Earlier last year I attended the Marc Hahn endurance race in Lake Havasu, AZ to support some fellow Liquid Militia sponsored riders who were racing. It was there where I was approached by David Fekete of KMG Racing. He had a lot of great things to say about me especially how he had seen me race and podium in Parker just months before. He made an incredible offer that would ignite my competitive racing career. David and his wife Dawn Fekete support their Racing team called “KMG Racing“. Their out look on racing is not just being another race team.. they are the other guys. KMG Racing has a few race skis which they have someone who shares the same positive outlook on racing, race their skis free of charge. Also at the end of every race despite the out come they are always the first ones to pass around some drinks and celebrate their motto of having a good time. I rode a stock class KMG racing ski this year at the APBA Race in Parker, AZ. I qualified for the world finals placing 3rd overall in Novice ski stock and 1st in Novice ski Limited. From there I rode the KMG Stock Class blue ski at the Hydro -Turf Sponsored Las Vegas indoor race event at the South Point Arena.
With a few training sessions between Mission bay and Granada street beach in Long beach I was ready to race at the 30th annual IJSBA World Finals in Lake Havasu. Dawn and Dave also sponsored Toshi, a killer racer from Japan. Toshi and I shared the stock spec ski for our individual stock spec classes so his crew modified the ski to get every stock class legal advantage out it. This was killer because I knew I was riding one the fastest most competitive handling stock spec skis on the track. It took a little bit to learn how to ride like Toshi but in the end it worked out great because despite my back being on fire from riding so low, my lap times and track rhythm improved greatly.
I Left my house late Friday night to arrive in Havasu at the Liquid Militia rental house around 4 in the morning. Being completely wired from too many energy drinks I decided to un pack a little and do some finishing touches to the new freestyle ski I was potentially going to ride in the amateur freestyle class. Within an hour Pro Rider Magazine photographer and my good friend Ronny Mac showed up at the house. Within a few hours I met with the KMG Racing crew at Body Beach to practice racing and try to promote “Jr’s with the Pros Day”. Dawn and David are a big supporter of the “Jr. Stars” program which each year sponsors 1-2 international Jr. Class racers. These are kids who show great devotion and progress in racing as well as having a good personality and good grades. Its a super positive program which is how Dawn and Dave found Toshi who came up from the Jr. class all the way to the pro class and won motos at last year’s world finals! Unfortunately the message did not spread about the day with the pros event, but a few kids did come by who got spoiled with cool gear from Bomber Eyewear, Mystik Lubricants, Liquid Militia, and KMG Racing. I signed a few posters for the little guys and they were really stoked. The rest of the day Toshi and I practiced riding buoys. I spent over half the day diagnosing a completely fried MSD total loss ignition system in the freestyle ski. This would be the deciding factor in why I did not compete in amateur freestyle later in the week. Toward the end of the day, the KMG Racing team and I made our way over to Action Sports Clothing store in upper Lake Havasu City. We set up the Mystik and KMG Easy ups, set out all the race skis including my Freeride superjet, and had a 2 hour autograph/meet and greet for all Action Sports customers. It was a great way to give back to the Lake Havasu city small businesses and build a little local exposure for the World Finals race event. The next few days we continued to test and modify the race skis all while getting as much riding in as we could all day. Monday was the official practice day where Toshi and I got to practice on the official World Finals race coarse. I did not have any races until Wednesday so I utilized Tuesday to practice at crazy beach to mentally and physically prepare myself for Wednesdays races. I was as ready as any freerider gone racer could be, so I got to bed early to be fresh for the big day.
Race Day / Qualifying
Wednesday morning started with one more practice session which was then followed by my first qualifying moto in Amateur Ski lites. That class is 2-stroke stand ups only at stock racing class specifications. My racing class was so big there was 2 almost full qualifying motos. With the help of my holder and great friend Jeffery DeCoite, I was the first off the line with the hole shot on the outside starting line. Unfortunately in the confusion of practice and not following anybody, I made a wrong turn off last buoy of the first sweeping turn. I lead half of the race around the first split buoy we did not need to go around. After that bad start the rest of the moto started to fall apart. I got into a battle behind one guy and tried to cut in on him to pass during a turn but got caught in his jet wash. The nose of my ski dove and I went completely under the water. This caused my race ski to die and take what seemed for ever to get started again. It wasn’t until the 1st place guy came to lap me when the ski groaned back to life and I continued the rest of the moto. Somehow I finished 11th out of 15, which did not qualify for the main heat right away. I still had my shot to do so at the Last Change Qualifier (LCQ) round later that day. At the starting line for the LCQ round I was ready. I studied the track and was pissed from the last crappy moto so I was ready for vengeance. Jeff helped me with another killer start as I hit the throttle and accelerated toward the gate I watched the starting line ban snap across the nose of my ski and I was gone. I got the hole shot coming around starting merge buoy and never looked back placing 1st to be 1 of the top 2 that qualified back into the main.
