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Observations: Bercy Supercross

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This past weekend in Paris was the 25th Annual Bercy Supercross, held at the grass-covered Palais Omnisport. The arena holds about 12,000 people, and the promoters, along with Eric Peronnard and Xavier Audouard, always put on a great show. All the greats have raced in Bercy from 1984 on, and this year James Stewart was signed up to put on a show.

  • This is generally how the start of the races went. With that big number 1 at the front of them.
Just for helping the guys with some riders and offering a few opinions here and there, I was able to secure a trip over for my second Bercy Supercross. The first was 2001, when I worked for Nick Wey (third on the weekend, beating Chad Reed, by the way.)

The track at Bercy is tricky because it’s really tight, but when you exit the floor and race through the tunnels, you’re in third or fourth and pinning it. Gearing is a bit of a dilemma for some guys, and in 2009, another wrench was thrown into the mix: a massive whoops section that took no prisoners. They were huge and there was no little starter whoop--they just dropped you right into them and it was hang-on-and-pretend-you’re-Lane Frost time.

So you knew these whoops were going to be a big part of going fast. If you were going to be successful this weekend, you had to be able to blitz these suckers. Here was the order of speed in them:

1. James Stewart (not really a shocker)
2. Justin Brayton (seemed to be able to gain speed by the end)
3. Everyone else
4. Jason Thomas (short legs + no lowered stuff on bike = tough times)

I wonder why the promoters don’t change up the track a bit more each night like the U.S. Open does. Maybe run it backward one night, add in a different jump here or there? The exact same track three nights in a row is a bit of a mental drain on the rider, but the same layout didn’t stop Stewart from pulling out some crazyballs moves that involved jumping some ridiculous sections.

  • James looked really, really comfortable on the new 2010 YZ450. The bike looked really good in the big whoops which has to be a relief to the L&M guys.
  • JS7 looked to be enjoying his time in France as he pulled out some whips, some dancing, some PR and was the star of the weekend. No Twittering though...
Stewart came to Bercy for round one of the JS7 World Tour (Bercy, Genoa, and Australia), and he fulfilled expectations when he ran away with almost every race he entered. There was one main event each night, a Super-Pole contest where the riders get one lap and then some elimination races where there were three races with the bottom five riders getting eliminated the remainder lining up. So that was three races. All told, there were a total of fourteen races where Stewart took the gate, and he won thirteen of them. His only miss was Saturday in the Super-Pole when he almost slid out in the tunnel, and then Sunday’s main event, which he was forced to miss due to some bad food.

So his DNS opened up the King of Bercy crown to the undisputed second-fastest rider this weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Justin Brayton, who managed to take advantage of Stewie’s illness to win the overall. Brayton was really good all weekend (he was last year as well), but to be honest, when he fell with two laps left in Sunday’s main event, I thought he’d blown it. He went from second to fifth, and although I’m no mathematician, I thought that might be enough for Stewart to still win.

That was confirmed when L&M team manager Larry Brooks was asked after Sunday’s main event to accept the King of Bercy title for Stewart. The confetti rained down and Brooks stood there sheepishly with the trophy. It was a little odd for sure, but after a while, they realized Brayton’s scores got mixed up with Steve Boniface’s (they were #114 and #141), and Brooks went over and gave Justin the trophy and congratulated him. Just kind of sucked for Brayton that he didn’t get his moment in the sun on the arena floor, but it was still good to see him come away with the win.

Watching Stewie dominate the weekend, I couldn’t help but think about the parallel to last year, when he did the same thing on his then-new Yamaha. He looked quite comfortable in France, but then something happened when he got to Anaheim. He battled the bike for two or three races before the team figured it out. So here he is again, on a new 2010 Yamaha that shares nothing with its predecessor, he’s dominating Bercy again, and I wonder what will we see in two months.

  • JB114 will soon be JB23 on the track. Justin and France go together like peas and carrots.
I posed that question to Brooks, and he admitted that, to him, James looked as good as last year, but he didn’t think the team or James would run into the same problem. His reasoning is that James will trust the team’s ideas and the direction L&M wants to go in. Last year there were some compromises on both sides and James ended up riding a kicking bull out there. But as LB said, there is still a lot of testing left on the new bike.

What do I think? Well, I think James looked mega-fast, and the way he pulled jump combos out of his ass made me think he’s 100 percent comfortable with the new bike. He had one moment where he almost ate poop, but he looked like he could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.

Unfortunately, he’s taken a bit of a beating from some of the moto critics on the boards and even his own site, I guess, and he felt compelled to post this.

Funny thing: When Simon Cudby got food poisoning last year and missed Sunday’s race, no one said a word…. Well, except for DC, who still blames it on all the cheap champagne Simon and Shan Moore were drinking with him at the Moulin Rouge the night before.

