Observations from the MXoN

October 2, 2008 9:35am | by:
The Red Bull Motocross of Nations went off this past weekend in jolly old Donington, England, and as you can probably guess, I went. As I type this I just gave up (again) on the new Indiana Jones movie. I watched it on the way over and now on the way back and I have to conclude that it still sucks and this proves the age-old theory that when you put groundhogs, monkeys and killer ants in one movie, it will suck.

  • Tim Ferry (3) off to his usual good start
The MXDN is a cool event and one that should be on everyone’s bucket list. I’ve been lucky enough to attend three of these now and one of my greatest regrets was the fact that as a fourteen-year-old kid living in Manitoba chasing the 80cc Schoolboy B championship, I couldn’t come up with the $1500 that some company wanted for an all-expenses-paid (with the $1500) trip to the 1987 Unadilla MXDN. I was still $1450 short after I sold some of my comic book collection off.

I always think of Rocky IV at this race, where Rocky travels to Russia to fight the unbeatable Ivan Drago. All the odds are against the Rock, but he pulls it out despite taking a beating that would have his ancestors feeling it. Then at the end, a bloodied Rocky has the flag on him and implores everyone to change and start liking each other. I always get goose bumps watching that scene; I’d like to see Stewie do that on the podium, but the problem I have is trying to figure out if America is Rocky the winner or Drago the undefeated monster?

The Donington facility is one of those road race tracks where you build the motocross track in the middle that they love doing so much (remember Zolder? Jerez?). The track looked like fun when I walked it on Friday but I could tell there was nothing challenging on it for the riders and I would later see I was right. It had some small elevation changes so what was left to do was put some jumps on it and try to make it good. The riders I spoke to didn’t like it for the most part and, like James Stewart said during the AMA Toyota Motocross Championships this summer, a motocross track should not come in at a under two-minute lap time, and this one did for him.

It’s the problem that motocross all over the world is facing now: Do you go to these historic and gnarly tracks out in the countryside where the facilities aren’t the greatest—like most of the AMAs and GPs are—or find nice facilities and build a temporary track around the creature comforts that we all like? The pits were great this weekend, the press room and garages for the teams were very nice and the fans had a great view, but it was at the expense of the quality of the circuit in my opinion, and amateur racing would never happen at a track like that because, like supercross, the track would be gone the next week here in the USA. One version is good for media and pit parking; the other is good for building new riders, maintaining a strong base and giving the OEMs that sell motorcycles a place for people to race those motorcycles. What’s the right thing to do? I don’t have the answer for that one.

I do know that if a facility has more than 35,000 permanent seats here in the States, it’s a moot point anyway because, by a contract between the AMA and Live Nation, that is considered a supercross. But once a year for the MXoN? Seems like it would work on a facility that also has the terrain needed to make a real motocross track.
We all know what happened by now, if you don’t and you’re just now reading me telling you that USA won, well then you need to get out of mom’s basement more often. Team USA won for the 19th time in 25 appearances since 1981—they lost in Switzerland (’94), Slovakia (’95), Belgium (’97), England (’98), Brazil (’99) and Belgium (’03)—and even though it was an expected result, it was by no means easy.

  • James Stewart was the fastest man at the MXoN, but a crash in the final moto kept him from winning.
The fastest man in the world right now, James Stewart, didn’t win. There aren’t too many things in the world that are sure things, other than death, taxes, the fact that movies with killer ants, groundhogs and monkeys will suck, and that James will win any race he lines up in, anywhere in the world, now that Ricky Carmichael is racing stock cars. At least that’s what I thought until James threw it away all by himself with four laps left in the last moto when he cross-rutted and landed on a haybale, picked up his bike quick enough, but then that pesky four-strokes-are-hard-to-start-when-hot thingy reared its ugly head. Even after a guy held his bike up for him and let him wail away on the kickstarter, the mighty KX450F would not start for quite a while. So, while he crushed them in the first moto, he didn’t end up winning his class.

