Welcome to Racerhead. Let's start with the end of the Pala National—at least the end for many fans who could not get in. The crowd was overwhelming in size, but that's no excuse. The traffic problems out front were simply unacceptable, and spectator parking was something of a mess. There was a good plan in place, but for some reason it was scrapped without anyone inside the park knowing. And when the CHP decided to start turning people away who actually held tickets, it was never communicated to the people inside. It was a bad deal and an unfortunate mark on an otherwise exceptional first-time event. I can assure you that this whole past week has been spent meeting with local authorities, casino officials (they were also blown away by the turnout but not happy because of the traffic), and the Pala Raceway crew, as well as MX Sports' John Ayers, who stayed out there until Wednesday night helping Ryan Oulette and Kirk Chandler come up with plans for new entrances, new parking lots, and a bigger, more qualified staff to get traffic to and from the 15. They will also move to a system like you have at a football stadium or concert, where fans park first and then pay at the turnstile, which gets everyone off the roads quickly.
Here is a statement and an apology from Pala Raceway about the traffic problem and make-goods: LINK.
Quite a few people showed up at Pala Raceway last weekend to check out the action. Photo: Simon Cudby.
My wife, Shannon, and I actually walked back to the casino maybe three hours after the race—traffic wasn't bad by then, but it was an adventure—and I told her I could only remember two worse traffic jams in my life: the 2006 Motocross of Nations at Matterley Basin in England, and the first Red Bull U.S. MotoGP at Laguna Seca, where we ended up hitching a ride with Malcolm McCassy and Vern "Mini Me" Troyer (I am not making that up). Not sure about England, but Laguna Seca fixed their traffic woes in a hurry, and so will Pala. It's the #1 priority of the off-season for Pala as well as MX Sports, and we started on it on Sunday morning.
Turns out Pala wasn't the only event that got a much larger crowd than local authorities expected. Check this out: LINK.
Beyond that, I have never seen a crowd so massive for a first-time national. The fans came out in droves, and they were treated to a spectacular motocross track that wasn't as "billboard-table smooth" as some made it out to be in the lead-up to the race. Nor was it smooth by any measure—the riders were blown away by how rough the place got. Chase the track builder and Ryan and Kirk and crew deserve a lot of credit for shaping a world-class track out there in just a few short weeks, for building a motocross city out of nothing, with grandstands, swimming pools, carnival rides, Toyota demo area, RC car tracks, beer tents.... It was a really cool event. But the traffic is what people are talking about right now, and that's why it's getting fixed right now.
Pala ended up getting pretty rough. Photo: Simon Cudby
Beyond that, you know what happened in the races: Dungey won again, Christophe Pourcel got hurt and gave away the championship to Trey Canard, and Dean Wilson and Tyla Rattray made believers out of a lot of fans. Also, congratulations to Jessica Patterson on getting her crown back from Ashley Fiolek. To read more, check out Weege's Redux, right here: LINK.
The rest of the gang will have much more on Pala down below, but I want to look ahead first to the Red Bull Motocross of Nations, which is coming up at Thunder Valley next weekend. The MXoN is always an amazing event, where most of the best riders in the world show up to do battle together for the only time of the year. (I say most because South Africa and Holland are sitting out, Canada is not sending their very best, and injuries just knocked out Christophe Pourcel for France and David Philippaerts for Italy.) If you missed Budds Creek in '07, stop what you're doing right now and make a plan with friends to go to Thunder Valley next weekend and be ready to see some very fast racing.
Notice I mentioned the Italian team above. So how did the Italian Federation and the two riders at the heart of the controversy - Tony Cairoli and David Philippaerts - sort out their differences? According to our man in Europe, Adam Wheeler, "There were rumors that Federation staff would be heckled and ‘egged’ at Fermo (the last GP) along with other forms of protest from angry fans. One has to feel a degree of sympathy for the selected Davide Guarneri and Manuel Monni but the former indicated around the time of the press release by the FIM at the Czech GP that he would totally expect to be replaced by the riders who could feasibly take first and second in the MX1 World Championship....."
