Racerhead #47

November 21, 2008 4:03pm | by:
This is as off-season as it gets here in America, but there are still riders scattered all over the planet racing. For instance, Nick Wey is racing in Barcelona, while Jeremy McGrath has headed Down Under to race in his old friend Chad Reed’s last two Australasian Supercross events. And even Jason Lawrence is getting back on track—he flew to Italy on Wednesday night for this weekend’s Genoa Supercross.

  • Jason Lawrence is back on track this weekend in Genoa, Italy
I actually tracked J-Law down on the phone yesterday, just as he was boarding the airplane to fly across the Atlantic. I think I was as surprised as he was! “Well, you got me,” he laughed when I asked if it was the Jason Lawrence on the phone. “We’re going to Genoa, Italy, right now to do a little race. I went last year. I’ve been to Italy maybe three times. This race is totally cool. It’s like a real small arena and the crowd is crazy, so I’m pumped on it.”

In case you’re wondering, Lawrence’s suspension ended the Tuesday after Steel City (Labor Day was Monday) when his fine was paid. He could have raced the U.S. Open in Las Vegas but elected not to. Now he’s based himself down in Tallahassee, where he is riding under the watchful eye of fellow Monster man Ricky Carmichael. He will be riding a black Yamaha of Troy bike, with Wey as his teammate….

Okay, scratch that last part. There has been some discussion about Lawrence setting up shop in Tallahassee, but according to someone very, very close to the Carmichael Camp, no one has seen J-Law just yet, and they aren’t sure if they ever will. As it stands, Ben Townley just got back to town after a trip home to New Zealand, followed by an extended training visit to Jon Tomac’s place in Colorado. Now Jon and his Factory Connection Honda-backed son Eli are in town, headed for the Mini Os this weekend in Gainesville.

Also back in town is Townley’s Honda Red Bull Racing teammate Ivan Tedesco. In fact, Ivan has been in town since after the U.S. Open, where he finished second overall to James Stewart. According to our man inside, Hot Sauce is looking really fast. Also, he and Teresa just got settled into their new house in Tallahassee.

  • Ivan Tedesco is hard at work in Tallahassee
  • Ryan Dungey has moved from Bubba’s part of Florida to the RC sector
Also, in more Florida news, we’re hearing that Mike Alessi may end up going old-school and riding in the Florida Winter-Am Series to get back into shape. Alessi has been out since he broke his leg at the Suzuki SX track, and the family now has a home in the Sunshine State, which would make getting in shape on the tour founded by Bill West way back in the early seventies a convenient training ground. The question is, at what point will he get back on the AMA supercross circuit?

And finally, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki rider Ryan Dungey has been working out at RC’s as he looks around the area for property of his own. Apparently, he and James Stewart aren’t working as closely together as they were over the summer—let alone after their little run-in at the U.S. Open—and now Dungey is in a different section of Florida altogether….

If you were going to make a reality show or soap opera about motocross, what better place than Florida? Like sands through our spokes, these are the days of our lives….

There was a very interesting Reader Q&A deal on NYTimes.com where James Stewart took questions from the Times’ online readers. “MX Pilot” asked about the recent comments that Reed feels the RM-Z450 is better than the Yamaha.

Stewart: “Well, Chad is certainly entitled to his opinion — and that is just what it is, an opinion. There is no truth to any of that. Any bike can have its advantages and disadvantages, but it’s the rider, who twists that throttle and makes the bike perform, who will win the championships.”

  • James Stewart was featured on The New York Times website
Then “Sean” asked: Can you elaborate on the rumored dispute you had with Monster and your subsequent change to Rockstar? James: “I think you mean Red Bull, which is my original energy drink sponsor. There is no dispute — Monster was a Team Kawasaki sponsor, and now that I am with Team San Manuel, I am able to go back to being a Red Bull-sponsored athlete, which I am of course very happy about!”

