Racerhead #49

December 5, 2008 4:49pm | by:

  • Trouble with J-Law? Absolutely not, says his agent.
Okay, before we get rolling here, it’s time to clear something up here. Last night at the Costa Mesa premiere of The Great Outdoors: The Destroyers, Yamaha of Troy rider Jason Lawrence was not thrown out for serving alcohol to minors, as “reported” by someone over on Vital. “He wasn’t even drinking!” exclaimed a furious Scott Sepkovic, J-Law’s often-embattled manager. “He was drinking Sprite all night, but as he was leaving, so was that girl Cammie [Josh Grant’s ex-girlfriend] and she was the one security stopped and spoke to about, I guess about a girl that was not supposed to be drinking. Jason couldn’t believe that ended up on the message boards.” That movie was sick, added Sepkovic.

Welcome to Racerhead. Been a rough week if you’re a Suzuki amateur rider or a Honda F1 driver, let alone Jason Lawrence’s manager. KTM announced that Tyla Rattray is now coming here, joining fellow South Africans Greg Albertyn and Grant Langston in coming to the States, as well as his recent rivals Christophe Pourcel and Tommy Searle, who are all on the AMA circuit now. It hasn’t been announced yet, but we’re pretty certain he’s going to find an outdoor-only-in-’09 Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki [Thanks XENO] contract in his Christmas stocking.

Want to see more of Tyla now? Tinus Nel put together this video career retrospective. (Thanks to Jefro98 for spotting that and posting it on Mototalk.)

  • He’s the FIM JOY for one more night
Speaking of Europe, it’s time to salute FIM Journalist of the Year Steve Cox, who only gets to wear his sash and tiara for one more night before they name his successor tomorrow evening in Monte Carlo. Steve was elegant and worthy in the role, and he accomplished many of the goals he mentioned the night he was crowned: teaching old people how to ride and learning how to post on those Internets (but still no Racer X cover). So farewell, FIM JOY, you served with pride, and we were proud to carry your camera bags.…

Who will be crowned this year? No idea. I just hope it’s not Steve Matthes, because then we’re going to have to get him a bigger office to tack up all of his rewards in between his Tim Ferry glamour shots and soiled #15 jerseys.

Big news from Georgia: Colleen Millsaps called to let us know that the MTF and the GPF were both successful in a court case that would have shut both facilities down over noise. The case has been going on for more than six months, and the ruling just came in today. That’s good news for the entire sport!

And big news on the outdoors: MX Sports has joined into a partnership with the Alliance of Action Sports, which in turn is owned and operated by NBC and MTV. What does that mean for the 2009 AMA Toyota Motocross Championships? Stay tuned.

Last week I mentioned that James Stewart and Mike Alessi were at the Mini Olympics. Well so were Ricky Carmichael and Ben Townley. They headed down to Gatorback from Tallahassee on Wednesday to check out some of the racing. They drove down to Gainesville with JH Leale in time for the day’s first motos, which included Earl May's Plus 45 race. RC wanted to see how the up-and-coming riders were looking, and Ben was there to check in with his trainer John Tomac, while also checking out Eli on his new Hondas (and his new class). They ended up throwing around a football with a bunch of kids for a while hooking up with Fox Racing’s Todd Hicks to watch some motos and bench race over some Mini Os memories.

  • Sebastien Tortelli can teach you to go faster
Back in the early nineties, the French federation, working with the government, added motocross to their country’s elite athlete educational program. The riders were known as cadets, and the INSEP school was run in part by Jacky Vimond, and it helped build such serious talent as Sebastien Tortelli, David Vuillemin and Stephane Roncada—all of whom eventually landed in America and had successful professional careers.

Now two-time world champion Tortelli is putting together his own year-round school for 2009, starting in January. “I am looking to get four new riders and train them for the amateur nationals,” said the former Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki, and KTM factory rider (and he rode his first year of GPs on a Yamaha!).

For more info—and this is for serious motocross riders—check out www.seb103.com

Carlos Aguirre spotted Billy Laninovich riding a Honda he borrowed from a friend out at Starwest this week. Carlos heard that Billy has an offer to ride a Kawasaki in Europe for this season, so we’ll see how that turns out in the next few weeks.