Sounds reasonable. But then Philippaerts, the 2008 MX1 world champ and the man in the black hat at the '09 MXoN (at least if you were a fan of Team USA or specifically Ivan Tedesco) hurt his knee and will miss the race anyway. That puts Guarneri back on the team.
Of course the French are now without Pourcel, which means Gautier Paulin, winner of the second moto last year in Italy in his own 450 debut, has been called up to race alongside Marvin Musquin and Xavier Boog.
I guess I'm not the only one who found Tony Cairoli's take on Ryan Dungey to be something of an insult, as Ping took umbrage with Cairoli's odd words in Ask Ping: LINK.
So what did Cairoli say about our new AMA Supercross and AMA Motocross champion? "I think he is one of the fastest guys, but for sure I don’t think he is THE fastest, in MX2 there are a lot of guys better than him I think." MX2? Seriously? Tony can beat his own chest all he wants, but saying that the guys in the MX2 class are better than Dungey is something I just can't see Stefan Everts saying about an AMA champ, or even an AMA champ saying about Tony Cairoli. Maybe something got lost in the translation.
Tony Cairoli had some words for Dungey... Photo: Simon Cudby
But nothing got lost in the translation with what the FIM's Wolfgang Srb said about schedules for 2011 and the possibility of the USGP running on top of Pala (September 10, 2011):
MXlarge: There was talk of the USGP running on the same weekend of the last round of the AMA Nationals, on September 11. Will this happen?
Srb: I tell you one example and I use the example of Formula One. Mr. Ecclestone makes the calendar, and only then everybody else moves. In Motocross we (FIM) make the calendar and then everybody moves. Do you really think we wait for a National championship, the answer is no. I don’t know the 2011 calendar of any National Championship, but it works like this, World Championship, then continental Championship and then National Championship, we mustn’t forget that. We make the calendar and then they see it and everybody can look at the calendar and act accordingly.
Who knew that NASCAR scheduled around Bernie Ecclestone? That's all news to me, and also apparently the AMA. But schedules apparently get changed all the time over there....
Okay, let's get back to Pala, and we'll start with Steve Cox:
I know I’ve talked a bunch about it this week, but even though the AMA National season ended poorly for Chris Pourcel, leaving him with a dislocated shoulder, I can’t stop talking about the sportsmanship shown after the race. Maybe it’s more common than I think, but I don’t know the last time I’ve seen someone who had just lost a hard-fought championship go up to the person who beat them and ask for memorabilia marking the occasion with a smile on his face. Check it out if you missed it in my 5 Minutes With Chris Pourcel interview: LINK
I noticed that a lot of people were denying that Pourcel was getting treated poorly by the fans at the podiums, but I have to say, having stood at every one of them this summer, he definitely was. It may not have been the majority of people or anything like that, but it was a very vocal minority yelling, "Go home" and things like that. And at Washougal, I even heard someone scream out, "F&#$ the French!" I know it was loud enough for Pourcel to hear, because when I’m shooting the podium with the other photographers, I’m probably six feet from him, and I can hear it loud and clear.
I don’t get the whole "nationalism" thing at an AMA Motocross race. I highly doubt that people are screaming anti-Russian or anti-Czech things at hockey games in the NHL very often. Why? Because it’s not a game between countries. At the Olympics, I can understand it more, and I can understand it more at the Motocross of Nations next weekend in Colorado, too. But the thing is, even though I understand it more, it still doesn’t really make sense. Why? Because why isn’t it enough to cheer loudly for your own country (or favorite rider)? Why must you also yell hurtful things at the competing countries (or riders)?
