Steve Matthes: Well that’s a wrap on Saturday here at the Motocross des Nations in Germany and this column is called Rapid Reaction so let’s do just that. Without diving into the results too much and off the top of my head, this is a rapid reaction as the riders are still pulling off the track after the MX3 qualifier.
It was a day of some surprises here as Team Australia went 1-2-4 in the three qualifiers to take the top spot going into the finals tomorrow. USA was second and Belgium was third. USA got second with Ryan Dungey in MX1 (behind Brett Metcalfe) and second in MX3 with Justin Barcia (behind Clement Desalle) and the USA dropped Eli Tomac’s 4th in the MX2 class (each time drops its worst score. This is only qualifying, though).
My reaction is that this is a going to be a much tighter race than I thought it would be. Coming in I thought that USA would be the winner with Belgium and Germany right there. I also named Australia as a dark horse team. Well, I obviously don’t know who is going to win tomorrow but I believe that it will be very, very close. Team USA is not going to be as terrific as I thought. This thing is going to be a dogfight between what looks like four countries- Australia, USA, Germany and the always-strong Belgians.
The track is tough to pass on according to, well, just about every rider I spoke to so a start is going to be important. In talking to John Tomac he wishes it would get a bit rougher as in his opinion it’s fast and smooth and that makes it hard to make up time.
Team USA didn’t win a race today and that’s something that not many saw happening. The mates from Down Under were very strong, the hometown Germans didn’t miss a step with their replacement from last year and if USA wants to get the Chamberlain trophy back, it’s not going to be easy. Stay tuned here tomorrow for the full report.
Oh and I don’t want to talk about Canada. It wasn’t good.
Jason Thomas: Saturday has come and gone and oh what a Saturday it was. The Motocross of Nations, is in my opinion, the greatest motorsports event of the year. Nowhere else are there so many different countries represented in one weekend of competition. Coming in, USA was considered by most to be the favorite and while the Americans didn't qualify first, they certainly were much better than 2012. Australia was the big surprise, qualifying on top with three strong rides. Belgium tied the USA on points and ended up third on the day but are certainly a strong team and capable of winning tomorrow. Honestly, after watching today, it's anyone's guess as to who will win this year.
Everyone was very similar in speed out there today and I have a feeling that when it is all said and done, starts will be the key component. Take Eli Tomac for example, who started in 16th, or at least that's what the transponder told me. He was able to quickly get into 8th position as he is much better than most of the riders and everyone was on 250cc machines. Tomorrow, if he gets a poor start again, it will be much more difficult to navigate around the bigger bikes on the hard-to-pass Teutschenthal circuit. Due to that, the poor start could play even more of a role tomorrow than it was today in his 4th place finish. It will be difficult for all of the smaller bikes on the start but 10 spots on that first lap could mean the difference between going home champions and another year of disappointment. He will have 10 more minutes to pass riders tomorrow also but let's just hope he can grab two good starts and make life a little easier.
Dungey was solid today and in typical Dungey fashion, started to pour it on late in the qualifier. Had it been a full 35 minute moto, I have no doubt that Dungey would have found his way to the front. That's not to say Brett Metcalfe didn't ride incredibly well because he truly deserved that win. Cairoli and Paulin were the victims of poor starts so we really didn't get the full picture of what they are capable of, besides their strong practice rides. I have a feeling Cairoli will come out swinging tomorrow after a disappointing Saturday. He didn't win seven world titles by accident. For Dungey, though, he had the type of day I felt that he needed. He didn't have a good practice session but he was able to gap the pack with Metty and gain some confidence for tomorrow. He is the anchor for the USA team so it was encouraging to see him riding well.
Justin Barcia had a solid if uneventful race. He started second and while DeSalle was there for a minute, he really didn't have the Belgian's pace today. He was able to stretch it out over the rest of the pack and come home a solid second place. He is a great starter and that is key for this event as I said above. I don't think the Honda is the best suited bike for this hard packed, choppy track but he will be fine. Staying near the front and out of trouble is the name of the game.
All in all, it was a successful Saturday for the USA team. Sure, we didn't qualify first but I am sure the riders learned the track in race conditions and will be better tomorrow for it. Keep in mind that these GP riders have all seen this track plenty of times so they had quite an advantage there. The motos will be longer tomorrow and I think that plays into the USA's hands. Dungey and Tomac are incredibly good at the end of the races and Barcia is no slouch either. It is going to be a long, hard day at the office but if I had to pick a winner at the end of tomorrow, I still like Team USA's chances.