Racerhead #39

Racerhead #39

September 25, 2015 4:35pm

Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from a variety of places. Our man Davey Coombs is off brushing up on his French—but, alas, not actually at the Motocross of Nations. Instead, he’s in Montreal celebrating a big birthday. No, we’re not revealing Davey’s age here, because there’s so much other important news to get to. For example, did you see the 2016 AMA National Numbers came out this week? How about that Malcolm Stewart! He earned himself a nice number right there. 

So I’m Jason Weigandt, and I’m here to field Racerhead. I can’t remember the last time Davey didn’t go to a Nations. And that’s good, because he helped big time during our twenty-two-day, twenty-two-team countdown with Team USA, where we chronicled every American team to hoist the Chamberlain Trophy. We’ve posted 2010 today, and tomorrow Eric Johnson’s epic on the 2011 event will complete the collection. Come Sunday night, will that 2011 team still be the last winning American squad?

We’re starting to see a separation from the era of that 2011 team. Ryan Villopoto saved the day by winning the final moto at St. Jean D’Angely, France, and that was the last moto win for an American rider at this event. There are a million theories as to why the American teams went from seven straight victories to being completely shut out of even a moto win for the last three years. Some theories might be true, some might be false, and certainly it’s hard to find trends when a team goes from winning everything to winning nothing in such a short span. For example, Villopoto’s failed experiment racing GPs this year shined a light on how different the tracks are in Europe compared to here. But weren’t the tracks different in 2011, 2009, 2008, 2006, and 2005?

I know we’re entering a presidential election cycle where candidates will make grand overtures and throw out a sound byte and factoid that are supposed to solve every single problem. With the Nations, we hear similar stuff. But as with most things, it’s more complicated than that. There’s probably not one big reason why the team hasn’t won; there are probably many small ones. For example, I believe the 1980s American teams—who were raised on supercross—took riding, aggression, and technique to the next level. These days, every kid from California to Germany to Australia is watching supercross races on their computer or TV screens. They know the same techniques, and the gap between riders in different nations is much smaller than it used to be. If you watch a des Nations race in the eighties or nineties, you can almost tell the Americans by watching them. These days, everyone scrubs, all around the world.

Then again, we’ve seen international riders master American technique for almost twenty years now—from Chad Reed and Ken Roczen to a dozen fast Frenchmen. So this isn’t the only thing. It’s not a sudden change, but it’s one of many things that have added up to a shift in the results at this race.

But I keep going back to Villopoto taking that last win, then slowing to cross the line side-by-side with teammate Ryan Dungey. As we rolled through this twenty-two-day countdown, Villopoto’s name stuck out in the recent history—winning the MX2 class as a pro rookie in 2006, dominating both motos on a 250F in 2007, winning a moto outright again on a 250F in 2008, grabbing that clutch win in 2011. He won his class every time he raced the event.

RV slowed down to cross the line with RD in 2011, the last time Team USA won the Motocross of Nations.
RV slowed down to cross the line with RD in 2011, the last time Team USA won the Motocross of Nations. Photo: Sarah Gutierrez

We’re drawing massive conclusions about racing here versus racing "over there" based on just three motos. A lot just comes down to one man having a great day at the right time. France wasn’t a favorite last year—some considered them to be the French B team—but then Gautier Paulin got in the zone and cleaned up. The Brits broke Team USA’s win streak powered by Paul Malin’s out-of-his-mind effort at Roggenburg in 1994. Team USA would have lost in 1990 and 1991 if it weren’t for Jeff Stanton. I was there when Ricky Johnson saved the day in the mud with a 1-1 in 1987. Mike Kiedrowski dug the team out of a hole in 1993. That’s the drama of this race—one rider can lift an entire nation on his back and carry it to victory. Who will it be this time?

The last few years, Ryan Dungey just hasn’t excelled in that role (although he went 1-1 at home in 2010 and won moto three in Italy in 2009). Eli Tomac was thisclose to doing it in 2013 and 2014, but he crashed spectacularly trying to pass Roczen in Germany and stalled late last year while trying to pull off a comeback for the ages. The way Tomac was riding this year, he could have been the hero—but he’s out. 

Now it’s on Jeremy Martin, Justin Barcia, and Cooper Webb. It’s very possible a team can win the race by merely being consistent and strong, but more often it comes down to one rider on one day carrying the flag. Throughout this twenty-two-day countdown, we’ve reviewed the hero rides, and you can see who’s in the pantheon of Team USA greats. Is someone about to join them on Sunday? 

