There were heavy hearts around the motocross world this week. Oscar Diaz, a promising young rider from Costa Rica who had moved to Florida to follow his motocross dreams, was murdered last Saturday after a round of the Guatemalan Motocross Championships in Latin America. Diaz and his mechanic and crew were run off the road after the race by bandits in two vehicles who fired shots into their car, only to apparently discover that they had shot at the wrong people. Diaz died on the spot. The two men in the car with Diaz — Lewis Boniel, a 20-year-old Costa Rican racer, and Carlos Zuñiga, their Guatemalan mechanic — were seriously wounded.
There is all kinds of speculation as to why this happened to Oscar Diaz. Was it part of a war between drug cartels that have a habit of backing motocross teams in Guatemala? Was it because there was lots of money bet on the race by local mobsters? Was someone out to get the sponsor that brought him to Guatemala? Or was it just another day in a tiny Third World country that has a murder rate of seventeen a day?
While all of that was being sorted out, Diaz was buried on Wednesday at his hometown of Atenas, Costa Rica. Because he was a hero on and off the track – he was known for taking young riders and the less fortunate under his wing – the entire Costa Rican motocross community turned out for his funeral, many riding their motorcycles in the procession. According to Oscar’s friend Chuck Akin, traffic was backed up for miles. Even the greatest motocross rider Costa Rica has ever known, former AMA Supercross Lites Champion and Honda factory rider Ernesto Fonseca, was on hand to say goodbye to this fine young man.
Oscar Diaz was 21. Godspeed.
For more on this tragedy, here’s a story from the Tampa Bay area, courtesy of reader Danny Cooper.
We have a few must-see YouTube gems for you this week. First, there’s the “Distance Jumper Gone Bad” that “eurohero” posted on VitalMX.com. It’s a guy called Moto-Bird who tries to launch it 440 feet back in July in Taft, CA. Unfortunately, he’s more moto than bird, and comes back to earth hard.
According to a KATU (Portland, OR) television report, Jason Bird, 32, broke his jaw, cheekbones, and several other bones in his face. Also, a major artery in his face was severed, causing extensive blood loss. His left arm was broken, as were both legs. He is also now equipped with a trachea tube and can’t talk, eat, or swallow. “You think I might stop? No,” Bird told (or more likely wrote) the station.
That reminds me of my all-time favorite YouTube piece, “Rocket Car Jump.” It’s an underground classic, and I have probably mentioned it here before, but it’s Kenny Powers, who tries to jump the St. Lawrence River from Canada to New York—about a mile—in a Lincoln Town Car with a rocket bolted on the back. The “Super Jump” ramp and the outcome are oddly similar to Moto-Bird, but the music is pure Benny Hill.
And then there are the Mike Alessi videos. I have said it before and I will say it again: I like the Alessis. I count Tony as a friend, and I think the world of Mike and Jeff—given all that they’ve been through, especially the injuries. Mike could not have picked a worse year to hurt his knee (twice) than one where contracts are running out and teams are having a tough time coming up with funding. To make matters worse, some nasty, unfounded rumors were going around that he somehow hurt his knee again. That was not the case, thankfully, and the Alessis wanted everyone to know—especially Bobby Myers, known on the boards as BobbyM. Myers is a fan of Mike Alessi’s, but he has long questioned the unorthodox ways in which the Alessi family goes about its business of racing. It was his criticism of Tony Alessi, as well as the knee-injury rumors, that apparently inspired Mike himself to post the twovideos that follow on the VitalMX.com forum.
“Hey Everyone! It’s Mike Alessi here. I just wanted to clear a few things up.
To the Fans: I hope these videos will help out with any concerns you may have had.
To Bobby M: If you feel there is something wrong with my program please come over for a week after I get back from MX of Nations and see for yourself. It will clear up any misunderstandings you may have.
Thanks for all of your support. Hope to see you at the races soon.
