Racerhead #41

October 9, 2009 5:51pm | by:

  • Nice job, boys.
Racerhead is back in the USA, and so is the Peter Chamberlain Trophy … or at least I think it’s back. As you know, for the fifth time in a row and the 20th time since 1981, Team USA won the Motocross of Nations in Italy. Our boys did a heckuva job of bringing that thing home, though they needed a little bit of luck and a lot of heart to carry the day.

Of course by now you have probably read and watched a million different posts about the 63rd Annual Red Bull Motocross of Nations, and there will be more down below, so I’ll give you a break from that here. If you want to hear my take on the race and all that went down, you can listen to the bench-racing podcast Steve Matthes did with me yesterday.

I do wish to congratulate Team USA’s Ryan Dungey, Jake Weimer, and Ivan Tedesco, as well as team manager Roger DeCoster, on the win, and also congratulate Youthstream on an exceptional event. The track Greg Atkins built was spectacular and rough, with elements of both SX and old-school MX thrown in, and the fans (mostly Italian, of course) were enthusiastic and very much into it, though when national hero Tony Cairoli went down on the start of the last moto, you could have heard a pin drop. Those are the breaks, and that’s the kind of stuff that makes the Motocross of Nations the single biggest race of all.

So my advice to everyone reading this is to get your plane tickets and hotels and travel arrangements set for September 25-26, 2010, and the return of the Motocross of Nations to America at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. Like Budds Creek three years ago, it’s must-be-there motocross!

  • James Stewart is back in action in Las Vegas.
Of course tonight is must-see supercross as the Rockstar Energy U.S. Open takes off at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. James Stewart will race again for the first time since he clinched the 2009 Monster Energy AMA Supercross title at Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium in May, and he will be joined on the track by Ryan Villopoto, who hasn’t competed since the Hangtown National back in May, when he had to pull out with a knee injury. He’s all healed up now and looking forward to shaking off the cobwebs, along with Davi Millsaps, Michael Byrne and more.

You can watch the highlight package/2010 supercross preview next Saturday on CBS, but if you can’t wait that long, make sure you listen to the Supercross Live! webcast over at www.supercrossonline.com. Jim Holley and Jason Weigandt are back in the booth making the call.

Also, check in all weekend long to Racer X Online for race reports, Breaking News, on-the-scene blogs and more.
Mike Alessi was over in Italy with his dad and his girlfriend Danielle. Mike looked fit and ready to ride, and knowing how much he loves to race, he would have jumped on a bike if something happened in practice and Team USA needed him.

Mike was also wearing a KTM jersey, announcing his new deal with his old team, and he seems very happy to have landed on a team that he is not only familiar with, but that he was very fast upon as well. Here’s what the family reported in Alessi Weekly:

  • Mike Alessi is officially back on orange.
The Alessi family took a ten day tour throughout Austria, Germany and Italy where we finalized our 2010 racing plans and sponsorship for the upcoming season. The Alessi family is very happy to announce that our trip successfully reunited Mike Alessi and the KTM motorcycle factory for the 2010 race season and beyond. During 2005 – 2007 race seasons the KTM team guided Mike Alessi to his best-ever seasons, finishing as motocross vice champion in all three years (250 class in ‘05-’06 and 450 class in ‘07). The Alessi family is excited and looking forward to once again working with such a powerhouse team who will again provide the support and guidance needed to take on the challenges the new race season.

The real surprise to many is that Alessi will skip the 2010 Monster Energy AMA Supercross tour to focus on the summer motocross campaign here in America. He will prep by riding selected European international events, beginning with Mantova in February, and at least three MX1 rounds on the Grand Prix tour. Alessi has never been as comfortable in a stadium as he is outdoors, but he was grabbing some podiums last winter while riding for Rockstar/Makita Suzuki. Maybe he’s waiting to see what KTM has up their sleeve as far as new bikes go before returning to SX in 2011….

