Photos by “Digital” Dave Smith of RaceDayPix.com
For those who don’t know, give a brief run down on who Ian Pannebakker is and what he’s all about.
Well, I’m 19 years old and currently a college student for Air Traffic control. This year I am racing in the Four Stroke A-Lites class in the GNCC series and select local races with the Keystone Offroad Racing Team.
How did you get started in the offroad racing world?
I’ve been riding dirt bikes since I was four. When my brother got one for his birthday, I quickly jumped on and held the z50 wide open. My parents realized I was the daredevil and several months later bought me a yellow PW50 for my birthday. I never took riding too seriously and for the most part was just a weekend warrior, sporting jeans and work boots for gear. When I was eleven my parents took me to a local hare scramble, where I raced a DS80 in the 85 7-11 class. I don’t remember exactly how I finished, but it wasn’t half bad and by the end of that year I got a YZ80 and we started racing locally. After spending several years on the local scene we were looking for change and more variety, so in 2007 I did my first full season of GNCC in the Schoolboy class.
I was actually skimming through some old results and noticed that you kicked my butt at Yadkinville several years ago in the 200C class. (I was almost decapitated at that race. A vine wrapped around my neck and I slammed pretty hard) So you’ve been at the top of the pack of each class you’ve raced, how has your career progressed each year?
Wow, that’s serious! That was a good year of racing back in the Schoolboy class. That season was a big learning curve for me since I had just come off minis and it was my first year running the GNCC series. But as far as progression goes, it seems like every time I swing my leg over my bike, whether it is racing or just practicing, I learn something new. At the end of each season I look back at where I started and realize the improvements I’ve made. The level of competition gets more difficult every year, but I’ve used that to my advantage and it fuels my motivation to better myself. That’s what I love about racing; the satisfaction of pushing yourself to the limit and progressing.
Yeah, I just use the vine as an excuse for riding like a pansy. Which season do you feel has been your best so far?
I feel the 2009 season was my best year of racing so far. I ran the 200A class that season and finished every race I entered with my worst finish being a fourth. I remember winning both of the Tennessee mud races and then almost grabbing a win at Somerset before a flat tire caused some problems. I had the chance to race Stew Baylor (well at least the few corners I could keep him in sight) and for the first time, started towards the front of the afternoon race. Everything just fell into place that season and my consistency was ultimately what allowed me to finish second in year end points.
Getting some wins in over Steward is definitely an accomplishment. So how has the 2011 season shaped up for you so far?
The first four laps of my season started out great. I was leading the opening round down in Florida by a minute and-a-half when all of the sudden my bike just quit. That was a real bummer, so in Georgia I ran my practice bike only to stall my bike in a mud rut. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my kick-starter out and had no way of bump starting on the greasy soil. Eventually I was able to free it up and then the clutch started slipping. I went from feeling like I was the top guy in the class to having no confidence in just one race. It’s definitely tough when you put so much effort into your racing only to have an unforeseen mechanical issue take you out of contention. I’ve put those problems behind me though and I’m ready for the rest of the year.
After that tough luck in Florida and Georgia, you rebounded with good rides at Steele Creek and Big Buck. Do you feel that you’ll be able to carry the momentum into the Indy 100?
Yeah, I’m confident about my riding and feel like things will continue improving from here. The last two races I’ve been riding a new bike which has proven to be a lot more reliable for me. The terrain in Indiana has always seemed to suit my riding style and I’m looking forward to racing at a new location. I want to focus on being consistent. I’ve never been a rider that struggles with bike problems or consistency issues and the last two rounds I’ve been able to post the consistent finishes I’m accustomed to. I’m really looking forward to getting back on the track given that its already been a month since the last race.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, what are your goals?
At this point, I’m really looking for wins throughout the rest of the season. The front runners in the Four Stroke A Lites class are smart riders and with each of us riding a similar pace, you’ve got to find each other’s weaknesses and capitalize on them. I dug myself into a hole in the first two rounds and need to focus on finishing consistent the rest of the season. Between Layne Michael and Scott Grills it’s going to be a challenging task, but that’s what racing is all about.
What has this season been like riding with the Keystone Offroad Racing Team?
The Keystone Offroad Racing Team has been great. It’s been a fairly big undertaking, but I feel like each of us has been able to bring something unique to the team and that has helped make things successful. Our sponsors seem happy with the way things are going and we hope to continue expanding our presence. We really have been working as a team and each of us has a responsibility that’s made anything from training during the week, to keeping our sponsors updated with results and orders more efficient. I think we’ve all been able to benefit from the team as well as our sponsors.
It’s definitely a cool program you guys have going, and I like seeing more support being thrown to the amateur riders. With the new races coming up soon, how are you planning to prepare yourself for the tracks that the GNCC series has never visited?
I won’t do anything drastically different from what I normally do at the tracks we’ve already visited. Although it’s nice to go to track and know what conditions to expect, I enjoy going to a new place where everyone is on a level playing field and its trail that hasn’t been hammered on for the past ten years. I’m not very picky when it comes to suspension setup, I usually only touch the clickers once or twice all year, so my bike setup won’t be any different than it would at a track we’ve ran three or four years in a row. I’m definitely excited about going to a new track riding on something different.
Now to go out in left field, out of all the races you’ve ever raced, which one stands out as your favorite? Why?
Wow, that’s a tough question! I think it was probably Unadilla 2009 when I was running the 200A class. My friend, and now teammate, Zack Smith and I swapped positions dozens of times throughout the first couple of hours. It was just a blast racing bar-to-bar with someone I train with during the week and know that neither of us was going to take one another out. I’ve always enjoyed the Unadilla round, but that year was definitely one of my all-time favorite races…even though he ended up beating me. Haha
Outside of the GNCC series, what are your plans for the rest of 2011?
The GNCC series is where my focus is for the 2011 season, but I plan on doing several local ECEA events as well. I’ll be heading off to school at the end of June in western Pennsylvania and plan on bringing my bike along. Hopefully I can try some AWRCS races while I’m out there, but my focus will be on getting to all the GNCC races.
Alright, that’s going to do it. Anyone you want to thank?
Yeah, I really want to thank my parents for giving me the opportunity to go out and do this every weekend. Keystone Offroad Racing Team, Toy Tech Cycles, Ridersville Cycle, Dirt Tricks, One Industries, FMF, Rekluse, All Balls Racing, Raines Racing, Utopia, Digitaloffroad.com, Leatt Brace, The Visual Impact Group, Twin Air, the Smith and Kinsley family for giving me a place to ride, and all of my riding buddies.