PUTNEYVILLE – Not even injury or illness could stop 10-year-old Keihin Rupp of Putneyville from making history this past October by becoming the first person to win three series motocross championships in the same year.
With a total of 22 wins in 30 tri-state area races, Rupp wrapped up the 2017 American Woods Racing Championship Series (AWRCS) with overall wins in the peewee bike, youth 65CC bike and the 90CC quad classes.
“It was a crazy race season,” Rupp’s father, Chris Rupp, recently said, noting that although last year’s season was not complete without some challenges for his son — including a foot injury early in the season and a stomach illness later on — Keihin was able to persevere and become the first youth racer to win three AWRCS championships in one year. “It was a good season. Keihin was winning the youth races with leads of between three and four minutes. That is huge in our sport.”
According to Chris Rupp, dirt bikes have been a part of Keihin’s life from the moment he was born.
“Most people don’t know this, but Keihin was actually named after a carburetor company,” Chris Rupp explained, adding that his son started riding bikes before his second birthday and competed in his first race at just 38 months old. In the years since, Keihin has won a total of six AWRCS championships. “He may only be 10 years old, but he’s been at it for a while.”
AWRCS championship winners are determined using a point system tallied from a rider’s eight best finishing times out of 11 rounds of racing throughout the season. In the peewee class, racers compete on a one-and-a-half or two-mile long course, while the youth class competes on a five or six-mile long course.
Although all races take place in a woods setting, Chris Rupp said each track differs in its level of difficulty depending on the area’s terrain.
“Some courses are more difficult than others,” he said, adding that some courses are pretty challenging and equipped with obstacles, such as mud holes, logs, other jumps and more.
In order to be successful, Keihin Rupp said, the sport requires a lot of practice, sometimes four to five days a week, and a lot of self-confidence.
“You really have to believe in yourself,” he said, explaining that out of all the courses he rides each year, he enjoys the familiarity and hometown support of the Middle Run course in Redbank Township (Clarion County) most of all.
“There’s no question that it is a dangerous sport,” Chris Rupp agreed. “You really have to know what you are doing.”
With his ultimate goal of becoming a professional racer in mind, Keihin Rupp said that his plan for the 2018 racing season is to defend all of his championship titles.
“I’m hoping to ride every week and do more training,” he said, noting that he is already preparing to move up to the next age class in the AWRCS next year by practicing more on a larger 85CC bike. “I want to keep building from here and hope to make it to the professional class in a few years.”
In fact, according to Chris Rupp, last year’s success caught the eye of motocross and supercross star Brock Hepler, who invited Keihin to be a support rider for the Aliquippa-based Lunova Racing team.
“Lunova is putting a lot of effort into this sport,” he said, adding that as part of the team, Lunova will help Keihin pay for entry fees, bike parts and racing gear. “This opportunity will open a lot of doors to help Keihin reach his goals.”
“It really makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something,” Keihin added.
While Keihin is the one participating in the races, Chris Rupp said he wouldn’t be there without the support of a full team of people — including Brett and Brandi Bussard of Full Throttle X-Tremes, Jeff Cieslak of MPR Suspension, Russ and Michelle Doverspike, Jarret Braughler, Matt and Jared Henney, Jim Rounce Photography, Connor Karkowsky, Mason Atherton, Austin Alcorn and Steve and Amy Stiller of Stiller Motor Sports who operate AWRCS.
“We can’t thank them all enough,” he said.
In addition, Keihin thanks his parents, sister Emmaleigh, grandparents and friend Wyatt for helping and supporting him along the way.
“Keihin surprises us all the time with all the stuff he does,” Chris Rupp said.
As one of the fastest growing series out there, Chris Rupp said that AWRCS registration for the upcoming season was up 13 percent from last year. Known as a family-oriented series, he explained that the AWRCS attracts an average of 700 to 800 racers of all ages who participate in events across the tri-state area each weekend.
“Word is getting around, and it’s really exploding on the east coast,” he added.
For more information on AWRCS, visit www.awrcs.com.