Main Moto 1
Within another 6 motos the first main heat of amateur lites was up. Back on the starting line I chose the outside starting position again because I knew that line and how to take it the fastest. At the band snap, I got the hole shot on my outside starting position but the guys on the inside got around quicker so I was about 6th or 7th coming around the starting merge buoy. The 2 main heats were 6 lap motos, and by lap 3 I had battled my way to 3rd place behind fellow Kommander Industries sponsored racer Kody Copenhaver. Kody has been racing for years and is really fast. We battled all the way through the last 3 laps as I tried bobbing and weaving around his tight racing lines. This gave me nothing but dirty jet wash water to try and accelerate and pass through. We came around the back side sweeper turn with about 7-8 ski lengths between us. Kody went for the outside split and I dove for the inside split hauling ass through clean water. It was so exciting because I came around my last split buoy back into the merge with Kody now literally only half a ski length ahead, with the nose of my ski at the side of his tray. Kody, being the experienced racer he is, set a tight rail into the final turn as I set up from the outside to try and swoop in tight to pass. As soon as he was engaged in the turn his jet unloaded a bit blasting me, which caused me to loose my balance and slide out a bit loosing most of my turn speed. 1o feet away was the finish line as Kody flew through getting second and I came just a second behind him in 3rd, that was an epic race!
Main Moto 2
For the final moto I chose the outside starting position yet again to feel confident with my start course. At card flip, I accelerated and watched the band snap across the nose of my ski and I left the line ahead of everyone else. However as I came 10 yards from the first turn I noticed another ski coming in hot on my right peripheral. It was a rider who rented a very fast ski and got ahead of me through the opening sweeper turn. As we came into first hard turn buoy I swore I saw the rider in front of me look back at me as I got a huge pump roost in the face from his jet pump. It almost knocked me over as I was committed to the turn. Now thinking he did it intentionally from the alleged look back, I felt like he had just unleashed the hulk out of me. My adrenaline spiked and my muscled tensed up as pure rage felt like it was seeping from my eyes with him being my target for vengeance. I came around the first merge turn in about 8th place behind that rider. I battled this guy the entire first lap until we came back into the splits. He dove in the outside split and I booked it for the inside split absolutely hauling ass. I came into the merger buoy 6 ski lengths ahead of him looking back across the back stretch shouting in a warriors rage tone as if I just fist fought a bear and won. That adrenaline sure lit a fire under me because it helped me keep the momentum up to fight my way from7th to 4th right behind Kody again. We battled for a lap until I was finally able to make a pass on him and keep charging for the last 2 laps. 1st and 2nd place were half a lap ahead of the me having clear water ahead of the pack the whole race. I finished that moto 3rd again but being that I beat Kody who placed lower. My good friend and KMG mechanic, Bobby Kerns met me at the tech inspection area immediately after the race. My holder Jeff DeCoite was there to give me a big hug and tell me that I had the 2nd place over all points. Bobby and I wheeled the ski out of the water and Into a tech tear down booth. This was new to me being a first time world finals racer, but the top 5 of every class get broken down per request of the tech officials to make sure every ski is within class spec. We tore down and checked everything the tech officials wanted to see and got the green light. The racer who won the first overall was still stuck in tech for over 45 min of us leaving. That whole night I was on edge not knowing if the rumors of a possible disqualification were true of not. The next morning I awoke with a voice mail of Dawn Fekete and friends screaming “Congratulations World Champion Wooooooo!” The rider who came in first was disqualified for having after market carbon fiber reeds, making me the Amateur Ski Lites World Champion at the 30th annual IJSBA World Finals!
Pro Weekend & Awards
The rest of the week was great, I hung out at the event site meeting tons of people, I signed posters for fans at the Liquid Militia booth, and partied our socks off with the Liquid Militia crew at Kokomos night club every night. It was great to see all of my fellow freeriders show up like Zack Bright, Tanner Thomas, Chris Rosner, Taylor Curtis, John Howe, Jared Ajlouny, Christian Young and many more. I got to wake surf with Tommy Bonacci of Bomber Eyewear, his wife, and Chris Fischetti. The awards ceremony was great, I was surprised to see how cool the trophies looked! Announcer Mike Young gave me a killer podium introduction and while I was on the podium I shouted a big “UP!” toward all my friends at KMG Racing who raised their arms and drinks and yelled back our team chant “UP!” Chris MacClugage came up to snag a last minute photo before I got down, it was really cool to see how stoked he was for me being a freerider showing up to my first world finals and leaving with a world title. I feel super accomplished winning this title because I worked my ass off fighting from a terrible start in qualifying, to winning the LCQ and battling with some solid racers to the top.
The people I have surrounded myself with in the race industry are the most positive people. I am really happy to be supported by such a great family at KMG Racing. I cant not thank my Mom and my brother Philip at Patty’s Cakes & Desserts, Kevin Collins at Led Drag, and Larry Sarinana at QuickStyle Motorsports enough for making the entire trip financially possible for me.
This is a huge achievement and I sincerely can not thank all of you guys for your support along the way.
Thank you again for your support,