It’s America’s birthday this weekend, and the calendar just happens to fall with July 4th on a Saturday. That means we’re racing on Independence Day, and what better way to celebrate than with a round of Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross at Red Bud?
Red Bud has become an American tradition, as the event routinely brings out some of the biggest crowds you’ll see all summer. This is a hardy group of fans, and with fireworks shooting off over the track at night, and possibly going off on the track during the motos, the stage is set for an epic July 4th celebration.
Except for one catch: The series isn’t exactly being painted in Stars and Stripes, because two non-U.S. riders are actually leading the points right now. Australia’s Chad Reed is out front in the 450 class by 14 points over Andrew Short, and Frenchman Christophe Pourcel leads the 250 class by 9 points over Ryan Dungey.
U.S. motocross fans have come a long way since the days of Frenchman Jean-Michel Bayle dominating he scene while enduring boos from the partisan crowd. In the case of Reed, he’s been on the racing scene here for so long that most seem to forget he’s even Australian—he even speaks like an American, anyway.
Pourcel is newer on the tour, and no one is quite sure what to make of the man we’ve been coining on TV as the “Crafty Frenchman.” Does he train? Does he try? No one seems to know—but you can’t argue with his results.
Anyway, it’s cool to see the U.S. Series rise to this point internationally, where the influx of riders from around the world creates more star power and deeper fields of competition. But it’s not the first time two non-American riders have led the points in both classes. While Bayle opened the door for French riders in the 1990s, and Pourcel is leading the next generation, the real high point for French motocrossers in America took place in 2000. Stephane Roncada won the 125 East Region MX title, and David Vuillemin and Sebastian Tortelli were solid contenders in the 250 class both indoors and out. Roncada led the AMA 125 MX Nationals for most of the season, and Vuillemin led the points in the 250 class early when he won the second and third rounds of the series, at Hangtown and High Point. But Tortelli’s consistency powered him into the points lead by mid-season. And when Tortelli and Roncada won both classes at Red Bud on July 2nd, 2000, they left the race holding the points lead in both classes. They still held the lead after the following round at Unadilla on July 16th—marking the last time two non-U.S. riders led the points in both classes of AMA Pro Motocross until Reed and Pourcel grabbed the points lead after High Point this year.
Can Reed and Pourcel hold on to close the deal? Back in 2000, Americans Ricky Carmichael and Travis Pastrana (ever heard of them) mounted second-half charges and grabbed the titles, while both Roncada and Tortelli struggled with injuries down the stretch.
As for this year, well, we can celebrate the fact that the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship draws great riders from all over the world, which just means more people to celebrate Independence Day with.