Racerhead #39

September 26, 2008 4:06pm | by:

Racerhead is coming at you from Donington Park, England, site of the 2008 Red Bull Motocross of Nations. This weekend, Team USA will go for its fourth straight win at the annual gathering of motocross nations, with the all-green line-up of James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto and Tim Ferry.

You can watch the weekend’s action live or on-demand only on MediaZone Moto. If you’ve already signed up for the season, you are set; otherwise, it’s $14.99 to watch this weekend’s race—that’s less than taking your date to a movie! Check it out.

Remember, the racing gets underway with practice qualifying tomorrow at 10 a.m. local time, and 2:20 p.m. for the first qualifier. If you’re trying to follow at home, Donington Park is five hours head or East Coast time, eight hours ahead on the West Coast.

Sunday’s race start at noon over there, so if you want to watch it live, get your butt up at 7 a.m. EST and 4 a.m out west (and I guarantee you Eric Johnson and a bunch of other hardcore West Coast fans will do just that) on Sunday to watch and see if the Yanks can beat the rest of the world again. 

I am sitting this one out—been a little busy on the home front—but Racer X’s own Steve “Sir” Cox, “Bad” Billy Ursic, Simon “Wish I Were Back Home in Australia” Cudby, Steve "Red Dog" Matthes, and of course our friends at Vurbmoto.com, Wes Williams and Gary Price, who have been posting videos from over there on their site. In fact, here’s their Friday preview video.

You can also get a rider's-eye-view of the event but checking out Ryan Villopoto's photo blog at MXNationals.com.

Now, let’s go to England for Steve Cox-on-the-spot reporting.

I’ve been doing my best to keep you up to date on the happenings in England over the past week. Last weekend, I attended the final round of the Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championships, and posted Monday Conversations with the newly crowned champs of both classes – Shaun Simpson here and Billy Mackenzie here.

After spending most of the week staying in Lancaster at the house of Sean Lawless (the editor of Dirt Bike Rider here in the UK) and his girlfriend Ruth, my wife and I drove down to Tommy Searle’s practice track at a beautiful house in Derby yesterday to check out Team USA’s bike shakedown. Check out the photo gallery from the day here.

There’s some video of that session at Vurbmoto.com:

  • Team USA
Today was essentially press day at Donington Park. They interviewed every single team, including first-time entry Team Mongolia. Hopefully, they do better than China did a couple of years ago. I don’t know if anyone’s betting on them, but then again, I doubt anyone bet on Oregon State to beat the #1 USC Trojans in college football last night.

The teams were introduced in order of their finish from last year’s Budds Creek event, so first up was Team USA. It was a bit weird to see three Kawasaki riders with Roger DeCoster as the team manager, but everyone seems to be handling it just fine.

Meanwhile, DeCoster’s new rider (and other rider) are both in the Australia pits – Chad Reed and Michael Byrne. This is Ryan Villopoto’s last race on a 250F, and it’s James Stewart’s last race on a Kawasaki and first race as the team captain coming into the event. The last time Stewart was on the team, he was supposed to be the MX3 guy, but instead became the MX1 guy when Ricky Carmichael dropped out of the race with a hurt shoulder from Glen Helen.

However, if anyone has any pressure, it’s probably Villopoto, as he has to follow his acts from the last couple of years. His first visit to the MXdN came in 2006 when he won the overall for the MX2 class in his first attempt. Then, last year, he had the legendary ride, winning both of his motos going away on a 250F – the first rider ever to do so in history on a 250F or a 125. (Steve Lamson won a 125/500 moto outright in ’96 on a CR125, and Tony Cairoli won a moto here in England two years ago on a 250F).

“I guess I would like to do what I did last year, but that’s not something that I’m out there trying to do,” Villopoto said in the press conference. “If I win a moto, that’s great, but if I don’t, that’s okay, too – as long as the whole team is doing well and we leave here with the win… This will be my last race on the 250F, and I’m kind of looking forward to it, but on the other hand, it’s going to be a bummer, too.”

Of course, Timmy Ferry is handling the MX3 racing, and he’s coming off of his best season to date. “As long as we do our job in our class, it doesn’t matter if we win a moto or not,” Ferry said. He was on last year’s team with RV1 and Ricky Carmichael, as well as the ’03 team that lost in Zolder, Belgium—the last time Team USA lost (they didn’t participate in 2004).