We’ll have our man Steve Matthes on the ground this weekend, with Jason Thomas alongside him. We also have our GP scribe Adam Wheeler and ace shooter Ray Archer, and Austin White has been logging videos since the moment he landed. 

Enjoy the coverage and the race. We don’t know who will win, but we know someone from somewhere is about to be a hero.

Justin Barcia enters this weekend as team captain.
Justin Barcia enters this weekend as team captain. photo: Rice

BIG WEEK (Jason Weigandt)

The Motocross of Nations news would be enough, but several other things broke this week, which means this website is more jammed than ever. In case you missed anything, here are some must-see links. 

Jimmy and Georgia fight over the MXoN: We pitted husband and wife Jimmy Albertson and Georgia Lindsay against each other in a battle over who will win this weekend. Jimmy is American; Georgia is British. This gets good

Lord Alfred: Our annual letter from the most biased motocross fan on the planet. 

JT's guide to pronunciation: Former pro Jason Thomas always provides great insight on the races—this Nations piece is no exception. You'll also learn some nicknames for riders you've never heard.

MXoN preview: You might not think this is handy now, but when you're following the action on Sunday morning, be glad it's here

2016 national numbers: The AMA released the list of national numbers, as well as career numbers, for the 2016 season. 

Red Bull Straight Rhythm rider list: In two weeks the Nations will be over and this will be the next big race on your calendar. Then you'll wonder who’s racing. Wonder no more—here's the list.

Motocross of Nations, day one: Austin White is over in France for Racer X Films and filmed a look at Team USA testing earlier this week. 

With experience on the big stage and another national championship, Jeremy Martin is a favorite in the MX2 class.
With experience on the big stage and another national championship, Jeremy Martin is a favorite in the MX2 class. photo: Rice

USA!!! USA!!!! USA!!!! (Matthes)

Well, folks, we’ve made it. We’re here in Ernee (still looking for Bert), France, for the annual Motocross of Nations. Jason Thomas and I are hanging out in an impossibly small hotel room where the two beds may as well be one and where we’re struggling to get some ice in our drinks. 

We went down to the track today to get our passes and attend the press conference. Once there we briefly looked at the track (looks prepped great but a tad narrow) and listened to the powers that be at Youthstream and the FIM tell us that the 2016 MXoN is in Maggiora, Italy; Glen Helen in 2017; then two of Holland, Matterly Basin, or Germany for 2018 and 2019, then Maggiora in 2020, and then somewhere in France for 2021. Giuseppe Luongo, the czar of YS, mentioned that he thinks the Motocross of Nations needs to be in France every five years.

From then on it the individual teams were introduced one by one. Team USA manager Roger DeCoster said his riders are the best, they piss excellence, and no one else stands a chance….

Well, not really, but he did say France is going to be tough to beat, but he likes his team’s chances. 

Jeremy Martin spoke about how he feels more at ease at this race because he knows what to expect. Justin Barcia says he’s tired of getting seconds and thirds at this race and wants to win, while Cooper Webb…well, I really didn’t hear much of his short answer because I was talking to retired GP great Josh Coppins (who was actually asked to join Ben Townley and Cody Cooper for Team New Zealand!). 

I touched base with Marvin Musquin, who told me his hand wasn’t 100 percent last week at the USGP, so that’s why he pulled off in the second moto, but that he’s fine now. Dean Wilson told me he brought the “Macklemore haircut” to the USA in 2012 and everyone laughed at him, but now everyone has it. Evgeny Bobryshev told me he’s coming to SoCal in December to ride and train this off-season and we spoke about renting houses. I spoke with Jeremy Albrecht about visiting Normandy sites yesterday and how gnarly that is. 

So tomorrow morning, practice begins, followed by the qualifier races that set your gate pick for the motos and eliminate some countries from the A final (it’s been fun, Greece!). The whole weekend moves pretty briskly. It’s over before you know it. 

I’ll type some more up tomorrow night with some thoughts after the qualifiers, but in talking to some guys and thinking about the situation, I can’t see how the top three aren’t France, USA, and Great Britain in some order, with France and USA being favorites. Obviously Belgium is always strong here, and they could sneak onto the podium, but this race is France’s to lose, with the USA slightly behind them. But as I’ve seen many times, anything can happen at this race, even with a dropped score, so we’ll have to wait. Just promise me that no matter what goes down, you’re not going to get on a message board and argue about what country is the best at motocross, mmmmmkay?

