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Desert Fox rules once again
by Dan McGee - Special to the Tribune
Jan 08, 2013 | 5380 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Dan McGee - Savanna Zeigler waves the checkered flag as Dennis Belingheri, the Desert Fox, finishes the season ending MRANN races and sewed up his fourth overall points championship.
Tribune photo by Dan McGee - Savanna Zeigler waves the checkered flag as Dennis Belingheri, the Desert Fox, finishes the season ending MRANN races and sewed up his fourth overall points championship.
After seeing the need for a desert motorcycle racing series, business partners Dennis Belingheri and Paul Ziegler started the Motorcycle Racing Association of Northern Nevada, or MRANN as its known. This is an umbrella group that sanctions races staged by member clubs.

Belingheri was so successful as a racer he soon earned the nickname, The Desert Fox. This year he returned to active competition to pursue his fourth overall point's championship, but his first since 2004.

"It's been eight years since I raced the whole season," he said. "I was kind of semi-retired, did VCGP in 2005 and won that. And then I got into other stuff although I still rode the whole time and my kids rode."

Among the "other stuff," was earning his pilot's license, buying an airplane and doing other activities that got his adrenalin going.

"I've raced motorcycles my whole life so it's good to get something else going once in a while," he said.

A few years ago, his son Ezra, now 10-years-old, began to race. He won the 7 & Older Pee Wee championship last year. Now he's moved up to the 65cc division and, "had fun learning how to use a clutch and shift gears."

After racing in the spring, young Ezra played football in the fall so on Saturdays he and his father were at those games rather than on the desert.

Asked why he came back, Belingheri said, "At this point in my life, and I started the year at 42, I was still fast enough to win a championship. And I knew I had better get it going then because in a couple of more years time it is probably going to take its toll."

He soon realized just how difficult it was going to be as this time. There were more family obligations with four kids, plus helping run a business.

"It was just harder to stay focused and get in shape," he said. "Even though I was just as fast as I was back in 2004, it was harder for me to go that fast. So I had to try harder."

To get and stay fit, he made sure to go to the gym, kept his cardio in shape and rode a lot. In motorcycle racing, doing a lot of riding is an important part of any racer trying to keep his or her edge.

Of course, many times when he went riding his kids and wife wanted to go along as well.

The family consists of his wife Susan, as well as sons Gage, who is 18, Ezra, and daughters, 15-year-old Elle, and Brynn, who is now 6-years-old.

This past fall, Belingheri taught Elle how to ride a bike so she can learn how to use a clutch, as she'll soon start driving. However she's not interesting in racing, although her younger sister seems to be.

"My little girl Brynn just got a KTM for Christmas and she's riding around the back yard. And we might get her out there next year, he said."

Belingheri found out it wasn't so easy sitting on the sidelines when Ezra began racing the long courses.

"I didn't think it was going to be so hard watching Ezra race until he went and did the big mini course, which was 20-miles," he said.

Realizing there was no way he was going to let his son go out on the course that long, he enlisted his friend Ziegler to ride sweep with young Ezra.

"So he took care of him," he said. "It would have been hard if I didn't have someone I trusted out there watching Ezra."

Although this past season began well, Belingheri encountered some challenges along the way.

"It started out great, I won the first three races overall and then at Honey Lake I had a mechanical problem with my clutch but I still finished," he said. I was going into the fall looking good and then I won Western States overall. Then the next race my KTM had problems and it blew up seven miles from the finish."

The effect of that mechanical failure meant Belingheri had to do one of the hardest things for any racer, compete for points rather than a victory.

"I was so worried about it blowing up again. So basically the last couple of races this year I just had to make sure I finished," he said. "So save the bike and make sure you finish because I had spent so much money over the year already on motor rebuilds."

During the season, his main rival was Steve Tichenor.

Reflecting on the race where his bike failed him, Belingheri said, "The funny thing is that Steve's bike broke down so I let him use one of my bikes and that bike actually finished while mine broke down. But it's good because Steve is one of my best friends. He's the guy that always goes riding with me. We train and ride together, so it's good to see that he finished second."

All during the fall Belingheri had to keep the big picture in mind and not necessarily go full throttle.

"This is my one year to try and get a championship. I didn't want to do it again next year," he said. "I've got other stuff I'm planning on next year."

While this will probably be the last year the Desert Fox reigns in MRANN, he's far from finished motorcycle racing.

"This year I'm doing the Best in the Desert races and all the Baja races," he said. I'm teamed up with Dan Caparelli and Purvines Racing, which is based out of Las Vegas."

