Breakdown: Stuck in a Rut

Breakdown: Stuck in a Rut

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In my early days of racing motocross, most tracks started adding sawdust and wood chips to the track. The theory was to keep moisture in the dirt and soften up some of the hard clay. When it is mixed in, it made more loam, therefore increasing traction. Many tracks went this route, most notably for me, Muddy Creek and Loretta Lynn’s in Tennessee. I was a fan of this track prep method and was happy to see it getting employed in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series as of late.

I seem to be in the minority, though. There has been a bit of controversy recently about the track preparation in general, mostly focusing on the wood chips. I have heard on more than one occasion that the tracks are being over-watered for practice and the wood chips are making the inside lines too deep to be viable. To me, while this may be true, I feel that it is making the track better in the long run. More lines in the racetrack are always a good thing.

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For most tracks, practice typically features more water to help form lines.
Simon Cudby photo

Back in “the day” before timed qualifying, the course marshals would put tuff blocks or hay bales in the inside portions of the track to force riders outside. This would create viable outside ruts for later in the day, therefore creating passing lines. With the implementation of timed practice/qualifying, this is no longer possible. The track has to be ready for these guys to turn the best possible time from the get go.

So, this bears the question: how do the track promoters balance a racetrack fit for timed qualifying but also have lines built in to allow passing?

This is where the wood chips and water come in. While some may not like it, I think this is a good solution. The increased traction is a good thing and having a track with one fast line around it helps no one. Watching riders play follow the leader for 35 minutes is not my idea of good racing and doesn’t add any thought into the line selection. With five or six ruts in every turn, it really allows unorthodox lines and lets rider intellect play a role. Figuring out which rut will be fastest while also setting up for the next turn is an art that goes out the window if there is only one good line. Yes, it may not be ideal in qualifying and might be muddy at times but the greater good is always the goal, right?

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RV used the multiple line selection to his advantage at RedBud.
Simon Cudby photo

This track prep was very apparent to me watching Ryan Villopoto carve through the pack in both motos at RedBud this weekend. Many weekends, he is forced to follow riders around most sections of the track. At RedBud, however, he was literally never following. In any section of the track, he could vary his line and usually make a pass work. In the first moto, he moved from fourth to first with three straight passes around the outside. Of course, he was going much faster than most of his victims but the track allowed him to benefit from that. He was going inside, outside and basically anywhere that his opponent wasn’t. He moved through the pack incredibly quickly and this was possible because of the ruts and lines formed earlier in the day.

While I am focusing on RV’s usage of the lines, it works the same for everyone. More places to pass is what everyone wants. Maybe I am old fashioned but I like these rutty, rough, nasty tracks. Water ‘em, wood chip ‘em and let God sort ‘em out.

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