Last week we asked you to ask anything of our esteemed editor-at-large Steve Matthes. Here are your best questions and his best answers.
Willy Mansilla A
If Barcia doesnt put a good year, does he calls it quit?
C’mon, Willy, no way. He’s still very young and a very good rider. However, this is a huge year for him to prove that he’s still an elite rider and get back onto the factory team gravy train. Without a doubt, he can do that with good rides.
Hey, a couple of years ago Josh Grant was completely done with the sport, raced Daytona in a one-off ride for fun and then got a fill-in ride on factory Kawasaki and he’s back in a big way. So, knowing that, I’m positive that Barcia’s privateer status can be just a temporary thing for him.
BC n YA
Steve, we all know you really liked the idea of a Chase Format in Supercross... are you disappointed at the changes that were made to the SX series? What else would you have changed to help make our sport better?
I wasn’t all about the Chase; I just wanted to see changes and a Chase would be a good start in my opinion. I’m not disappointed with the changes that Feld announced, you’ve got to start small, I suppose, and make small steps. I know plenty of people want to talk about Bob Hannah, 45-minute motos and the sanctity of the sport but this just in: we’re in the entertainment business and need to do just that. Runaways are great for the one rider and team but not great for the sport. So, giving us more mains at three races and shortening up the races in two of them is a good thing.
We also need more riders and teams to stick around so I would’ve left the 250SX class at one single main (another question for another column is why are we are moving toward making the 250SX class its own standalone series with awarding of national points, changing the rules to let riders stay down there, and yet still treating it like a regional series?) and implemented a B main for 450SX guys at those races because privateers are going to get squeezed out with three main events. Having a short LCQ-type of main for the riders that didn’t make the show allows the spotlight to be shone on some others.
I enjoyed the USGP at WW Ranch. I couldn't find any numbers for spectator turnout. What's your take on it? Guesstimation?
No idea, I was on the other side of the track but I think I saw a Youthstream press release and they said 450,000 people were there, so go with that.
The only debate about 2-stroke vs 4-stroke is the HP advantage. Why is the AMA not allowing equal HP machines? This could be easily solved. Either drop the displacement advantage or maybe allow 150s and 300s? I can ride a 250 2-stroke in the 250 class at LL, why not pro racing? If 2-strokes suck so bad, then why are they scared to do it?
Oh boy, here we go. As we’ve explained over and over and over you can’t have your partners—i.e. the OEMs that have dumped millions of dollars into your sport and had to spend tons of extra money to convert to four-strokes because the 1990s AMA rules made it so—getting upset that they have to race against a machine that is an advantage (which a two-stroke would be in some conditions) when they no longer sell or develop them. Three of your partners do not sell two-strokes anymore so you have to be very careful not to upset them by making an equal displacement rule—go look at AMA road racing if you want to see what happens when you jack with the teams. Series became a ghost town for factories.
You want to blame anyone for no two-strokes, blame the AMA for being clueless about the possibilities of thumpers and setting the cc limits so high. Think about how things would look right now if the AMA had set the cc limit for four-strokes at 300cc’s instead of the insane 550 that it was at back in the 1990s?
And have you seen bike sales lately? It’s not exactly easy for the Japanese companies to just build a new motorcycle to whatever CC’s you want the new rules to be. Bikes are planned five years or more in advance and with motocross bike sales down, they’re not exactly pumped to dump even more money in to retool the line of bikes. Vicious cycle we have here.
If someone were about to shoot Tim Ferry and Pookie and you had to choice to be able to spare one of their lives, who would you save?
Interesting question. I think I would save Pookie because as we’ve seen over and over, when someone dies young they sort of turn into legends and as well, honored over and over. So, by dying, Tim Ferry could, I think, elevate his status in the eyes of everyone. Is it scary that I’ve worked this all out?
Steve: With the Boomers knocking on heaven's door, Generation X getting older, and Generation Y too busy playing with cell phones, how long will MX survive? Could it be that the explosion of the sport in the late 90s and early 00s was a perfect storm of demographics, a good economy, and Jeremy McGrath? Could it be that the sport peaked and bike sales and local race turnouts will never be what they were? If so, will the industry survive?