Cooper Webb jumps up to the 450 for this outing. Will his results be similar to the USGP?
Cooper Webb jumps up to the 450 for this outing. Will his results be similar to the USGP? photo: Rice

PRO PERSPECTIVE (Jason Thomas) 

Bonjour from France! I just got back from the track on this Friday evening and watched the team press conferences. As the track festivities have wrapped for the day, many of the riders will be either eating dinner in their campers or wandering the streets of nearby Rennes in search of sustenance. The nerves will surely be building now as the buzz of the weekend is in full swing. There is so much anticipation and expectation for this event—it truly is unique in the sport. It’s the only event where the entire American moto industry is united in one effort to help our boys succeed. Representatives from various companies cooperate on unparalleled levels to make the team look and perform at its peak. The teams themselves also have to work together to coordinate a test on Thursday and get all of Team America on the same page for the weekend. It simply has a different level of camaraderie than seen at any other motocross event worldwide.

The American riders will still be fighting jet lag pretty heavily at this point. They will have a tough time sleeping through the night and will have the midday lethargy that jet lag inevitably brings. They will be on a different format than usual, adding a second day and much, much more riding than they are accustomed to. I think it plays into the Americans' favor in this case, though, as none of them have ridden the Ernee course before and will surely benefit from extra track time.

Tomorrow's qualifying will be somewhat meaningless in the overall results scheme, but I do think it plays a significant mental role. In my past three years of coming to the MXoN in Europe, America has struggled in the timed qualifying sessions on Saturday. They simply haven't come out and looked like the winning team. I think that creates a bit of doubt in their heads long before Sunday's racing. For example, at Teutschenthal in 2013, Ryan Dungey lost to Brett Metcalfe in the twenty-five-minute qualifying race on Saturday. He was in striking distance the entire time but simply couldn't do anything with Metty. This isn't a shot at Metcalfe, but when was the last time Dungey wasn't able to beat Brett Metcalfe at an outdoor event—Southwick in 2010 and 2011 maybe? Those are really the only times I can recall. Yet there, at the most prestigious event on the motocross calendar, Dungey was unable to catch or pass Brett for twenty minutes. That had to create some doubt leaving the track on Saturday evening for Dungey. Was Dungey off his normal pace, or did Brett just have a superb moto? Looking back, we know that Dungey was just struggling, as he did again on Sunday. That same theme played out again in 2014 in Riga, Latvia. Dungey never found his rhythm and struggled again in the results column compared to what we had grown to expect.

This scenario is what I’m hoping the American team can avoid tomorrow. I’m hoping they can come out swinging, find the pace right away, build confidence, and carry that into Sunday's motos. A great start to the weekend can get the snowball rolling downhill and keep everyone in the right frame of mind. It just might be the difference between winning and losing. 

Less than forty-eight hours from now, one of the thirty-seven countries participating this weekend will be crowned victorious.
Less than forty-eight hours from now, one of the thirty-seven countries participating this weekend will be crowned victorious. photo: Sarah Gutierrez

FACTORY SUZUKI IN AUSTRALIA (Chase Stallo)

Some big news dropped in Australia this morning, with MotoOnline.com.au reporting that Suzuki Australia will close the factory Motul Suzuki operation at the end of the 2015 Australian Supercross Championship. The team, operated by Jay Foreman Racing, has been a big part of Australian SX and MX for the past two decades, winning four motocross and six supercross titles with Matt Moss, Chad Reed, and more. From the article:

“Suzuki is not stepping away from off-road racing all together,” national marketing manager Lewis Croft said. “On the contrary this decision will allow us to initiate new marketing programs which will see an increase in the number of RM-Z motorcycles in competition, thus ensuring the brand awareness of RM-Z motorcycles remains foremost in the mind of the consumer.”

Matt Moss, who won the 2013 and 2014 MX1 Australian Motocross Championship and double SX1 Australian Supercross Championships with the team, will not be affected by the move. According to the site, Moss signed a deal with an undisclosed team prior to the Australian Supercross Championship.

