Colton Haaker Wins the 2015 King of the Motos

Feb. 02, 2015 By Josh Burns and Scott Rousseau, Photos by Scott Rousseau
The King of the Motos returned for its fourth year to test amateurs and professionals in this brutal, extreme enduro race.

The Klim King of the Motos presented by Trail-Tech returned to the Johnson Valley OHV Park in Southern California in 2015. Serving as the kickoff for the Nitto King of the Hammers week, the hellish two-wheeled race returned for its fourth year looking to prove that the U.S. has something to offer the exteme enduro world.

The event’s structure has morphed over the years, but the overall gist has remained: race organizer Jimmy Lewis wants King of the Motos to be the most difficult off-road dirt bike race, not just in the U.S., but anywhere in the world. This year’s race was once again split into two loops, with one starting in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The amateurs started the single 27-mile morning loop at 8 a.m., with the pros starting after them at 9 a.m. The finishing order of the morning loop would determine the starting positions for loop two, but in order to be eligible for the loop, riders had to make it to checkpoint one by 10:30 a.m.

Roughly 60 amateurs racers tackled the land-rush start that shot down into the sandy ravine leading to the KOH landmark hill known as Chocolate Thunder. This first loop decided starting spots for the afternoon, but most importantly it would separate the men from the boys. It included notable landmarks such as Chocolate Thunder, Claw Hammer and Spooners, and it was expected to be tough enough to seriously test the mettle of the amateurs if not most of the pros. Race organizer Jimmy Lewis even went so far as to offer a free entry to the 2016 King of the Motos for any amateur that could finish ahead of the pros in the first loop. And what do you know — one amateur did just that. SRTP/BTO Sports/509 KTM rider Kevin Murphy of Camarillo, California, was the first rider to make the finish line, completing the 27-mile course in 1 hour and 53 minutes.

Kevin Murphy was the lone amateur to beat the pros in the morning loop, earning himself a free entry for the 2016 KoM in the process.

“I’d really like to thank Craig Thompson from SRT for loaning me this bike,” Murphy said. “The course was great — no dust. I think I got off the start about fourth or so, and I just made some passes on some guys. It was awesome.”

After Murphy, the pros started to make their way to the finish. Max Gerston and SRT/BTO Sports KTM’s Cory Graffunder came through 9 minutes and 15 seconds later after dicing it up on the final downhill section through to the finish line. Gerston just beat Graffunder to the finish by 1 second to top the pros.

“It was a good, clean race,” Gerston said. “Me and Graffunder and Haaker went back and forth a few times.”

Colton Haaker was the man to beat when the second loop started. Despite navigational issues, we was able to hold on to earn the 2015 King of the Motos win.

When the second loop started, however, it was the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna racer Haaker’s turn to shine. He quickly grabbed the early lead and took control of the 12.6-mile second loop. The idea on the afternoon portion of the race on the second loop would be for riders to complete as many laps as possible in a three-hour session. Race officials expected the racers to make four laps during three hours, but they clearly misjudged just how tough this year’s course would be as the racers could only complete three laps. The second loop featured 90 percent virgin terrain with sections that gave true meaning to the word “extreme,” with the Waterfall section being one of the most brutal segments.

When it came to the tighter sections of the course, Haaker was clearly the fastest of the group, but the navigation portion of the race is what kept him from pulling away from the competition, specifically Cory Graffunder.

“I would get a lead, and then I would get lost,” Haaker said. “Then I’d turn around and get going in the right direction, and Graffunder would be there. So I pretty much just gave up on trying to lead and just followed him. Then once I knew where I was going, I was able to charge a little harder.

Haaker (left) and Graffunder were neck and neck during much of the race.

With the two racers staying close but pulling ahead of the field, it was the Waterfall section on lap two where the battle between Haaker and Graffunder got really interesting. With the two riders separated by only 10 seconds, Haaker lost his short lead when he ran into a traffic jam of racers at the top of the Waterfall section. The two racers had enough down time that they even pulled off their goggles and chatted for a few moments as they waited for the narrow trail to free up.

