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Vorra champion reviews, looks ahead
by Dan McGee - Special to the Tribune
Feb 10, 2014 | 1207 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Dan McGee - Wes Harbor stands by his Class 10 off-road racer with the five class championship trophies he's won over the past several years. He also owns the VORRA series and is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season, which he feels just might be a good one for the series.
Tribune photo by Dan McGee - Wes Harbor stands by his Class 10 off-road racer with the five class championship trophies he's won over the past several years. He also owns the VORRA series and is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season, which he feels just might be a good one for the series.
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Tribune photo by Dan McGee - Harbor and his co-driver storm out of the pits during the USA 500 run last Labor Day weekend outside of Yerington. After being out of the car for a few years due to running the VORRA series, Harbor got to race this year and won his fifth Class 10 championship.
Tribune photo by Dan McGee - Harbor and his co-driver storm out of the pits during the USA 500 run last Labor Day weekend outside of Yerington. After being out of the car for a few years due to running the VORRA series, Harbor got to race this year and won his fifth Class 10 championship.
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Photo courtesy of the Turner family - Young Lux Turner rips around a turn during a KTM Challenge race held at Anaheim during the Feb. 1 round of this year's Supercross series. The Gardnerville youngster won the race competing on the same course as the big bikes race on.
Photo courtesy of the Turner family - Young Lux Turner rips around a turn during a KTM Challenge race held at Anaheim during the Feb. 1 round of this year's Supercross series. The Gardnerville youngster won the race competing on the same course as the big bikes race on.
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SPANISH SPRINGS - Last year was quite a season for Wes Harbor. He not only owns and runs VORRA (Valley Off Road Racing Association) but he was finally able to resume racing and scored his fifth Class 10 Championship.

"It was good to get back to racing, 2013 was pretty much the first chance since '08 when I took over the series that I was able to get into the car at all the events," he said. "George Henley kind of took over as the race director so I could have my outlet in the car. He's been our track steward for about 20 or 25 years but stepped up last year and retired at the end of the season."

This allowed Harbor to return to his roots and realize again why he got involved in off road racing.

"I really enjoyed it and it was just a lot of fun to get back into the competitive nature of it," he said. "And our grass roots series is a great opportunity for guys like me that like to build cars on my own in the garage. And it's a great family organization that's been around for about 39 years so some of the teams have grandparents through grandkids that all still race."

The season begins and ends with short-track races, mostly at the Prairie City OHV course outside of Folsom, Calif. Then in the summer VORRA comes to this region for its three desert races.

VORRA, like other forms of racing, is still suffering the effects from the economic downturn. As a result, the 2013 season got off to a slow start with low car counts.

"We're still struggling with the cost of putting together a race car and getting out there. The economy really hasn't turned around for everybody to where we're back to pre-downturn car counts," he said. "Our averages are closer to 30 where three or four years ago they were closer to 50."

After the first short-track races, Harbor's team was mid-pack in the points race and he was looking forward to being back in the desert.

"Short-track probably isn't our strongest suit as the car is kind of a big desert car," he said. "There are guys that are quicker but we tend to be more an endurance team so the desert is where we do well."

He added a key to the team's success was making all the races and finishing.

"Outside of a couple of short-course races where we went down a lap or two due to mechanical failure, we literally had an almost spotless record of finishing," he said.

But the desert offered its own challenges that had to be overcome.

"In the first desert race we were doing pretty well midway and I got out of the car and turned it over to my co-driver Alex Baker. On the fifth lap, his second lap, he hit a rock in this canyon just about a mile before the finish, and literally ripped a corner of the car off," he said.

At that time Baker thought he race was over, but after taking a careful look, Harbor had other ideas. He and the crew rigged the car to run on three wheels and sent Baker off to finish the final 41-mile lap.

"The night race was probably our best race of the year," Harbor said.

Unfortunately only two Class 10 cars showed up. After three laps, with Baker driving, Harbor took over and wound up taking the overall victory but with so few cars the team only got finishing points.

Points are awarded for finishing as well as in proportion to the amount of cars in racing in that class.

The USA 500 was moved to Labor Day and was staged outside of Yerington. For the team it was another adventure where their determination and mechanical skills were tested.

"We started second in our class and there was a pretty good turn out, six or eight cars for Class 10," he said. "Alex started that one as well, we had a couple of mechanical issues and we were down about 45 minutes when I got in the car about halfway through the race."

Driving aggressively, Harbor made up the time difference by the last lap. However he kept hearing a strange noise and on the final lap found out what was causing it.

"Literally about a mile from the finish, when it was dark, I'm coming down the last canyon before the pits and my rear wheel basically falls off because the trailing arm broke," he said. "So we were in first place, about a mile from the finish when the car broke. So the poor thing made it 524 miles out of the needed 525."

It took two or three hours to make repairs so the car could make it to the finish line with one drive wheel working. Still the team got second in class due to attrition.

Going back to the short course events Harbor's team pretty much had the class championship locked up. This meant the season ending event at the Wild West Motorsports Park was more for fun than having to compete for the title.

