Manluk Rock River Racing’s Grant Harlan quietly carried the Privateer Island flag very well in the opening 450SX main event of 2023. After making his first ever 450SX main event right out of the heat race, Harlan rode steady through the 20 minutes to earn a solid 17th place finish at the opener. Harlan was initially scored in 16th, but the AMA clarified that Malcolm Stewartactually finished 16thbut was originally listed in last thanks to his transponder falling off in a crash. Once Stewart was put back in, Harlan took 17th.
For Harlan though, it was a great way to start the year for, and certainly gives him a great base to build from. We caught up with him at the end of the night to see what he thought about it.
Racer X: Take us through your night. Straight out of the heat into the main.
Grant Harlan: Yeah! I felt good all day in practice, besides the track being super technical and feeling like I didn’t belong out there in the warmup. The times were pretty good. I qualified P20, so I got a good gate pick in the heat race. I got an okay start and I think I was just kind of in the right place at the right time. Cade [Clason] and somebody else went down in front of me, so I moved up. I know [Josh] Hill was coming behind me and crashed. I was just kind of in no man’s land in the heat race. Got a P9 and kind of rode it in, which was nice. I didn’t have to race an LCQ or stress about anything. Made it to the main event and was a little slow off the start. I battled with [Justin] Starling and [Kevin] Moranz for a while and just tried to get out of the leader’s way. I finished out the race and ended up with a P16 (Note: Harlan ended up P17 after results were revised to include Malcolm Stewart in P16 who had lost his transponder in a crash).
You mentioned the track being pretty technical, how did it progress through the day? From the press box, it looked like it got better.
Uh, 450B group, it never got better. The 250’s didn’t look too bad at some points, but the Free Practice to the second qualifying, the times got better but I feel like that was more that we got comfortable with the technical side of it. The track didn’t get easier, but we just knew how to attack the track in better spots. The track was challenging all day and all night, especially that main event. The 3-3-3-3, I was pretty much going double-double-3-3 the whole night. The track was very difficult.
Talking about that main event, there was a lot of noise going on. Was it difficult to concentrate with all that craziness happening around you?
Not really. Like I said, the guy in front of me was so far. I’m pretty sure it was Justin Hill, and I could see him out of my peripherals a couple of lanes over from me, so he got pretty close to lapping me. I kind of had tabs on the guy behind me, so I just made sure to keep him at a far enough distance that I didn’t have to stress, and I just got to experience the 450 main event and the challenges of that.
With all that noise, did you wonder what was going on?
I saw a couple of them like Malcolm [Stewart] going down and a couple other guys going down but couldn’t really see much of what was going on. Even the leaderboard and the timing and stuff, both spots where you could see it were in pretty challenging parts of the track. I didn’t really get to see much.
So a good start for you, what are some takeaways from tonight and what do you take to Oakland?
Oakland sounds like it’s going to be a different kind of supercross race.
Yeah. It hasn’t stopped raining and it doesn’t plan on stopping raining. From what it sounds like, it’s going to be a little bit different than what we’re used to and I’m kind of excited for it. So we’ll just see what we can do this week, see if we can ride anywhere, and just be ready.