Over on Motodrive/Vital MX Forum, someone asked Sean Hamblin if he had any plans sewn up for 2009. His answer was not exactly uplifting as far as his career goes:

“At the moment there is nothing really…....I have an offer to go over to Australia and do those races and still have some time to do the last few outdoors. I spoke with Steve Dixon over at U Tag Yamaha and right now its too late to get anything really started in the GPs. Wish I had more positive to talk about but that is all there is. I am pretty bummed about quite a few things right now and if the Aussie thing doesn’t work out I think that I am really gonna hang it up and look for something a little more consistent in the work department. Sometimes we all just need to grow up I guess right???”

When his friends and fans pleaded with the Yamaha factory replacement not to throw in the towel, the always-cordial Hamblin responded, “Just being realistic guys… That’s all. It would be really difficult to walk away from this sport but to be honest, as many times as I have been down yes I have dug deep and brought things back but there is only sooo many times that I can deal with this and keep my head up and keep getting up every time I am down. This is a sport that I love and it has made me what I am but things aren’t looking too great anytime soon!”

  • When the music stopped, Hamblin was still standing without a chair—so far
  • MARSACK Jake Marsack is teaming up with Ryan Clark and Phil Nicoletti at Solitaire
As a fan and friend of Sean’s, I really hope someone calls this man with a ride, whether it’s Steve Dixon over in England or Jim Perry here in the States—it’s too soon for #105 to quit racing now. Funny thing an agent told me over in Paris last week: If you bide your time, stay in shape, and wait long enough, a call will come from some factory team that needs to replace an injured rider. Hamblin must be at the top of that list.

Here’s a letter from reader Manny Ornellas:

I was looking at the 2009 Teams that you guys listed and I noticed a missing name: Jake Marsack (#57-2009) on the Solitaire Honda Team. He’ll be the 450 rider while Ryan and Phil will ride the Lites (Yup, Ryan on a 250F!) I bring this up because I’m pretty happy for Jake. He’s never really been on a team with this much support; yet, he’s landed on the podium! He should have a good season with such a solid team behind him.

More Florida news: “Engine Ice” Dave Kimmey posted a really cool movie trailer that includes a nice endorsement at the end for his brand of engine coolant. Check it out.

We posted a Flash Trivia contest late last night, asking our readers to ID a rider and the year in one of Simon Cudby’s photos. We received hundreds of entries, most a little off the mark—they thought it was Danny Smith in 2002, but it was actual Rodrig Thain in 2001. Congratulations to Josh Welsh, Tyler Kimler, Rob Schroyer, Devin Davis, Paul Rudat, Brian Benline, Jim Barberie, Julian Hammonds, James Wild and Dustin Benton for getting it right. Your Scott swag should be in the mail on Monday.

  • Remember “Hot Rod” Thain? He’s racing enduro for TM now
Speaking of Rodrig, I ran into him a couple weeks ago at Bercy. He looked great and told me he has a whole new life now, but he’s still racing—Thain followed his friend Johnny Aubert into enduro racing in Europe, and he just signed a two-year deal to compete on the French and World Enduro Championship circuits. He is also dating a fellow racer, a beautiful girl named Ludivine, who is also racing the enduro circuit in the women’s class.

In other European news, Marc de Reuver underwent a successful operation on his knee this week. The inner meniscus of his right knee was completely torn, and the doctor found it surprising that he could ride at all with his knee in that condition. A piece of the meniscus was removed, and the rest was sutured. De Reuver is fully motivated for the 2009 season, and will soon resume his training.

And former world champ Steve Ramon won the crazy Red Bull Knockout Beach Race in Holland, outlasting one thousand other riders in what used to be called the Veronica Beach Race. Here are some highlights.

Here’s some words for Ping, who has his own announcement to make…

I rode at LACR this week to check out what the track will look like for A Day in the Dirt, which takes place next weekend. It was honestly the best layout I’ve ever seen up there. There is a huge pit that was excavated for sand and the course drops down into it several times. The track will be longer and different for next weekend’s event but the pit will obviously still be a major feature. If you haven’t been to this race before you should check it out.