My friend Warren Price, a Grand Prix photographer from back in the day—he helped us immensely with photos for Eric Johnson’s “1982” story about Brad Lackey and Danny LaPorte in the October ’07 issue—has a website now to show off some of his old motocross photos.

Here’s Ping’s stuff from out in Cali…

  • Billy Laninovich was riding a borrowed Honda at Starwest
I’ll start with some news that is close to my team. Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull Honda has signed Sean Borkenhagen to a developmental deal for the 2009 West Coast Lites SX series. Sean has shown a lot of potential and the truth is we just really liked him. He drove to every round of the nationals last year in his own van and earned national #85 for 2009. He’s definitely going to have a steep learning curve, but he will have a good bike under him and the support of a top team.

Trey Canard was out at the Honda track this week getting ready. He was sporting a #1 on his bike, but he won’t get to use it this year. Last season’s East Coast Lites champ will be riding on the West Coast in 2009. With Brett Metcalfe still nursing an ankle injury (the word is that he just started walking on it again), he will definitely move to the East Coast. Dan Reardon is still healing up a minor shoulder injury (that may need more work before the season) so he is questionable for the west. That leaves Trey and Blake Wharton as the two most likely West Region riders for the GEICO Honda squad.

If you missed the hilarious video that Trey’s brother Aaron put together with Trey’s new gangsta look, you really need to take a few minutes this week and watch.

Speaking of Wharton, he has been out at the track every day for the past week or so and he is steadily improving.

A change that I am looking forward to for next season is the decibel level. The AMA is enforcing a drop to 94db and it is already noticeable at the test tracks. Davi Millsaps bike sounds like it has a spark arrestor on it. And normally the bikes at the Yamaha and Suzuki test tracks can be heard clearly, but now they definitely seem more muffled. That’s a relief because my ears just stopped bleeding from the last pro event I attended.

  • Trey won’t be running that number plate because he’s riding West now.
I’ve spoken with some of the top aftermarket exhaust companies, and they are definitely being forced to work harder to make power at that sound level. The biggest difference you will see are longer cans and smaller exhaust tips. And expect to see those changes made to aftermarket systems as well. Pro Circuit, for instance, is now selling the same exact system globally because it meets all of the AMA and FIM sound requirements.

I haven’t been able to get this rumor confirmed, but I keep hearing that they are going to have a water-pit jump at the second Anaheim round this year. With no KTM Jr. SX riders to cater to, well, it lets them be more creative with the track. Does that mean ring of fire for 2010? Hope not.

Suzuki’s decision to pull out of amateur racing was a bummer, especially for guys who had rides lined up with Suzuki support teams for this year. Cole Seely is one of those kids looking for a ride now. His deal with Fun Center Suzuki doesn’t make much sense with no contingency program. So with four weeks until the first round, he has nothing. I’m sure there are many more just like Cole. Suzuki’s amateur motocross program has always been top-notch. Even though I was left out of this week’s Bench Racing Ammo, where Billy Ursic talked about all the riders that have come through that program, I spent my entire amateur career with Suzuki. (Thanks, Billy!) My support with them started in 1991 and went through 1994. Along the way I won a fair share of titles, including a B-class title at Loretta Lynn’s. Pat Alexander was the man at the helm back then, and he and Cole always did a great job.

That’s it from Ping.

  • Eli Tomac was one of Suzuki’s last big amateur stars before switching to Honda
By the way, in the list we posted earlier—the one that left Ping off of Suzuki’s roll call of top amateur support riders over the years – Racer X reader Dane Hatfield checked in to tell us about a few more that weren’t on the list: Mike Healey, Scott Brown, Shaun Kalos, and the three boys who lost their lives in a car/train crash after the ’82 Ponca City race: Kyle Fleming, Bruce Bunch, and Rick Hemme.