Another rider who is looking like motocross-only in 2010 is Ben Townley, though his decision is a result of the serious shoulder injury that required nearly a year off the motorcycle. According to the “BT Logs” letter he sent out this morning from his home in New Zealand, he’s finally back on the bike—and it’s a Kawasaki, as he presently has no deal for ‘10 but he does have a longstanding relationship with the Kawasaki folks in New Zealand. One thing he’s loving is riding again:

The enjoyment of riding again after all the time off a bike, eight months, has been very satisfying and surreal even. It’s not my first rodeo with injuries, but this time has been different for me. I’ve had no pressure with dates or races to be healthy or fit by and it has made a huge difference with my whole body having some down time and really not rushing to be back on a motorcycle. It’s been the best decision I’ve made for myself and my racing.

  • Ben Townley is back on the bike—and a green one at that!
Right now I’m kind of in limbo land, as are a lot of professional racers by the looks of things!” added BT101, a former world motocross and AMA Supercross Lites champ. “I have nothing locked down for next year at all. In one way it allows me to control the situation a lot, and in others it leaves me wondering what will be happening come next May. At the end of the day I intend on lining up at the first 2010 Outdoor National ready to race again.

To keep up on Ben’s progress, stay tuned to www.bentownleymx.com.

Kayaba’s Dan Worley sent out an update on Enzo Racing’s Ross Maeda and his recovery from that devastating crash a few weeks. Ross moved from Riverside County Hospital to St. Jude’s in Fullerton today. St. Jude’s has a special unit for spinal-cord injuries, and both Ross and his wife, Eileen, are excited to move hospitals and are in good spirits.

I spoke to Donn Maeda, Ross’ little brother, at the MXoN and he told me that Ross is indeed in good spirits and taking this sudden turn of events much better than anyone might have expected. Ross has always been one of the most positive, funny, and friendly guys in the industry, and that fact that he’s going after this challenge head-on is no surprise to anyone who knows him. Get better soon, Ross!

Friends of Ross Maeda have opened a main website for everyone to keep tabs on his progress and needs following the terrible crash he suffered three weeks ago. The website is at Caring Bridge.

You can leave a message in the guestbook, look at Ross’ journal, leave pictures you think Ross would enjoy, and even make a donation for the family. Please check it out and keep Ross and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve Cox

Italy is a cool place. I was there with my wife from Monday through the next Monday, and we managed to hit Genoa, Milan, Bergamo, Venice, and then the area of the racetrack, by Brescia. Venice is the coolest ever. And I honestly never thought I could get tired of Italian food, but after four or five days in Italy, as good as it was, I wished they had an In-N-Out!

  • If you saw our breaking news earlier, you know Branson is under water.
Some impressions from the MXoN: There’s no preparing a riders (and their teams, who set up their bikes) for the change in track conditions and track preparation when they go from the GPs to the US, or vice versa. Look at what happened to the GP guys when they came to Budds Creek in 2007.

That said, the track was awesome last weekend. It was wide, fast, and had massive jumps (but the jumps were very safe, as long as you didn’t collide in mid-air like Michael Byrne and Davide Guarneri did in the second moto).

I truly do think that going overseas in either direction costs the riders a bit of speed due to conditions, preparation, food, time differences, etc., and I think most fans know that, which is why they figured that sending our “B Team” as they should now proudly call themselves, having won the event, would have resulted in a USA defeat. As I said in my blog post yesterday, I was truly humble going to the race last weekend because I knew how tough it was going to be, but it’s amazing how many people weren’t so humble on the other side. But it’s nothing new. Last year at Donington Park, when James Stewart fell and couldn’t restart his bike, an “impartial” journalist near me on the track jumped up and down and pumped his fist in the air, which wasn’t classy.

There is a lot of good, young talent at the GPs, and at the top of the heap, in my opinion, are Marvin Musquin and Joel Roelants, both of whom I interviewed this week on the website. Musquin is just plain smooth and fast, and Roelants, man, he looks great on a bike. He has a great attacking style. He looks like Nick Wey if Nick could scrub a little better.

