Getting the top WORCS teams to Glen Helen for a private shootout was an amazing task. We surprise ourselves sometimes.
We’re just like you. When we go to big pro races, we hang over the fence and we’re amazed. We marvel at the speed. We’re stunned by the skill. And we’re jealous of the quads. The ATVs in pro racing might not be the most expensive or the flashiest machines that we see in the monthly process of making Dirt Wheels, but they are the products of the most skilled ATV builders in the world. Nothing works like a factory racer; nothing is as focused and free of extraneous nonsense. Race quads are all about performance and results.
Three examples that demonstrate that fact are the ATVs of Josh Frederick, Beau Baron and Dustin Nelson. The three of them dominate WORCS racing, which consists of the toughest events in the West. A World Off-Road Championship Series race takes its victims on a torturous two-hour workout that includes motocross, desert, EnduroCross (or WORCSCross, as it’s called) and two-track sections. The riders come back bruised and beaten, and the quads look like they’ve been through a war.
So why is it that only these riders have been able to win WORCS races this year? Obviously all three riders are talented, and all three machines work. They have all perfected their own winning formulas. We wanted to know how their respective battle plans differed, so we got all three teams together at Glen Helen Raceway right after the September WORCS event there. We got to ride the quads, talk to the riders and watch them have their own personal battles right in front of our cameras. Here’s what we learned.
Up front, the Motoworks Can-Ams use Fox Shox, Holz A-arms and a Precision damper. DWT tires and wheels get the traction duties.
Josh is an ATV rider through and through. Whereas Dustin and Beau started off on two-wheelers, Josh Frederick was raised riding ATVs and never had any desire to do anything else. He’s been with the Motoworks team longer than anyone and won Can-Am’s its first and only WORCS title back in 2008. The current race machine probably has more input from Frederick than from anyone else.
Frederick’s Can-Am motor is fast and sweet. Motoworks has learned how
to get the most from the Rotax powerplant, and race results are starting
to stack up.
Josh’s Can-Am motor was developed by Motoworks, and it has extensive modification to the throttle body and head. He can use several different configurations, depending on the kind of power he wants for a specific track. For Glen Helen’s big hills, Josh used a motor that was very similar to the motocross powerplant that John Natalie used to win Can-Am’s first National MX a few months ago. A new addition to the MX package is the Hinson BTL clutch that was developed especially for Motoworks this year. This was a big project, made difficult by the unconventional design of the Rotax clutch.
Josh Frederick won the 2008 title, but was sidelined for most of 2009 with a broken leg. He’s hungry to make a comeback.
In the chassis department, the Can-Am uses Holz A-arms with Fox Shox, a Precision steering stabilizer and X-Factor nerf bars. Douglas Wheels was acquired by Motoworks late last year, so, understandably, Josh uses DWT wheels and tires. Tire Balls keep him from getting flats.
BEAU BARON’S HONDA TRX450R
Mike Cafro knows how to set up Beau’s quad from firsthand experience; he races the same setup. Both machines
Beau is new to four-wheelers. He spent much of his pro racer career on motorcycles, then gave ATVs a try just a few years ago. Guess what? He loved them! Not only that, but he went fast on four wheels. One thing led to another, and he eventually formed a partnership with Mike Cafro Racing. That was a perfect combination; Mike had experience from years of racing Baja, and Beau had freakish natural talent. The result was the 2009 WORCS pro championship.
Mike Cafro assembles Beau Baron’s Honda with all the experience that he has learned in Baja racing.
The quad that Mike built for Beau is a 2009 Honda TRX450R. Many other Honda racers, like Joe Byrd, use the 2005 Honda as a starting point because of its stronger gearbox. But Beau is actually quite easy on machinery and can get over 40 hours on a motor between rebuilds—that’s unheard of by pro standards. Baldwin Racing builds the WORCS motor conservatively. It has a cam, mild head work and increased compression, but they don’t want huge power output. In a two-hour race, power only makes a quad more tiring and less reliable. The clutch is a conventional Hinson (not a slipper), and the pipe is Motoworks.
Beau Baron won the 2009 WORCS championship in the last race of the year, which almost ended in disaster
Mike and Beau have been with Elka shocks and Roll Design for several years, and the damper is a Precision. Traction is handled by an uneasy alliance between the Douglas wheels and the Maxxis RAZR tires. The Tire Balls within make it a three-way partnership.
made the switch from Ohlins to Elka in 2010. Yamaha still owns a major
interest in Ohlins, and Yamaha’s parts and accessories division still is
one of Nellie’s biggest sponsors, but Dustin finds it easier to get
technical assistance and information from Elka.
Dustin was Yamaha’s main man when it came to developing the YFZ450R. It was a project that might well have been born within Dustin’s own head. “I wanted a quad that was ready to race as sold, just like a motocross bike. I was sort of surprised when Yamaha decided to build it,” says Dustin with poorly concealed pride.
Dustin Nelson doesn't care if he has to surrender a holeshot or two. He wants power that's easy to ride for two hours at a time.
Dustin uses one YFZ for WORCS and another for the ITP QuadCross MX series. The WORCS quad is more mildly tuned and has full fenders. It still has a Pro Tech motor with 13.5:1 compression. For 2010, Dustin switched to a Motoworks pipe. But he still has support from his sponsors at Yamaha’s in-house accessory division, GYTR. Those guys supply the clutch, the nerf bars and a number of other goodies.
dominating West Coast motocross for several years, Dustin Nelson is
still looking for his first WORCS title. Wins come more easily than
Another change for 2010 was to Elka shocks, which Dustin finds very easy to tune. They connect to Roll Design A-arms in front and a stock swingarm in back. Dustin uses a GPR steering damper.
