The 11th Annual Nitto King of the Hammers Powered by Optima Batteries kicked off this past weekend, with King of the Motos taking center stage at the start of Hammers week. The new tweak to this year’s event was the breakup of action into three separate moto stages, with a key focus on navigation and, of course, pure grit.

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Colton Haaker earned the win at the 2017 King of the Motos.  Haaker stayed consistent and safe, and the strategy paid off when he was the first rider to hit all of the checkpoints. It was Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Cody Webb who actually finished in the physical first position, but unfortunately he missed a checkpoint in the final Moto that pushed him back in the standings. King of the Motos creator Jimmy Lewis stressed the importance of navigation and how it would take priority over physical finishes, and Webb’s penalty is evidence of this fact.

The race states with a dead-engine start, with 107 racers firing off the line for the Baja Designs-sponsored night moto. Webb took the holeshot around the sand hill turn, which would then loop the riders back into a climb up Chocolate Thunder. Though most of the field got stuck at the base of the climb, Webb and teammate Taylor Robert effortlessly scaled the section. When Robert got stuck in a section, Haaker was able to maximize on the move and just into second place. In the end, Robert renounced to earn the Moto 1 victory after a close battle with Webb. Gerston finished in third and Haaker crossed the line in fourth.

The following day on Sunday morning was the start of the second moto, A.K.A. “the desert moto.” Webb again took the holeshot with a direct line to the Nitto arch followed by Robert, Gas Gas’ Noah Kepple and Haaker. Webb was first through the finish claiming the checkered flag in the section. Haaker, along with other top riders following behind the lead duo, came upon the downed Robert and stayed with him until help arrived. Director Lewis noted the sportsmanship and the results were adjusted accordingly to reflect the time loss.

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The final Moto was tabbed as “a hard enduro race.” Webb again took the holeshot and then led the section wire to wire. His missed virtual checkpoint in the stage, however, cost him the overall victory. Haaker finished second through the final Moto to give him enough for the overall win, while Gerston finished behind him and earned second place. Rounding out the podium would be Arizona’s Mitch Carvolth.

“This year wasn’t as hard as last, because last year we were wide open on laps and knew where we were going to charge hard,” Haakar said after the race. “This year with the GPS, you were trying to figure out which way to go, make sure you were on course and didn’t miss any checkpoints. I think that was key for this race.”

Colton Haaker, Max Gerston, Mitch Carvolth, Noah Kepple, Trystan Hart, Wyatt Hart, Cody Webb, Eric Rhoten, Kevin Dupuis and Tyler Kinkade respectively would conclude the Top 10 at King of the Motos 2017.

The amateur and women riders took on the same brutal course as the Pros. Finishing twenty-six minutes after the winner, Evan Ask was the first amateur to cross the finish line, followed by Luke Sydor and Joseph Herriman, respectively.

EnduroCross rider Morgan Tanke had a strong finish and put her two-stroke Beta in the top 25 percent of finishers along with 16th place in the amateur class. ISDE & GNCC rider Rachel Gutish made the trek to the West Coast with her main focus of finishing the King of the Motos race, and that’s just what she did alongside Tanke crossing the finish line as the 22nd amateur. The two girls finished the race closely, “We stuck together the whole [Moto 3] race,” Tanke said.

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