Like him or not (and I admit, I like him), Pourcel has overcome a lot to entertain American motocross fans. He set a goal to race in the USA and came to do so after recovering from paralysis. He left his home country, traveled across an ocean, learned a new language and a new culture, and did it all just to race against the best here in the USA, and people somehow hate him for that? That just seems incredibly stupid. And before anyone responds by saying that it’s not because he was French that they didn’t like him, that’s fine, but the people who were specifically yelling anti-French stuff at Pourcel, such as what I pointed out above, his being French is a definite point of contention for them. And it simply doesn’t matter.
And for all of those Americans who hate the French just because it’s the in thing to do (like back when people started renaming foods "Freedom Fries" and other complete idiocy), remember that if not for the French, we very well may still be a part of the UK. Remember the name General Lafayette? Kind of a funny name for an American of British descent, no? That’s because he was French. He was a very key figure, among many key French figures, in defeating the British here in the Colonies. Even the treaty that ended the American Revolution was called the Treaty of Paris because it was negotiated and signed in Paris.
What I’m saying is we’re lucky to have so many racers from foreign nations not only racing here, but even more key, WANTING to race here. It makes our series stronger. If you want a reason to hate the French, go to Paris yourself. You’ll hate them in no time. Parisians are something else. But my guess is almost no one who was chanting the anti-French stuff has been to France, or perhaps to Europe at all. Hey, what colors are the French flag again?
At the awards banquet Sunday night, things went well. It was a very nice event, held at the Pala Casino, and perhaps the two funniest moments of the night were Trey Canard’s victory speech, which went forever as he thanked everyone, and Tarah Gieger’s slightly inebriated antics on the podium. For Canard, he was talking so long up on the stage (flanked by the other members of the 250cc top ten in points) that Dean Wilson began to bend over and lean on his knees, and the Rockstar girl that was holding his giant trophy had to be relieved by another Rockstar girl to take over the trophy-holding duties.
The room got a bit restless after a while, and at one point I saw Ryan Dungey turn around and sort of scowl at the people who were being inconsiderate to the new champ. It was pretty cool.
One other funny moment came when Dean Wilson collected the Rookie of the Year honors, and when he began speaking, he did so with a very low voice – well, low for him, anyway. People tend to make fun of how high-pitched his voice is, and the people who got the joke laughed. Then he went back to his real voice—that of an English choirboy singing falsetto.
And finally, according to Twitter, Pourcel will be off the bike for two months after arthroscopic shoulder surgery, and Chad Reed was out in California testing some Pro Circuit suspension for racing back in his racing series in Australia coming up, since he’s a man without a team at the moment. The strongest rumor is still that he’ll be on a Honda in some capacity, but with Roger DeCoster heading to KTM, that’s a possibility as well. It’s also possible that, if no one meets his asking amount, he will just retire. That would suck for everyone who is a fan of the sport, so hopefully he doesn’t do that.
I’m going to start by saying that I was wrong. In last week’s Racerhead I suggested that you should attend the Pala National despite inaccurate rumors that the traffic would be horrendous. Turns out those rumors were quite accurate. I guess when you try to cram that many people—and there were a LOT of people—into a relatively confined area, things are going to move slowly. It was a great race … if you got there in time to see it.
If you live in southern California, there is a great event coming up at Cahuilla Creek Motocross Park. The Ride for TC will raise funds for the cause and give you a chance to reintroduce yourself to the facility. There is a new owner, and if you haven’t been there in a while, you wouldn’t even recognize the place. I had a chance to go there this week for the first time in months and I was blown away with the improvements made to the track and the facility. Anyone who has ridden there knows that the track is potentially the best in the state, but the prep either makes it or breaks it. Well, they’ve got some things figured out and it was the best I’ve seen it in a long time. They are open Tuesdays and Wednesdays for practice and again on the weekends.
And now... The Weege:
The season is over and now we look for things to do—namely, bench race about the latest silly season ever. Seriously, last year things were happening crazy late, but this year seems even later, and we're probably about a month away from where late signings could have a serious impact on testing and preparing for 2011. But at least we know teams and riders are still going to the races at all. There are other motorsports series that just hope to stay afloat in this economy, and many of them are just relieved when one major OEM participates with a team and support. In that sense, this industry is lucky.
