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BECKER WINS SECOND NORTH AMERICAN TITLE WITH PERFECTION AT PERRIS; LEUTZ AND LANDON CLAIM JUNIOR TITLES

Luke Becker was a man on fire as he claimed the AMA FIM North America Final title for the second time in his career at Perris Raceway, CA on a chilly December 10th evening. The event brings together the very best USA riders fromwhichever side of the pond they ride on in the summer and has the big prize of two spots in the 2023 Grand Prix Qualifying rounds. With a straight 20 heat winner on points no semi finals shoot out, there is literally no room for a single error on what is a tense and nerve-jangling affair.

With two big 2023 team contracts signed in England and Poland and a 4th reserve spot in the 23 GP Series assured, Becker literally was the one with everything to lose in this meeting but he rose to the occasion with an exclamation point.

Behind Becker’s 5 ride maximum it was a somewhat random and perhaps chaotic situation where rivals and contenders dropped points with a combination of mechanical gremlins, starting infringements and exclusions. It truly was a battle of attrition with the golden rule of ‘no last places’ being quite the mantra.

Heat 1 started with Russell Green getting an early lead on Becker, but a lap two inside pass secured the victory for the Team USA Captain. Wilbur Hancock placed third ahead of 63-year-old legend Eddie Castro. Heat two had the first drama of the evening with defending and back-to-back champion Max Ruml touching tapes and getting excluded at first asking. Gino Manzares, on his way to race for Vetlanda in Sweden, secured the win from Dillon Ruml and Alex Martin. Heat 3, incredibly, was déjà vu with the recently in form Broc Nicol…touching the tapes. The exclusion of Nicol left 11-time National Champion Billy Janniro with victory ahead of Aaron Fox and 15-year-old Charlie Trana. Round 1 concluded with a superb outside line ride from Austin Novratil over Slater Lightcap.

Heat 5 saw Max Ruml on an immediate damage control mission with a cool and collected win over Novratil and Fox. Dillon Ruml was leading Janniro and Green in heat 6 but a late mechanical failure relegated him to third place and a gave a second win for Janniro. Manzares remained in top form in winning heat 7, with Nicol in second. Becker became the third rider to go two for two in heat 8, teenagers Martin and Trana in second and third.

Round 3 started with a much-needed win from Nicol from gate 4 in heat 9, his Team USA compadre Dillon Ruml in second. Max Ruml got his second win of the night over Green in heat 10. Aaron Fox got a vital heat 11 victory over Martin and Slater Lightcap. All eyes were on heat 12, bringing together the top four in points up to this stage, and once more, the drama switch was cranked up to the max. In the first staging Novratil bumped into Becker on turn 1, both going down hard, both getting up and Novratil excluded for being the primary cause of the stoppage. The second staging had Manzares looping after the start. The third time of asking was a two-man match race with Becker coming out on top over Janniro.

Slater Lightcap led a teenage 1-2-3 in heat 13 with victory over Trana and Hancock. Manzares bike packed up right after the start and what was looking like a potentially great night unfortunately fell apart in two back-to-back races. Novratil was back on top in heat 14 with Nicol second and Green third. Max Ruml and Janniro have been entertaining the California tracks all year with some epic duels and heat 15 was yet another. After Janniro got the best start, Ruml found a way by on lap 3 only for Janniro to repay the compliment on the final lap and take the checkered flag first. Becker got his fourth straight win in heat 16 over Fox and Dillon Ruml.

With points being dropped outside of the top two, Becker on 12 Janniro on 11 had fresh air to their nearest rivals on 8 points. It meant that both were pretty much assured of the top two places with first place still well up for grabs.

Heat 17 saw 17-year-old National Under 21 Champion Alex Martin get a stunning gate on Janniro and take a fantastic victory. Martin had idolized Janniro during his time as a youth racer and the victory was a certain message the young rider from Salinas has a very promising future ahead of him. Fox won heat 18 over Green, putting him on 11 and minimally assured of a runoff for third. Novratil led all of heat 19 and looked set to join Fox on 11 until a late bike failure heartbreakingly sent him to last. Dillon Ruml inherited the win over Castro.

