HURRICANE – The Wizards Motocross held its annual Utah Sportsman’s Riders Association Rhino Rally Saturday, some 14 miles south of 700 West and State Street in the Warner Valley area of Hurricane’s desert.
The weather was neither cold nor hot, and it wasn’t long before those in attendance were shedding jackets and settling in for the day in T-shirts and jeans.
The Rhino Rally has been going for 31 years and gaining in popularity every year. It is about the racing, more so than a spectator sport, as it covers 50 miles and spectators are not allowed out on the course for safety reasons. This year the event was limited to 300 racers and the slots filled up in six days, race coordinator Scott Snow said.
The races started off at 8 a.m. with the peewee racers taking the starting line. These kids showed that age doesn’t matter, everyone can ride. The youngsters tackled a special 10-mile course that would challenge them at their level and capabilities.
The peewee race was followed up by the mini bikes. They too were challenged by the 10-mile course.
The main event for the Wizards Rhino was the big bike race. This race brought in racers riding bikes in the 500 cc range and was limited to 300 entries, many of them returning racers from years’ past. Race officials lined up all 300 racers and set them off in three groups: expert, amateur, and beginner.
Last year’s winner and St. George resident, Skyler Howles, was one of the first off the starting line and again won the big race in the expert class.
The big bike racers would race two laps. The first lap was 50 miles long and the second half that. The desert tested the racers’ skills. Desert racing is different than racing on a track because it requires riders to go through unexpected terrain and obstacles. This race in particular doesn’t allow racers to pre-ride the course within 15 days of the race.
Held on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and being a USRA event, the riders had to follow rules that are imposed largely to insure safety and those rules were strictly enforced. All bikes had to be equipped with U.S. Forest Service-approved spark arresters, and all riders were asked to load up and put away their bikes when they completed their races; they were not to “joy ride” in the pit area or to ride in other areas around the race course. Riders had to wear helmets and their bikes had to be properly registered. ATVs were excluded and the only four-wheelers and side-by-sides allowed on the course were for official use.
The pit area was filled with tents, vans and trailers housing varying degrees of support teams for the riders –the more involved teams through sponsorships, others with family and friends. Service vendors also provided bike repairs for unsupported riders. The pit was also the place where people reunited with old friends, had lunch – and waited for their racers to return.
The riders’ times were recorded and then an awards ceremony and raffle was held at the Abbey Inn.
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