Ryan Villopoto certainly would’ve swept his MX2 class if he hadn’t crashed in his first moto. He said later that France’s Sebastien Pourcel cleaned him out but I didn’t see it. He came from a long ways back to finish right behind England’s fast and friendly Tommy Searle in the moto. Second time out he grabbed the lead on the first lap from New Zealand’s Cody Cooper and won the combined moto, just like he did last year. I don’t think this track was as much of a disadvantage for the 250F as Budds Creek was last year but it was still an impressive performance. It was Ryan’s farewell ride on the 250F and for Pro Circuit and he was “right proper,” as the English like to say.

Tim Ferry and I are buddies. We all know this right? I wrenched for him for five years and we text each other or speak on the phone once or twice a week (when he answers, anyway). I’m a huge fan and think the world of the guy; I can also tell how he’s riding almost from the first lap of the race, I’ve watched the dude put in a million laps at tracks all over the world and know his tendencies and habits, on and off the track. All that being said, I have to say that although I’ve seen him go much faster many times, I don’t know if there’s ever been a time when I’ve been more impressed with his riding than this weekend. He took chicken-shit and made chicken salad out of his day. (I should clarify that I’m only talking about his second moto here, as during the first moto I was trying to scratch my “Ferry” tramp stamp tattoo off as he struggled and I was telling people that I didn’t even really know the guy anymore. )

He had a clutch perch problem in the first go around which hindered him but he also just didn’t ride well. His second moto, on the other hand, was the stuff of legend. He got a horrible start, even by Tim Ferry standards, it was horrible. I guess he came out okay but got pushed off the track or something. As usual, I look for him first when I’m watching a race and I’m not kidding when I say that by the third turn, the only guy behind him was Canada’s Dusty Klatt. If you looked up what were the top 10 most horrific things for Steve Matthes to see in his life, seeing Ferry and Canada last and second-to-last at the MXDN would be top five (right behind the Ottawa Senators winning the Stanley Cup.) I had just finishing making a noose out of my shoelaces when a funny thing happened: Red Dog started getting into his groove!

  • Deep ruts didn't slow down RV
He fought hard and was just slowly getting by guys left and right. He’s not like James, who is going Mach 5 around dudes; Ferry has to work at it and he was working it hard. The track was kind of muddy and he had a clump of mud on the side of his helmet that probably weighed the same as a small Ethiopian child. He was getting roosted so bad in some spots but just kept chugging and made it all the way to fifth by the finish. This track was not easy to pass on and he was digging deep when he clearly didn’t have his best stuff. It was a gutsy ride by a guy that some people didn’t want on the team. There, I’ll shut up now.

There’s some guy on U-Tag Yamaha that people are saying used to race in America. He’s got “Osborne” on the back of his jersey and bears a striking resemblance to that guy that struggled bad on KTM and YOT—a guy named Zach Osborne—but it can’t be him. I refuse to believe it’s the same guy, it’s not possible and I want an investigation into alien abductions and what happens when people return from them. The rider formally known as Zach Osborne in America was absolutely amazing this weekend. He came from wayyyy back in his first moto to finish a charging sixth, passing Ferry, Cody Cooper, Steve Ramon and Michael Byrne. He crashed hard in the second moto and got 24th. This was after his qualifying race when he came from the back to get second behind Cooper. He was scrubbing so hard off the finish line that even Ozzy Osbourne would have been proud.

Speaking of scrubbing, I noticed that the Euros have been practicing it. Man, what a difference in their riding since I first started coming over to Europe in 1999. Most of the guys look like Stewie out there, working the bike and soaking up the jumps. It was impressive because there wasn’t much difference between our guys and them. They all used to look like a bunch “Barry Carstens” in the words of Scott goggles’ John Knowles.