And both of them indicated they want to head to the States at some point, which is good and bad. It’s good for the series over here, but not really good for American riders who will lose their rides to those guys. And it’s not really good for the GPs either. Ultimately, though, the thing about racing is that all that matters is speed, so if the Americans are having a tough time hanging with guys like Musquin and Roelants, well, the teams should be picking those two over them. With winning, accents don’t matter.

I was fairly certain going into the event that if the USA didn’t win, it was going to be Australia, but something happens every time those guys race at the MXdN. It’s uncanny at this point. Chad Reed, Brett Metcalfe, and Michael Byrne are a solid team, and at minimum should’ve landed on the podium, but Byrne had his big crash in his first moto, which meant they had two bad moto scores instead of just one. Add to that the fact that Reed went down in the first turn in the final moto, and things just didn’t go their way at all. Again. One of these days, Australia will win this thing.

  • Steve Giberson snapped this photo of Ryan Villopoto chasing Chad Reed at the Kawasaki test track.
And speaking of Australia, even though Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Reed isn’t racing the U.S. Open this weekend (he flew in yesterday afternoon for the Transworld Awards and will fly back out again tonight), he does have a ride for his Australian series, which fulfills his commitments there. It looks like the Factory Kawasaki team is going to have to stock up on 2s for 2010 and 2011, although nothing is signed just yet.

What’s going to happen when #2 and #22 are actually battling for wins in the 2010 or 2011 SX championship? Things may get tense in the green pits! Neither of those guys likes to lose, nor are they used to not being the top guy on their team. It’s going to be very interesting.

And for more on Australia, even though he’s got a cracked rib, Byrne is going to take on the U.S. Open for Suzuki, now that Ryan Dungey bowed out. Dungey has a hurt shoulder, and many don’t know this, but it happened before the MXdN. We kept it hush-hush, and he pulled through and won anyway. He’s a bad dude. But there’s no reason for him to risk his shoulder further by racing the Open on limited SX testing time, so he’s sitting it out. As for Byrne, he doesn’t have a ride yet for 2010, and I think he just wants to show everyone he’s still good at supercross, since he has had shit for luck the last couple years indoors. However, it sucks that he’ll have to try and show everyone his SX prowess on such a tight track with hurt ribs.

I saw Ezra Lusk’s #11 Suzuki in the pits yesterday. I’m pumped that he’s here. Don’t be surprised if he beats some established, younger guys this weekend.

And finally, with two weeks of riding under his belt, Reed’s new teammate Ryan Villopoto is going to race the Open for the first time. He has his work cut out for him with Stewart in the field on his 2010 YZ450F, but after I’m done typing this, I’m going to go drop a hundy on RV2. He’s 20:1 right now.

  • According to the bookies, Ryan Villopoto has 20:1 odds this weekend.
  • James Stewart will be looking for his first win on the new Yamaha 450.
  • And Steve Cox will mostly just be looking for Rockstar girls.
And that’s the best part of this race: We get to gamble on the racing. I love that.

This year, they’re also introducing a head-to-head racing portion, just like what the Jeremy McGrath Invitational had a few years ago, so that ought to be good.

Make sure you don’t miss this race, because the next chance we’ll get to see these guys racing in the US is going to be at Anaheim 1 in January.

My whirlwind October month is about halfway over now. I left my house on September 27 to go to Italy, where I was for a week, and I was home for two days before I flew out to Vegas for this race. I’ll fly back Sunday, and then Tuesday I fly out with my wife to Maui to shoot Brett Metcalfe and Sheena Schaefer’s wedding on the beach next weekend. In total, between September 27 and October 21, I’ll have been home four days.

Ah, the life of a road monkey. Oh well. If RV wins me two grand, I’ll be stoked to travel.