"Next year is very secure," Moss told MotoOnline.com.au. "I’ve done my deal for next year and I’m really looking forward to the year that’s ahead. I think we’ve got everything in place and I will definitely be ready to take after that championship next year. I know that [the team] has a great structure behind them, great people, so I’m really looking forward to 2016."

Jessy Nelson made history last weekend when he won the USGP.
Jessy Nelson made history last weekend when he won the USGP. photo: Spencer Owens

JESSY NELSON’S RECORDS (András Hegyi)

Jessy Nelson is the first American since Mike Brown in 2000 to become a GP winner with a sweep. The 21-year-old Nelson had never won an AMA National, but at Glen Helen he became the thirty-sixth American GP winner in the FIM Motocross World Championship. Also, along with Ryan Villopoto and Thomas Covington, he became the third American GP winner this season. It is the first time since 1994 three American riders have won a GP. In the history of Grand Prix, this is the fifteenth year that at least three American riders got GP wins. Before 1994 and 2015, it happened in 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992. The record season was 1992, when seven Americans won GPs.

Here are some other stats behind Nelson’s win: 

—Third American GP Winner in MX2. 

—Besides Zach Osborne and Thomas Covington, Nelson is the third American GP winner in MX2.

—First American GP winner at Glen Helen. Five USGPs have been held at Glen Helen, but the American national anthem wasn't played in 1990, 1991, 1992, 2010, or 2011.

—Among thirty-six American GP winners, Nelson is the twentieth to sweep the GP. Other Americans with double-moto wins are Mike Brown, Marty Smith, David Bailey, Mark Barnett, Brad Lackey, Danny LaPorte, Ron Lechien, Billy Liles, Donnie Hansen, Micky Dymond, Trampas Parker, Donny Schmit, Jeff Stanton, Kent Howerton, Broc Glover, Ricky Johnson, Marty Moates, Johnny O’Mara, and Rodney Smith. Donny Schmit has the most sweeps, with five. In addition, Schmit got also three triple-moto wins. (In the 1990s, there were seasons where the GPs consisted of three motos.) Before Nelson, Mike Brown was the last American to get double-moto wins. Brown swept the 125cc GP of Germany, the last round in 2000.

—Nelson is the seventeenth American rider to win a GP on home soil. Preceding him were Marty Moates, Chuck Sun, Danny Chandler, Broc Glover, David Bailey, Ricky Johnson, Ron Lechien, Marty Tripes, Kent Howerton, Johnny O’Mara, Bob Hannah, Jeff Stanton, Kevin Windham, Marty Smith, Mark Barnett, and Erik Kehoe. 

List of American Double-Moto Wins

Donny Schmit 

1990, 125cc: GP of Italy, France, Switzerland, and Portugal 
1991, 125cc: GP of the Netherlands

Ricky Johnson

1986, 500cc: GP of the USA
1987, 250cc: GP of the USA
1988, 250cc: GP of the USA
1989, 250cc: GP of the USA 

Mike Brown

2000, 125cc: GP of Croatia, Luxembourg, and Germany

Trampas Parker

1989, 125cc: GP of Italy and Czechoslovakia
1995, 500cc: GP of Germany 

Jeff Stanton

1990, 250cc: GP of the USA
1991, 250cc: GP of Japan 

Marty Smith 

1975, 125cc: GP of the USA
1976, 125cc: GP of the USA

Billy Liles

1990, 500cc: GP of the Netherlands 

David Bailey

1985, 500cc: GP of the USA 

Mark Barnett

1981, 125cc: GP of the USA

Brad Lackey 

1980, 500cc: GP of Austria 

Danny LaPorte

1982, 250cc: GP of the Netherlands

Ron Lechien 

1989, 500cc: GP of the USA

Don Hansen

1982, 250cc: GP of Sweden

Kent Howerton 

1980, 250cc: GP of the USA

Broc Glover

1978, 125cc: GP of the USA

Micky Dymond

1986, 125cc: GP of Brazil

Marty Moates

1980, 500cc: GP of the USA

Johnny O'Mara 

1982, 125cc: GP of Switzerland

Rodney Smith 

1987, 250cc: GP of Argentina 

Jessy Nelson

2015, MX2: GP of the USA

List of American Triple-Moto Wins 

Donny Schmit

1992, 250cc: GP of Italy and Germany
1993, 250cc: GP of Hungary

Billy Liles 

1992, 500cc: GP of Great Britain 

Jeff Stanton

1992, 250cc: GP of the USA 

HEADLINES OF THE WEEK

Meet the female motocross rider who wants to represent Iran - CNN 

Brian Deegan Lands Some Good Blows at Fight under the Lights 

HEY, WATCH IT!

