Race Report | IRC Endurocross Series | Final Round – Reno, Nevada

Story & Images: Noel Flatters | Direct Motocross Western Bureau | Superfine Media
November 18th 2023 | Reno, Nevada

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#84, Canadian Trystan Hart (FMF KTM Factory Racing), celebrates his 2023 IRC Tires Endurocross Chamionship in Reno, NV.
Image: © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media

The Bottom Line Up-Front:

What? The final round of the 2023 IRC Tires Endurocross Series in Reno, NV. Canadian #84 Trystan Hart (FMF KTM Factory Racing) took the win for the Pro Men, with #417 Rachel Gutish (Over and Out Racing / GasGas) taking it home for the Pro Women. Calgary’s #53 Melissa Harten (Beta Racing Canada) took second overall in Pro Women.

So What? With their wins, both Hart and Gutish are the 2023 series champions. This is the first time either of them have won this series. Hart erased a seven-point deficit to defending champion #22 Jonny Walker (Beta USA), while Gutish overcame a separated shoulder and broken ribs from her Team USA ISDE duties in Argentina the previous week. Hart finishes the year as the US Hard Enduro champion, US Endurocross champion, and third overall in the FIM Hard Enduro Championship Series. Gutish was also third overall in the 2023 GNCC WXC series.

Now what? That’s the end of the North American season. Several Endurocross series riders will be heading over to Europe for the start of the FIM SuperEnduro series, which starts this weekend in Paris. Others, like Hart, will be taking a well-earned break ahead of the 2024 season.

The Full Story

Trystan Hart took the 2023 IRC Tires Endurocross Series championship here in Reno on a night where you couldn’t have scripted the way things played out. Coming into the final round Jonny Walker held a 7-point lead over Hart and a 13-point lead over #10 Colton Haaker. Walker had started the series perfectly over the first two rounds of the series, going 1-1-1/P1 in each to open up a commanding lead over the field. From that point on, though, Walker struggled. A lot. In Idaho for Rounds 3 and 4, he got into trouble in moto 1 of the first night, and from that point on if there was trouble on the track Walker seemed to find it going P2/P4.

In Oregon for Round 5, Walker struggled again but managed to salvage a P3. Hart, on the other hand, bounced back from a poor showing in Rounds 1 and 2 where he ended up P5 in both, and lagging 28 points behind Walker. With a suspension setting change after Round 2, and then choosing to skip the final round of the FIM Hard Enduro Championship in Germany, Hart turned his series around. He went P1 in Rounds 3/4, and P2 in Round 5 to close the gap to that 7-point lead coming into the final in Reno. Haaker came roaring into the picture in Round 5, winning the night and putting himself in a position to have an outside shot at the championship.

The bottom line, though, was that Walker still controlled his own fate in Reno. He just had to beat Hart and Haaker to take the win and repeat as the series champ.

Hart’s most likely scenario to take the championship was to win the night and have at least 1 rider between himself and Walker. Not impossible, but certainly a tall task given the calibre of Walker. The two real wildcards were, in my opinion, going to be Haaker’s recent success and Walker’s mental strength. Haaker had so much momentum coming into the final, and was riding like the Endurocross champion that he was in the past. There was a very real chance that he could win the night and be a spoiler for Walker and/or Hart.

In terms of Walker’s mental strength, from being trackside at the previous three rounds, it seemed like he was struggling with adversity. Once something went wrong he hadn’t shown the ability to overcome it and get back to the front. After his 1-1-1/P1 in rounds 1 and 2 he had failed to win a single moto coming into the final. Walker seemed very relaxed and confident on Friday evening and Saturday through the day, but he had seemed that way in Idaho and Oregon, too. Ultimately, it was his series to lose, and he’d have to do his talking on the track.

Moto 1 provided plenty of speed and chaos, setting the stage for what was to come the rest of the night. Off the start it was Hart with the holeshot, followed by Haaker and Walker. The trio stayed together in that order for the first three laps, but Walker seemed to be struggling to maintain contact.

Trystan Hart, Colton Haaker, and Jonny Walker smashing their way through the wood pit in the opening laps of Moto 1.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media

On lap four he was lagging slightly behind as they encountered lapped traffic for the first time and ended up losing touch with the leading duo. This was the first bit of adversity for Walker to deal with and it may have impacted his confidence, as he had an unforced error going through the pipe obstacles on the next lap. Although he didn’t lose a place he did lose significant time to Hart and Haaker, and it had be playing on his mind that this was exactly the scenario he couldn’t allow to happen.