Steve Matthes

The 2009 Rockstar Energy Drink U.S. Open press day was yesterday, and Steve Cox and I covered the event along with local media and the usual contingent of moto mags. The guys all had the usual stuff to say: they’re here to win, they feel great, and everything is awesome. That was all well and good, but it was interesting afterward to talk to San Manual Yamaha team manager Larry Brooks about the teams switch to Dunlop tires. Remember, Bridgestone has pulled out of SX/MX, so the teams that used B-Stone (Factory Kawi, Pro Circuit, JGR, San Manual, Factory Suzuki) are all going to be on new rubber. I can’t state enough the importance of tires for these guys and their performance. It’s a big deal. Getting used to the Dunlops will take some time. But as one rider told me, “Hey, we’re all on the same tires now so it doesn’t really matter. We may as well have spec tires.”

I did hear that JGR might be going with Pirelli, though.

  • This is the bike Ezra Lusk will make his return to racing aboard.
One last note on the PC: I was surprised by the number of Ezra Lusk questions thrown at the riders. Yogi is a big story at this year’s Open.

I spent a bit of time with Michael Byrne down in the pits as his mechanic Tony Berlutti prepped his RM-Z450, and it’s official that after almost twenty years as a Suzuki mechanic, Berlutti’s last day is October 16. With the cutbacks at Suzuki there a few guys that are not getting their contracts renewed over at the yellow team, and that’s a bummer deal. Berlutti is one of the good guys in the sport and one who’s come a long ways from working with Tommy Watts to Ezra Lusk (hey, he might need a mechanic!) to Robbie Reynard to Sebastien Tortelli to his current guy, Michael Byrne. Berlutti’s last race will be this weekend at the Open.

With Tony leaving, it’s the end of an era. I predict that no team will ever let their mechanics live in another city like Tony did.

A good fit for Berlut would be the Las Vegas-based team of Hart & Huntington, and I think he’ll end up there eventually. That team, like a lot of others, is still finalizing their program for 2010. Rumors are they’ve been talking to Suzuki as well as Chris Blose to team up with current rider Matt Boni.

  • Byrne had a horrific crash in Italy, but he's on hand for his final ride with Suzuki at the U.S. Open
Amazingly enough, Byrner doesn’t really have too much to choose from either, and this is a guy who tied for an overall win in the motocross series this year! He was rightly discouraged, and I reminded him that a certain rider from Florida wearing #15 once had to drop down to Moto XXX, rebuild himself there, and got back on a factory team. My Gipper speech didn’t seem to work, but hopefully, his agent Bobby Nichols is out there pounding the pavement looking for a ride. He’ll actually be at the Open because Ryan Villopoto will be there, and this race is a good time to network.

I did hear from a reliable source (who might sign him to wear his company’s clothes) that Jake Moss will be the second rider at factory Suzuki now. I guess we’ll see about that, as I also heard that Christophe Pourcel was going to go there, but CP377 is back on Pro Circuit for next year. Another guy who knows the inside of the sport said that Dean Wilson will get that fourth PC spot in 2010.

What about Ryan Morais to TLD Honda? It could happen. We could know more if Ping were on here, but he’s headed off to a Supermoto race in Belgium with Jeff Ward. That’s a sentence I thought I’d never type.

This weekend it’s going to be nice to go to a major race and sleep in my own bed at night. Unless of course a bunch of supermodels kidnap me and force me back to their room, which would really suck. And so would spending a bunch of money on a divorce lawyer.

Anyway, it’s the U.S. Open, and it’s always an exciting time. Looks like Chad Reed won’t be making it as well as Ryan Dungey, who might have banged his shoulder up racing for America’s honor last weekend. We have James Stewart, Davi Millsaps, Michael Byrne, Matt Boni and maybe, just maybe, Ryan Villopoto. Add into the mix some guys eager to prove something to potential teams watching and you’ll have some great racing.

It’s close action and you can always expect the unexpected. Well, outside of Stewie winning, that is.

The first annual Transworld Motocross Awards show was last night at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and I swung by to check it out. Nice of editor Donn Maeda (whose life must be a thousand miles an hour with his brother’s injury, going to Italy, and now arranging this show) to invite me to check it out. Jeremy McGrath, Jeff Emig, Jimmy Button, Brian Deegan, and Erik Kehoe were among the ex-racers there. We almost had half the field of 1997 L.A. Coliseum in the house!