I love Mike Alessi’s exuberance, but as an athlete, he needs to maybe go about this differently than calling out a critic on a message board (especially one who just passed 1,000 pages—congrats, GuyB!). Believe me, I know, and I’m not an athlete! Message boards are for the fans and industry friends; when an athlete has to go in there and clean up every rumor or criticism, well, it just doesn’t seem like time well spent.
Maybe someone needs to tell them about Twitter.
I don’t what’s crazier: all that above, or Chad Reed doing a backflip, just for the hell of it. Actually, all that above stuff is crazier.
It’s been another breakthrough week in the mainstream for 2009 Lucas Oil Women’s Motocross Champ Ashley Fiolek. First she was named to Autoweek’s list of “Ten Secret People” that are doing special things in the motorsports world. Next, in tribute to Deaf Awareness Month in Los Angeles, where Ashley won her first X Games gold medal, councilman Tony Cardenas honored the 18-year-old athlete for her works within the community.
Finally, I got a note from Carl Stone that Ashley is to appear on Carson Daly’s next week, which will include some highlights of her racing as well as throwing out the first pitch at the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game the night before she clinched her title at Steel City. That’s a great week for any athlete trying to help grow their sport as well as their Q rating!
Eric Johnson ran into Adam Cianciarulo, the minicycle prodigy from Florida, over at Pro Circuit yesterday and chatted with the fast young man about his future, the sport and motocross in general. Adam is an impressive, well-spoken young man, according to EJ. “When we were done with the interview we just sat there and kept talking about motocross for like 45 minutes,” reported EJ. “He knows his motocross!” In case you missed it, here’s the complete interview.
If only he were a Honda rider, James Stewart would have another toy to blast around his SX track on, having already gotten the triples down on that Segway of his. Now comes Honda’s version of the, um, well….
Tough week for NASCAR: Both Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam pulled out of their team sponsorships, saying they would look for some different demographics for their sponsorship support. Fingers crossed.
There was an NPG meeting this week and Greg Robinson of Unadilla told a funny story about a misguided fan earlier this summer. Unadilla, which is in upstate New York, was hosting a Loretta Lynn’s Area Qualifier, and an older lady pulled up to the front gate very excited and said, “What time does Loretta Lynn start singing?” It broke her heart to find out it was a motocross race.
Time to turn it over to Steve Matthes….
I got some good confirmation this week that factory Yamaha is not going to field a team next year, which was pretty easy to deduce just by the simple fact that no riders have really been linked to them. We all figured that was probably the case, but this week I heard that it’s official. The blue crew has had a tough couple of years, and I really hope everyone there keeps their jobs and we don’t have more good people out on the streets looking for work. From what I hear, they are going to have an aggressive system for leasing their motors and suspension to teams and riders. That should keep the guys in the shop busy, as I would think a team like Moto Concepts would be all over that.
Let’s not forget that Yamaha should be well represented in the win column next year with James Stewartand the JGR guys. It’s not like we aren’t going to see blue bikes up front in 2010!
I think the Trey Canard-to-Suzuki thing is pretty much a done deal too, so Suzuki has one more spot for a 450 guy, but I’m not sure it’s going to be Michael Byrne. I spoke to Byrner last week and he still doesn’t have anything and didn’t make it sound like Suzuki had contacted him at all. (I heard from a separate source that he did make a call to the Cernic’s Kawasaki guys wondering what was up.) To replace Canard, I heard GEICO is talking to Broc Tickle. That would be a good fit.
In a yet-unheard podcast that will go up next week, Brett Metcalfeconfirmed that he will most likely, barring injury, move to the 450 class for the outdoors next year. This would allow the GEICO team to bring on Eli Tomac, just like they did for Justin Barcia. That seemed to work out well!
The Chad Reed-to-Kawasaki deal is looking more and more like it’s going to happen. I just can’t see Kawi putting Reed together in the factory truck with RV. But then again, what choice does Kawasaki have in these tough times? Villopoto and Reed together? Wow, that’s a team!