Can’t wait to see how fast Stewie is in Genoa, let alone Brisbane against his hated rival Reedy.

Brayton came out swinging on the 2009 JGR Yamaha. The team hopes to have the 2010s this week when they get back. One thing that was interesting was the other Americans there (Nick Wey, Matt Boni, Jason Thomas, Josh Hill) rode basically stock bikes with suspension and pipes, while JGR brought over a whole motor. Brayton was on a close-to-race-bike spec, as were Stewart and all the French guys.

  • This is Gregory (Greg) Aranda. He's on BUD Racing next year and has some skills. He was impressive all weekend and finished 3rd OA on the weekend.
  • Fabien Izoid was a tick off of Musquin and Aranda but he was pretty good also. His Suzuki looked to be pretty trick.
And those above-mentioned French guys were very fast. I’d say the performances of Gregory Aranda and Fabien Izoid were the big surprises to me this weekend. Those two, along with MX2 World Champion Marvin “The Marv Attack” Musquin seemed to fill the spots after Stewart and Brayton in almost every race. They didn’t have a USA-France race, but I bet the French would’ve won it, had anyone tabulated the combined scores. They were really good.

I didn’t know much about Aranda or Izoid, but Aranda rides for BUD Racing Kawasaki (same team DV12 and Gauthier Paulin rode the GPs for) and Izoid is on a Suzuki that had some pretty trick parts on it. The French are always good at supercross, and besides needing a little bit of fitness, either one of these guys would be competitive in America.

The MX2 World Champion Musquin traveled the path of JMB and DV before him and had all the fans on his side. Marvin was at a little bit of a disadvantage because he was on a 250F, but it was a full-on works 250. Marv did hurt his overall score when he blew up his motor and fell in Sunday’s main event, but all weekend, he was coming from the back to the delight of the crowd. I wasn’t here for the JMB days, but as loud as they were for Marv, it didn’t come close to the cheers that DV got back in the day. But he’s young, and he’s fast, and just like the other great Frenchmen, he will be in America soon.

Speaking of David Vuillemin, he didn’t race this weekend but was properly honored by the organizers for all his past rides in France. DV, an eleven-time AMA SX/MX race winner, has retired, and let me tell you, he is comfortable with this decision. We tried to get him into racing Bercy one more time, but he is done and accepts it. When we were bench racing with him and tried to goad him into a “Who’s better at Bercy? MC in the ‘90s, Stewie now, or DV circa 2001?” but he would have none of it.

Josh Hill was there debuting his new L&M Yamaha and had an up-and-down weekend. Hill has been off a bike for some time recovering from injuries and only had a couple days on the new bike before going to Bercy. There aren’t too many 2010 YZ450s around right now, so Josh actually rode Moto Verte’s test bike in France. The bike was basically stock with works forks (with milled-out stock clamps to accept them), a revalved production shock, and for some of the first day, Josh even rode with a stock exhaust!

  • Josh was pretty good all weekend with one bad race and one really good race. Listen to the Larry Brooks podcast to hear more about the decision to sign Hill.
  • Hill's win on Sunday was cool for him and he showed something to his new team. A1 is a long way away but hopefully this helps his confidence.
I thought his suspension was definitely on the soft side and not really working for him (that was confirmed when I asked Larry Brooks about it), and that may have contributed to Hill’s poor Saturday main event, where he faded to the back. But as bad as that ride was, his Sunday main event was really great. With his teammate out for the count, Hill grabbed the lead in the main and held it the rest of the way to win the main event. Sure, Musquin and Brayton were catching him a bit, but they both fell and Josh rode strong to the finish. It was a great ending to Hill’s weekend, which understandably didn’t start that well.

I may be crazy, but I really think Hill is going to do well this year. With that bike, Larry Brooks managing him, his God-given talent, and the fact that he knows this is his last chance, he is going to be a surprise. You watch.

Nick Wey was there debuting his new SPR Kawasaki ride. Or was he? Well, he was on a Kawi, but he hasn’t committed to the team yet. He still might go back to J-Law Racing, as he’s essentially a free agent right now and chose to ride a Kawasaki at Bercy. When he went down for practice on Friday, it was only his third time riding the bike. He was in tough all weekend because his starts weren’t so great and he wasn’t fast enough to cut through the pack. I don’t think he started in the top five once, despite clutch-spring and gearing changes to help him out.

Nick brought a video camera to France, and he and I pretty much took this opportunity to make the most awesome video ever. It’s full of behind-the-scenes footage, cheerleaders, Nick wearing a gorilla mask, interviews with Musquin and Mike Mason, and so much more. Look for it on Racer X Films as soon as Simon Cudby edits it for us—he’s the Sergio Leone of moto films!