I didn’t stay all night, but I did get to see the open bar, a whole bunch of tattooed, pierced dudes who were probably freestyle guys, and Justin Barcia win the rookie of the year award. They also had the new MX vs. ATV game there, and it looked pretty bitchin’. The hosts for the show were Cameron Steele and Grant Langston, and a good time was had by all. The Weege even dropped by for a little bit!

  • The Junkyard Dog double classed it in Montreal.
Last weekend I was at the Montreal Supercross, and it was a good time. The 32nd annual race saw a bunch of Americans line up against Canada’s best, and just like over in Italy, the Americans won. BTOSports.com/BBMX’s Jason Thomas came out victorious in his first race on the new Suzuki over Canada’s Colton Facciotti and Dusty Klatt. Heath Voss was fourth, and a very fast but unlucky Teddy Maier was fifth. Good for JT, as he’s already feeling at home on the Suzuki.

There was an Endurocross there as well, and it provided some good racing for the fans. It was much faster than the usual EX tracks but exciting for sure. There were two water crossings, a double jump made out of nothing but logs, and a massive step-up over some tractor tires. A Hungarian named Kornel Nemeth won the event pretty handily, but you know who got second? John Freaking Dowd. And after he did that, he changed his jersey and went over to line up for the 450 SX main event. It’s The Junkyard Dog’s world—we just live in it.

Of course, James Stewart will be racing the all new and sweet 2010 Yamaha 450 this weekend at the U.S. Open, but last Friday, Yamaha Canada put on their 2010 YZ450 intro and I arranged for Troy Adams to put some laps on the bike for a DMX ride report. I’ve heard from a bunch of people how freaking great this bike is, but I wanted to get the opinion of a top pro. Well, let me say that Adams couldn’t stop gushing about the bike and how well it turned. He said it was amazing and was really impressed with it. Look for a report on www.directmotocross.com next week.

I called the race with Jim Holley, and although I didn’t do as well as The Weege, I had a lot of fun and working with Hollywood was awesome. He’s a vast pool of information and I only got to the shallow end.

Check out directmotocross.com for more info on that race and all things Canadian moto related.

What about pulpmx.com you ask? Yup, it’s still going strong. Check it out.


  • Wow.
  • Jimmy Ellis shares a slide with Scott Wallenberg
Ryan Villopoto, the hero of the last three versions of Team USA, did not attend this year, so he had the chance to head to New Jersey for the annual Kawasaki Race of Champions at Raceway Park in Englishtown. Of course that was once the home track of RV’s now-incarcerated rival Jason Lawrence, which led him to don a T-shirt supporting Lawrence’s freedom…. Wow, that’s pretty funny right there. Carl Stone photo!

David Bailey is in Hawaii for another run at the Ironman Triathlon, one of the most notorious endurance races in all of sports. He sent us this note before he headed for the islands:

I feel ready, but nervous. Lots of friends and family coming over this time so I want to have a good race for them. Here are some pics of my bike and chair. I had a wide range of support this time, from Lucas Oil, to Bell, from Red Bull to Pro Tec, One Industries, Light Speed, Cytomax, and more. I’m pretty lucky to have all of their help and to do this race again.

Go get ’em, champ!

Longtime AMA privateer Erick Vallejo dropped us a note to let us know he just had his first child! “Well, my wife did hehe… He is a boy and his name him Leonardo Vallejo. We are super-excited and so blessed with him. Words can not express feelings, everything is great!” Vallejo is not riding right now, but rather working full-time on a new career: he is the assistant manager at a clothing store in Dallas called Buckle, working his way up to getting his own store up and running. Vallejo sounds as motivated by this new career as he was about being an exceptional professional motocross rider.

