Endurance Racing, A Father and Son Endure

6 hours racing, 12 hours retelling the tale

endurance racing action at glen helen
Evan, rounding turn 1, the famed Talladega of Glen Helen.Sean Renshaw

I could tell he was nervous. It was the morning of my son Evan's first race. He had been acting unusually quiet on the drive up. Now surrounded by more than 100 other riders at the pre-race rider's meeting he had that deer in the headlights look. And that's when I was sure he was going to have the time of his life. We were going to have the time of our life racing the 20th annual Glen Helen 6-Hour Grand Prix endurance race.

Interestingly, the first time the race was held was the year Evan was a newborn baby, barely a couple months old.

yamaha yz250fx static side view
Our YZ250FX was looking fresh and running like new thanks to Yamaha's in-house race.Jeff Allen

It’s a father’s greatest joy to watch his children do something they truly love. For many years a riding weekend with the family meant hauling kid bikes out to the desert or local motocross track. The kids would ride while I would keep the gas tanks topped off, clean goggles, and pick them up when they tipped over. I loved it. I truly did. At that age it was just as much fun for me to watch them out enjoying themselves and building confidence.

My kids are grown now, which makes it possible for us to love and do the things we both love, together. Lately that's been riding dirt bikes with Evan. Fun father-son days riding dual-sport, trail ride, and MX became the norm.

off road riders in full protective equipment
Alpinestars and Arai had this duo race ready.Jeff Allen

The difference, today, is that there will be some seriously fast guys on the racetrack. Which is one of the great things about our sport. Being in the game, while the top-level guys are in the game. Among the pro riders this day would be JCR's (Johnny Campbell Racing) Trevor Stewart and Justin Jones, son of former Honda Factory rider and 3-time AMA National 250cc Champ Gary Jones. Gary would also be racing on a team of his own. Now that's a father son combo on another level. Maybe I should have been getting nervous.

Our race could not have gone much smoother. Yamaha's in-house race shop perfectly prepped our 2017 YZ250FX, a bike Evan and I agreed the was the perfect choice, choice for a number of reasons. The GP-intended racer is powered by the same engine as the motocross model, is lighter and more nimble than a 450, has slightly softer suspension tuned for GNCC-style racing, and of course, the button—the wonderful push-to-start button on the handlebars. What can I say, it's a nice luxury to have an electric-start motorcycle on a "dead engine" gate start.

off road motorcycle race action
Conditions were extremely dry except for a flooded section known as "Bud's Creek."Sean Renshaw

The quick starting FX was a big part of reason we were sitting 4th after the first turn and 3rd heading up the famous “Mount St. Helens.” Track conditions were ultra dry despite the epic winter rains in SoCal. Dust so thick it will turn your lungs into something consistent to birthday cake. Keeping in mind you can’t win a 6-hour race in the first hour but you can certainly lose it, we tried our best to keep calm. Still, we each white knuckled our way through the haze for our first stints.

motorcycle off roading at race track
Trying to keep my elbows up. The arms get mighty heavy after an hour on the bike.Sean Renshaw

After that the field spread out we could finally see our way around the course. Evan and I had pre-planned our pit stops, fueling, and rider changes. Keeping the bike on the track moving is goal number one for the majority of the racing field. That is unless you’re racing for the overall win. Those guys are flat out for 6 hours straight.

off road motorcycle jump action
Oh to be young again. The kid never appears to get tired.Sean Renshaw

This was most evident to Evan while he was completing our final lap. He explained how he was coming down a really rough stretch on the back section. This part of the course was a beat-up downhill—a steep grade covered in loose rocks and braking bumps. At the bottom of the hill was a silt-hole berm deep enough to drown in. It required all your attention every lap. He was on the smoother “racing line” when he heard a bike coming from behind him. As the rider went by in the rougher non-racing line Evan was concerned. The bike was bouncing up and down, flailing from side to side. The rider looked frantic. Thinking this guy had lost his brakes Evan, in his words, thought he was about to witness a “gnarly crash.” His concerns were short lived as the rider arrived at bottom of the hill smacked the berm in a blinding cloud of dust and disappeared. Like a magician, when the cloud cleared he was gone. That rider was eventual race winner Trevor Stewart.

yamaha yz250fx off road race action
Smaller and lighter than a 450 our YZ250FX was a good choice for a an endurance race.Sean Renshaw

The race was a great time, creating memories that will last a lifetime. But the true value of the weekend was two guys, a father and a son, camping in the back of van, working together for a common goal. Tired and dirty as we drove home, we rehashed for hours every pass, spill, re-pass, and near death moment of the day.

Would we do it again? Absolutely.

More photos from the Glen Helen 6-Hour Grand Prix Endurance Race

endurance race action from glen helen
Part of the fun is getting to race on the same track the pros ride for the Glen Helen National MX.Sean Renshaw
yamaha yz250fx handguard details
Our YZ250FX was bone stock except for a set of wrap-around handguards by Reflex Racing. These babies were knuckle savers on the rocky back stretch.Jeff Allen
taking checkers at the finish line
Evan happy to take the checkers in his first ever off-road race.Jeff Allen
father and son pose in front of motocross bike
Big smiles and dirty faces tell the story. A proud father mugs for the camera.Jeff Allen
yamaha yz250fx after race appearance
This machine needs a post workout shower. That's what kids are for.Jeff Allen