As far as my buddy Tim Ferryis concerned, he and Evie went to Hawaii with Ryan and his girlfriend last week and they hung out. I got a text message from him when he was probably four to five mojitos deep, telling me that he and Ryan think that he could win in Canada. I don’t even know what to say about that. If Ferry doesn’t get back with Kawasaki, I’ve been planting the seed of the GPs into his brain, and I might have made some progress. Many times over the course of our friendship, we’ve both talked about how cool it would be to do the GPs one year.
As some of you may know, I went over to Slovenia in the summer and visited the Akrapovic exhaust conglomerate. Well, the guys there are pretty cool and had tried a few different times to get through to James Stewartjust how much they appreciate him winning the 2009 AMA Supercross Series with their exhaust but weren’t making much progress. Then I became involved somehow and was the middleman for getting Stewie a complete titanium exhaust for his BMW M6. Yes, Akrapovic makes car exhausts and, like their bike systems, they’re bitchin’. So on its way to Haines City, Florida is a complete system with a laser-etched JSE logo to boot. I heard one of these over there, and they make the Beemer sound like an F1 car. Pretty cool of the crazy Slovenians, I must say!
I know next weekend most of you will be focused on the Motocross of Nations and glued to your computer trying to find out what’s going on, but how about on Saturday night you turn on the live Montreal Supercross webcast that www.directmotocross.com is doing? This thing should be fun, as I’m going to try real hard to play the part of Weege (yeah, right!), and playing the part of Jim Holley will be … Jim Holley! That’s right, I secured Hollywood to help me out with the show, and the two-time winner of this event will provide expert analysis while I try to not be blown out of the booth.
Some of the American riders who will be there include past winners Jason Thomasand Ryan Clark, plus Daniel Blair, Cole Siebler, Heath Voss, Bobby Kiniry, Troy Adams, and Kelly Smith. They’ll go against Canadian stars Colton Facciotti and Dusty Klatt, and right about the time the main event is wrapped up, practice should be starting in Italy so you can continue your moto watching/listening. We’re also going to have Todd Kuli in the booth with us as well as a multitude of guests throughout the night. Tune in next Saturday night for all the ‘deets.
Speaking of Hollywood, he was in town to hang with longtime friend Jim O’Neal at the Interbike show here in Vegas, and my wife and I went to dinner with him at the MGM on Tuesday night. I think on everyone’s bucket list should be “Dinner with Jim Holley,” because between his long racing career and his Hollywood stunt jobs, he has some incredible stories. My wife was crying from some of these tales (or maybe it was the fact that I was eating her guacamole). Unless Hugh Hefner is reading this, I can guarantee you that you haven’t had as much fun as Jim Holley. The Weege can back me up on that last statement. I really loved the stories about Ross Pederson, Al Baker, his rules for renters, and the Italian Job jump that he did. There’s even more Holley on ww.pulpmx.com, by the way.
Not much has been said about the quiet retirement of David Vuillemin, but Le Cobra hung it up after the last GP in Brazil. DV12 is a great rider and an even better guy off the track. He’s one of the few guys in the world who can say they straight-up beat Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichaelin their primes, and I just want to take this little space and wish Le Cobra bonne chance! I think you’ll see him over here in the US of A next year helping out some team or some rider.
That’s it from Matthes, and now here’s Ping:
Looking for something to do this weekend in the Los Angeles area? There aren’t any big moto events going on, but Red Bull is having one of their classic events. The LA Soapbox Race is like their Flugtag event, but without the flight. This one isn’t so much about winning but more about entertaining. Each team will be required to do a small skit at the top of the hill before launching their car down the run. I guess they’re going for a mix of theatrics and gravity-induced speed here, and my guess is that it’s going to be fun. This kind of thing is right up Troy Lee’s alley, and he has quite a spectacle built and ready to go. This shot is from their practice runs yesterday out behind the Troy Lee Designs headquarters (that’s his smoke-throwing machine in the background). If you want to check it all out, click here for details: www.redbullsoapboxusa.com.