  • Chad Reed
Other contenders are going to include last year’s runner-up Team France and third-place Team Belgium. However, there is a lot of hype surrounding Chad Reed’s weekend. It’s his first motocross race in Europe since 2001, and it’s also his first race on a Suzuki RM-Z450.

“I’m excited to be here in England and I’m ready to race the Motocross of Nations,” the AMA Supercross Champion Reed said. “It’s been a year since I’ve raced motocross and five months since I’ve raced at all, so I’m really, really excited about getting out here and getting back to racing. I’ll brush off the cobwebs and have a good time. I’ve got a new team and a new bike and I’m just really looking forward to getting out there and having a good time, to be honest.”

He said the majority of his testing has been for supercross, but he did two days of outdoor testing and he feels fine on the bike. He has to test for supercross because of his Australian Supercross Championship coming up in October and November, along with the U.S. Open of Supercross.

“With Byrner and Alessi doing the Nationals, they had a good base [setup],” Reed said of his new Rockstar/Makita Suzuki team. Reed feels like there’s something for him to prove at the event. Having not raced since 2001 in a motocross in Europe, he wants the fans to see that he’s not just a supercross rider.

“It’s been since Vegas that I’ve been on a starting line,” Reed said. “It’s a new team, a new bike, but it’s the same rider, and I want to go out there and be competitive. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t feel like I could put my best foot forward and represent my country the best I can. I feel we have a great team and probably even more important, we all have great results and great bikes. I think, for me, I’m going out there to do the best I can, and I want to win, for sure. But it’s a team event and you’ve just got to go out and put every guy in the best position possible, and I think that’s what this is mostly for. I’m just excited to get out there and use this as a great stepping-stone for next year.”

Obviously, his MX3 teammate Michael Byrne had a good summer in the Nationals, as did his MX2 teammate Brett Metcalfe. Metcalfe also has a bit to prove. The only other time he was picked to be a member of Team Australia, in 2006 (also in England), he borrowed a bike and ended up hurting his shoulder, which messed up a lot of his 2007 season with Pro Circuit. This will also be his last race on a Kawasaki, as he will be switching to the Factory Connection Honda/Geico Powersports team next year.

“Last time was kind of a disaster for me,” Metcalfe said. “I came over and borrowed a bike, and it doesn’t work out really good when you do that, and I ended up paying the price. So, this year, I’m hooked up with Monster/Pro Circuit Kawasaki, and nothing’s changing for me. It’s just a new track I’ve got to go out there and learn. Like Chad said, we’ve got to put our best foot forward. I definitely want to show what I’ve been able to do in the States, and to race against everyone that races the GPs, it’s a cool experience, and I definitely want to show how I can really ride.”

Another threat should come from the home team of Great Britain, with Scotsmen Billy Mackenzie (MX1) and Shaun Simpson (MX3, on a 250F) and Englishman Tommy Searle, in his last MX race before heading to America next year.

New Zealand had to replace Daryl Hurley with Scott Columb, and the team is now comprised of Columb, Josh Coppins and Cody Cooper.

Team Puerto Rico is hoping to make the main event, with MX2 rider Tarah Gieger, MX1 rider Gino Aponte and MX3 rider Zach Osborne (who is actually riding a 450 for the event, just as he did at Southwick).

Canada is running cool Blair Morgan stickers on their bikes in honor of the injured rider and multi-time member of the Canadian team. Check them out here.
We’ll check back in after the qualifying races tomorrow.

And here’s the latest from the West Coast, via David Pingree:

Congratulations to Mitch Payton, the Pro Circuit boss. Payton just found out that he and his wife are going to be parents... to twins! Mitch, I've got parenting tips if you need them. And there are some things you'll want to know. For starters, baby poop isn't that big of a deal. If you get some on your fingers you can just wipe it off on your jeans. It's no big deal. Seriously, all parents do it. Maybe take some Mechanics Wear gloves home with you just in case.

  • Look who's already going green - and fast - Jake Weimer
You might want to load up some tear-offs, folks, because I’m going to be throwing some dirt at you right now. This week I caught Ryan Morais during his first “test” session with the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit team at Perris Raceway. That final spot was down to Ryan and Josh Hansen and it looks like Ryan is going to be the guy. He was riding Brett Metcalfe’s refurbished practice bike and when I asked him how fast it was he was either really impressed or he had an air leak because he rolled his eyes and went, “Pfsssshhhhhhh. Dude.”

Make of that what you will.

