Racerhead #16

April 17, 2009 4:47pm | by:

Welcome to Racerhead, and welcome back to detention, Mr. Lawrence….

We were waiting and hoping there would be some good news out of Washington, DC, this week on the CPSIA, but alas, still no relief for the motorcycle industry….

That’s what I had written before the Breaking News came across my desk: CPSC Commissioner Thomas Moore has decided to join the other CPSC Commissioner, Chairperson Nancy Nord, in voting for a “Stay of Enforcement” that will allow some youth-sized motorcycles and ATVs back out the showroom floors. Moore mentioned the very argument that the AMA and MX Sports made with CPSC Senate Chairman Jay Rockefeller three weeks ago, which was that banning youth-sized motorcycles and ATVs only leads to children riding overly sized vehicles that will cause much immediate safety hazards.

In his position paper, Moore wrote, “There are compelling safety arguments that justify a stay of enforcement. It is ironic that I am defending vehicles that I consider to be dangerous for children under 12 to ride and which contain accessible parts with excess levels of lead. However, the alternatives appear to be more dangerous. American parents seem to be willing to accept the risk for their children riding these vehicles, so it is the agency’s task, at this stage, to ensure that the vehicles are as safe as possible.” (Yes, that is a backhanded slap at ATV-buying parents.)

“One safety rule the agency has stressed is keeping children off of adult-sized ATVs. To the extent that new children’s ATVs cannot currently meet the lead limits in the CPSIA, there is the likelihood that parents seeking new vehicles will buy adult-sized ATVs for their children to use. We have also been notified by one ATV manufacturer that they are simply relabeling their Y-6+ and Y-10+ youth ATVs as Y-12+, removing the speed limiting device and continuing to sell them. Thus the vehicles that are more accurately sized for younger children will be less safe because of their ability to attain higher speeds.”

To read the whole paper, click here.

So what it comes down to is, Moore and Nord agree that there’s a bigger problem; all they can do is offer a stay of enforcement so that dealers can sell what they have on hand, including replacement parts, once their opinion goes up on the Federal Registry, but the bigger issue still looms.

“While we are pleased that both Commissioners recognize the importance of ending the ban on youth model vehicles, we need to review the actual text of the proposed stay,” said Paul Vitrano, general counsel for the MIC and SVIA. It is also important to note that, even if a stay of enforcement can be implemented by the CPSC, this is not a solution and would only be a temporary reprieve as to the agency's enforcement of the ban. It would not apply to state attorneys general or address other unintended consequences of the lead ban.

“With today's vote, it is now obvious that the only permanent solution is for Congress to end the ban once and for all by amending the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) so parents once again have access to appropriate-sized youth model ATVs and motorcycles for their children,” said Vitrano.

  • Malcolm Smith was a leader in this fight
So we need to keep the pressure on. We need to keep writing our congressmen and senators, keep supporting the action of leaders like Malcolm Smith, and keep doing our best as citizens and motorcycle enthusiasts to make a difference here. For more info on how you can help, check out www.stopthebannow.com, which includes videos from some of the stars of AMA Supercross, and www.ama-cycle.org. We need to be proactive in this now more than ever.

Had an interesting phone call from Kevin Windham as he was heading to the airport for Seattle. He told me he was out at Glen Helen yesterday, just doing some outdoor motocross, seeing where he was as far as his shape and all goes. He felt good on the 450, put in a few motos, and then decided to pull out one of the GEICO Powersports' Honda team's CRF250s. "No sooner did I pull out, do maybe two turns--and the track is running backwards how it normally does--when Tommy Searle comes by, then Blake Wharton, then Wil Hahn," explained the veteran. "So I decided to go with them, even though I haven't been on a Lites bike in years on a motocross track."