And here’s some industry dish for you: I got a new job this week. The Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/Honda team was in need of a team manager and I seemed to fit the position. I’ve got some experience in AMA Supercross and Supermoto so I understand the rider’s perspectives. I’ve been working with Troy Lee and his company since 1995 when he painted my first helmet and I’m excited to be a bigger part of the company. Troy is one of the most creative, outside-of-the-box thinkers I’ve ever met and he is a lot of fun to be around, especially after he’s had a Red Bull and vodka or three. I love the new challenges that this position offers and I’m more excited about round one of the SX series than I have been since I was racing.
  • Red Bull Knockout winner Steve Ramon
  • Tarah Geiger crossed the pond to race the Red Bull Knockout
Thankfully, I will still get to be a part of the Racer X team as well. I am going to continue on with my web column, Ask Ping, which goes up every Friday, and also Electronic Ping, which has been in the magazine since 1999. And you’ll see some feature stories in there with my name on them as well. My first week on the job as team manager has already given me the inspiration for my next column and it isn’t going to be pretty. For the first time ever I have a commute, a desk in a cubicle and co-workers in the same office. I think you can see where that’s going!

Thanks Ping, everyone here is stoked for you and we can’t wait for you to be those team manager’s radio headphones on so we can be even louder as we make fun you behind your back…

Just kidding. I’ve always thought of Ping as one of the brighter guys who has raced and, like an Erik Kehoe, Mike Fisher or Larry Brooks, he would make a great team manager. Good luck, Ping, from your part-time crew at Racer X!

Okay, I will turn it over to Steve Cox for some California news here:

I went out to the Kawasaki test track yesterday to catch up with new Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider Jake Weimer. He hasn’t been riding a lot lately due to illness, but he’s getting up to speed now and looks pretty good – although he has a lot of testing to do before Anaheim (if he is riding West, which he may be forced to do now—more on that later).

  • Jake Weimer is back in the saddle after an illness
  • Ryan Morais is learning not to OR (over-rev) his new scoot
  • Ryan Villopoto is the least-likely-to-be-robbed
Jake’s new teammate Ryan Morais was out there too and had some interesting things to say about his new team and bike. Anyone who was around races while Morais was at Yamaha of Troy tended to notice that he would rev the piss out of his YZ250F in the air a lot. He says it’s a habit he’s trying to break now because his KX250F seems to have more power on tap if he doesn’t do that, whereas his YZ250F seemed to have more power on tap if he did do that before landing.

Morais also said he was bummed that he lost his training partner, Austin Stroupe, for the time being with a broken collarbone. Morais says Stroupe hopes to be back riding in four weeks from his injury, and that’s not impossible. If you’ll remember Ryan Villopoto in his rookie year, he broke his collarbone and was back riding in less than four weeks in order to race Anaheim 1.

To make the day Stroupe hurt himself worse, his van was stolen from the driveway of his house that night in Corona, along with some gear, including a Leatt-Brace and some other things. Keep your eyes peeled for someone riding around with an Austin Stroupe brace or other gear at your local tracks.

  • Will Tyla join Tommy Searle and Chris Pourcel on these shores?
Weimer said his girlfriend did some laundry and had his T-shirts hanging in the garage to dry at his house (in a gated community in Murrieta) and the shirts were stolen right off of the clothesline, although nothing else was taken.

There were no stories of anyone stealing anything from Ryan Villopoto, though, who was out at the Kawi track shaking down his fuel-injected KX450F. After all, who would steal from him? He probably has the California National Guard’s armory in his house! Villopoto looked strong in the time I was there. It looks like he’s adjusting well to the 450, and throwing him in the mix with Chad Reed, James Stewart, Kevin Windham, Tim Ferry, all of Honda Red Bull Racing guys and the rest of the 450cc class is going to make for some great racing.