Star Racing is one of the few teams that had a multi-year deal with a manufacturer (Yamaha). That has allowed them to move quickly, and as a result they are one of the first teams to have their roster completed. Martin Davalos, Nico Izzi, and Austin Stroupe will all be riding for the Yamaha-supported effort. It is a little bit of a surprise that Broc Tickle didn’t return to the team, and I haven’t heard where else he might be going (maybe Factory Connection for Canard?).
Many of the top 250 riders are waiting to see what Mitch Payton is going to do with his last available spot. He has Pourcel, Rattray, and Weimer all but done, so he just needs one more rider. Once that spot is filled, things should start to move quickly. Mitch has indicated that he wants to have a deal done before he leaves for Italy the first part of next week.
The Fire and Police Nationals are coming up October 5-6 (Monday and Tuesday) at Glen Helen Raceway. Ted Hall was a Los Angeles County Captain who lost his life battling the Station Fire, one of the worst fires in Los Angeles County history. There will be raffles and fundraisers for the Hall family, as well as racing for all ages and skill levels. Go to www.firepolicemx.com for more details about this great event for a great cause.
Now for some miscellaneous stuff:
MX Geoff sent over this poster of Italian hero Tony Cairoli promoting a motorcycle ride to the the Daniele Bonara Autodrome in Franciacorta (Brescia), which will be hosting the 2009 edition of the Red Bull Motocross of Nations. Cairoli will gather his fans in Milan for the Red Bull Bike Invasion, a “peaceful army” on two wheels that will meet in the Lombardy capital and will set off for Franciacorta, riding alongside the world motocross champion. That sounds pretty cool!
A reader send this along:
Just wanted to let you know that Zach Osborne went down at the Huntsville (Alabama) AX and ended up with a broken collarbone after Jake Lowry hit a hay bale and Zach hit him. Also, Brien DeVillo slid out on a face of a jump in the rythme section and ended up with dislocated jaw, a broken vertebra, both lungs bruised, and a concussion. Just thought you might want an update.
That has obviously knocked Osborne out of the MXoN for Puerto Rico, an event and team for which he had a breakthrough ride last year. The team had some feelers out for a replacement, and Ben Evanstook them up on it!
We got this letter from Matt Bigos:
Hi everyone just wanted to drop a line and see if I can ask for some help. Challenged Athlete’s Foundation is a great group of people that have done a great deal to help me in chasing my dream of racing full time again as an athlete. Not only are they helping me in my goal of making it to London for the 2012 Paralympics on the cycling team. But they help out hundreds of other challenged athletes each year. Without the help of donations from everyone out there it wouldn’t be possible for them to help me and others. I am doing what i can to try and help them raise money by racing the San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC) as part of a rely team on October 25. The race is a half ironman, 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. I’ll be doing my part by riding the bike leg of the race (there’s a good chance that I might have a guest celebrity coming from the motocross world to come out and do my swim). I have a link to a site set up that has a little more info about the race and donating. If anyone has any questions or anything else, feel free to email me, email@example.com
Drummer Jordan Burns has been a longtime staple in the motocross industry along with his business partner, drummer Erik Sandin (NoFX). Their historically successful privateer Moto XXX team gave a kickstart to Brian Deegan’s success. Deegan launched into fame when he ghost-rode his bike at the 1997 Los Angeles Coliseum SX taking the win for Moto XXX. Two-time 125 SX champ Brian Swink also rode for the team that year as they made big waves on the track as well as in the pits and broke new ground with their “not playing by the rules” antics.
Some good news from Racer X reader Nick DeLozier:
I sent an email about a month ago about my KX250F getting stolen. I got it back today with the help of a friend and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office here in Omaha, NE. The funny thing is, my bike left my garage muddy, with a broken side panel and not a sticker one on it. When I went to pick it up from the station, it was pretty much spotless, with new side panels and the full Monster Energy graphics kit on it (which I wanted to get anyways!). So far, it looks like it’s in good shape and hasn’t seen dirt! Funny how stuff works out…