The CycleTrader / Rock River / Yamaha team came into the fifth round of the 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season at Muddy Creek Raceway back in full force after Heath Harrison returned from a week off due to injury. The team was riding a high note after Dean Ferris put it on the podium one week before at High Point, providing some extra motivation for the rest of the squad heading into the weekend.
Bradley Taft and Lorenzo Locurcio were eager to improve their results in the 250 class and Harrison was aiming to get back into the swing of things in the 450 class after taking some time off of the bike in order to recover from his injury. Incessant threats of rain plagued the morning practice sessions and created challenging conditions for the riders, but the CycleTrader / Rock River / Yamaha team remained unfazed. Harrison settled back into the pace of the 450 class, clocking the nineteenth fastest time with a 1:58.136. In the 250 class, Taft also landed inside the top twenty with a 1:55.549 as Locurcio battled through an illness in order to set the twenty-fourth fastest time — a 1:57.617.
The east coast humidity was in full effect due to the moisture of the impending rainfall, creating brutal conditions for the day of racing. In the 250 class, Locurcio and Taft both managed decent starts that put them inside the top twenty as the gate dropped on the first moto. The pair of Yamaha teammates found themselves in seventeenth and eighteenth place, respectively. Locurcio charged in the early stages of the moto, moving forward a couple of places into fourteenth spot by the third lap, but he was struggling with energy due to a sickness. The Venezuelan showed his speed in the early stages and put together a spirited ride in order to hold onto a finish inside the top twenty, eventually crossing the line in eighteenth place at the checkered flag. Taft battled on the edge of the top twenty for the opening portion of the race, swapping positions back and forth with a slew of riders until the midway point of the race, but an eventual mistake forced him towards the back of the pack. The Missourian did his best to recover and fought back to thirty-second place by the end of the moto.
As the gate dropped on the second 250 moto, Locurcio found himself in eighteenth spot yet again as he immediately inserted his CycleTrader / Rock River / Yamaha in the battle for the top twenty. Meanwhile, Taft secured a start just outside the top twenty, settling into twenty-fourth place on the opening lap. Locurcio’s early moto charge was on again as he carved his way through the field, battling up to fifteenth position by the sixth lap of the race. Shortly thereafter, his illness caught up with him yet again, but he remained determined and held on for a sixteenth place finish, making slight improvements off the first moto in a gritty ride that secured him eighteenth overall. Taft also charged forward in the early stages of the moto, working his way into the top twenty by the sixth lap of the race. The rookie was involved in a fierce battle inside the top twenty that lasted throughout the midway point, eventually shuffling him back outside of the points scoring positions yet again. He remained undeterred and put in a late charge, securing nineteenth spot in the latter stages of the race in order to salvage a twenty-first overall.
Locurcio commented “The day went ok, I came in sick so I was just looking forward to get through the day and get as many points as I could. Practice didn’t go well but I managed to qualify twenty-fourth. The first moto I was up there around fifteenth and I just had trouble to breathing and dropped down to eighteenth. The second moto was better, I was able to push more and ended sixteenth.
I’m looking forward to recovering this week and going to Red Bud!”
“My speed just isn’t where it needs to be. My fitness is getting better each weekend,
I just need to work on some things and improve every weekend.” said Taft.
In the 450 class, Harrison’s Yamaha carried him to a start within the top fifteen at what would be considered his home race in Muddy Creek. The Alabama native was involved in a fierce battle at the beginning of the moto, swapping positions with Ronnie Stewart and Dakota Alix. He quickly worked his way into fourteenth position, but Alix took the position one lap later. Harrison clung onto the rear fender of the KTM and remained steadfast in fifteenth position, but his fitness still wasn’t at one hundred percent due to the time he took off the bike.
In the waning stages of the moto, he dropped back to seventeenth place and salvaged some valuable points for the championship in the process. As the gate dropped on the second 450 moto, Harrison found himself just inside the top fifteen yet again. He fought hard to push towards the top ten in the early stages of the moto, briefly moving up to thirteenth position on the third lap. The CycleTrader / Rock River / Yamaha rider remained inside the top fifteen for the first half of the race, but during the second half of the moto his fitness caught up with him yet again.
Nonetheless, he remained determined to score a solid finish and crossed the line in seventeenth place yet again, clinching eighteenth overall in the process. Harrison commented “I struggled a little bit today, I went 17-17 and haven’t ridden much since my ankle injury the week after Colorado, so I was stoked to be back at the races and ready to put in more work for the rest of the season.”
The CycleTrader / Rock River / Yamaha team is heading into the sixth round of the series at the fan favorite, Red Bud, in Buchanan, Michigan. Heath Harrison will be continuing to improve as he nears full fitness following his ankle injury after the third round of the season, aiming to inch closer towards the top ten in the 450 class. In the 250 class, the pair of rookies will continue to learn and improve as they capture valuable championship points as the second half of the season approaches.