Here’s Steve Cox.…

What’s Nathan Ramsey doing next year? Not a whole lot, at least in terms of racing. Sometimes, after a summer of racing, it’s easy to forget the guys who were running up front in AMA supercross. When riding for the San Manuel Yamaha team last year, Ramsey quietly finished seventh in points despite scoring no points at the last two rounds due to a wrist injury. At the round just prior to hurting his wrist, he finished fourth in St. Louis, and finished most of his races inside the top eight. And then this year, he has no ride.

Ramsey’s staying in shape and has committed to a German Supercross on the second weekend of January (Phoenix weekend here), but he’s open to the right offers. If not, he may just be joining the industry nine-to-fivers before long. Either way, it’s a shame to see such a competitive rider go into a new season without a ride at all.

  • Nathan Ramsey has no ride for 2009
Travis Preston was in that situation in 2008, as he went into the season with nothing before landing a factory Kawasaki ride as James Stewart’s replacement from round five on. He literally came off the couch, as he hadn’t been riding or training at all, and he made it work. He was rewarded in 2009 with a Jagermeister/MDK KTM 450cc ride, but then promptly broke his hand down near the wrist when his chain came off on the test track. It looks like he may be more or less coming off the couch again this year, as he hasn’t been able to ride for over a month now. He says his wrist isn’t nearly healed enough to ride, for some reason. So if he’s at Anaheim 1, it’s likely going to be with a minimum of riding and training beforehand.

The guy Preston replaced in 2008, Stewart, is in the middle of “boot camp” with trainer Aldon Baker. Baker knows what he’s doing, as he was the guy who put Ricky Carmichael through the paces prior to so many of his championship seasons, and like with RC, Baker is likely training Stewart to peak right on time for Anaheim 1.

I talked to Damon Huffman this week, the winner of the last EnduroCross and former SX hero. He said that when he won the 1993 Anaheim Supercross, he was a junior in high school, and it didn’t have a negative effect on his racing to continue with his schooling. Imagine that.

As DC mentioned above, The Great Outdoors 8: The Destroyers premiered last night at the Shark Club in Costa Mesa. True to the name, the club features a black-tip reef shark (about 30 inches long or so) in a sizeable tank in the middle of the establishment. Jason Lawrence was there with some of his friends and some girls, but just like during the AMA Nationals, he bailed partway through the movie. The movie itself is really good, and the video footage of Mike Alessi getting repeatedly run over is almost puke-inspiring. Check it out. It will make a good stocking-stuffer.

  • Aldon Baker has James Stewart in boot camp now
Steve Matthes didn’t have a very productive week, but he did send us this:

You know that weird Euro gear that you only see in, well, Europe? Well, one company is changing that for 2009, as the Motorsport Outlet team will be wearing Scott gear when they hit the track. In securing the amazing Tim Ferry to wear their Genius boot and now having a team sport their previous Euro-only duds, it appears that Scott is making a big push stateside. Somewhere, John Knowles is smiling and nodding.

Here are some random notes:

Dec. 20: Inaugural Kissimmee Pro-Am Supercross, Kissimmee, Florida. Some of the best pro supercross riders will be in attendance from across the United States, including the 2008 X Games Gold Medalists Kevin Johnson and Ricky Renner. Amateur enthusiasts will have the opportunity to compete in a pro-am supercross on a local level. At Silver Spurs Arena, Osceola Heritage Park. Admission. 321-697-3333.

Ed Wilson of the FirePoliceMX.com team dropped us a line letting us know that they will be fielding a two-man team racing the West Coast Lites series in 2009. The official name is “FirePoliceMX.com/MDK/US Army/KTM” and the riders are Carlos Gonzalez (706) and Justin Keeney (252).

TV Reminder: 6:00 p.m. ET on Versus is the EnduroCross finale from Las Vegas.

Finally, we spotted another motocross-related story in the new Sports Illustrated, the one with Athlete of the Year Michael Phelps on the cover. It's about NASCAR driver Stanton Barrett, who also happens to be a stuntman and motocross rider who finances his racing in part through his Hollywood work. His family founded Mammoth Mountain ski resort, as well as the Mammoth Mountain motocross race. Check it out if you get the chance.

That’s it for Racerhead. Thanks for reading and see you at the races...