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Racerhead #40

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  • James Stewart's new ride
Okay, James Stewart just announced his team--drumroll please--and he's riding a Yamaha! Who knew? Here's the first photo, courtesy of Steve Cox. Team USA is 4-for-4 since returning to the Motocross of Nations in 2005, after missing in ’01 (9/11), ’02 (Competition Park), losing in ’03 (Zolder, Belgium) and missing again in ’04 (RC changed teams, Stewart changed classes, Windham didn’t want to go). Even after some bad starts from Tim Ferry and some unlikely crashes by Stewart and Ryan Villopoto, the Yanks were able to keep their second-best streak ever alive at four straight.

It wasn’t without drama, though I will let the other guys tell you about that, as my own personal MXoN attendance streak with Team USA came to a close after being at every one since 1993 in Schwanenstadt, Austria. There’s been lots of work to do with my new gig at MX Sports, and I look forward to sharing how that’s going in the very near future.

So I got up at the crack at six to watch the race online, only to find out that I could have slept in for two more hours, as MediaZone’s countdown clock was a little off (and so was mine, to be honest). But when the races did come on, it was pretty cool to watch from the other side of the world as it played out live on my screen. The announcers were decidedly pro-GP-rider, which is certainly understandable, but I laughed out loud when the host said at one point something to the effect of, "Wouldn’t it be something to see James Stewart do the whole world championships series? I know he cleans up in America, but I think if he came over (to Europe), he would certainly be top-three."

The color analyst in the booth with him at the time was Paul Malin, hero of the ’94 Motocross des Nations winners from England. Malin, one of the funniest, nicest people in motocross, paused for a second and then said—again, paraphrasing—"Um, I think he would win everything here too."

That’s the beauty of the Motocross of Nations: It’s about national teams and nationalism and everyone wants to beat the Americans—even afterward, on internet forums. The annual rumours (get it?) are making the rounds from our friends and rivals: Team USA refused drug tests, refused sound testing, refused service, refused anything that could have anything to do with the race….

Sean Hamblin said it best when we spoke earlier this week about it all—that BS just takes all of the fun out of the races. It’s a big effort to go over there for the Yanks, for the Australians, for just about everyone. Then, win or lose—and it’s almost always win—Team USA gets hammered after the fact, and it all just serves to tarnish what was a pretty damn good event.

Look, the best riders on the day won, and it just happened to be Team USA. We have a much bigger country and a deeper talent pool to fish from, and our guys take the race very, very seriously (I am honestly not sure some of the other guys—Chad Reed and David Philippaerts, for instance—took it as seriously as our guys did). In the course of the year, our guys race twice as often as they do anywhere else (at least at the top level of competition), and AMA supercross makes our guys’ skill set a little different, and SX’s intensity comes in handy in high-pressure races like this. So enjoy it while it lasts, because we’re bound to lose again sometime. I just hope it’s not before 2010, when the race returns here to ___________. That one has the potential to be huge.

  • RV
I can’t imagine what the pressure was like on guys like Jeff Ward and Jeff Stanton and Jeff Emig as that first streak grew into 13 in a row from ’81 to ’94. No wonder guys used to duck duty or just fall apart (think Bradshaw).

Watching from afar, the revelation of the race for me was not Tim Ferry, though he is Captain America right now for saving the day after James’ crash in the final moto. Instead, the revelation was Sebastien Pourcel, who is the older and quieter of the fast French brothers. He was unafraid of Stewart and it showed. I also thought Zach Osborne was fantastic.

And finally, the race itself was a winner. With all that AMA-versus-GP stuff behind us, it was cool to watch the best riders from all over the world on a track that seemed to have a little something difficult for everyone—the ground was harder than AMA stuff, the jumps bigger than GP stuff—and some drama at the end. Can’t wait for Italy ’09!