Trystan Hart leads Colton Haaker in Moto 1 at the final round of the 2023 IRC Tires Endurocross Series.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media
Trystan Hart’s bobble in the rock garden near the end of Moto 1 allowed Colton Haaker through to take the win.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media

Hart continued to lead Haaker through the moto, riding confidently in front while fending off Haaker. Until, that is, they hit the rock garden with two laps to go. Hart seemed to bobble slightly going over the top of the entry to the rocks, going off line to the outside. Haaker took advantage and went past for the lead just before the white flag. Although Hart was able to make one pass attempt on the final lap, it didn’t stick and Haaker took the checkered flag. Walker finished P3.

Colton Haaker takes checkers for the Moto 1 win.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media
Walker’s poor start in Moto 2 didn’t set him up for success in his attempt to battle back against Hart and Haaker.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media

In the log matrix that followed turn 2, Walker paid the price for that start by getting caught behind #55 James Flynn who went down early in the obstacle, Walker stayed upright but was delayed. In the next obstacle (the pipe matrix) Hart went down mid-pack giving Walker an opportunity but Walker failed to capitalise and went down himself. At the end of lap 1 Walker was dead last to Hart’s P9 and Haaker’s P7, while Gus Riordan led the field. This seemed to be a repeat of Walker’s rides in the Idaho double-header rounds where he found trouble wherever it was out on track.

Nearing the end of lap 4 #2 Cody Webb (ShercoOne Factory Racing) had raced his way up to Riordan and made the pass for P1, while Hart battled with #12 Cooper Abbott (FactoryOne Sherco) for P4 and Walker charged back to P6. On lap 5 Walker was almost in contact with Hart and Abbott when Hart made the pass. Walker, back under pressure, then made an unforced error at the exit of the rock garden on lap 5 costing him significant time to Hart. Haaker, meanwhile, had caught Webb by the start of the final lap and then made the pass for P1. Webb fought hard to make the pass back on Haaker, giving him heavy contact at the exit of the pipe matrix, but Haaker kept it together to take his second win of the night ahead of Webb and Hart. Walker finished a disappointing P8, putting his championship hopes almost certainly out of reach.

Cody Webb came into the final round in P4 overall, but wasn’t able to improve on that position despite a strong P2 in the second moto.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media

Coming into moto 3, Hart could take the championship by winning or finishing within one spot of Haaker. It had become his series to win, and The Robot was switched on. Body language on the start line spoke volumes. Hart and Haaker were lined up next to each other on the inside and were chatting away like it was just a day of training. Walker, lined up on the outside, was hunched over his bars and seemed completely uncomfortable. He would need to win and have the Hart/Haaker duo have a disastrous race to win it all, and I think Walker (and everyone else in the building) knew that was a highly unlikely scenario.

Walker’s body language on the start line of Moto 3 told the story that his championship hopes were almost certainly gone.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media
Trystan Hart on his way to the holeshot in Moto 3 over #10 Colton Haaker, Jonny Walker (not pictured).
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media

Hart took the holeshot ahead of Haaker and Walker. Respect to Walker here, coming from pretty far outside to have such a great start. In the first log matrix Haaker had an issue on the outside line and dropped back, leaving Walker P2 and Webb P3. At the next obstacle (the pipe matrix) Walker went down again with an unforced error to lose whatever slim chance he had to win the championship. At the end of lap 1 it was Hart in the lead followed by Abbott, Webb, and Haaker, with Walker in P6 needing a miracle that wouldn’t materialize. By lap 3 Hart, Abbott and Webb had extended their lead, but Hart then bobbled in the pipe matrix to allow Abbott through.

Trystan Hart and Cooper Abbott battling through the pipe matrix at the front end of Moto 3.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media

Haaker continued to chase hard to make it up Webb. On lap 5 Haaker had made his way into P3 and onto Hart’s wheel. Abbott then made a mistake at the top of the tire mountain obstacle on lap 6, allowing Hart to pass for P1 on a separate line. Haaker also bobbled here, which let Webb go through for P3 and forcing Haaker to leave caution behind in an attempt to catch Hart. In full nothing-to-lose chase mode Haaker got sideways exiting the pipe matrix, collecting Walker in the process. For the final lap Hart had cleared all lapped traffic and had a clear run to the finish to claim checkers and an emotional first Endurocross championship. Abbott and Webb took the final podium steps in the moto, while Walker rode hard for P4 to bring himself back into 2nd for the overall. Haaker ended up P6, and third overall just 3 points behind Walker.

I spoke with Hart immediately after the finish as the win was sinking in for him. “That took way longer than it should’ve! I’ve been second so many times, this series has absolutely put me through the wringer! This was the one thing on my bucket list that I really wanted and y’know, wow, it feels so good!”

