April 24, 2024

Carson Brown wins 2 stroke Challenge at Washougal Nationals

A familiar sound rang through the hills and blinds of Washougal MX Park in Washougal, Washington as the field was invaded by the buzz of 2-stroke engines.

$15,000 was on the line at the Washougal Nationals race weekend in Round 8 of the 2023 Pro Motocross season, Round 25 SuperMotocross, for the rider who entered their 250cc 2-stroke engine in the 450 class closest to the front?

On a typical weekend during the Monster Energy Supercross and Pro motocross schedule one will hear one or more 2-stroke chants as they battle the field with limited success. But the extra purse laid down by Moto Memess, MotoSport.com and Jettson Donuts was enough to draw 11 riders to the dark side.

Jerry Robin was one of the racers who answered the call. The Minnesota native hadn’t raced by two strokes since Loretta Lynn’s in 2016 and hopped on the bike for the first time this weekend. Robin was less motivated by the wallet and more interested in showing how the 2-stroke can hold up against modern 450s.

“To me, if you go out there and beat some good guys on a 450, it’s worth it,” Jerry Robin told NBC Sports. “A lot of people think 2-strokes are at a disadvantage but I think you grow up on 2-strokes all the time, it’s how you ride it. Simply change your riding style. That’s mainly what it’s about.”

Robin was the fastest combined qualifier on a 2-stroke, but finished the Motos 38th overall.

Loss of Favor

Some background information is needed to understand the importance of this 2-stroke competition.

During the Las Vegas round of the 1997 Supercross season, Doug Henry took the checkered flat on a Yamaha YZM400 experimental 4-stroke bike for the first time. The YZM400 was allowed to race in the 1997 season due to a provision in the AMA rulebook that allowed a development bike to be raced against the stock field for a year before that bike went into full production – as long as the engine stayed under 560cc.

Henry’s bike was different than any rider had seen before and his late season win in Las Vegas took the believers out of most.

Over the next five years Yamaha would build their 450 to perfection. Other manufacturers grappled with the fear of being consigned to the dustbin of history.

2-Stroke Revival

Twenty-six years later, a small, passionate counterculture is still trying to bring 2-strokes back to the heart of Pro Motocross. This weekend their collective voices rang out loud.

Riders soon knew they had to race differently than their 450 competitors if they were to finish ahead.

After the first practice Kevin Moranz told NBC Sports that the biggest challenge was going to be qualifying because the 450s can carry more overall speed, especially on a long uphill stretch called Horsepower Hill.

This weak spot for the 2-stroke is “Uphill, to be honest,” Moranz said. “Going out of the tight corners, uphill, the 450 is pulling much better. So we’ll see. We’re here to try.”

Before the first practice Moranz sat in the pits with the other privateers and waited for his bike to arrive. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ His 2-stroke would be rented this week as he comes to Washougal to chase the extra purse money and hopefully move up in the combined SuperMotocross points.

Moranz entered the outdoor schedule two weeks ago at Southwick to gain more SuperMotocross points and qualify for the September playoffs. Moranz is currently ranked 24th, which puts him in the LCQ every round.

Moranz would narrowly qualify 35th making the feature.

He finished 28th in Moto 1 and 26th in Moto 2. As a result of the $15,000 gamble Moranz failed to earn any championship points as they are only awarded to the top 20 riders.

“The hardest (2-stroke) moments are just those hard pack slick spots,” said Brown, qualifying 23rd overall. “You’re really going to have to dodge these in two hits. Because the 450s can kind of track through those, when the two strokes turn through. So picking different lines than the 450s can be very beneficial.”

Carson Brown was the only rider entered on 2 strokes who also raced one at Washougal in the 2022 round and was the favorite to take home the prize money. He finished 18th in the first moto. Brown was sure it would be a competitive field with so many passionate riders joining his two-stroke this weekend.

“I think it’s great,” Brown said. “Having a quick drop on them is great because the fans are really passionate about the two-stroke and hopefully it will encourage more 2-stroke racing in the near future. Everyone has been beaten so far.

“The biggest competition is to call the track itself, but you know, there are fast people. When it comes to racing, you never know who is going to step up to the plate though; one can be holding back. I don’t think it’s just one guy to worry about.”

As it turned out, Brown was the man he was worried about.

Brown finished 18th in the first round and 21st in the second to finish 21st. The second moto put the rider on edge as he battled dehydration and exhaustion. Brown had to push hard through that round as he overtook 2-stroke rider Anthony Rodriguez for 20th place paying the final points.

Rodriguez won the battle, but 21st place in Moto 1 meant he failed to earn points in that race. Brown took home the $15,000 check, but more importantly he was the best 2-stroke rider in a packed field.

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