For years Steven Pillans has dominated the island’s motocross scene, winning race after race and wowing spectators with high-flying tricks.
Now, he is a state champion at the highest level.
Pillans rode his red 2018 Honda CRF 450 to titles in the professional and 450cc expert classes in the 2020 State Series that concluded in late-August.
The State Series is an eight-event circuit that hits tracks in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Kenai. An overall champion is crowned by season points, which means the more races a rider attends, the better. Pillans made them all.
His 300 points in the 27-rider pro class topped runner-up finisher Daniel Maciariello by 13 points. He accumulated 340 points in the 16-rider 450 expert class to win by 60 points over Warren Gage.
“It’s pretty cool,” Pillans said. “This might be the only time that I ever get to do something like that in my life.”
This is the first time that Pillans has made all the races. He left his bike and trailer on the mainland, making it easier to commute from The Rock to the races. It also helped that he spent parts of his summer working on the mainland for Scott’s Heating and Plumbing.
“There is a lot of competition. If every fast person raced all summer long, there is no way I would have beaten all those guys,” Pillans said.
Each race day features two 15- or 20-minute timed heats plus two laps. Pillans won five pro class heats and 10 expert class heats. He did well in Fairbanks and Anchorage but struggled on Kenai’s sandy track.
He said he donated some of the money he won to Jesse Kelly, a Kenai racer who fractured his spine and was left partially paralyzed from a motocross crash in May.
“He was another really fast guy,” Pillans said. “He was very fast. It was a tragic accident.”
Pillans has been riding since the age of 4. In 2008, he won the state intermediate class title — his last state championship. Racing has taken him to competitions in Washington and Oregon.
He said he would have considered a career in motocross if he were faster. Pillans said there is only one Alaskan rider currently on the professional circuit.
“There is so much motocross talent in Southern California, and when you are not riding with those guys who are that fast every day when you go down there, they are just at a different level,” Pillans said.
As Pillans has gotten older, his views on racing have changed.
“When I was young and trying to win everything, it was way more competitive. Now, it is mellow. If somebody is going to pass me, I’m going to let them pass me. I got to go to work on Monday,” he said.