Mark Kariya | February 21, 2021
Dante Oliveira delivers back-to-back wins
Words and Photos by Mark Kariya
Chaparral Motorsports/Precision Concepts Kawasaki’s Zach Bell and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Austin Walton demonstrated they’re continuing to heal from injuries suffered late last season with excellent rides at the Dirt Diggers Motorcycle Club’s Taft Grand Prix, round two of the FMF AMA National Grand Prix Championship (NGPC) Series.
However, both were unable to beat the on-form and physically 100-percent defending series champ Dante Oliveira, the FMF KTM Factory Racing Off-Road Team rider managing to keep them at bay despite heavy pressure for the feature race’s entire 90 minutes. Bell, the 2017 champ, hounded the 2020 titleholder and even led briefly but settled for a hard-fought runner-up at the checkers, just four seconds shy of the winner, while Walton was another one minute, nine seconds back for third.
“It was toe to toe the entire time,” Bell said.
“It felt awesome for me; I was having fun being able to run that pace again,” FMF/Motorex/Fly Racing FX 450-mounted Walton said. “I felt really good out there, the bike was working awesome, everyone came together and helped me get the bike dialed in for the weekend.”
After battling with Jet World Husqvarna’s Justin Hoeft—round one’s third-place finisher—Walton decided to find a sustainable pace. “I found my groove and once I did that…I was able to make some passes and ride into, I think, third place and rode there for quite a bit.”
Bell and his Maxima/Hoosier Tires/Moose Racing KX450X came closest to stealing the win from Oliveira despite being at an estimated 80 percent. “Surgery after the last [NGPC] at the end of the series [in December] really took the wind out of my sails,” he admitted. “I’m dealing with the collarbone still.”
A dislocated hip and knee injury prior to round one last month also hampered his recovery: “My mind’s 100 percent. My body’s not,” Bell added. “I went out there and did my best. I just couldn’t pass him; it was so dusty you couldn’t see anything, and it was one-lined. I got pretty screwed in the pits, also. A kid ended up stalling his bike in front of me at the stop sign at pit exit and I got stuck there. Overall, I rode solid and it’s a step in the right direction.”
However, Oliveira was the one on top of the box along with his Red Bull/Dunlop/Thor 450 XC-F. “It…
Read more:: 2021 Taft NGPC Results – Cycle News