How did it turn out? "Surprisingly, really, really good, I think," replied Windham, who wouldn't say who he did and didn't pass. "They were running the big hills and everything, and I wasn't that far off the times I had on my 450! I honestly haven't had that much fun on a motorcycle in years." What does this mean in the whole big scheme of things? "Ha! Hey, bbrzzrrzzrr... I'm breaking up, I'm losing you. Brrzzrrszzz... See you DC!"  

The 2009 Monster Energy AMA Supercross is now in its last 60 laps. Three rounds to go, and it’s still absolutely up in the air. Chad Reed has a 5-point advantage over James Stewart, who has more wins but also more crashes. They obviously do not like one another. There’s the whole Larry Brooks storyline to make it even more of a thriller. And at the end of the last round at Jacksonville, they were not exactly exchanging pleasantries when they stood toe to toe on the podium and faced each other down. Is this as good as it gets?

  • These two guys are not on each other’s “Friends and Family” plan
Three years ago, when it was Stewart and Reed AND Ricky Carmichael, it was interesting and exciting, but it didn’t seem to have the same emotional undertones as this grudge match has. These guys just don’t like each other at all. When Ricky was there, he seemed to be the one that kept the calm at the front, or at least kept the focus on the racing and not the drama.

For better or worse, that’s no longer the case, and everything from how they stood on the podium to what they said and how they rode has been chewed up, chatted over, twisted into knots. Three more main events will decide this thing. As Terry Boyd might say: Is this a great time to be a supercross fan or what?!

It’s DVR/TiVo reminder time. The AMA Supercross Lites class from Seattle is scheduled to air on Sunday at 11:00AM ET on SPEED, and the AMA Supercross class will air over on CBS at 2:00PM ET. Make sure you check your local listings, as these times are always tentative and subject to change. And if you can’t wait to see what happens, tune in to the Supercross Live! webcast on www.supercrossonline.com, featuring Jason Weigandt and Jim Holley.

One person who will be watching this weekend … okay, probably not. One person who will not be racing this weekend is Jason Lawrence. As I write this, he’s been handed a one-race suspension for his overly aggressive riding/takeout/flip-offs with Broc Hepler at Jacksonville. A further AMA suspension is said to be coming. Why? In the sometimes-confusing setup of FIM/AMA Supercross, his scuffle in the San Francisco pits came while he was entered as a Lites rider, so the AMA doled out the punishment there. His JAX attacks on Hepler were as an “AMA Supercross class” rider, which means it’s also under the domain of the FIM. So the FIM handed out punishment based on that one event, while the AMA (the old AMA, not AMA Pro Racing) has the right to hand out a further punishment based on his previous transgressions…. Wait, now I’m lost, I think.

  • Dennis Jonon lost a 17th place finish over a fuel problem
There were also some penalties handed out for bad gas at Jacksonville. Dennis Jonon, 17th in the main, along with Logan Martin, Tyler Medaglia, Chris Haack, Jake Lowry and Austin Miller, were disqualified for “failure to comply with fuel specifications as set forth in the 2009 AMA Supercross Rulebook, Page 10, Section 1.11.” What does that mean? Too much lead in the gas. But here’s the thing: They had all be warned by David Dye, the AMA tech inspector, that their fuel was out of compliance at previous rounds. They were pulled over after timed qualifying in Jacksonville, samples were taken, and the tests found that the fuel was still out of compliance.

According to Darrell Saldana of Warthog Racing, where most of the unfortunate riders were pitted, most of his guys use pump gas, so he’s trying to track this whole debacle back to find out what exactly happened. This could get interesting.

In totally unrelated news, people are starting to hear about the changing rule in AMA Pro Racing that will see the minimum age for an AMA Pro Motocross license increase to 17 in 2010 and 18 in 2011. The rule came about after input from all of the factory teams, the folks at Feld Motorsports, NPG promoters, MX Sports and AMA Pro Racing. There was an overall consensus that the sport should investigate raising the minimum for a multitude of reasons, from the difficulties that come with having a minor on the road (can’t sign up to race without parental signature, can’t have surgery without parental consent, can’t even rent a car) to the hope that it would slow the trend of so many young riders dropping out of school. Also, the recent debate over minor consent forms in Florida, site of two rounds of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, may mark an unsettling trend in litigation around the country.

