Today will see the start of the biggest, most prestigious amateur finals of all, the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Since 1982, the best amateur motocross riders in the world have gathered on the fields of Loretta Lynn, the beloved country music legend. There they will find a racetrack untouched by any motocross bike since this time last year, as the fields are shut down for motorcycles and given back to Loretta’s horses.
Since then there was a very deep flood in this part of the country that swamped the ranch and put the track under ten feet of water. All of the old soil washed away, and with it went all of the debris, discarded tear-offs and sawdust left over from 28 summer classics. It was replaced by river-bottom soil and sand washed up in the floods.
When the riders—1406 of them, in a total of 35 classes—ran practice today, this is what they found. Marc Peters of Petersbuilt Tracks once again worked his magic on the terrain for the riders. They will race for three long motos in each class, likely under a very hot sun, from Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m. sharp until Saturday afternoon. You can follow all of the action with our live timing and scoring by clicking this link.
The long start is a staple of the event, though it was not tilled up deep today for practice. This morning, though, this will be six inches of soft, horsepower-robbing loam that is meant to separate the large packs.
The first corner is a very long and wide right with two different apex points. It is worked on before every moto as it also serves as the frontage for the Yamaha mechanics area.
The first left is a cool one—literally. It’s back in the woods where the riders who compete in the afternoon motos will find themselves with a little bit of shade.
There’s another left that takes the riders out of the woods, then a right down a short but rough straight that is filled with breaking bumps. This is also where our own David Pingree dropped Kenny Yoho when they were Schoolboy riders and ended up in big trouble with the race officials.
A wide sweeping left follows, and it is also chock full of braking bumps. It leads into a big right-hand hairpin with a stutter-step jump on the inside, and a big banked berm to the outside.
That lines the riders up for the single most famous obstacle in the amateur motocross world, the Ten Commandments. The riders were launching through them today, especially from the outside bank, but as the laps and motos and days go on, this will became a very rough section to navigate.
At the end of the Ten Commandments come a pair of S turns. The first is a hairpin right, followed by a left hook. Each have a mound on the inside, and they are also now covered in white sand like much of the rest of the track.
On the exit of the S turns the riders go out a section and long rollers, also staggered in size. The whoops have definitely slowed down since Max Anstie cartwheeled here a couple years ago on his KTM Super Mini!
A new section added last time was another short excursion back into the woods. To enter you have a dragon’s back step-up, angled on a corner right. Then it’s straight back to another big, banked hairpin left. Why all the banked turns? It widens the line selection and gives riders of all caliber options. The inside may be shorter, the outside may be faster, but both will be rougher as the week goes on.
Leave the trees, make a left 90-degree and the rhythm section is next. Four jumps, followed by a mellow tabletop that the riders can either get up on when they land their combos, or take as a stand-alone at the end, this can be a tricky section.
Deep sand follows in the next corner. Our friend Sarah Price blew a Women’s class title that she had in the bag here when she got herself cross-rutted in this section in the third and final moto, reminding us that, as Yogi Berra once said, it ain’t over until it’s over!
Another combo jump: Riders can either jump the gap (except for PWs) and land on the plateau or try to go for the whole section in one leap.
Here’s where it gets rough and even more interesting. The deep sand in this long, rolling lefthand sweeper offers a whole bunch of lines—usually rougher if they are to the left and inside. It is followed by a left 90 which will also have a lot of lines, but with a lot of ruts!
This was a new obstacle last year: A massive, man-made off-camber left with three distinct lines: High and short on the inside, faster but longer on the middle ground, and then a big, wide swoosh around the outside, but it’s much more real estate.
Once the lines all come back together, it’s another man-made, multi-line challenge for the riders: A hairpin that goes up, with a bank of the outside, then further up with the peak. Swing it wide and try to clear it, or stay inside and hit it quick, bounce the top, and then throttle down the mound fast.
The camelback jump follows. It made its debut last summer and was a big hit with the riders, though traditionalists were sad to see the old tabletop go. But modern equipment meant that pretty much everyone was clearing it, whether they were on a 450 or an 85, so here’s what Peters came up with.
Here’s the big wide right sweeper that’s been a part of the track since the very first Loretta Lynn’s way back in 1982. The all-time memory here? James Stewart, absolutely wide open on the outside on his KX80s, standing on the pegs, letting it scream the whole way around!
Deep chop follows the little drop-off after the sweeper, then it’s a flat, slick hairpin right and then the finish-line combo.
The jumps that lead to the finish line are not that big, but they are complicated in that they get beat up pretty good every day, plus there’s changes in the light as the sun moves across the middle Tennessee sky, making for some long shadows.
The riders are counted at the Red Bull structure that is the finish line, and then they hit a long ramp that goes into a seven-jump combo that is on a fading left angle, meaning the riders can jump through any one of several combos, but they always have to be using body English to keep the bike moving to the left and not bounce off the track.
A deep right follows, then the riders go back across the starting line in front of the famous Loretta Lynn’s billboard, with another funky left that Peters built which offers a shorter inside off-camber and a longer flat line around the outside.
Finally, the riders go in to the deep sand in front of the Yamaha mechanics’ area, which was extremely choppy today as the river-bottom sand on that part of the track rutted up with every passing class. Then its back onto the start-area’s first turn and that’s a Racer X iLap around Loretta Lynn’s!