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Ermolenko Set for First Step Toward Worlds

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Former world champion Sam Ermolenko, a Cypress native who has spent 13 years racing in the British League, leads 15 other riders competing tonight in the Toyota American Speedway Final at the Orange County Fairgrounds.

“This is the first stage to the World Championship,” said Ermolenko, the 1993 world champion and the national champion in 1993 and ’94. “The significance is that it’s the most important race of the year until the next race.”

It’s part of the U.S. National Qualifying Series for the Federation Internationale Motocyclists FIM World Championship. The top four finishers advance to the intercontinental final June 22 in Bradford, England, which serves as the quarterfinal for the world championship.

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Like Ermolenko and his brother, Charles, San Bernardino’s Charlie Venegas and Hesperia’s Chris Manchester compete in the British League, where the tracks are more typically a quarter-mile in length.

“This race is why they’ve gone to Europe--to become world champion,” said Costa Mesa’s Bobby Schwartz, another favorite on the one-eighth mile oval. “They’re set up [to compete] over there. None of us [locals] are set up for it.”

There will be 20 races, with each rider competing against the other in the four-man races. Points are awarded on a 3-2-1-0 basis, with the overall points leader declared champion.

Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Racing begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for kids 6-17.

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