Great Lakes Grand Prix Report

October 15, 2009 2:28pm | by:
  • The Great Lakes Grand Prix was about as scenic as it gets.
  • There was no place to rest on the tricky mountain course.
  • Riders were able to bypass this tricky sand and log section by taking the long way around.
  • It was a cold one. Temperatures hovered in the 30s and snow fell both days.
  • The spectator's jump was intimidating despite not being massive. A sandy off-camber landing followed the takeoff.
Worlds collided this weekend as hundreds of motocross racers gathered in northern Michigan for the rare chance to race a dirt bike up, down and around the natural mountain terrain of the Otsego Club and Resort. The brainchild of Osprey Investment Company’s Chief Operating Officer Jason Biber and Baja Motocrossowner Patrick Grzebinski, the Great Lakes Grand Prix was an event built around the fun factor of racing.

Otsego laid a lot on the line in hosting this two-day event. The elegant country club has been a members-only ski and golf resort since 1933, and they were opening their doors and hillsides to a crowd not exactly known for land or hotel room preservation. Much to their appreciation, though, racers stayed off their golf course greens and the only vandalism was by some young kids in the daycare who reportedly tagged walls with crayon graffiti.

A massive three and a half mile long course was laid out on the Otsego ski slopes that featured every obstacle imaginable. There were big jumps, small jumps, rhythm sections, beach-sand corners, high speed hills, and low-speed trails. One split section even gave racers the option of hitting an EnduroCross-style log section, or taking a longer way around and bypassing the logs. One hill climb allowed riders with big enough cajones and strong enough forearms to completely max out a 450cc dirt bike.

Spectating was exceptional as well, as the main resort lodge overlooked the first section of the track and a smaller cabin with a nice porch sat in the middle of an area that the course zigzagged past. A shuttle ran between the two locations all weekend long, and the mountain’s chairlift was even running to offer an aerial view.

The course was intense. Everything was off camber, and the natural sandy soil gave the track a roughness comparable to Southwick. Lap times were in the seven- to eight-minute range for most people, and all classes ran forty-minute motos. Riders in the early races on Saturday had a smoother course, but at the same time had fewer lines to follow. By day two however, all the grass was gone and the place looked like a real motocross track. I personally had much more fun on Sunday because sandy berms had built up everywhere and the track had a much better flow to it.

  • Josh Lichtle provided a little star power, but his aggresive riding was more than the bike could handle and he took two DNFs.
  • The rider of the weekend was Jerry Lorenz, who dominated both of the A classes.
  • The crowd could almost high five riders as the passed over the spectator's jump.
  • No material was brought in; this was the mountain's soil.
  • And what great sand it was!
  • The bowl was a big hit with multi-talented racers who were between motos.
Because there was no gate at the starting line, the starting procedure was another oddity that motocross racers had to adapt to. With the bike running in neutral, riders had to put their left hand on their head as the first of two flags was raised. This flag was the equivalent of a 30-second board. When the second flag was raised, it was like the board being turned sideways, and when both flags dropped, it was go time. At that point the left hand came off the helmet, the rider grabbed the clutch, shifted into gear, and rocketed towards the first turn.

The star of the weekend was 21-year-old Jerry Lorenz. Jerry won all four A-class motos and took home the biggest chunk of the $5,000 pro purse. Corey and Ben Bixby of Big Multimedia mounted a helmet cam on Jerry before his second 250A moto, and in the best thing that could have ever happened, Jerry stalled on the line after accidentally shifting with his hand still on his helmet. I say it’s the best thing that could have happened, because now we have this incredible video or Jerry tearing through the pack, going from last place to first place on the very first lap. I mentioned earlier that most laps were near the eight-minute range; Lorenz did it in about five and a half. Watch this video to feel what it was like to ride this wild track, and what it looked like from the viewpoint of the fastest guy there.

While the track was amazing, one of my favorite elements of the weekend was actually the scheduling. I knew weeks before arriving in Michigan exactly what time I would be racing. With the even forty-minute motos, each class was given a specific start time that alleviated all of the race-day stress that comes with trying to figure out when you’re supposed to go to the line. Riders could stay in their motor home or hotel room and be well rested and warm when it was their turn to hit the track.

  • The water balloon launch for Justin Weeks went well into the frigid night.
  • Six brave souls took on a huge half pipe on these big wheels.
Going back to the “fun” theme of the weekend, Planet Snow Designs brought in a mini skateboard bowl that was a bigger hit that anyone imagined it would be. It sat in the main spectating area and was used constantly from the moment it opened until the tarp covered it up each night. Former snowboarding champion Ryan Neptune was on hand, and he and some incredible little skateboard grommets shredded it all weekend long.

A couple hundred yards away from that bowl, was the indent in the Earth where the resort’s Olympic sized half pipe resides in the winter time. On this weekend it had another purpose, and that was to host the Big Wheel Bomb. The B.W.B. was a downhill big wheel race that garnered conversation throughout the weekend. Six names were pulled from a hat, and those six “golden ticket” holders raced to the bottom of the half pipe for a shot at the five-hundred dollar cash prize. Truthfully, there was less carnage in this race than the crowd was hoping for, and it will be re-evaluated for next year’s event.

The most popular side attraction of the weekend was a water balloon launch with proceeds going to support Justin Weeks. $5 bought you six water balloons, and in sub-freezing temperatures you got to launch them at the Baja MX crew running around near the mini-track. A golf cart sponsored by Mandingo Pickles circled down below as well, and if you hit that, you won yourself a free jar of pickles. On that note, the Mandingo Pickle Posse is one of the most unique gangs you’ll ever see at a motocross race.

I had a blast at the Great Lakes Grand Prix and have seen the light concerning Michigan motocross. The people who made it all happen are amazing, and I just hope I get to do it again next year. If you’re within driving distance, do yourself a favor and make the trip.