FMF Racing and Yamaha have teamed up to launch a four-part series following Team USA at the 2015 Motocross of Nations in Ernee, France. United by Power will follow the Americans as they travel to France and battle the top teams in the world. Check out the teaser below.  

Take a lap around Ernee: 

PULP LINKS

Troy Boy talks to privateer hero Dusty Pipes on his long, hard climb to main event guy HERE

Swizcore talks about Josh Grant and his big race at the USGP HERE

RANDOM NOTES

Okay, training facilities are all the rage in the amateur motocross ranks, and riders seem to identify with where they ride more than the teams for whom they ride. These are the gangs of motocross.

And what do gangs do? They fight! We’re going to let them do it at the first Racer X-sponsored Motocross Training Facility/Camp Shootout! This will be a team race. We’re not sure who’s showing up yet, but we want to see the MTFs versus the GPFs and the Moto X compounders versus the SoBs (that’s South of the Border, people) and whatever other top-fight facilities send riders attend. They’ll all tangle in a Motocross des Training Facilities. 

It happens October 11, 2015, the Sunday of the twenty-eighth annual Suzuki Top Gun Showdown (October 9–11) at Muddy Creek Raceway—Blountville, Tennessee

Why should a training facility participate?

  • We’ll provide national exposure with big coverage of the winning facility on this website and with a feature story in Racer X Illustrated
  • The Racer Xchampionship trophy
  • Special reserved facility/camp group parking
  • A full page ad, freeto the winning facility/camp
  • Afree facility/camp display/vending area at the Tennessee Pro National

FORMAT: Five riders accumulate points for their facility/camp. Racers can race multiple classes, but only their best overall score in one class will count.

RULES: No pro licensed riders will be allowed. Riders must have been enrolled and training at the facility at least thirty days in the past nine months.

TIE BREAKER: The rider who scores the best in the biggest classes. The number of riders that are in the class.

CLASSES NOT ELIGIBLE: All D Beginner classes, 50cc Multi-Speed, ATVs, Girls 12-16 years, Unlimited C/D, 55+, and 60+

We will provide each training facility/camp a reserved designated parking area, plus we will provide each facility/camp two free weekend passes. Each facility/camp can bring as many riders as they want. The overall scores from their fastest five riders (in the Sunday race) will count for the championship. The event will have a Friday practice day, a Saturday AMA Pro-Am race with all classes, then (the main event) another AMA Pro-Am race with all classes on Sunday. The Sunday race will determine the facility/camp championship.

Only the winning facility/camp name will be announced and promoted. This is winner-take-all—second place or last place or any other place isn’t even going to get the same level of coverage, so these teams need to bring it. 

Why? Well, competition is fun. But the folks at Muddy Creek want to start working with the training facilities/camps and show that they provide good, competitive racing and fun events that their riders will enjoy attending. The big trend these days is for riders to live and train at the facility but rarely ever actually race an event outside the major amateur championships. Maybe this event can push the trend in the other direction. It will be fun, and that should matter. Heck, they’ve even set up some crazy stuff off the track, like the Pepsi Barbie Car Downhill Race, a Dunlop Team Pit Bike Race, an FMF Wheelie Contest, inflatables for the children, and Moto Tees Moto Bingo. Bottom line, it’s racing the way it should be: a good time with your friends. We hope this works!

Next weekend, the GOAT, Ricky Carmichael, is having a ride day in Brooksville, Florida, in conjunction with the forest service to promote state-owned off-road areas. Details are below; make sure to check it out. 

Gate is open from 8 a.m.–5p.m.

Fees:
Included in Annual OHV Permit
Day-Permit Rider: $15
All Spectators: $2

Ricky’s Schedule:
9:45–10:00 Intro
10:00–11:00 Ride #1 
11:30–12:30 Autographs
12:45–1:30 Ride #2

Pack a lunch!

Visit: www.rickycarmichael.com 

Okay, folks, that’s it. Get your patriotic gear on and set those alarm clocks early. Moto one takes place Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. Eastern time (go here for the full viewing schedule and information. Good luck to all the teams. We’re sure there will be much to talk about next week! 

Thanks for reading. See you next week.