Former racer Ron Purvines is fielding a team and helping 10 pro riders this year. They will be mounted on Beta motorcycles, which are handcrafted in Italy.

"I've never raced a Beta before and, although me and Dan are over 40, we're racing the Over 30 class," he said. "I think we're both fast enough that we should be able to win and the Parker 250 is next week.

Reflecting on how MRANN is doing, he said, "its not looking super good. The motorcycle industry is down almost 60 percent in our area and it's based on the economy. People just don't have that money to go and spend just on motorcycles when they are spending it on gas, bills or what ever. We've seen a decline in the rider count this year. So we're just hoping the economy gets better."

To help reverse this, he's having MRANN work on promoting the sport to get more riders competing on the desert.

"That's why we're doing the MRANN card sales early. We sent out letters about the banquet, which we normally don't do and we're just trying to get people more excited so they do come and participate," he said.

While he plans on racing out of the area, Belingheri will still participate in some MRANN events.

"I'm not sure exactly, I'm just going to pick and choose. I know I'll do the first race of the year because I've won that six times. So I might as well try that for a seventh. Besides that, I'm going to see how my schedule goes," he said.

While he's looking forward to the Best in the Desert series Belingheri will be a bit cautious.

"I haven't done the series since I crashed and broke my back in 1998," he said. "And that was like a 10 percent chance of ever walking again so I kind of quit doing those. I'm a little more careful these days and I don't take as many chances as I used to, but I think it will be fun to go back and do it again."

The Baja experience begins with the San Felipe 250 in March then in early June for the Baja 500 and back again in November for the Baja 1000.

"I've never done Baja before and I'm really looking forward to it. It's like a two-week deal. You go down there two weeks before the race, pre-run then hang out with the Mexicans," he said. "It's normally a three-man team and you pre-run your sections."

School schedules will determine if his family is able to make those trips with him.

Like any motorsports athlete, Belingheri is very appreciative of those that have sponsored and supported him over the year.

He gave special thanks to his wife and family, Reno Motor Sports as well as Ziegler, who took a year off from racing so Belingheri could chase this fourth title.

"I also have to thank Mike Hammel my gas guy all year. My guys at the shop that help out, "Nick Nack," Nick Alosi the best mechanic in Reno, Tina Bodden, who did all my parts ordering and graphics and Jake Osborne, who race prepped my bike."

On Saturday evening, at the MRANN awards banquet, Belingheri was honored for his championship as well as the other champions. Now he's focused on his racing and his year begins this coming weekend.


•At the MRANN banquet, 16-year-old Brody Honea was given the "Most Improved Big Bike Rider," award. His father later explained that he and his uncle Reece, a former MRANN champion, would compete in this year's Hare and Hound National series.


• 2012 Special Awards:

— Most Improved:

— - Mini Bikes - Austin Wilson

— - Big Bikes - Brody Honea

— Sportsman of the Year - Steve Fletcher

— Family of the Year - Wilsons

— Race of the Year - Gold Diggers MC

• 2012 Class Champions:

Pee Wee:

- 6 & Under - Landen Williams

- 7 & Over - Jesse White

— 7 & Over, 4-Stroke - Andrew Anderson

Mini Mini Bikes:

Expert - Dallas Serpa

Amatuer - Seth Ramsey

Novice - Carley Legenbauer

Mini Bikes:

Expert - Marcus Loll

Amateur - Austin Wilson

Novice - Donavyn Morris

Saturday Women:

Expert - Chrystal Ponsock

Amateur - Jodie Fell

Novice - Denise Schwartz

Big Bikes:

Top 20 in Overall Points - 1. Dennis Belingheri, 2. Steve Tichenor, 3. Irving Powers, 4. Zack Audenried, 5. Josh Wilson, 6. Adam Thissen, 7. Kyle Fenner, 8. Titan McKibben, 9. Dustin Genovese, 10. Danny Melvin, 11. Jason Alosi, 12. Steve Walkiewicz, 13. Sean Berryman, 14. Mike Berenback, 15. Mark Dowers, 16. Jonathan Godman, 17. Jim Menecini, 18. Ryan Hamel, 19. Levi Hutchings, 20. Brody Honea

2012 Class Champions:

200 - Danny Melvin

250 - Kyle Fenner

4-Stroke - Steve Tichenor

Open - Zack Audenried

Over 30 - Josh Wilson

Over 40 - Shawn Pettigrove

Over 50 - Brad Kohler

Over 60 - Pete Prichard


Amateur - Beth Legenbauer

Novice - Danielle Walkiewicz

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