In addition to Stroupe getting hurt and Weimer just coming back from his illness, we have GEICO Powersports Honda’s Brett Metcalfe, who recently went over the bars at his practice track and tweaked his ankle. He’ll be forced to stay off of it for about another three weeks or so. But given that his teammate Dan Reardon has a shoulder injury and Trey Canard is just coming back from his broken femur, it’s still up in the air as to who will be riding East or West for the team come Anaheim 1. Sometimes it seems like the off-season claims more victims than the season does.

That’s it from Cox, who hit “send” before he realized there was another downed rider to add the DL. Christophe Pourcel also broke his collarbone, in the exact same spot that Stroupe crashed at the Kawi track! Not long after they got Chris up and off the track, they reportedly bulldozed the obstacle out of existence, with plans for a whole new track to be built next week.

  • David Bailey pretty much called James’ perfect summer before Moto 1
The two injuries to these PC riders has suddenly got the rumor mill up and running again concerning MX2 World MX Champion Tyla Rattray. Apparently, Ratters said something to Mitch Payton at the MXoN in England about still being interested in riding for him, but Payton told him his agent—or maybe ex-agent—wanted too much.

Tyla was in the States recently for a friend’s wedding, and he did some riding in California—check out Simon Cudby’s video here—and visited the Pro Circuit race shop a couple times. They have continued talking about a future deal, though it’s now gone from a 2010 possibility to, well, right now.

I tried calling Mitch this afternoon, but he’s out at the Kawi track. (I left my Ben Townley imitation on his voice mail, so if you get a call from him, Ben, send him my way!) I personally think this is a long shot at this point, but stranger things have happened, and much later in the off-season—Jeremy to Suzuki, anyone?  

I was working on some filing and trying to get some ideas for next year when I went back and checked out some of the Racer X Motocross Shows on Motocross.com. The first thing I watched was the Glen Helen pre-show featuring Jason Weigandt and David Bailey as host and color, respectively, working together for the first time ever. The first piece of moto knowledge that came out of Bailey’s mouth was this: After Weege said something to the effect of, by the looks of today’s practice times, “James doesn’t look like he lost much speed off the old fastball,” to which Bailey replied (paraphrasing), “This could be like 2004, when Ricky Carmichael sat out supercross with a knee injury, then came back and went undefeated.… We could be seeing the same thing from James Stewart now….” That’s why he’s the Icon!

If you want to get a motocross fix during the weekend or throughout next week’s holidays, check out www.live.motocross.com for all 24 pre- and post-race shows from the 2008 AMA Toyota Motocross Championship, directed by none other than Vurbmoto.com’s Wes Williams. There’s some excellent stuff in there!
Also, Wes and his crew will be posting videos and stories all week long from the Mini Os down at Gatorback Cycle Park in Gainesville, FL, so check Vurbmoto.com daily, or you can follow links from Racer X Online. Also check out www.amateurmx.com for updates from one of the longest-running amateur races of all!

  • That’s Langers, not Leisk, in the Apico gear—who knew?
One of the biggest efforts down in Florida will come from DeCal Works-backed riders. Just like in the pro ranks, the graphics company sponsors a whole slew of top prospects, including Mike McDade, Honda-backed Joey Savatgy, Kyle Engle, Nick Desiderio, Brandon Mays, Cooper Webb, and more. DeCal owner Ron Joynt has always been a champion of the underdogs, and his stable now includes a lot of champions. In tough times for sponsorship—and it’s never been tougher than now—these guys are actually stepping it up.