By the way, if you thought the biggest battle was us against them, it turns out it was Monster versus Red Bull—again! Motocross artist Rob Kinsey told us that the official shirts for the MXoN got pulled off all the retail stands on Saturday morning. Rumor has it Red Bull was furious the shirts didn't have any Red Bull logos—they were the title sponsor—and the shirt featured two Monster-backed riders, Stewart and Villopoto. “If you bought one, hold on to it, as they will surely become collector’s items,” said Kinsey. “As to who bore the cost of hundreds of T-shirts is unknown.”

  • That’s Jaroslav Falta getting torpedoed by Russian CZ rider at the ‘74 Swiss GP
I am a pretty committed collector of motocross stuff, especially stickers and books. Earlier this week I received a package from England that truly blew my mind. It was a rare old motocross book that my friend David McKittrick sent me called Motocross: The Big Leap by Frank Melling. I have never seen this book before, even though it was printed in 1979 and includes all kinds of rare old photos from the sixties and seventies Grand Prix circuit, including photos of the famous Jaroslav Falta-versus-The Russians race at Wohlen, Switzerland, in 1974 that was featured in Racer X a few years back (“Stolen Glory” by Ken Smith, July ‘03). Anyway, thanks for the cool book, David, I really appreciate it!

That’s Jaroslav Falta getting torpedoed by Russian CZ rider at the ‘74 Swiss GP

Now here's Steve “I’m not leaving” Cox:

Someone posed as me yesterday on the VitalMX.com message board to write what seemed to be a very genuine resignation. It wasn’t me, and it wasn’t true. I love my job at here at Racer X and I might just try to work here until I die. But it does solidify a point I made on DMXS a couple of months ago, where I pointed out the reasons why I no longer frequent the message boards. So, again, in short, I am not resigning from Racer X!

Now on to real news:

It was obvious at last weekend’s Motocross des Nations that Ryan Villopoto and James Stewart both believed that they weren’t raced cleanly at the event. That may well be true, but I didn’t personally witness any of it from where I was. There did seem to be a bit of an AMA vs. FIM sort of dynamic going on, though, which culminated when Stewart crashed late in the final moto and couldn’t restart his bike, and I saw a journalist who normally covers the GPs literally jump up and down with joy. Apparently, this person wasn’t outstanding at math, because as it stood at that point, the U.S. was still in a winning position for the overall regardless of Stewart’s finishing position because the U.S. had two moto wins and all of the teams get at least one throwaway moto. It doesn’t matter if the moto score you’re throwing away is first or 35th.

However, the GP riders were definitely stronger on their own soil than they were last year at Budds Creek, and that was expected. Of course, just like in 2006, the AMA regulars – including Stewart, Villopoto and Timmy Ferry – struggled with bike setup on the foreign soil. Talking it over with people on and around the team, the riders seemed to be blaming the tires, but that doesn’t seem to be what the issue actually was. The AMA riders set their bikes up quite a bit differently from the GP riders because the tracks are quite a bit different.

What we had at Donington Park was dirt that quickly got down to a hard base, just as Matterley Basin did two years ago. The base had rocks imbedded in it, and because of that, the AMA riders tended to have a bit of an issue with front-end traction as their tires would slide across the rocks that made up a big amount of the area the tires were trying to grip. To address this, the AMA riders would likely have had to completely change their chassis setup, and that just wasn’t in the cards for an event like the MXoN. Instead, it was up to the riders to adjust. Villopoto seemed to be the best at adjusting, and among the adjustments he made was that he tried to stop turning on jump faces and instead focused on squaring turns, straightening out, and then getting going down the straights.

The track and the setup issues left Stewart a bit bummed out, though, because he fell more in one weekend at the MXdN than he did in the entire outdoor season. You could tell by looking in his face on the podium after the event that he wasn’t happy with his performance, but to be honest, his performance was admirable, especially considering the speed he was riding on a soil type he wasn’t used to and with setup issues to boot. In the end, the USA won, and James Stewart was a big part of that win, as his win in the MX1 qualifier gave the USA the first qualifying position and his win in the first moto solidified the USA’s 19th victory in the event.