The people in the pits will tell you that all I ever do is complain so you might be surprised to know that when it comes to all the things you talk about, I believe we’ll be fine. Now, on the negative side, I’ll also tell you that we will never be NASCAR, we will never blow up as a sport, and we are what we are. Teams come in, teams leave, and things stay steady as a niche sport. Hey, if getting supercross into X Games, being on Jay Leno and ESPN didn’t do it, then probably nothing will.
Now, back to positive Steve. All the things you mentioned are an issue but we also went through some tough times in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s and survived that era just fine. Bike sales ARE better than where they were during the worst of the recession (although not where they were before that), and the sport of supercross and motocross make too much money for the promoters to just go away. We’ll be fine, Frank, but don’t look for us on the front page of ESPN.com anytime soon.
Ok Steve. What is going on with the Stewarts? I understand Js7 wanting time with wife and son but Mookie should have done straight rhythm on a two-stroke, and maybe even JS7 should have, too. I believe JS7 and RC are the most gifted riders on a two-stroke.
I don’t know, bro. About a month ago I put in a call with someone in the Stewarts’ inner circle and was told that Malcolm had nothing and the Ride365.com team he was on last year was an option still but it wasn’t looking good. In the meantime, Mookie turned down the MEC, Red Bull Straight Rhythm, and overseas races because he just couldn’t get everything sorted. I was also told that nothing is going on with James, he’s golfing and being a dad.
But … wait! Good Gahd, that’s James Stewart Sr.’s music! Now I hear that Big James has been trying to get something going with both brothers on their own team. That was a while ago and I’ve heard nothing since. Malcolm showed legit speed last year in the 450SX class and I would think he could get something, but I guess not.
As far as your most gifted riders on a two-stroke comment, I’ll take James Stewart as the most gifted rider to ever ride a dirt bike, two-stroke, four-stroke or whatever you want. He was amazing at times and although it didn’t work out for as many titles as expected, he’s still the second-winningest rider in AMA history.
I've attended outdoor nationals for a few decades now. The past few years I've been utilizing the all-day pit pass. While in the pits I simply attempt to observe the operations and interactions of the teams. There appears to be a vast differences across the teams. There seems to be so many sources of input i.e. Team manager, mechanic, suspension tech, man friends, parents, sponsors, medical personnel and technology. To sort through the madness and remain focused on the task at hand, how detailed are the race weekend strategies that are prepared in advance and do they include plans for determining non-beneficial input?
Thanks for the insight. Enjoy the off-season!
Good question. I can tell you that what you’re talking about is an issue for the team managers in the pits. As the salary of a rider rises, the more people they have hanging around them offering up advice. It’s up to the rider to filter through the gear guy who is offering advice on lines as opposed to the manager who is actually experienced and was watching the film of practice. The parents, the spouses/girlfriends, goggles guys, etc. mean well but they often don’t really know how it works and can just confuse a rider.
Some people have it on a bike, you and I do not. My best finish was fifth in a local C grade race in Perth Western Australia, age 35. What was your best finish in a race and how old were you when your racing career peaked? Matt Perkins
Well, thanks Matt for shitting on all my racing accomplishments but in a way, you’re right. I never made it. I realized that my desire to go faster was limited by my skill and equaled injuries. Tons of them, in fact. From 1990 to 1995 I partially tore my ACL, tore my rotator cuff, broke an arm, tore a thumb ligament, cracked a pelvis, and probably something else in there I forgot. I was 22 years old when I realized the dream was over and it was time to try to do something inside the motocross world other than ride. I did score points in a Canadian National moto a couple of times, though, won one pro moto locally, and of course, I have four Manitoba titles (missed a fifth by two points).
If ALTA was homologated THIS YEAR and had a legit rider--say Justin Hill etc.--> would they get a SX win in the Lites class?
Well, I have to take my advice from people that really know the Alta well and have raced at a high level, like, say, Kris Keefer, and he says no, they couldn’t win—right now. In the future though, maybe. I’ll tell you what, I rode one a couple of weeks ago at Comp Edge and had a blast. At my size, the thing was more than powerful enough on map 4 that I wanted nothing to do with it and stuck with map 3. It was SO much fun, so easy to ride, and I can absolutely see them being a factor in pro racing in the future. That is, IF the other OEMs play nice.