And here is a belated congratulations to the entire Bowyer family on Clint’s championship in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, which is just a HUGE accomplishment for such a relatively young driver. We’ve had the pleasure of watching (and teasing) big brother Andy “Rev-Up” Bowyer over the past couple of years while at the same time wildly cheering for Clint, who was a Loretta Lynn’s regular before adding a couple of wheels to his racing. Bowyer is a working-class fan’s dream driver—he was working in a body shop in Kansas just a few years ago, driving on the outlaw dirt tracks, when all of the stars lined up at once and catapulted him on his way to the top. He’s also a big favorite of the dirt bike crowd, for obvious reasons. Well done, Clint!

In a motocross sweep of NASCAR, former Suzuki R&D Racing rider Jimmie Johnson snatched his third straight NASCAR major championship, the Sprint Cup. Jimmie is a cousin of Rick Johnson, and he grew up in the famous El Cajon area of Southern California. Now he’s got a dynasty going in stock car racing. Nice!

British motocross artist Rob Kinsey sent over this photo of our own Langers in his homage to Jeff Leisk in Apico clothing from his Schoolboy days.

Here’s some news from the WMA’s Miki Keller:

  • Two-time world champ Katherine Prumm had a terrible crash but should make a full recovery
Early this week we heard that two-time FIM World Cup Champion Katherine Prumm broke several vertebrae when she over-jumped a triple step-down at a practice track. She damaged her spine with the T6, T9, and T12 most affected and underwent a six-hour surgery. I spoke to 2001 WMA Champion Tania Satchwell, who is back in her native New Zealand, to see what she was hearing about Katherine. On Wednesday the Taupo morning news aired an interview with Katherine after her surgery. Apparently it took 40 minutes for the ambulance to make out to where Prumm was practicing. Prumm was in good spirits and was shown walking in a back brace. She now has a six-month recovery ahead of her. Many racers and fans have expressed their concerns for Katherine and send her well-wishes. Prumm won the WMA Cup last year and in 2006 she won two of four WMA Nationals that she raced in and made a strong impression on U.S. motocross fans.

In other FIM news, FIM Women’s Director Stefy Bau was traveling this week to Monaco for the FIM Awards Banquet where the GPKR Kawasaki rider Livia Lancelot will receive her Championship Award. Livia’s countryman David Vuillemin helped get Livia to the U.S. to race the Nationals in 2005.

Meanwhile our very own Tarah Gieger is across the pond riding with David Knight. She raced last week’s Red Bull Knock Out above The Hague in Holland; I haven’t found out how she finished, but seeing the video mentioned above, it looks like it's more about if you finish!

Tarah’s Red Bull teammate, Ashley Fiolek, was busy last weekend as a featured presenter at the American Sign Language Expo in Marlborough, Massachusetts. She signed autographs at the T-Mobile Sidekick display that featured a new T-Mobile-produced video of her riding. Check out the custom hard shell cover they made for her personal Sidekick.

  • Fiolek's custom phone
And finally, please be sure to vote for Sara Price for Monster Energy’s Favorite Female Monster Athlete here.

Thanks for the good news on Katherine, Miki, and everyone stay tuned for news on the 2009 Women’s Motocross Championships in the coming weeks.

Greg Fox of Fox Racing recently had a chance to take a Superbike out on the famed Laguna Seca course. According to our calculations, the current racetrack is 2.238 miles in length (3.602 kilometers) with a 300-foot (91 m) elevation change. It has eleven turns, including the famous “Corkscrew” at Turns 8 and 8A. It also had Greg smiling the whole way around, every time around!

If you get bored tomorrow watching college football, click over to ESPN Classic if you have it for some AMA motocross, as they show some classic battles between Carmichael and Windham from the ’03 season. Here’s the full schedule.

Finally, the eBay auction for the Blair Morgan Recovery Fund has ended, and the 24 items up for bid fetched $11,663.75, with James Stewart’s MXoN signed jersey capturing the highest bid at $2,000. The WMXF and our own Steve Matthes would like to thank everyone who put in a bid, and all the money raised goes directly to Blair. Thanks for helping out a Canadian icon!

That’s it. Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!

Greg Fox
Greg Fox