The positive word on the street is that Corbin Bleu’s new movie about motocross, called Free Style, is actually pretty good. We caught this interview with the star of the film, who also happens to be a major character in Disney’s High School Musical franchise.

  • David Bailey is competing in another Ironman.
  • And you thought motocross bikes were expensive...
When our esteemed former Monark factory rider/publisher Scott Wallenberg found out that Racer Productions was having a meeting next door with Can-Am about the GNCC Series, he dug out this photo of him leading Can-Am’s all-time best rider, Jimmy Ellis, at the 1976 Red Bud National. Must say he looks a lot like Warren Reid in this photo!

The Donnie Hansen Motocross Academy will be at the following tracks in October & November: October 23-24, Riverfront Park, Marysville, CA; October 30, Piru MX Park, Piru, CA; November 7-8, Lodgepole Valley MX, Sunol, NE, and November 14-15 at the new Hill MX Ranch in Yoncalla, OR. Contact DHMA at 719-495-2624 or email Donnie@DHMA.com for information and registration.

Looks like Charles Halcomb, the longtime industry man who helped guide the Valli Motor Sports Yamaha team to some excellent finishes this summer, not be a part of Valli’s 2010 program. According to Charles, it was an amicable parting and he is currently searching the industry for a position. Anyone who has a need for a charismatic motorcyclist with a vast wealth of off-road and motocross knowledge, Halcomb’s your man.

You may have noticed one two-stroke out on the track at the Steel City National this year. That was local PA rider Brian Shuckart, who qualified for the 450 main on and RM250. Shuckhart recently survived a nasty get-off at a local track, and it was captured on film. Check it out here.

Check out this video of Adam Cianciarulo and Ryan Villopoto riding at the Kawasaki supercross test track.

  • James Stewart's track has just been re-touched.
Want to see what track designer/sculptor Jason Baker or Dirt Traxx was working on before he headed to Australia to work on the series down there? It’s none other than James Stewart’s own new private track. Here’s a shot from Baker’s Facebook page.

A reader named Jonathan spotted this Craigslist ad, and I have to say, it’s pretty amazing and scary at the same time. Any volunteers?

Earlier this summer Erin Normoyle did a little part-time modeling for Vance's Blues, which is my wife Shannon's clothing store here in Morgantown. Normoyle is featured prominently on the boutique's new website, which just went live today. Check it out www.vancesblues.com to see more, and if you're looking for cool threads for you or your better half, try Vance's Blues. They ship free anywhere in the U.S. My wife told me to mention it!

The Dew Tour is teaming up with Racer X to offer you discounted tickets to the Dew Tour’s PlayStation Pro, Oct 15-18 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida. This is the final stop of Dew Tour, where Dew Cup Champions will be crowded and you don’t want to miss any of the action! Buy your tickets now at ticketmaster.com and enter promo code “RACERX”, where you will receive $3 off ground passes, $5 off reserved tickets and $10 off Action Zone seats. On Friday night, come experience freestyle motocross under the lights featuring Twitch, Adam Jones, Mike Mason, and more. Don’t leave without visiting the interactive Festival Village with tons of giveaways and a Yamaha moto learn-to-ride course, plus a concert from Flo Rida on Sunday night – what’s not to love? Visit allisports.com for more event info.

Alli Sports is also launching a brand new TV show starting tomorrow night profiling some of the top action sports athletes in the world. Josh Grant will be the subject of the premiere, which you can catch tomorrow night at 11:00 p.m. on ESPN2.

Up for a little trivia? Who won the first-night main at the first U.S. Open, and what bike was he riding? Send your answer to online@racerxonline.com.

We’ll pick one correct answer at random to win an official Dew Tour Prize Pack including an Ogio backpack, Nike 6.0 T-shirt, and Dew Tour bandana. While you’re rocking your new gear, make sure to tune in to the Dew Tour live event broadcast on Saturday, October 17 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Sunday, October 18 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. to catch all the action. For the latest and greatest action sport news, visit www.allisports.com.

Thank you for reading Racerhead. See you next week. 

Roy and Tony