Like Beau and Josh, Dustin uses Douglas wheels. It’s interesting that both Dustin and Beau are supported by their biggest competitor. But it’s smart for Motoworks. No matter who wins a WORCS race, he’ll be using Douglas wheels and a Motoworks pipe.
SHOWDOWN AT GLEN HELEN
Frederick, Dustin Nelson and Beau Baron have their own personal battle
at every WORCS race. Josh’s teammate Dillon Zimmerman Stands in for
Frederick in the Dirt Wheels reinactment.
When we met the three teams at Glen Helen, there were still some open wounds from the weekend’s race. Beau had won and Josh had been penalized for leaving the course when he ran out of gas. If the penalty stands, it will give Beau a big margin of safety going into the final round. Tension was high.
But we didn’t care. We had the keys to the three best race quads on the West Coast and permission to ride them until we ran out of gas. We understand that it’s somewhat presumptuous for us to judge and evaluate quads that belong to such high-caliber riders. Who are we to say “Hey, Josh, we think you could use a little more rebound damping,” or “Beau, for the love of Pete, turn down your damper a little!” Even though we ride quads every day and have been doing it for years, we can’t do the things that Josh, Dustin and Beau do on a weekly basis. But we can certainly talk about how their quads work for us.
Smead was amazed at the Can-Am’s power output. It’s a holeshot machine,
and Frederick’s finishing record proves it’s reliable.
First things first: Josh’s Can-Am is a rocket. It has power all over; down low, up top and everywhere in between. When you put your thumb into it, you move out fast. In most ways, that makes the Can-Am hard for mere mortals to handle. If there’s traction and you grab too much, the front end will come up and steering becomes sketchy. But having said that, it was a blast to ride. Even though we probably could go faster on a bike with less power, we weren’t there to go racing. We were there to have fun, do big wheelies and throw big dirt.
The Can-Am is clearly the result of a lot of time and work. The rear suspension was excellent despite the fact that it had just completed a three-hour race. Up front, Josh’s setup rebounds very quickly—probably another depressing reminder that he hits the bumps faster than we do. The thumb throttle was light and easy to work. Surprisingly enough, the clutch is a little hard to pull, which hasn’t been our experience with other Hinson products.
Brad Howe loved riding Beau’s Honda. We think he liked having that big number one plate a little too much.
Beau’s Honda isn’t nearly as fast as the Can-Am, but it’s certainly easier to control. Don’t misunderstand us; the TRX450 is still fast. But it makes smooth, controllable power that doesn’t overwhelm you. It’s always there when you need it with no glitches or hiccups along the way. What really stands out about the machine is how perfectly it’s prepped. The controls are perfectly smooth and well-greased, the brakes are strong and the quad seemed new despite the weekend’s abuse.
Beau’s background as a motorcycle racer is plain to see. First of all, his quad uses a twist throttle. Beyond that, he has more of a stand-up riding style than the other two riders, even in the turns. Sitting on the Honda was a little awkward because of its low seat height. You sit in the Honda whereas you sit on top of the Can-Am. Having said that, the Honda is super quick through the turns whether you sit or stand. The front end sticks and goes exactly where it’s pointed. When we first got on the machine, the damper was very stiff and steering was slow. We thought it was because Beau was super fast and strong, but actually it was a heat issue. Sunday’s weather had been so hot they had worried about heat fade and used a higher than normal setting. Our test day was almost 20 degrees cooler. But it’s clear that we don’t hit bumps nearly as hard as Beau. His rear suspension feels harsh at our more average speeds. It’s okay. We can live with that.
Even though Dustin has a motocross background, Cain found that his Yamaha was soft and friendly.
Dustin Nelson’s Yamaha made us feel less inadequate. His quad is a soft, friendly thing that works well for any rider level. His motocrosser is set up for speedy sprint, but his WORCS Yamaha is made to go the distance. The motor isn’t especially fast for a pro-level race quad. It makes long, smooth power, but in its current state, both Josh’s Can-Am and Beau’s Honda are faster. That’s right, we can handle Dustin Nelson’s race quad. We love it when we can impress ourselves.
His suspension is also set up for a cushy ride. It rides low with a lot of droop. You could feel the A-arm occasionally dragging, but you quickly learn which lines to take. Despite being somewhat soft, the suspension takes G-outs very well, reflecting a lot of careful testing. Remember, Dustin is a test rider for Yamaha, so it makes sense that his own machine would be well-sorted. His brakes are excellent and the machine is fun to ride.
WHAT’S IT MEAN?
the time of our shootout, the WORCS championship was in turmoil. Two
days earlier, Beau Baron won the Glen Helen round and Josh Frederick had
been penalized, giving Baron a good shot at back-to-back titles.
If you want a winner, just look up the results from any 2010 WORCS race. All three of these bikes have won. Nothing else has, at least not in the Pro class. As far as our little group of test riders went, we came up with a perfect stalemate. Ron loved the Can-Am for its power and the sheer fun factor. Cain like the Honda best for a few quick laps, but thought the Yamaha would be the smart choice for a long race. Brad loved the Yamaha because of its friendly nature. But what we think really doesn’t matter. It’s what Josh, Dustin and Beau think. And each of them thinks his own quad is best.
Are you surprised?