The only other thing to discuss is some good old-fashioned bench racing about the season that was. Yesterday I spoke with Tyla Rattray, who ended up second in the 250 MX class due to Christophe Pourcel's zero-point score at Pala. Rattray was not mathematically eliminated from the championship heading into the finale. If Trey Canard had gotten hurt on his crash into a hay bale in moto one, Rattray would have won the championship in the most improbable manner ever! And don't think this was lost on Tyla. He can run down every bad moto he had over the summer, how many points it cost him, and where he could have ended up if those mistakes had not happened - like crashes in the second moto at Hangtown and RedBud. These dudes obsess over their results, which is cool to hear, really.
Tyla Rattray secured second overall in the championship. Photo: Steve Cox
Then I talked to Ben Townley, who narrowly edged Mike Alessi for fourth in the series when Alessi carded twenty-first in the final moto of the year. I asked Townley if moving from fifth to fourth meant anything to him. "I don't care at all," he said. "I wanted to win. I should have won at least two motos. If I had finished second in points, that would have felt like a win to me, but anything after that, I don't care."
He doesn't, but Ben was able to run down at least 80 points he lost along the way, including crashing out at Washougal, breaking his bike in the first moto at Southwick, and breaking his nose and missing the second moto at Steel City in a first-turn crash. He figures he could have gotten somewhere around third in those four motos, which is 80 points. Again, these guys care!
Also, this week we realized a crazy stat on Rattray: he won two overalls and finished second in the series but only led one single lap all year—and that was the "gift" on the last lap of Texas! Tyla was well aware of this too. He was really, really pushing to just lead some darned laps at Steel City or Pala, just for the stats. Unfortunately, he grabbed the holeshot at Steel City and yielded to Pourcel on the first lap, not wanting to race too close with a teammate battling for the title. And he couldn't quite catch Dean Wilson at Pala. So Rattray ends the year with only a lap led. And trust me, he knows this.
Rattray is heading to South Africa to see some family now. He's not racing the MXdN because South Africa is not fielding a team. Last year Tyla spent several thousand dollars of his own money to race the event in Italy, hoping the federation would pay him back, but it never happened. So this year, no RSA at MXdN.
I covered most everything I could from Pala in ReduX presented by Renthal this week. But I think we should give Dean Wilson another pat on the back for winning the race. His 1-1 score was overshadowed by the Canard/Pourcel title fight, but winning a race is still is big deal. And clearly the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team didn't have any team tactics up their sleeve, as they let Wilson and Rattray loose even before Pourcel was out. Much respect to Mitch Payton and the boys for letting everyone race it out.
Bryar Perry #118 did his bike up for the race on 9-11. Check out those twin towers and fire fighters! Photo: Steve Cox
Now some Racer X news:
If you haven't voted on the first round of the SHIFT/Racer X Amateur Film Festival, you still have a couple days. Luke Duncan and Kyle Galbraith are going toe-to-toe this week, and only one will advance to the finals. These guys put a lot of time into their videos, and they did a great job. You can watch both videos at filmfestival.racerxonline.com, and you can vote once per day on your favorite video. Voting for Week 1 of the semifinals goes until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, September 19. New videos will be posted for voting on Monday.
Speaking of films, you have to check out the trailer for the upcoming movie MOTO2, presented by Racer X. Taylor Congdon and his crew at The Assignment are deep into post-production, and everything we've seen so far has been incredible. We're proud to be a part of MOTO2, as we think it's going to be the best motorcycle film we've seen in a long time. You can preorder it now at www.motoxcinema.com. For a limited time you'll get a free poster with your order.
That’s it—thanks for reading Racerhead, and thanks for a great season. See you next week at the Motocross of Nations.