That move means that Hansen will more than likely end up at the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/Honda team which seems like a good fit. They won the X Games race together and Hansen gets along well with everyone there. Although the TLD squad has yet to sign any rider I have heard Billy Laninovich’s name come up in conversation around the shop as a possibility for a second rider.

The big surprise for me this week was the PR that I received from L&M Racing’s agency. They are finally going to introduce their team to the press next week and everyone is speculating on who will be James Stewart’s wingman and what brand of bike they will be riding. Well, of course the guys at L&M aren’t saying anything but a very good source told me that they will indeed be on blue bikes and the guy that will back James up in the truck will be Kyle Chisolm. While that choice was a surprise to me at first it makes sense. Kyle and James are great friends and they already ride and train together on a regular basis. And they probably got him pretty cheap which was a plus since they had to pay James a buttload of cash. It will be interesting to see if Red Bull signs on as a major sponsor for the team or if they just support Stewart individually. Last year the team was sponsored by a drink called Fusion which I had never heard of and still have never seen in any store anywhere… ever.

  • Darryn Durham on a Yamaha
  • Ryan Morais
I could have sworn I saw Jason Lawrence at Perris this week but it turned out to be his new teammate, Darryn Durham. They look exactly alike on the bike, right down to the hair hanging out the back of the helmet. If the bike he was riding had 338 on it I would have thought for sure it was him. Anyway, Durham was looking good on his new ride and I’m anxious to see what that kid’s got under the hood when Anaheim rolls around.

Winter sports fans would have recognized Daron Rahlves doing some riding this week as well. The former Alpine Skiing Olympian, World Cup winner and X Games gold medalist has been at his summer home in Encinitas, CA, for the past month or so and is determined to beat his nemesis, arm pump, before he heads back into the mountains this fall. Good luck with that, D. In a span of two weeks Rahlves went from his home in Truckee to an indoor ski facility in Dubai, back home, to Chile (where it is winter right now) for some ski testing, back to Truckee and then down to southern Cal. That is some serious frequent flier miles.

  • Grant Langston on the 2009 Yamaha YZ250
I attended Yamaha’s 2009 two-stroke press introduction this week and got to ride at an amazing private ranch in the middle of nowhere in San Diego county. I took former racer/professional male model Tyler Keefe with me to help shake down the new rides (look for that feature here soon) and we all got a surprise visit from Grant Langston. The friendly Yamaha rider is still being hampered by an eye injury and the latest prognosis isn’t very good. Grant is having surgery soon to implant metal plates behind his eyes so that he can begin radiation therapy on them. The plates keep the radiation from getting to his brain. It all sounds a bit frightening to me and I’ve got my fingers crossed that it goes well and he can get back on a bike and get to work.

Grant said he hadn’t ridden a 125 since the summer of 2003 but he jumped on a one-dinger and straight-up hauled ass. It was only for about five laps, but they were fast laps. In fact, he had me doubting his whole story about having vision problems. But then afterwards we all took turns shooting at some clay pigeons with a few of the shotguns on the ranch and, well, Grant is either a terrible shot or he really does have some vision problems. I could have walked out and held the target in my hand above my head and felt safe. Seriously, here’s hoping Grant’s issues clear up quickly because he is sorely missed at the races. He is also planning on selling his property and home in Florida, so if anyone is looking for a great place to live and ride, get in touch with GL.

That’s it from Ping. Here are some other notes from the week:

The roof is down at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, which used to be home to not only the Indianapolis Colts, but also the Indianapolis Supercross, and the Indy Dealer News Motorcycle Trade Show: http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3606768

I saw the new Lucas Oils Stadium in Indy a couple of weeks ago when I was there for the MotoGP and it is simply incredible.

And congratulations to Matt Walker and his lovely wife Jennifer, who were joined in life this week by little Camden Matthew Walker, who weighed 8 lbs. 2 oz. Mama and baby doing just fine. When Walker called the Racer X office to let us know, he said in typical Stalker-Walker fashion, “They wouldn’t let me name him Champ; that’s gonna be his nickname.”

Also, congrats to Matt Chapman of Etnies fame, as he and his wife Valerie also brought a little boy into the world! Ryder Matthew Chapman tipped the scales at 7 lbs., 7.5 oz, and the tape shows him at his first starting gate standing 18.5 inches. Well done, Matt and Valerie!

That’s it for Racerhead. See you at the next race. Go Team USA!