With the traffic jam cleared up, Haaker managed to tackle the tight section more cleanly than Graffunder, and that short exchange would prove to be the difference. Although Haaker, Graffunder and Gerston came through to start their final lap about 3 minutes apart, Haaker was able to stretch his lead to nearly 6 minutes at the finish to earn the win. The 25-year-old Haaker completed three laps of the 12.6-mile second loop with a winning time of 3 hours and 21 minutes flat. He becomes just the third winner in the four-year history of the event, joining Graham Jarvis and Cody Webb; Jarvis and Webb missed the event this year.

“That was a pretty hard race,” Haaker said. “My whole body was cramping on the first loop, and it was basically five hours of racing. That race was more than twice as tough as last year’s race.”

Haaker said that the race, which marked his first career extreme enduro win, was one of the most difficult he has ever experienced. How tough was it? Of the 79 competitors that started the race, 56 made it to the afternoon session where only 44 completed one lap. Of the 44, only 11 completed a second lap, and only five completed a final third lap.

“You had to rest wherever you could,” Haaker said. “When you hit the canyons, they were just grueling. In the later laps it got so chunked up by the other riders that it made it a lot more difficult than the first lap.

Graffunder said that once he was able to clear the Waterfall section, by the time he reached the top Haaker was gone. He finished second, posting a time of 3:26:43, putting him 5 minutes and 43 second behind Haaker after the two practically shadowed each other while Graffunder effectively helped Haaker navigate the second loop. Graffunder echoed Haaker’s sentiments that this year’s King of the Motos really puts American on the map for extreme enduro racing.

“It is definitely getting there,” said Graffunder, who has contested extreme enduros such as the Red Bull Romaniacs in Europe. “In the past years we used a lot of the truck canyons and they’re so wide and big. They’re truck tracks, not bike tracks. This year there was a lot of fresh stuff and bike-specific stuff, which was good. The navigation was key, and there some really tough sections that are more like the extreme enduros I’m used to.”

Beta USA’s Max Gerston, an AMA EnduroCross and X-Games veteran, finished third in the race, with a time of 3:28:35.

“I’ve had a lot of bad luck here in the past, so it was nice to just have a good, strong finish,” Gerston said. “That’s kind of a big improvement for me. I’m happy just to be here without bike issues or body issues. I saved myself for the end of the race, and I reeled those guys in, but I just didn’t have enough to… pin the tail on the donkey.”

The King of the Motos race seems to get tougher every year. What will racers have in store in 2016?

King of the Motos race organizer Jimmy Lewis was all too pleased to hear the racers saying this year’s King of the Motos was the toughest yet. His goal is to make this race the toughest off-road race in the world, and it sounds like he’s getting closer to that goal.

“I guessed that it would take the riders 50 minutes to an hour and 10 per lap on the second loop, and that’s what they were doing, so I think that I’ve finally learned what their level is,” Lewis said. “That level requires me to use a trials bike when I set up some parts of the course. Some of the stuff was sadistic, but that is the level at which these guys want to be pushed. When people ask me, ‘Is King of the Motos tougher than a Hare and Hound or tougher than the Baja 500?’ I tell them that the King of the Motos start is tougher than those entire races put together. And then it gets worse!”

2015 Klim King of the Motos presented by Trail-Tech
Johnson Valley OHV Park
Johnson Valley, California
Results: February 1, 2015