"We still showed up race as we don't like to leave the car in the trailer when there's still an event to do," he said.

He, like the others drivers, enjoyed being able to race at Wild West although Harbor mentioned the ski jump was a gut check at first.

"We had a great turn out and the racers came out in good numbers, we had right around 50 to 51 entries, which is really good for VORRA," he said. "That's right in where we need to be for a healthy club. And we got guys that hadn't been out for years."

Looking back on the season he said, "It was really great. What I love about desert racing is that it's truly an endurance sport and it's not a sprint deal at all. You have to go fast but you have to do it really smartly and it was great to show that we can still do it."

Now, like many racers, he's pulled his car out of the trailer and will soon begin preparing for the 2014 season. His goal is 100% participation and finishes with VORRA.

Another goal this year is to end his string of bad luck in the Vegas to Reno off road-race and finally finish the event.

Looking at the state of the club he said, "I think we're steady, I'd like to see an up tick, like a slow growth. We've kind of struggled with what we do with the schedule so we decided to go with seven races again next year."

He added that because some drivers only compete in the short course events, while others specialize on the desert races, both types are offered.

"So we run our budget conservatively as it's kind of a club that supports itself through entry fees," he said. "We've had some pretty serious challenges, the insurance rates have gone up quite a bit and land access is becoming more and more difficult. It's anything but an easy go these days."

This season there won't be a 500-mile race and the night event will be staged in Hawthorne on a course VORRA last used around 2010.

The race at Wild West is actually a double header with Saturday being a Lucas Oil Regional race while Sunday will be the VORRA event. Harbor's hopeful some of the classes can race in each event.

He also added his appreciation for Wild West manager Kevin Singleton, who has worked with him to eliminate any scheduling conflicts.

"Our goal is for VORRA's health and for the health of off-road racing in the region," he said. "VORRA has been pushing for participation from California and southern Nevada for a long time. And the development of a venue like that (Wild West) will help get the travelers to come and start utilizing the area and region."

He added while there are many races to the south, once a team comes to this region he believes they really like the atmosphere and what this area has to offer for the sport.

"The race courses up here are fabulous compared to the over-used venues down south where track conditions are not near as good," he said.

Although there are challenges and nothing is definite, Harbor believes VORRA could have a solid year.

"There's probably a chance we might see 5 or 10 percent growth and that would be a fabulous year to see an up tick at all. Like I said, we have an uphill battle, a lot of expenses, insurance in the last couple of years it's kind of doubled, as well as legal and land issue battles," he said.

On the positive side he's also gotten offers for help from individuals as well as potential new resources to help the series. Of course this all depends on the car counts at each event and the having the drivers support the series as much as they can.

"I have two or three guys that have offered to help me run the back office. We all have full-time jobs so we're still getting that in place and firmed up," he said. "But through that, the injection of some ideas, manpower and energy, the sky could be the limit so I'm cautiously optimistic despite a couple of tough years."

OTHER RACING NEWS

• Lux Turner, an 8-year-old motocross racer from Gardnerville did the area proud during the Feb. 1 round of the Supercross series. That's when the second KTM Challenge Series race for the youngest riders was held at Anaheim 3.

Turner not only posted the fastest times in both of his practice sessions, but he won the main event and was highlighted on national television. And he, along with the others, got to race on the same course as their Supercross heroes.

• Local rider Aaron Siminoe had a very mixed event when he raced in the Supercross round at Oakland on Jan. 22. Failing to transfer out of his heat race he won the 250SX West LCQ.

After starting in the main event, he crashed out a few laps later. Not only was he dazed, but broke his collarbone in the incident.

As a result he wasn't able to compete in the latest rounds at Anaheim and San Diego. Now the series moves east giving the west division riders a seven-week break so Siminoe has plenty of time to heal and continue training.

He plans to race again at the next 250SX West event when the series visits to Houston in April.

• Racing here begins this weekend as MRANN stages the 16th annual Sahwave Hare and Hound with the Trail Blazers hosting the event. Saturday is for the Pee Wee racers followed by the Mini Bikes, V Women and Vintage/Bomber classes.

Then on Sunday, starting at 10 a.m., the big bikes get their turn on the long course. The pits are located 10-miles north of the Nightingale exit on I-80, east of Fernley.

• Depending on the weather, Exit 28 will be open for practice from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

• VORRA's 2014 Schedule

1. March 22-23, Prairie City, OHV Park, Folsom (Short Course)

2. April 12-13 Prairie City, OHV Park, Folsom (Short Course)

3. May 24-25 Yerington 300, Desert Race, Yerington

4. July 12-13 Night Vision 225, Night Desert Race, Hawthorne

5. Aug. 30-31, Top Gun 250, Desert Race, Fallon

6. Sept. 27-28, Wild West Motorsport Park (Short Course*)

7. Oct. 25-26, Prairie City OHV Park, Folsom (Short Course)

* - Saturday is a Lucas Oil Regional event while Sunday is the VORRA event.

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