Trystan Hart crosses the line to win the 2023 IRC Tires Endurocross Championship in Reno, NV.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media
Trystan Hart celebrates his win and salutes the crowd in Reno.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media
This was a bucket list win, according to Hart, and the emotions were on full display from The Robot.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media
The Round 6 podium – Trystan Hart P1, Colton Haaker P2, and Cooper Abbott P3 for his first series top-3 finish.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media
The 2023 IRC Series Championship Podium – Trystan Hart P1, Jonny Walker P2, Colton Haaker P3.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media


Rachel Gutish takes the holeshot in the Pro Women’s race ahead of Kylie Sweeten, Hallie Marks, and Melissa Harten.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media

The Pro Women’s championship was much more straightforward coming into Reno. Rachel Gutish was the series leader after winning Rounds 1 through 4. She missed Round 5 in Oregon for her duties with Team USA at ISDE Argentina, where the US won the overall and Gutish won her first two ISDE tests. The good news for Rachel (as if she really needed any more) was that Endurocross had put in a rule this year allowing the Pro Women to drop one result in order to accommodate ISDE participation. That kept Gutish’s perfect record intact. The bad news for her was that she ended up with a 3rd degree shoulder separation and broken ribs in a day 3 crash in Argentina (and yes, she won a test with those injuries!).

I had reached out to her after the crash in Argentina to see if the injuries were going to keep her away from Reno, but she told me that “100% I’ll be lined up in the gate.” All she needed to win the series was to show up and roll across the start line to secure the championship. But in first practice she was quick. Actually, she was REALLY quick and set the fast lap for that session. She was making it through obstacles and even sent the finish line double at the end of the session to test her shoulder. At that point I was pretty much certain that she was going to race instead of just rolling the start and maybe completing a lap. I don’t know Gutish well, but I already know she’s tough, strong, and very competitive.

Melissa Harten riding to P2 in the race, and P2 in the Endurocross series championship.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media

Sure enough, come race time Gutish was out there to compete for the win. Off the start it was Gutish taking the holeshot ahead of #647 Kylie Sweeten (GasGas), #676 Hallie Marks (Sherco USA), and Melissa Harten. Harten quickly took over P2 behind Gutish and then, after a lap 1 error by Gutish in the rock garden, took the lead. This lead was short-lived, though, as Harten got hung up on the dumpster feature on lap 2 and allowing Gutish by. From that point on Gutish simply rode away from the pack in an incredible display of grit and determination to take the moto win and the championship. Harten rode to a strong P2 and second in the championship, with 2023 US Hard Enduro champion Marks finishing in P3 and securing the final podium spot in the overall standings.

Hallie Marks rode to P3 on the night and P3 in the overall.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media

After the race Gutish told me that “After first practice I thought ‘Where’s the fun in just rolling the gate to win my first championship?’ There’s no glory in winning your first championship that way. So I just decided to go out there, do what I always do – ride to the best of my ability for my sponsors, my family, and I got it done.” Harten told me that “Practice felt good all day and I actually tried racing the track instead of surviving it. I made bobbles in the rocks during the night show, but I was able to recover and keep my second place position. In typical fashion I feel like I was finally warming, but now the series is over. I had zero expectations for myself, and I’m happy with my second place overall.” For Marks, it was a bittersweet night. “I had a rough start that put me back in 4th, battling with Kylie Sweeten. I was able to pull off third-place, I know that Melissa and I were close so I’m a little bummed about that, but at the same time I’m happy to be on the podium.”

The Endurocross Round 6 Pro Women’s podium – Rachel Gutish P1, Melissa Harten P2, Hallie Marks P3.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media
Rachel Gutish, 2023 Endurocross Series champion.
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media
Family, friends, and the GasGas team celebrate Rachel Gutish’s first Endurocross championship
Image © Noel Flatters / Superfine Media

A Few Final Thoughts from the Race

  1. As I mentioned above, it’s incredible that Jonny Walker didn’t win a single moto in the last 4 rounds of the series after he went 1-1-1 in both Rounds 1 and 2. I’m curious if there was something else going on with Walker in terms of an injury or something like that. He seemed very cool, calm, and collected off the track, but just couldn’t get himself fully together after Round 2. Don’t get me wrong, he was still very fast out there, but he just couldn’t seem to find an answer for Hart or Haaker who both found an extra gear when the chips were down early in the series.
  2. Practice: After Trystan Hart laid the wood to Walker off the start of Practice 1 in Oregon last week, I was interested to see them lined up next to each other on the practice start in Reno. Nothing happened, though. Hart launched with Colton Haaker without incident, but he did attack Haaker’s rear wheel exiting a corner later in that session. The Robot does seem to enjoy sending a message to the competition when the stakes are high! No bad blood at all though, from what I could tell, they looked like buddies having a conversation on the start before the final moto.
  3. The Endurocross series is really something to see live. Yes, it looks great on tv, but it’s at a whole different level in real life. If you can make it to one next season, I 10/10 recommend it.