  • France's Anthony Boissiere (5) was very impressive
France almost won the whole damm thing this weekend. Had it not been for MX2 rider Anthony “pass the” Boissiere getting a flat in his moto and pulling out. They might’ve won because he was in fourth at the time and looking good. That guy impressed me this weekend for sure, I’d never really heard of him before.

Their MX1 rider Sebastien Pourcel won the MX1 class after Stewie’s misfortune and even challenged James in the moto early in the morning, actually passing the American champ at one point—which hasn’t happened for a long time. He definitely got tired later in the moto, which answered my question of “Why doesn’t this dude win the GPs?” because I’m guessing he’s not a factor in the sand and rough tracks.

Like I said earlier I’ve been going over the ocean for some time now (I think this trip was my 10th or so, with a six month stint of living-in-hell also in there (hell being Germany in the winter) and there are just some things that need to be answered.

Why are all the hotel beds hard as a rock? Why are they all a single? Why are they placed so close together? My room in London on Sunday night had the beds so close together that had I had someone next to me, I could’ve reached out and put my arm around them. That’s not cool.

Also, why do the sinks in England have separate hot and cold taps in the sink? I like my water warm to wash my face, not ice cold or scalding hot. Why is everything closed at 6 p.m.? Why do they barely speak English? Okay, kidding there.

The driving on the other side of the road thing is weird also, I never got used to it in my four days of being over there either. I thought we were going to die a few times when I saw headlights coming towards us. However, the round-abouts are sweet and for sure save time.

The English riders were pretty good. Tommy “Gun” Searle was quick and it was funny because in almost every practice or race, he was in front or chasing his GP rival and World Champion Tyla Rattray. Home field advantage maybe? They cannot get away from each other, it seemed. Anyways, the guys also had a pair of Scots in Billy Mackenzie and Shaun Simpson who gallantly raced the MX3 class on his 250F. Mackenzie in particular was fast and looked like he was a pin-it-and-hope-for-the-best kind of rider. Those types of riders usually are good for a crash or three and Billy didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was a fall late in the race by Billy Mac that cost the team the final podium spot. I asked a Brit if it was weird or if anyone didn’t like have a Scottish guys riding for England but he looked at me like I was nuts.

Rattray crashed out of the second moto and pulled in behind RV when he was getting lapped and stayed with him the rest of the race, and I was thinking that might piss off Ryan but he said in the press conference that he didn’t care. (Tony Cairoli kind of did the same thing last year when he had to stop in the pits because his front wheel was damaged. )

  • Crazy fans!
The support was there for the English lads and the air horns and chainsaws were in full effect whenever one of the guys came by. The announcers were funny also, they just seemed like two of your cool uncles that used to come over and drink all your parents booze and then stumble out of the house, the whole time talking about things that they did when they were young that you wished you could do. One of them promised to come over and drink with the Belgians later and the other guy kept saying things like “right proper” and “magic” as in, “Simpson is just magic right now.” Right proper they are!

Josh Coppins is one of the coolest guys in motocross, period. The Kiwi is always friendly and will take the time to talk to you and always has an informed, honest opinion on anything you ask him. Josh and I spoke a few times this weekend and I asked him to do another podcast with me, which he agreed to and also asked if he had to pay for the call this time. (Sorry about that!) I grilled him on the GPs and the Youthstream 2009 plans that were announced a while back. He admitted that it was good for him now, but not good for the privateers which he was many years ago. Just a great guy and maybe we’ll see him over here for a try at the AMA outdoors before he hangs it up.
Coppins’ team did pretty good. They were missing Ben Townley and Darryl Hurley but recruited Scott Columb for the MX2 class. He was running okay before suffering a bad crash off the finish line tabletop in his last moto. Coppins was strong all weekend as was Cody Cooper in the MX3 class. Cody was second in his first moto for a long time before crashing. This was The Kiwi Warrior’s last ride on the Suzuki before switching to the Yamaha at JGR Racing.