But for Stewart, that was the past. Today is the future, as his new race team – L&M Yamaha – hosted a press conference today announcing his spot on the team, and his teammate Kyle Chisholm’s spot as well. In addition, Stewart’s renewed involvement with Red Bull is now official. If you remember, at the U.S. Open in 2006, Stewart got a free Bentley Continental GT from Red Bull, just before Kawasaki announced its title sponsorship was competitor Monster Energy Drink, and Stewart was never very happy having to give up his Red Bull sponsorship, even though his did his contractual duty and supported Monster, along with winning them the AMA Supercross Championship in 2007 and a perfect outdoor series this summer.

For Villopoto, he now moves on too, although he’s moving on to the 450cc class in Stewart’s vacated spot at Kawasaki. Simon Cudby put up a video of his first day on the factory KX450F yesterday here. Villopoto capped his 250F career with his third outright moto win in the MXdN as well as his third straight individual overall victory in the event, in three tries. That’s got to be a record right there.

You may notice in the video that Villopoto slid on a pair of Oakley goggles before he headed out onto the track. This certainly explains why Oakley’s Anthony Paggio has been hanging around so much with Villopoto lately. However, Scott has an ace up its sleeve for 2009….

  • Sebastien Pourcel
One rider who opened some eyes at the Motocross des Nations was Puerto Rico’s Zach Osborne. Billy Ursic did an interview with him here earlier this week (yes, he speaks English). Osborne came from way back to finish sixth in the second moto at the MXdN. While it was a great ride, it wasn’t a complete surprise to me because I got to sit down with Zach at the previous race – the Hawkstone Park British National finale – and the thing I noticed most of all was that he is quite literally a different sort of person now. He’s comfortable in his own skin. He’s happy, he’s confident, and he’s fast. In America, it seemed he was adjusting to life as a pro, and then he was almost running scared trying to prove himself and remain employed. Now, he just goes out and races, and it’s working for him. If he wants to come back to the USA in a couple of years, which he says he wants to do, he will be a different rider.

Check out this helmet-cam footage from Osborne that Wes Williams posted on Vurbmoto.com.

The biggest surprise for me from the Motocross des Nations was how Team Australia did. I thought they would be on the podium, easily, but they just had a lot of bad luck, with Brett Metcalfe having a couple of crashes (which weren’t all his fault) in his last Kawasaki ride, and then Michael Byrne crashing out of the last moto in the late-going.

Chad Reed was fast in qualifying, but not that fast in the races, although he was likely suffering from the same problems as Team USA was with setup – especially considering that he had one day of outdoor testing prior to the race on his Suzuki.

Enough about the past, though. Most of Reed’s testing has been done on supercross tracks, and this weekend he will be racing in the opening round of his supercross championship back home in Australia before flying out to the USA to race in the U.S. Open next weekend, then heading back to Australia for the rest of his championship. Then, in December, he’ll be training for Anaheim 1, and by January, all anyone will be talking about is supercross.

So let’s go! It’s supercross time…

From Ping:

For those who know Tyler Kalisiak, this has been a rough week. The former pro racer and current Truth Clothing employee suffered a very bad crash a week ago and has been in the ICU since. He broke his femur and hit his head really hard. His brain has been bleeding and making his situation very precarious. I’ve been getting updates from his boss at Truth and things seem to be getting better. The last report from Jeff at Truth read, “Surgery went well and he has a rod in his leg. He is still very disoriented, but starting to make more sense when he is talking. He is definitely showing progress but still has a long road of recovery ahead.” Heal up quickly, Tyler.

In other and equally distressing news, Grant Langston had surgery today to address the tumors that have been affecting his vision. He is at a specialist in Cleveland and will remain there throughout the weekend and into next week. The process involves inserting metal plates behind his eyeballs and radiating the tumors from the front. The plates must be left in until Monday since the radiation could still affect his brain until then. If all goes well, the plates will come out Monday evening and the healing process begins. Doctors aren’t being specific about his chances of recovering 100 percent, but GL is optimistic as always.