  • On Friday, Nick Wey was on a Kawasaki for only the third time. He was good but got really crappy starts. Like really bad.
Scary moment in Friday night’s main event when Steve Boniface looped out over the finish line in the main event and suffered serious facial fractures. I ran into Steve the day before and asked him what he was up to these days, and he told me he’s now basically retired and into triathlons. He said he got a call to come out for one last race, so he started practicing and was happy to be there. He may not be that pumped on his decision to go right now. Heal up, Boni!

The other Boni, Matt, was there as well. He was told on Friday that his aggressive behavior at the U.S. Open wasn’t really the way people do things over in France and that might have caused him to be a little melon collie (Ed. note: I think Steve means melancholy) all weekend. Matt was good, but he didn’t look like the rider I saw a couple of weeks ago at the U.S. Open. He sat out most of the day on Sunday with an illness and just raced the main event, and his highlight was his “Hulkamania” impression during Friday night’s opening ceremonies.

Jason Thomas was hoping to come away with another victory on his new Suzuki, a la Montreal (which is also in France, sorta), but once he went out there for practice, the whoops gave him a ton of trouble. JT never seemed to get the start either and was near the back in most of the races. He didn’t have his usual small-man setup on his bike, and I think that hurt him.

Stewie was fun to watch in the opening ceremonies, as he danced with cheerleaders, threw a jersey to the crowd, and was generally happy to be there. James realizes it’s a show as well as a race, methinks. Shame he wasn’t there to take the final bow.

These Euro races are always a lot of fun in that all the Americans get together and hang out. There are no semis to hide in and everyone is forced to get along. The JGR and L&M Yamaha guys were pitted together, Wey and Thomas were across from each other, and Boni was nearby. The interaction between everyone is fun and there is plenty of joking and crap-talking to go around. Brayton even invited me to lunch with his team and bought me a turkey sandwich. Let’s see if he even recognizes me at Anaheim 1….

  • The Marv Attack was impressive in France. Especially considering he was on a 250F. He wants to come to America in 2011.
I didn’t see Stewart much--he had his own little area that JT dubbed “Motel 7”--but he obviously follows Twitter, as he came up to me and asked if I could Twitter that he was now going out to ride. Which I did. Follow me on Twitter @pulpmx. Stewie does!

Broc Glover was in the house representing Dunlop, and it was interesting to talk to him about the very first Bercy Supercross in 1984. Broc was one of the original riders invited to the event (along with David Bailey, Rick Johnson, Johnny O’Mara, and Danny LaPorte) and remembered the race in a way different way back then. Anyway, with Bridgestone pulling out, it seems that Dunlop has all the major teams (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, KTM, PC, FC, L&M) right now, as I found out that JGR, who had been talking to Pirelli, chose to go with Dunlop. Broc, Brian, Marshall, and crew are going to be very busy this year.

The Golden Boy still isn’t a big fan of some things I have written about Bridgestone pulling out and the teams getting used to Dunlops, but in France we came to an understanding that we have to agree to disagree. Well, I’m not sure if he agreed, but I mentally did, and I have an acute fear of pissing off a six-time national champion who was my brother’s hero growing up. Glover’s a good dude.

A few quick hits:

- Gauthier Paulin, a top rider in the MX2 class this year, is rumored to be racing some of the first few American supercrosses for Star Racing Yamaha. Paulin recently signed a deal with Rinaldi Yamaha for 2010. We’ll see after that.

- Marvin Musquin told Wey that he is coming to the States in 2011 for a full assault on supercross/motocross.

  • JT$ had some sweet numbers and two guys plus his mechanic there to help him out. He had support!
  • This picture proves that little men can also whip a motorcycle.
  • There was a freestyle show there with American Mike Mason in the house along with a Japanese guy that wore jeans and Edgar Torronteras who is always the showman.
- I think if Fabien Izoid’s motocross career doesn’t work out, he’s got a chance at being a male model with his long hair and dazzling good looks. Yep, I just said that out loud.

- The after-party was pretty fun. It was some sort of holiday in France, so there wasn’t much going on, but all of us congregated in this little bar. A good time was had by all and I had some laughs with Marvin and his girlfriend. Boni, Thomas, and JT’s mechanic, Dan Truman, all bailed early, and for that, I’d like to say that they suck and they missed a bunch more comedy.

- We tried to get Josh Hill to go out with us but he refused. I think that’s a good sign. We did have somebody there with a Josh Hill Enterprises credit card, though. So in a way, he was there in spirit!

- Jimmy Button was in the house for the first time since he last raced this event in 1998. Jimmy hung out and watched over Hill to make sure he was comfortable at his new team.

- There’s a bunch of people, and I’m not going to get into names here, who are going to owe me and Jimmy Albertson an apology come Anaheim 1.

{LINKS}That’s all I got from France! Thanks for reading. Email me at matthes@racerxonline.com if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

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