I’m split on this: I believe in education before anything, as my mom and dad were both schoolteachers, but I also know that a guy like James Stewart or Trey Canard was obviously ready to turn pro at 16 and delivered championships immediately. The flipside of that coin if that for every success story of a young champion, there are dozens about guys who did not make it and were left with little to fall back on. Ron Lechien, the best 16-year-old I ever saw—he won a 250 Supercross races as a rookie, against the likes of Hannah, Bailey, Johnson and Glover, as well as three 125 Nationals against Ward, Glover, Barnett, and O’Mara—went through hell in life because he wasn’t ready for the success he did have in 1983. Don’t believe that? Go watch The Motocross Files again.

  • Ronnie Lechien at age sixteen
Obviously, there will be some disgruntled folks out there, as some kids and families will believe they have a right to race at 16 or 17, but I think in the long run, this will turn out to be the right thing to do for the good of the sport and the riders.

Here’s an idea Nick McCabe came up with last summer as we were driving back from trying to bail J-Law out of the St. Joseph’s jail near Red Bud: have three regional groups for 18-and-under schoolboy classes at the 2010 Nationals, with production-based bikes and a chance for the kids to learn the ropes without all the pressure, get some TV time, and allow the managers of prospective teams a better chance to watch them closely. Sure, there’s already a full schedule of amateur championship events—everyone’s in Las Vegas at the World Mini GP this week—but a Schoolboy support class at the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship would really let the top guys emerge and learn. Just an idea.

Everyone at Racer X is super-pumped for Zach Osborne, a kid from right down the road in Abingdon, Virginia, who became the first American in a decade to win a Grand Prix. Osborne did the deed on Easter Sunday in Turkey, of all places, and our guy on the GP circuit, Adam Wheeler, came through with a Monday Conversation with “the real 338.” Osborne also checked in yesterday from Facebook and told us that it was just an amazing weekend for him and his family.

Joining the Osbornes in Turkey was Budds Creek promoter Jonathan Beasley, who once again has the GP bug and hopes to maybe bring one back to his Maryland facility—a track that Osborne raced on often growing up. Jonathan told me the trip to Turkey was amazing, and while the race was a little low on fans, the atmosphere was exotic and very different.

“We stayed right next to the big blue mosque in downtown Constantinople,” said Beasley, a serious student of history who still calls Instanbul by its old name. “Zach and his team manager Steve Dixon stayed there too on Sunday night, and in the morning we heard the calls to prayer, and it was just incredible. I went in and sat and watched people prayer, just amazed at how it all works.”

It wasn’t Beasley’s first time in a Muslim country (albeit a mostly secular one), but it was for Osborne. “It wasn’t that strange until I woke up on Sunday morning around five a.m. and heard the prayer call over for the mosque in the town nearby,” the Utag Yamaha-backed Osborne told us. “That’s when I realized I was too far east to be comfortable having American flags all over me and there being this big hype about me being an American! Then on Sunday night we stayed in the center of Istanbul, like 30 feet away from a mosque and I was totally wigging out. I slept for about 30 minutes that night and I was up and on my way to the airport extra early!”

  • Congratulations on graduation, Sara Price
So will Budds Creek have a GP in 2010, or maybe the Motocross of Nations again? Jonathan is certainly interested in a package deal. He held a great MXoN event in 2007—MXGeoff on MXLarge.com recalled it this week as maybe “the greatest Motocross race ever held”—and is still thinking that he could bring that event back, even if local hero Zach Osborne has to ride for Team Puerto Rico again!

Congratulations to Sara Price, Team Green WMA rider and a Racer X contributor, for earning her high-school-equivalency diploma through On Track, which specializes in educating racing families who are often on the road.