Is everyone in the Southeast getting pumped about Red Bull’s Metallicross? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here.

This hybrid event will combine supercross, Endurocross, Supermoto and, well, urban street racing into one very unique event. There is a $25,000 purse up for grabs, and trust me when I tell you that you have not seen anything like this before. It will be very cool and worth checking out. The best part: it is absolutely free to the public. Zero dollars, folks. In a time when your financial portfolio is as stable as a drunk on a unicycle with an inner-ear infection, that price is just right. Saturday, November 1 is race day and the pits open up at 5:00pm with racing getting under way at 7:00pm. I’ll be there dressed as Spencer Pratt from The Hills.

Steve Matthes had this to add:

When you check out the L&M Yamaha semi next time you’re at a race, you might notice “JSE” on the side of it. That stands for James Stewart Entertainment, and its owner and CEO is thinking global. I heard it from a pretty good source over there that James is thinking of kicking back this summer and going on a world tour.

It’s all about the brand of James Stewart and positioning it in a global way that reaches the most people. So look for James to race some AMA motocross, some GP motocross (perhaps an Austrian GP where Red Bull is located?) maybe a Chad Reed SX Down Under, some Last Man Standing—stuff like that. Rumor has it that James has bought into the L&M team and is looking to grow it with the current owners. Also, Oscar Wiederman and Paul DeLaurier will be co-mechanics for James, with Oscar—Reed’s career-long mechanic—holding the pit board. Weird, but it works.

Thanks, Steve, one moment for rebuttal: There is no GP in Austria.

And now a few words from DanBro

Hey, folks, your Canadian connection, Danny Brault, here. Sorry I wasn’t able to contribute anything to Racerhead last Friday. I tried writing a bit on the Montreal SX, des Nations, and, of course, Blair Morgan’s very, very unfortunate spinal cord injury suffered in Montreal. It was going well until I tried to write something on Blair and what an inspiration he has been—and will be—to all of us, but I just couldn’t find the words. Fortunately, Steve Matthes shared some great words on “Superman” in his blog last week, and Morgan fans and supporters have contributed tons of love and photos to their fallen hero on MXForum.com.

From what I hear, Blair continues to think positive and wants to fight this thing head-on—as if Superman would know any other way! “I have been watching Blair stay strong and work hard for the past six days since the accident and all I can say is how proud I am of him and how much of a fighter he is in any situation,” wrote his wife, Terri, on ww.bmrt.com. Stay tuned to that site for regular updates on Blair’s condition.

It’s awesome to see everyone standing behind Blair and his family during this difficult time. Currently, a group of people are working on an Ebay auction to raise funds for Blair and his family that should be up and running shortly. If you wish to donate any items, please email Steve Matthes (for U.S. shipping) or Blair’s brother-in-law Chris DuGray (bignbloaty@hotmail.com, for Canadian shipping). You can also make monetary donations at bmrt.com.

A former Blackfoot teammate of Morgan’s, Sean Hamblin, spent some time learning from the multi-time Canadian champ during his stay in Canada, and is giving back with a charity riding school for Blair on October 18 at MotoPark in Owen Sound, Ontario.

“We’re going to do a riding school from 9 a.m. to 12:30 in the afternoon, and then we’re going to have some barbeque for about an hour, then at 1:30 or so we’re going to open the track for an open practice for everyone who wasn’t able to make the riding school," said Hamblin in an interview earlier today. "After we’re done we’re going to have a raffle and have everybody kind of sit around and hang out.”

It’s pretty amazing the response that it has generated so far, and I’m sure the whole Morgan family is truly appreciative of the support. Keep it up, guys!

  • Dusty Klatt
No disrespect to the rest of the world, but I don’t think there was much suspense in who was going to win this year’s MXoN. For Canadians, however, the anticipation was at an all-time high on how our boys would finish in England. We sent our three best (and top finishing) riders from the CMRC Canadian Nationals: Colton Facciotti, Tyler Medaglia, and Dusty Klatt. They flew over early to test, and they had proper equipment and trackside support. There really was no reason why Team Canada couldn’t match or better our eighth overall from Budds Creek last year.

