, most quite tired after two days in the heat, begin loading up and getting ready for the long drive home. No cheering stadium-full of people waiting at the finish, but the ones that were waiting there were quite encouraging. Such is the life of those chasing ISDE glory.

Overall: 1. Destry Abbott 2. Jason Thomas 3. Guy Cooper 4. Jimmy Jarrett 5. Cole Kirkpatrick

E-1: 1.Ron Schmelzle (CO) 2.Aaron Kopp (NJ) 3.Fred Hoess (NJ) 4.Walker Luedtke (NE) 5.Luke McNeil (MA) 11. Brian Hasslam (MN) 15. Keil Mueller (IL)

E-2: 1. Destry Abbott (AZ) 2. Jason Thomas (UK) 3. Jimmy Jarrett 4. Cole Kirkpatrick (TX) 5. Russell Bobbitt (NJ) 9. Tim Tabor (IL) 12. Craig Holasek (MN)

E-3: 1. Guy Cooper (OK) 2. Paul Neff (WA) 3.Eric Bailey (CO) 4.Mike Monroe (AL) 5.Brandon Johnson (WA) 7. Dylan Debel (MN) 9. Daniel Janus (IL)

E-4: 1. N. Bradford 2.Traci Schalon

E-5: 1. Jeff Fredette (IL) 2. Chuck Cooper (OK) 3. Michael Bronn (WA) 4. Patrick Flynn 5. Bill Rush (OR) 6. J.D. Hammock (OK) 7. Brian Neihaus (IL) 10. Joe French (IA)


Photos formatted for faster loading on the web. Originals supplied courtesy of Cycle City Promotions.