Brandon Hartranft has continued to step his game up with each passing year, constantly improving as he hones his craft down at South of the Border MX Training Facility in South Carolina. The rider out of Brick, New Jersey won his first ever Loretta Lynn’s title in the 450 B Limited class back in 2015 before making the jump up to the A class where he’s now considered one of the established contenders. After a year of getting acclimated to the big leagues, Hartranft joined forces with the Rock River / Yamaha / bLU cRU / Amateur team as he looks to take himself to the next level in pursuit of some major championships. He’s shown the speed throughout the 2017 season thus far as he’s been a regular contender for championships at both the Daytona RCSX as well as the JS7 Freestone Spring Championship. Hartranft had some unfortunate circumstances that held him back from overall victories at both of the events, but that has only made him hungrier heading into the Cal Classic. We caught up with Brandon to chat about how he’s fitting in with the new team, having Justin Cooper as his teammate, and what he’s got planned for the rest of 2017.
You signed with the Rock River / Yamaha / bLU cRU / Amateur team for this year, how’s it been so far?
I’m pretty excited about it. Everything’s going really smooth and I’ve got a bunch of good people behind me. It’s just been good, so we’ll see how the rest of the year goes but I’m pretty excited and thankful.
Are there any big differences between the bike that you’re on this year with Rock River compared to what you were riding last year?
Yeah, I’ve never really had a great 250 and the 250 that they have now for us is just wayyyy faster. It definitely gives me some more confidence with how my bikes are; the 450 is really fast. It’s definitely way better, I’m learning more and I’m more into the bike than I normally am, so it’s been good. The first time I rode both bikes was at Daytona and I mean -- the first time on the 450, I was not used to the power, and I was almost crashin’ and stuff. It’s a learning experience and I’m just workin’ hard.
It’s funny you say that ‘cause your teammate, (Justin) Cooper, did something similar off the start at Daytona and when I asked him about it, he said “Yeah, we had to tone the engine down a bit after that.”
He told me that he came off the gate alright and then he just gave it a handful of throttle and looped out, which I thought that was funny, but...
You guys are both from the northeast, both train at SOBMX, and have been racing against each other for quite a while. How’s the dynamic between you two?
Yeah, it’s definitely cool. We’re both east coast boys and we’ve been racing each other since we were like five, so it’s pretty awesome. We’ve been training together and stayin’ together, workin’ as a team, and we get along great. We’re definitely pushin’ each other to the limit where we both can be on top. It’s just been good; it helps the team out and everything, so it’s pretty awesome.
How long have you been at SOBMX and how do you like the facility there?
I’ve been at South of the Border for... I dunno, about four years. It’s definitely helped me out a lot. The owner’s awesome, Mike Burkeen’s awesome. My trainers are awesome and they’ve definitely brought me up, especially this year with the team and everything, and it’s been good the last four years. I recommend to go there -- anybody reading this, I recommend to go to South of the Border.
What’s it like training with a lot of your close competitors and pushing each other during the week?
It actually helps me a lot. Freddie (Noren) and (Jerry) Robin will ride outdoors sometimes and it’s definitely cool to ride with them ‘cause they’re the pros, and then Garrett (Marchbanks) is reaaally fast, so we go at it everyday, which has helped me a lot this year and helped him. It’s definitely good to have some of the top guys racing; it’s good to see where I’m at and it’s definitely helped me out this year.
You showed some really good speed at the Daytona RCSX. I remember one moto where you came from outside the top ten all the way to third place, how’d the racing go for you in Florida?
Yeah, Daytona was the first time I got to ride the bike which is no big deal, but I wasn’t used to how the bike reacted -- the power on the gate, and my starts were definitely terrible. I should’ve won some championships there, I’m kinda disappointed but we just gotta settle with what we did. We went to Freestone and I showed my speed; I was battling with Cooper and (Sean) Cantrell about every moto. I ended up second in 250 A and in Open Pro I had a bike malfunction, so...
Do you prepare for that race any differently than you would for the other major nationals? It’s kind of it’s own animal.
I personally try to ride sandier tracks for it ‘cause the track gets chewed out really bad, but it gets so tamed down after SX. It’s basically the same training, but mostly ride a bit more sand.
What do you think about the track for the SX compared to the RCSX?
I mean, it’s definitely more realistic for our speed -- what they had on Saturday night, and I understand they tame it down, but they tame it down where it’s like five foot jumps, and for A class that’s not right; in a way, it’s not fair. It keeps the racing tight where it’s hard, like if you don’t get a start then you’re kind of screwed.
It seemed like you got your starts dialed in before Freestone ‘cause you were out front almost every moto, how’d the racing go for you at JS7?
When you get good starts, it definitely makes your life a lot easier. I definitely had some opportunities to maybe pass Justin; I got next to him a couple times, or pass Cantrell. It’s my fault that I obviously didn’t pass them. But, I definitely like that track; it gets real rough and it actually separates who’s good in the ruts and this and that. I like the rough tracks in a way, so it helped me a lot.
Did you have to make a lot of bike changes to the bike throughout the week at Freestone with the fluctuating conditions?
Wednesday and Thursday the bike stayed the same ‘cause it was dry. We were thinkin’ about changing the tire to the the MX11, but we honestly just left the bike the same. We put pantyhose on the radiator and some WD-40 or SG1 on the plastics, but that’s really the only bike changes that we made. Normally we just set everything up in practice and that’s really all we do.
How much did the track change during your moto on Friday when it started dumping in the middle of the race?
Well, that day Open Pro Sport was first and I went like 15-2 in the first motos; it wasn’t for a championship, so I was like “Let’s do this! Let’s at least get a moto win.” I was all amped up and when I came into the first turn I was first, but when we turned left I kinda messed up and came out second. As we hit the ant hill in the middle section, it just started droppin’, like hard. I was behind second and I was thinkin’ I gotta get to first now. I got to first and the rain kinda calmed down, and then it just hammered again. The track got really slick and sketchy, but it was a good feeling to get a moto win.
What’s your program been like since Freestone to get ready for the Cal Classic?
We drove back to Texas where the team’s based out of. We were at Ed Torrance’s house and me and Justin were just training together throughout the week and going to local tracks. Then we drove out to California last Friday and just rode a little bit out here -- just get ready for the Classic, get used to the time difference.
Have you had a lot more time to do some testing and dial things in with the team now?
Yeah, we definitely made our practice bike a lot more like the race bike. I like the race bikes a lot, so hoppin’ on em is a good feeling. But, we definitely talked about a lot of things with the bike and I’m just getting more comfortable, so it’s been good.
What’re your plans for the rest of the season after the Cal Classic?
I haven’t been home since Christmas, so after this I’m gonna go home and start hitting some qualifiers. I mean, we’re gonna do Mammoth, then Loretta’s, and it just depends what happens after Loretta’s. We’ll see, I’m pretty excited for what’s to come in the future.
Who would you like to thank for helping you out this year?
Yamaha, Rock River, CycleTrader, Thor, Guts, 6D, Scott, Boyeson, Twin Air, Motion Pro, Tamer Holeshot, Alpinestars, Renthal, Yamalube, GYTR, Enzo, Roost MX, Dunlop, FMF, VP, SOBMX, Adrenaline World
/ Words /Images / Lake Kilpatrick
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