Becker had to place first or second to take the title without a runoff, but he has tough competition with both Max Ruml and Nicol in the mix, both really with one last shot to make the podium. However, it was Becker who won for the fifth time of the night, securing his championship whilst Ruml beat Nicol in an epic battle for second.

So, it is Becker and Janniro who will get the AMA invitations to race in Gorican, Slovakia in May and a chance to qualify for the 2024 GP Series. Fox in third place, like Janniro ahead of him, rode a brilliant meeting putting points on the board every single ride. The positions below the top two give rider ranking and preference in case a qualifier chooses not to take part or has injury. As of note, 6 of the field were teenagers and another 6 in their 20s. American Speedway is alive and well.

If the 20-heat American Final program wasn’t enough thrills, there were two other big titles up for grabs: the AMA Long Track Junior National Championships. The 250cc class had 6 riders with 4 rides each qualifying the finalists. Darren Armbruster, Nick Hohlbein and Levi Leutz all won two heats each. Leutz got a fantastic start in the final to take victory from Armbruster and Hohlbein, with road racer Owen Williams in fourth place.

The 150cc had 9 entrants. Three heats put 4 into the Main and 5 to the Last Chance, with the winner also making the final. Kensei Matsudaira, another road racer who has raced in Spain this summer won all three of his heats. Other heat wins went to Ryder Schultz, Kayd Fiore and Brady Landon. Macoley Saunders, who had traveled by road from New York with his uncle for a 5200-mile round trip, made a superb pass to take the Last Chance win. The Main has Matsudaira and Landon racing neck and neck, but it was Landon, a moto cross rider from Idaho, who took victory. Saunders made a late pass on Fiore for third.

Finally, and at the end of the meeting, there were small classes for loyal Division 2 and 3 riders. Kevin Fiore took a commanding clean sweep in Division 2. 70-year-old Tom Bryant took victory in a Division Three heat with Tony Rutledge taking the other heat and Main. Division three also had a comeback rider, a pastor from Arizona named Bob Peet, Peet, aged 61, last raced speedway 42 years ago.

The event was the second at Perris in recent weeks and was well supported. Though no schedule has yet been published, there are definite plans to continue speedway at Perris in 2023.

Results

AMA FIM NORTH AMERICA FINAL
22 Luke Becker – 15
14n Billy Janniro – 13
46 Aaron Fox – 11
Max Ruml 10, Dillon Ruml 9, Russell Green 9, Austin Novratil 8, Alex Martin 8, Broc Nicol 8, Gino Manzares 6, Slater Lightcap 6, Charlie Trana 6, Eddie Castro 4, Wilbur Hancock 4, Jonathan Oakden 2, Justin Almon 0, Joey Donaldson (res) 0, Rudy Laurer (res) 0.

AMA 250 YOUTH LONG TRACK NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Main Event
226 Levi Leutz
23 Darren Armbruster
29 Nick Hohlbein
04 Owen Williams

Heat Points: Armbruster 9, Leutz 8, Hohlbein 8, Williams 6, Chase Kangas 3, Holster Snyder 1

AMA 150 MINI YOUTH LONG TRACK NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Main Event
2 Brady Landon
74 Kensei Matsudaira
33e Macoley Saunders
169k Kayd Fiore
15 Hudson Jones

Last Chance
33e Macoley Saunders
412 Mathew Wright
5 Brandon Soto
22 Ryder Schultz (ret)
30 Jacob Fishback (nonstarter)

Heat Points: Matsudaira 12, Fiore 10, Landon 10, Jones 7, Wright 6, Schultz 4, Saunders 3, Soto 3, Fishback 2.

Division Two Main
159 Kevin Fiore
182 Rudy Laurer
111 David Newsham
163 Ron Davis
290 Harold Hartke ret

Division Three Main
113 Tony Rutledge
220 Tom Bryant
373 Bob Peet