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Jacob Turner knows what he wants to do and nothing is going to stop him.
No jump or fence is a match for his determination, and the little issue of not being old enough to drive could not stop Turner from becoming one of the best motocross competitors in Kentucky.
The Anderson County High School sophomore recently finished second in the ATV Novice division of Toyota Trucks Bluegrass Championship MX series in just his second year of racing. Turner picked up 188 points on the tour, only trailing Chad Whitmer, a 30-year-old driver from Charlestown, Ind., who had 246. Forty-one drivers scored in the summer series.
Turner drove his Suzuki LTR 450 four-wheeler in the 450cc division, which is open to drivers 16 and up. Being only 15, Turner was allowed to compete only when his father, Don Turner, gave his permission in writing.
In 12 races at various tracks across Kentucky and Southern Indiana, Turner finished in the top three of nearly every event. He had just one Did Not Finish, a race at Sturgis when he wrecked did several hundred dollars of damage to his Suzuki four-wheeler.
“I was in the first moto (heat) on the second lap,” Jacob remembers. “I was in second place. I went over a double and the back tires hit the top of the landing. It threw me off and flipped over.”
Turner suffered some bruised ribs but his ego was still intact, missing just one race because of the injuries. Three weeks later, he had another incident, as another bike bumped him near the start of a race in Bowling Green. Turner flipped on one side but, his dad says, “He just flipped the quad over and took off.”
It is a world of weekend trips and small crowds, but Turner knew he wanted to get in on the action long before his first race in 2007 at North Washington Motorcross track near Willisburg.
He pored over Dirt Wheels and Quad magazines and says, “I have always watched it on TV. I just wanted to try it. I had been wanting to try it for a few years.”
Don and his wife, Carla, bought Jacob his first machine, a Yamaha Raptor 350, in September of 2006. He’s been on one ever since.
“We didn’t know how interested he would be,” Don says, “but he really took to it.”
As a rookie driver last summer, Jacob won nine of 13 races, earning him a spot in the C-class circuit this year.
It is not a sport for the weak-hearted as Turner speeds over dirt tracks anywhere from 1.5 to 3 miles long. He bounces on the jumpss and landings at speeds that can reach 65 to 70 miles per hour. Flying from one jump to the landing often puts Turner in the air for 80 feet or more.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Jacob chuckled. “I like it.”
That is not to say there have not been anxious moments. Turner admits he was nervous his first few races and his mom adds, “I am the same now as I was in the beginning. I am very nervous at the race.”
Both times Jacob wrecked, his mom had stayed home for that weekend. “I was glad of that,” she laughs.
But the anxiety is behind the Turner team now.
“Sure it’s dangerous,” says Don Turner, who says he has seen broken bones and has read of drivers that are paralyzed from quad accidents. “But I believe you can’t live in fear.”
For Jacob, however, the biggest toll is on the thighs and forearms.
“After the race at Paoli, I was worn out,” Turner says of the two 4-lap heats around a 3-mile course. It was at that Indiana track that Turner clinched his second place finish.
Before moving up to the B-Class, a much more difficult level of competition, next year, Turner will be hitting the weights to increase his strength and endurance. With good reason.
“In the B-class, he will be going 70 to 75 miles an hour at times,” his father says. “We will have to modify the machine with a high performance suspension system.”
It is the kind of think that has turned Don Turner, who says he had basically done minor maintenance on his personal vehicles, into a first rate mechanic.
The quad can run more than $7,000 and repairs can be expensive. The team has been using premium unleaded gas, but plans to move up to racing fuel next year.
Jacob and his family are part of the Eddie Sachs Racing team, based in Michigan. The team is run by the son of the famous race car driver who died in the 1964 Indianapolis 500. The Turners also have sponsorships from AMSoil, Pro-Taper handle grips and Yoshimura exhaust.
“It is expensive,” Don Turner admits, “but other activities you can do over a weekend are comparable.”
It could be well worth it if Jacob achieves his dream of riding professionally. Currently, Turner rides at a level where the only rewards are trophies and a love of the game.
“In these classes, he gets the experience and knowledge to move on up,” Don Turner says.
Jacob Turner knows that just like the high school player that wants to make the NBA or NFL, the odds are stacked against him. Yet his determination is as strong now as the day he hopped on that Yamaha his first time out.
“I think it is possible,” he says.
It would probably be wise to not count Jacob Turner out.
E-mail John Herndon at email@example.com.