I was at Starbucks and ordered my usual coffee when the dude was asking me something and the only word I could pick up on was “skinny.” He kept asking me if I was the skinny one and of course, that’s not something people usually say about me. So I said no. Then my coffee just sat there and I was the only guy waiting. Turns out it was my coffee and the English call anything non-fat “skinny.” Who knew?

  • Canada's Dusty Klatt
Last year at Budds Creek I was impressed with Tanel Leok, I knew he was a good GP rider and all that but he was fast again this weekend. In the last MX1/MX3 moto he just slowly chugged along and was all over the leader Pourcel with one lap to go. With only a few turns left he kind of banzaied it into the side of Seb and fell down. He didn’t do that well in his other moto but was up there for a while. His teammates were Juss Laanssoo and Gert Krestinov, the guy that won a GP earlier this year going 8-1.

Team Canada, my home country, just didn’t have it this weekend. There are lots of times in the past that they didn’t send the best three riders or other times they did but had to borrow bikes or whatever. This year they sent the three best riders (Dusty Klatt, Tyler Medaglia and Colton Facciotti) and shipped the race bikes over so we were looking good in my mind (despite Mitch Payton reminding me many times that we should’ve sent Tucker Hibbert; I keep telling him that Hibbert is not Canadian and he responds, “But he rides snowmobiles.”) Klatt looked great in his qualifier on Saturday; he did a RIDICULOUS scrub on the first lap over the finish line, and was holding second until stalling. I should’ve known it wasn’t going to be good weekend when he was the only reason Canada made the “A” main. On Sunday crashes, poor riding contributed to a 13th place finish and once again, Klatt looked the best but crashed out one moto. Oh well, like the Toronto Maple Leafs, next year will be our year!

Brazil once again won the “B” main on Sunday morning to make it the big show. They did the same thing last year. Led by AMA rider Antonio “Jorge” Balbi, the guys finished 14th overall on the day and just like last year, the team was very happy and documenting the whole thing. I spoke with Antonio a bit and he told me that he needs a ride still yet for next year, so any team managers are reading this, get on it!

Team Australia should’ve done better. They seemed like they should’ve had a podium spot locked up with the star studded line up of Chad Reed, Michael Byrne and Brett Metcalfe. None of their guys looked that great… Well, Metty looked pretty good in his first moto until he crashed. Reedy disappointed me and probably everyone else, as I really thought he’d do better. I suppose he just doesn’t have enough time on the bike yet, but I still would’ve thought Chad Reed off the couch would still have done better—he was last year! Byrner crashed out of the second moto late in race 3 but was pretty far back when it happened.

  • Antonio Balbi throwing pan!
I also spoke to some Pro Circuit guys and they are not very pumped on the Metcalfe move to GEICO Powersports Honda next year. Their side is that Brett verbally agreed to a deal and then backed out. But when PC snatched FC find Jake Weimer, all bets (and verbal agreements) between the two teams were probably off. This should be an interesting thing to watch next year as PC does give FC some parts for the Honda, wonder if they will give FC a rag and tell them to put it in Metty’s airbox “for performance gains.”

Something I heard from sources on that side of the world is that James is looking to do a GP or two next year in Europe along with some AMA Motocross races, the X Games, and some assorted SXs around the world. That would be cool to see I think.

Also, it seems that Joe Gibbs Yamaha has selected FMF for their team bikes exhausts, and still looking for a gear deal. It was supposed to be Answer a while back but with James’ signing, that is off the table. I bet you see them in Fox Racing because that was almost a deal last year but Fox backed out when they signed Josh Hansen.
Speaking of Hanny, I heard from somebody that would know that Hanny was up to his old tricks in Italy at a SX over there. When he finally learns to grow up and focus on his racing, it’s going to be too late.

That’s all I got, thanks for reading and if you’re an industry person reading this and want to contribute something for Blair Morgan, email me at matthes@racerxonline.com (I will not accept any ticking packages from a J Hansen) and if there is something you’d like to comment on email me at or just click on the comment box below. Thanks again!