Back At It

Words: Daryl Hurley

Just because he’s hung up his jersey as a full-time racer, multi-time New Zealand champion Daryl Hurley still has the competitive streak, which is why he went to California to line up next to the likes of Kurt Nicoll, Josh Coppins and Ron Lechien at the 32nd annual Dubya World Vet Motocross Championships. We had Daryl tell us how the racing at Glen Helen went…

“You should come over and race the World Vet at Glen Helen.”
That was John Kircaldie, giving me some advice, back in 2012.

At the time, I said, “Look, I’ll do it when I get to 40…”

As I’d never wanted to give into the whole growing old thing, I had a bet with a lot of friends that I’d never ride the Vet Nationals (or that kind of stuff), which I’d stuck to. But that was back when I was 35.

Then, with a click of the fingers, I was 40.

So, as soon as I’d come to terms with that, I figured I should actually go race – if only for a much needed a holiday.

While I am still racing, doing club races and even the odd New Zealand Motocross National, I am not a full-time racer. This year, I didn’t do all of the Nationals, as we – the team and myself from my dealership, Action Moto, in Hawera – were under a fair bit of pressure at work. We’d downsized a little bit, which put us under a fair bit of pressure. Plus, being a dad means I didn’t have much time to focus on racing.

I crashed at the Rotorua round, which had me concerned, so I thought, ‘Man, I have too much going on in my life’; so much that I didn’t even know if I wanted to do the last round. With family and work commitments, I didn’t want to jeopardise any of that. So, I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate things. I did three rounds of the Nationals and didn’t do the last round, but I didn’t feel guilty. In fact, I was quite proud of myself, ‘cause, normally, the “other” Daryl would’ve carried on riding and could have got hurt.

But the difference between the Nationals and the World Vet was that I was going away for a break and also getting to ride in California, all without a phone ringing in my ear – I mean, what’s more fun than going to Cali and riding a dirt bike?

The High Desert

Really, I should start the adventures in Cali with an admission: I would have liked to have been fitter. While I had plenty of time in the saddle at some tracks in Southern California, unlike when I was in New Zealand, I didn’t ride a lot of moto. I did do a lot of cycling, though, but the fitness was still not where I wanted it – especially for racing at a track like Glen Helen.

While I hadn’t raced at the track that sits in the High Desert outside of San Bernardino, I had ridden there, quite a few times, from some warm-up rides before the AMA Nationals. Although, I never got to line up in a pro-level race, as my shoulder was jacked (and I had to make sure I was fit for my contract with Suzuki Australia to race the Aussie Nats). But I still knew how fit you have to be, as Glen Helen is dry, slippery and rough – just gnarly.

Leading into the event, a lot of people were saying, “Oh, man, Kurt Nicoll (a former World Champion) is fast around Glen Helen – he even beat Doug Dubach (the guy to beat in vet racing).” Kurt is fit, strong and, of course, very fast. As he rides a couple of times a week, along with running his training school, all that time on the bike adds to his speed. Along with that, I knew these guys ride at Glen Helen all the time, which is why I happy to get what I get.

Also, I kept reminding myself that I was going over to have a break, so I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself.

Yes, I wanted decent results, but I didn’t know I was going to win.

Regardless of that, I signed up to race two classes: the 40+ Pro (on the Saturday) and 30+ Pro (on the Sunday).

But there was a problem even before we got to the starting gate!

Thanks to the metal filings that were in the fuel cans we’d been using, the fuel pump in my 2017 Husqvarna FC 450 needed to be replaced, which is easier said than done on the road.

Lucky for me, the team at Husqvarna Australasia and America – especially Jeremy Cryer – helped me out, so I went to the Rockstar Husqvarna race shop and had it fixed it up for me. Since the race shop is next to the headquarters of KTM, I was able to pop in there, as I know Roger De Coster from my time in the States (back in 2002, while Kevin Windham was out with a broken femur, I was hired by Roger to race K-Dub’s Suzuki RM250).

Baptism of Fire

Of course, as soon as the racing started, the thought of being happy with any placing went out the window.

In the first race, which was the 40+ Pro, I got out in front – which is a nice surprise to any race – and got a bit of arm pump, so I figured I’d fall back in the pack. But, very quickly, the arm pump went away and I felt comfortable. From there, I handled those guys – and that’s when I started to put pressure on myself to win the last moto.

While the motos were 20-minutes plus one, meaning the racing was about a lap longer than the Kiwi motos, the real difference was the heat – after all, this is Southern California. Since I’d been riding a lot during the week, I was a bit tired. But that “other” Daryl came out and I continued to push on, as I had to beat Nicoll in this race to take the overall. While Nicoll took off with the lead, which he held for about ten minutes, I found myself in a racing incident. See, as I was coming down Mount St. Helens, Kenjiro Tsuji crashed into me. This was all on the first lap, too, so I had to work hard to get back to the pointy end.
But, not only did I catch Kurt, I was also able to get past him. And once I did, I pulled away and ended up taking the win.

That was two wins from two starts and the overall – including the title in the 30+ Pro Class.

The following day, I was back on the line to race the 30+ Pro class, which is what Coppins was racing. I put a lot of effort on that first day of racing, so I was a bit flat on Sunday. In the first race, I got a real bad start, which also didn’t help. I was trying to start in third gear, just like I was on Saturday, but I messed it up. Instead of getting the holeshot like I did in the first race on the previous day, I got ‘round the first turn in tenth. From there, I worked my way up to seventh, which was as good as I could do.

In the second race, I did a lot better, so I was third or fourth ‘round the first corner and stayed there for the rest of the moto.
With a seventh in the first moto and a fourth in the second moto, it gave me fourth overall, which I was pretty happy with. Especially since everyone – outside of Nicoll, that is – that was racing in the 40+ Pro was racing the 30+ Pro, too.

To say the classes were stacked is an understatement, with so many ex-pros coming out of “retirement” to race, helping the total number of entries hit 1212. Because of that, it made taking the win in my class even better, too. But, even if I hadn’t, I would have just been happy with lining up against legends like Ron Lechien and friends from my time in the States, such as Travis Preston and Mike Sleeter.

Onwards

When I got back from Southern California, I freed up a lot more time to get back into the racing and work with Husqvarna Motorcycles a bit more. And since I’ve raced the World Vet, along with enjoying it and being successful, I’ve been thinking about when I should go back. Not only will I be going back, but I’ll be getting some other Kiwis of a certain age to go over, too. Even this year, there was talk of a certain former 1996 FIM 500cc World Champion going to race, but his race fitness wasn’t there.

Despite knowing I can win, when I do go back, I am going back with the same attitude. At the end of the day, I’ve had my racing days and I know I’ll never again be a full-time racer.

It’s hard to accept that, though, as there will always be those two Daryls: the professional racer – who is forever wanting to make a comeback – and the businessman-slash-father.

By the Numbers

1991 New Zealand Junior Motocross Champion
1997 Australian Pro 650 Thumper Nationals
1998 New Zealand 125cc Motocross Champion
2001 New Zealand 125cc Motocross Champion
2002 New Zealand 250cc Supercross Champion
2002 New Zealand 125cc Motocross Champion
2004 New Zealand 125cc Motocross Champion
2005 New Zealand 250cc Supercross Champion
2008 New Zealand 250cc Supercross Champion
2008 New Zealand Pro Open Motocross Champion