Cernic's Kawasaki's Paul Carpenter used his two provisionals at the first two rounds of the AMA series
photo: Simon Cudby
If you ask the riders, some like it; others don’t. They now have one less opportunity to make the main event. But that’s where the “provisional” ruling comes into play. If a rider who is currently in the top 10 in either the AMA or FIM WSXGP points (or finished in the top 10 in overall points the previous year) fails to qualify this year, they are allowed to use a provisional start to race the main event. A rider can only do this twice in one season.
One rider that has already taken advantage of this rule in 2007 includes Cernic’s Kawasaki’s Paul Carpenter, who used his allowance of two at the first two rounds of the 2007 AMA series. Carpenter was inside the top 10 of the Amp’d Mobile World SXGP points following Toronto and Vancouver, therefore he was allowed to use the provisional starts. Carpenter finished 11th at Anaheim I and 19th in Phoenix. He was also able to get back on track at Anaheim II and qualified directly out of the heat. He currently sits in 10th in the AMA series and ninth in WSXGP.
Another provisional start used in ‘07 was by Rockstar Suzuki’s Michael Byrne in Atlanta. Byrne barely missed qualifying in his heat when he finished 10th, and a crash in the LCQ meant he would have to use his provisional. At that point he was fifth in the AMA points, and a DNQ would’ve been detrimental to his season. He then went on and struggled in the main event, finishing 14th.
Rockstar Suzuki's Michael Byrne used both of his provisionals already
photo: Simon Cudby
The very next round in St. Louis saw former World SXGP champion Heath Voss using a provisional. The Honda privateer was eighth in the AMA standings at that point, and went on to finish eighth in the main event, preserving his place in the top 10. No rider had to use a provisional in Daytona, but in Orlando we saw Byrne in a bad position once again. Almost identical to Atlanta, Byrne missed qualifying in his heat race by one position, and finished 18th in the LCQ. He then used his second (and last) provisional start of the season to get into the main event, where he finished 12th.
At the very next round in Indianapolis, we saw another repeat provisional starter when Voss finished third in the LCQ. He was still in eighth in the AMA points coming into Indy, therefore he was able to use his second provisional of the season. He finished 16th in the main event.
And the most recent (and probably the fastest) rider to use his “Get in the main event free” card this season is SoBe No Fear/Samsung Mobile Honda rider Kevin Windham, who was unable to qualify in Dallas. The soft and rutted soil bit Windham in his heat race and he then finished fourth in the LCQ. Using a provisional start, K-Dub went on to finish sixth in the main event—the highest finish of any provisional starter in 2007.
Kevin Windham was sure glad he had a provisional start after failing to qualify in Dallas
photo: Steve Bruhn
So while the provisional starts have saved the season for these four riders, not everyone agrees with them. Jason Thomas, a top privateer racer for the Butler Brothers MX Honda team, says he isn’t really a fan of the provisional start. “I can see the reasoning behind them,” he says, “but it changes too much, points-wise. Take Carpenter for example. He used two in the first two races of the year, and it turned his whole season around.”
Love it or hate it, it’s a part of the qualifying process now, and it might be here to stay.