Steve, from one Canadian to another, can we talk about SX on TV in Canada? I'm sure there is some simple “Canadian broadcasters don't wanna pay Fox” blah blah blah. But if you could give us, your homeland, some direction on how we could push our frustration to convince the cable providers to provide the races, or help us convince Supercross online to allow us to purchase the online package! I know I know, we can pick up a VPN, change our address to Iran and then purchase the races online. That's fine and dandy for diehards like me, but you sure ain't gonna get any new fans!
Cheers! Long live Gord Downey!
Yes, RIP, Gord. A truly talented and amazing human being. I get your question a lot from Canadians and I guess that’s because I’m the token Canadian guy that can actually get an answer for you people, so I get it. It’s a brutal situation. When I talk to the VIPs they tell me it’s a Fox Sports protection issue as in, Fox Sports has the Canadian rights but then there is no Fox Sports in Canada! It’s a circle of ridiculousness for SX fans who want to watch. I can’t believe that we’re two or three years in now and no one can figure this out. Trust me, the folks at Feld WANT you to be able to watch supercross and Canadians are a victim of shoddy Canadian network program plans and no one at Fox caring enough to look into it. Sad!
If JB 51 comes on your show he will turn his career around. Look what it did for Hanny. He almost won Straight Rhythm. Can you make an attempt to contact him through his friends? Once you complete this task we will talk about RC and Jason Andersen.
So you’re saying that Hanny, two years or so after burying his beef with me and coming on the show, finally got karma for that two weeks ago? C’mon, Mike, that’s a bit of a stretch but I’ll go with it I suppose. Look, I can’t control these guys and their hurt feelings and I feel the criticisms I’ve laid at their feet have been nothing but fair insofar as Barcia’s had his struggles with injuries and not riding well while he was being paid like a title contender (although I picked him to challenge RV for the supercross title a few years ago) and Anderson has done some riders pretty dirty over the last few years (but I’ve also defended some moves others said were too aggressive) but these two guys are upset at me.
All I can do, and continue to do, is call it like I see it. Sometimes I’ll be wrong, but I owe it to my readers and listeners to offer up an opinion. Most MX media love the riders and don’t cover this sport like a “real” sport and would rather just have all the riders like them. I’m just trying to offer up both sides of a story. Judging by the growing number of listeners on the Racer X Podcast show and Pulpmx Show, lots of you like what we’re doing so if a few riders can’t understand that making millions being a professional athlete opens you up for fair criticism then what can I do?
Why don't the factory teams lease out race bikes? Like how NASCAR does it. Like Yamaha leasing a bike to 5150 Yamaha for a certain amount a race. Where the only thing you could touch is mapping and clickers.
Hey Matt, some guys will do just that IF you meet their criteria. Kawasaki offered up Chad Reed just about anything he wanted when he rode green for TwoTwo Motorsports back in the day but he only took wheels and transmissions I believe. Honda told Mike Genova he could lease a works bike for Chad if he managed to get him on the team for this year. More and more factories will do that in these tight times if the rider and/or team meets their approval. But of course, the costs are crazy high which stops a lot of the discussions right there.
Does Ronnie Mac's 98' CR250 being competitive against brand new factory two-strokes say anything about the evolution of two-stroke technology-->or lack thereof?
I don’t think so. I mean it’s a straight line and what really changed on two-strokes from, say, 1994, to 2004 when they all had them? I will say that Mac’s CR sounded really good and he did get the jump out of the gate on a lot of his competitors so his bike was definitely fast. To me, a ’98 CR’s weakness was cornering with the super stiff aluminum frame so this RBSR was right in it’s wheelhouse.
Where's Alan King from Team Tamm fame?
Good question. He’s in Michigan building houses I guess. What never gets enough press was King winning Hangtown in 1984 on a privateer bike in the 250 class. That was an amazing win back then against Lechien, Hannah, Liles, Barnett, and Johnson (on production bike). Years ago a reader asked him if he would do a podcast with me and reportedly he said no, so I guess he’s got no desire to talk about his MX career.