Top 3 Pro Finishers
1. Colton Haaker
2. Cory Graffunder
3. Max Gerston

Top 3 Amateur Finishers
1. Kevin Murphy
2. Chris Lencioni
3. Jordan Rock

Top Women Finishers
1. Morgan Tanke
2. Rachel Gutish

Overall Results
Place Bike# Rider Name Class Laps Total Time
1 10 Colton Haaker MP 3 3:21:07.079
2 118 Cory Graffunder MP 3 3:26:43.361
3 15 Max Gerston MP 3 3:28:35.274
4 177 Mitch Carvolth MP 3 4:32:27.497
5 44 Kale Elworthy MP 3 4:48:22.908
6 27 Wally Palmer MP 2 3:24:29.515
7 696 Noah Kepple MP 2 3:25:24.184
8 41 Jordan Brandt MP 2 3:30:24.756
9 200 Eric Rhoten MP 2 4:00:29.790
10 40 Don Boespflug MP 2 4:09:49.229
11 529 Eric Bailey MP 2 4:35:34.569
12 150 Kevin Murphy MA 2 4:35:35.412
13 34 Brady Elton MP 1 2:16:14.170
14 815 Tyler Kinkade MP 1 2:23:34.987
15 140 Chris Lencioni MA 1 2:25:36.193
16 4 Quinn Wentzel MP 1 2:37:22.945
17 111 David Kamo MP 1 2:54:29.890
18 56 Marty Mann MP 1 2:55:24.531
19 618 Jordan Rock MA 1 2:55:28.890
20 6G Jason Gitchel MA 1 2:59:43.650
21 360T Michael Salsman Ryan Koch MT 1 3:02:57.370
22 59T Todd Bennett Brad Hannon MT 1 3:04:41.054
23 517 Bucky Hill MA 1 3:11:52.267
24 502 Nathan Brown MA 1 3:32:26.177
25 305 Wayne Dickert MP 1 3:54:21.723
26 514 Steve Deines MP 1 3:54:24.792
27 131 Kyle Deines MP 1 3:54:26.676
28 88 Drew Dickson MA 1 3:54:56.264
29 11 Ryan Gouveia MA 1 3:57:52.100
30 256 Jesse Beck MA 1 4:00:27.658
31 239V Kevin Driver MA 1 4:01:21.488
32 V37 Craig Thompson MA 1 4:34:02.342
33 101 Alex Lehr MA 1 4:34:04.453
34 717 Kelly Gelhaus MA 1 4:34:08.159
35 959 Tim Wussow MP 1 4:41:45.049
36 143 Garett Carlson MA 1 4:42:56.187
37 727 James King MA 1 4:55:21.912
38 223 Chris Murphy MA 1 5:19:17.509
39 217 Rachel Gutish MW 1 5:25:47.419
40 31 Morgan Tanke MW 1 5:25:48.701
41 74 Radek Burkat MA 1 5:25:51.310
42 107 John Bennett MA 1 5:25:52.675
43 15ZQ Robert Katz MA 1 6:08:31.446
44 328V Roger Flud MA 1 6:08:49.711
DNF N1M John Kearney MA 0
DNF 84 Tom Walker MA 0
DNF 6T Tom Pira Phil Pira MT 0
DNF 17 Bernard Unhassobisky MA 0
DNF 175L Chris Gage MA 0
DNF F62 Corbin Reed MA 0
DNF 262R Darell Collins MA 0
DNF 325 Dexter Dickenson MA 0
DNF 79 Erik Schaffer MA 0
DNF 75 Garry Cassidy MA 0
DNF V2 Greg Gilbert MA 0
DNF 723 Jaminson Moses MA 0
DNF 579 John Scoleri MA 0
DNF 374 Justin Leineweber MA 0
DNF 7 Luis Gonzales MA 0
DNF 1008 Nicole Bradford MW 0
DNF 151 Randall Dubois MA 0
DNF 394 Rhyan Marshall MA 0
DNF 454 Ryus Finch MA 0
DNF 23 Scotty King MA 0
DNF 222 Tim Robel MA 0
DNF 16T Shane Reed Cameron Steele MT 0
DNF 142 Yoram Lavee MA 0
DNF 144 Nick Saia MA 0
DNF 160 Randy Duke MA 0
DNF 106 Bryan Nelson MP 0
DNF 50 Dalton Dietz MP 0
DNF 145 Matt Martin MA 0
DNF 141 Dave Sanchez MA 0
DNF 247 Tyler Little MA 0
DNF 307 Steven Gerber MP 0
DNF 62 Taylor Duprau MA 0
DNF 146 Andrew Hughes MA 0
DNF 127 Tim Oreilly MP 0
DNF 203 Mike Aranda MP 0
DNF 302 Shane McNulty MA 0 Newsletter
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