Unfortunately, they dropped back five positions, finishing 13th overall behind Estonia. So what went wrong when everything looked so right? I don’t think there really is one direct cause as to why we struggle to reach our potential on the world stage. I’m sure that I’m not alone in believing that Canada can be a top-five threat at the des Nations, but our hopes are squashed year after year. I think one problem lies in where our riders are racing every weekend.

While our national series continues to grow, attracting talent and sponsors from outside the border, we still have this laidback attitude towards racing, without the stress and pressure felt at AMA Motocross, GPs, and let alone the MXoN.

Not to say that our guys don’t take racing seriously or try hard, but we don’t have 20,000 fans roaming the pits and lining the fence lines, or a long lineup of amateurs or privateers who could steal away someone’s factory job at any minute. And because our series is growing, our top riders are now earning a decent income and no longer see the need in chasing the dream south of the border. Sure, Facciotti lined up for Steel City this summer, but that was one race. And in defense of Medaglia, he usually hits an AMA national on off-weekends. But for the most part, our riders are not experiencing that depth of competition or pressure regularly. If you look back to our best results at the MXoN, they normally came from guys like Jean-Sébastien Roy and Blair Morgan, who both took risks racing AMA events as much as possible.

I hope I don’t sound like I’m making excuses for our riders’ as I know none of them have made any from England; I’m just a passionate fan not willing to believe that 13th is where Canada fits on the world’s results page. At any rate, I’m glad that all three of our men made it to England this year, and were happy to represent their country.

That’s it from Canada. But we do have one more note that includes Canada, sent from none other than Steve Wise:

 

I enjoyed seeing the 1976 video on your site. Boy, we’ve come along way. One other thing I might mention. As I scrolled down I saw the winners of Montreal SX. I also saw an article in a magazine a few years ago that didn’t mention it. I saw you had the 1977 & 1979 winners, but no 1978 winner, just as the other article did. It was none other than yours truly. It wasn’t a full-on SX at the time. Warren Reid, Marty Tripes, Mark Barnett, Darrell Schultz and a few others were there. I led the main wire-to-wire and Warren Reid was second. Don’t remember much else, other than Doug Domokos (the Wheelie King) eating a glass cup at the Molson Beer party afterwards. He had a little too much of their product. I liked Doug - too bad he’s no longer with us.

I love the great old stuff that is coming out these days, and especially from you guys. First-class stuff! Thanks for keeping the old guys in the forefront when you can. We were slow, but it was fun!

Steve Wise

Here’s an interesting interview with BMX innovator Bob Haro. He talks about the influences of 70’s SoCal living and motocross.

  • Mitch Payton, Roger DeCoster and Rob Kinsey
English artist Rob Kinsey was invited to display his original paintings in the Team USA hospitality at Donington Park MXoN. Team USA Manager Roger DeCoster was immediately attracted to Rob's portrait of DeCoster with The MXDN Chamberlain Trophy and wanted to buy it.
After the US team won a record 19th victory, Mitch Payton
, owner of Pro Circuit, bought the painting and had it signed by all three team members James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto and Tim Ferry, then asked Rob to present it to a surprised and very grateful DeCoster. The portrait is featured in Rob's Team USA Giclee print featuring past MXDN American team members. Roger graciously signed copies and they are available from www.robkinsey.com.

Matt Ware was in the doctor’s office this morning flipping through the September issue of Vogue (Kiera Knightly cover) and saw a small feature mixing motocross and high-end fashion. Maybe something for the MX fashionistas to look out for.

Okay, that's it. Stay tuned all this week for previews and news about next weekend's Rockstar Energy Drink U.S. Open from the MGM Grand in fabulous Las Vegas. It's new-and-blue James Stewart against Chad Reed, with fast people like Ryan Villopoto and Ryan Dungey and more chasing after them. Thanks for reading Racerhead, see you at the races!

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