“On Track really helped me reach my goals off the track while still having the time to reach my goals on the track for motocross,” said Sara in the release naming her On Track’s Student of the Month. “Education is so important to me, as a racer and the need to have an intelligent conversation at times. I’m excited to have had the chance, to be apart of the On Track Program and am ready to aim high with my future goals.”

To learn more about the Stay On Track program, check out www.stayontrack.net.

Here’s a shocker: Ryan Villopoto has parted ways with Randy Lawrence, his longtime trainer, and joined forces with Jeff Spencer. Not sure what happened there, though I believe RV was looking for someone who also has a nutrition background, given his recent illness that kept him out of several rounds of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross tour.

Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Villopoto is getting some outside-industry press, as he was featured on cover of the March issue of Radio Control Car Action magazine with an interview inside. When asked about carry-over skills from MX to driving RC cars, Villopoto said, “Obviously, turning and cornering the cars are different. You’re on a bike, cornering is much different. It takes a while to learn how to corner fast for both. Jumping is very similar. You can turn the wheels in the air and the throttle both effect the bike or RC car in the air the same.” Big points to the RC mag for bringing our sport to another bunch of enthusiasts, but bad points for calling it “motorcross” at least once.

  • Ryan Villopoto got himself a car cover and parted ways with his trainer
We got a note from Mandi Hibbert, Tucker’s wife and team manager: “Once again, Tucker will be racing as a privateer this summer. He plans on doing one Canadian National and five U.S. Nationals. He’s spent the past month in Texas riding and training with Andrew Short and doesn’t plan on heading back to Minnesota until all the snow melts. It sounds like it will be at least another month before that happens! We’re both pumped to be back at the nationals this summer and are excited to see all the changes MX Sports has in store! The TV package looks amazing.”

The DMXS Radio boys had an excellent show this weekend, with everyone from James Stewart to Cobra’s Sean Hilbert checking in. From the sounds of it, James is feeling very much at ease heading back into this title fight! Check out the archive here.

If anyone out there knows where Paul Currie or Tyler Evans are and what they’re doing—or if you are Paul or Tyler and you’re reading these—please contact us! Letters@racerxonline.com

Want to watch a cool video of fast kids from the other side of the planet? Moto Magazine’s Chussy posted this very cool comparison video of a pair of fast 14-year-olds, Jeffrey Herlings from Holland and Ken Roczen from Germany.

Both say that they want to be here in America racing soon (Roczen qualified for Loretta Lynn’s last year), so this is a good chance for everyone in the states to see what’s coming down the road from Europe.

Let’s start with Steve Matthes’ input…

I spoke with some guy named “Le Cobra” this week and he’s adjusting to the life of the Grand Prix’s pretty well. David Vuillemin hasn’t had the results he wants quite yet but is working on it. He told me that he goes faster in the French Championships and routinely beats MX2 points leader Gauthier Palin (his teammate) but can’t put it together for the GPs. Keep in mind that the French Championship is a combined 250/450, but DV still doesn’t feel quite 100 percent yet.

  • David Vuillemin is still adjusting to racing back in Europe
David says he watches all the supercrosses, and when asked who he thinks will pull it off, he told me that he thinks James will do what he needs to do but that maybe 2009 is like 1992 where Bradshaw was faster but a steady Stanton claimed the title. He also wanted to point out that, years ago, he told Daytona to till up that grass on the start straight because it was real slippery and dangerous…. Stewart might agree!

DV12 also says that he 100 percent thinks he made the right decision to race GPs, and although he misses all his friends in America, he doesn’t miss the supercrosses or the week-in-week-out grind that a rider over here has to do.

Are you dying for Canadian motocross news? I bet you are, you little turkeys, so check out www.directmotocross.com. (And don’t forget to check out pulpmx.com if you want.)

Once upon a time I used to race and beat up on multi-time Canadian champion Blair Morgan, then he grew up and started going really fast. Luckily for the world, we have some video proof of my domination over Morgan.

