At 16 years old, Gracie Van Horn is already one of the world’s most promising motorcross riders, consistently placing highly in national competitions across the country. It’s a demanding lifestyle with eight months of the year spent training and racing away from home, but the victory and excitement, she says, are absolutely worth it.
“We did three spring nationals, one in Alabama and the other two in Texas,” says Van Horn of the year’s successes.
“At all three of those I got second in the girls’ 12-16 class and in the women’s I got third.”
Van Horn also entered the Loretta Lynn Amateur National in Tennessee for the fifth time.
“I got second in the girls and eighth in the women’s. In the women’s I rode a little bike against the big bikes,” she says.
“It’s pretty much the biggest amateur national in the world for amateur motorcross. If you win there, you’re basically the fastest kid in the world in that class, so getting second is not too bad.”
Her achievement in the women’s category is particularly impressive considering that her bike, a KTM 105 Supermini, was smaller and less powerful than those of her competitors.
“The women’s 14-plus is big bikes, they’re 250s, but they allowed the little bikes to come in this year. Racing against the bigger bikes is a challenge and that’s been fun,” she says.
Amateur rankings for the sport are largely determined by the Loretta Lynn competition, placing Van Horn second in the world in the 12-16 age class.
“You have area qualifiers and a regional qualifier and you have to make it through both of those to get to Loretta. I’ve always won my regional, so that would probably rank me first in the region,” she says.
“Lorettas gives you ranking in the world, it’s a big one. The biggest accomplishment of this year for me was getting second at Loretta Lynn.”
Van Horn has one final competition ahead of her before the year draws to a close: the Pro Circuit Mini Olympics in Florida, held over Thanksgiving. After that, she plans to build on her successes and progress from national to international competition, turning her ability into a long-term career.
“I haven’t competed internationally yet, but I would like to. There are all kinds of junior world championships – mostly it’s guys, but I think it would be fun to be one of the first girls to go do it, so that’s one of my goals,” she says.
“I’d like to win Loretta’s this year coming up and then go pro and compete in the X-Games.”
Turning professional has been on the cards for much of Van Horn’s life. She has been riding since she was seven years old and competing since the age of eight.
“My older brother used to race and he got a dirt bike – it was the first time I even knew what a dirt bike was. I rode it and, after that, I just wanted my own and we haven’t stopped since,” she says.
“All we did right away, for the first few years, was just local races. I’d usually win those and I started getting faster, so we started traveling more and now we’re here.”
Her talent having blossomed so early, Van Horn has not had much trouble attracting sponsorship. She has been sponsored in the past by KTM Motorcycles, but that may change in the near future.
FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, PICK UP A COPY OF THE SUNDANCE TIMES