I can’t believe no one actually told my dad that I was too big for an 80. Where were all my friends back then? Anyway, it’s a stirring last-lap charge to grab the lead from Blair and win the 1988 Saskatoon Mini-Stade. Pure unintentional comedy if you ask me.

  • That’s Josh Hill’s ankle…. Ouch!
Hey what ever happened to Alan King? Anyone have any idea? Email me at matthes@racerxonline.com and we’ll put in an update.

Oh, and fantasy moto players take note: it looks like Factory Yamaha’s Josh Hill will be out for this weekend’s race in Seattle. Josh and his trainer were doing some cross-country running when he turned an ankle pretty bad. It’s not 100% yet, but as you can see from the Frankenjosh shot of his ankle, it doesn’t look good for him to make the race. That’s too bad for Hill, as he is coming off his two best races of the season in Toronto and Jacksonville.

There’s a Rockstar/Makita Suzuki autograph signing next Friday night (April 24) in Salt Lake City from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Suzuki of Salt Lake, which is located at 2354 South State Street, will host title hopefuls Chad Reed and Ryan Dungey, plus Mike Alessi and Michael Byrne. For more info on the event, give Suzuki of Salt Lake a call: (801) 486-5401

Now here’s some from Ping:

I got this from Cole Siebler this week: “I was recently let go from the Moto Concepts team and now don’t have a ride for the outdoor season. I wanted to see if you guys could put something on your website that I am looking for a ride for the nationals? I am willing to ride either the 250 or 450 class. I just want to race. I had a decent year going for myself before I got hurt and really want to race the nationals this year. If you could pass this on to whoever it needs to go to I would appreciate it. People can contact me by email: colesiebler171@yahoo.com. Thank you very much for your help. Cole Siebler.”

What do you get when you are dating Ms. Supercross and you ride for a guy with a good sense of humor who paints custom helmets? You get a helmet like this.

Here in Southern California there have been rumors of a new motocross track opening up on the Pala Indian reservation for a long time. Many thought the whole thing must have fallen through because nothing new has been released about the facility since something leaked out about a year ago. Well, good news, race fans: it opens this weekend. Sort of. Here’s what we heard about the new facility through the grapevine. It’s kind of a secret so sshhhhhhhh….

  • Mr. Supercross
“We will be open to the public on Saturday April 18th and Sunday April 19th for our soft opening of Phase 1 of Pala Raceway. We will be closed on Monday the 20th and Tuesday the 21st, and then we will be open again on Wednesday the 22nd and should be open 7 days a week after that, but look for a public announcement confirming our schedule. Our Grand Opening is currently scheduled for late May. That is when the site should be ready for large crowds and for a celebration for what has been accomplished to date. We wanted to have a soft opening of Phase 1 with little to no public announcements, to allow our staff to acclimate to the prep work and the transition from construction crew to operations crew and to allow for continued improvements to the facility.

“For the soft opening of Phase 1 there will be five tracks that will be available, the Main Track, Vet Track, Pee Wee Track, Mini Bike Track, and a temporary Quad/Rhino track that will be replaced in Phase 2. There will be a temporary concession stand available as the club house and cafe will be completed in Phase 2. Camping is not available at this time, but dry camping will be available soon.”

“Daily Practice fee is $20 per person, and mandatory annual stock membership is $20. Sign up here to speed up your wait for your photo ID Card. The membership comes with a free Pala Raceway T-Shirt and free ride on your birthday.”

After you click on that link, you can also click tabs for different sports you are interested in. They have plans for everything from Supermoto, road race course, BMX, etc… too much to name!

  • Panic Rev Christian Ministries is having a ride day on April 21
Oh, and Panic Rev Christian Ministries is having a ride day on April 21 at Cahuilla Creek MX Park. Check out the flier right here for all the details.

Okay, good luck to Ping and his team as they go back to racing the West…

And speaking of the West, just two point separate Ryan Dungey from Jake Weimer in the battle that most had sort of forgotten about, the West Region. Not because it’s not exciting or competitive, but because it’s been since February that these guys last raced!

Since then, we’ve watched Reed and Stewart tangle time and again, J-Law has his one big up and then two big downs, Chris Pourcel claimed his first AMA title, the GPs are three races old, a Yank won there for the first time in ten years, and Ryan Villopoto has a new trainer.

Don’t count out Justin Brayton or Trey Canard—or better yet, the still-awaiting-a-win Ryan Morais—all of whom gave chase to Dungey and Weimer in the early going out West. There are two rounds left in that series, and it’s as up in the air as the main class!

Our man in Tampa, Dave Brozik, spotted this article in the local paper about Vortex Racing’s owner Matt Griffin.

Strong rumor: Details are not fully in yet, but it looks like there will be a new team for the nationals that consists of Jimmy Albertson and Sean Hamblin. Two of the friendlier riders out there will be on Yamahas and riding 450s. That’s all we know right now, and it falls under the “strong rumor” category.

  • Jake Weimer and Ryan Dungey pick up where they left off in February
  • That’s little Cam Walker, helping papa teach motocross
What’s Matt Walker up to? He sent us this today: “Hey, babysitter quit yesterday, so now Cam and I are training riders together, father and son! Today is his first day on the job. Here is a pic. He loves it! Absolutely loves dirt bikes, and he is six months old!”

If you’re looking for updates from the World Mini GP in Las Vegas, here are a few good options: www.vurbmoto.com has videos and updates, www.motoplayground.com has videos and updates, www.amateurmx.com has stories, schedules and full results, www.panicrev.org has race reports and photos….

Here's a TV reminder from Eric Johnson: In between watching the Lites SX race and the 450 race on  CBS, you can tune it to the SPEED TV network at 1 P.M. (EST) on Sunday to watch 15-time AMA Motocross and Supercross champion Ricky Carmichael compete in the ARCA/RE/MAX Series Carolina at the legendary Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina. A treacherous and quirky one mile paved oval that is banked at 22 degrees in turns one and two and at 25 degrees in turns three and four, "The Rock" is a
true bullring and a circuit that will provide another lesson in RC's ongoing education in all things stock cars.

"It's a beast, that's for sure and pretty neat and there's lots of history here and I'm just trying to learn it as much as I can and do the best I can as well and having a good time," said Carmichael of the facility that ran NASCAR Sprint Cup races from 1965 through 2004. Driving for KHI, team proprietor and NASCAR Sprint Cup star Kevin Harvick
believes Rockingham and the ARCA/RE/Max Series Carolina 200 is a great venue and event for RC to keep his developing his driving skills in a 3,500-pound race car, so the former Daytona 500 winner dispatched RC to North Carolina.

"Just trying to get as much seat time for me, that's it man that's what it's all about, the more the better that¹s the position I am in," said Carmichael of his race this Sunday. "It is a very tough track a lot happens with the tire wear, it is very rough so a lot of moving parts, no doubt but that is what gives this place character. I think it is going to be a long race for sure and I think just patience, patience will prevail."

The motorcycle world lost Bruce Ogilvie this week. Bruce was a lifelong enthusiast who also happened to be one of the best desert racers of all time. His victories in the San Felipe 250, Baja 500, and Baja 1000 spread out over four decades. According to his friend Ken Vreeke, “He was also was the only man in history to win the Baja 1000 overall in four different decades, and he posted his last overall win in 2003 at the age of 51. Bruce Ogilvie was as tough as they come.”

Besides being a fantastic racer, Bruce was a fantastic person. He spent most of his professional life working at American Honda. As a result, the whole company shares this loss with his family, as do his fellow off-road racers and fans. A website in honor of Bruce’s life is in the works so people can contribute thoughts, stories, and pictures.

Bruce Ogilvie was 57 years old. Godspeed, Bruce.

Bruce Ogilvie