Welcome to Racerhead, and Happy Halloween to everyone out there. This has become something of a Pagan holiday, and every year costumes seem to get better and better. So be on the lookout for little Evel Knievels, Travis Pastranas, Jeremy McGraths, Ricky Carmichaels, and Li'l Ds as Hooters waitresses…
Racing-wise, there’s the big Dubya Vet World Championships already underway out at Glen Helen. This event has become a great big reunion-type race with a lot of motocross folks from all over the world attending, from some very fast legends to the rank-and-file local vet buddies on a big boys’ road trip. I was out there last week for the last REM race of the year, the Octobercross, and got to visit with Tom White, Frank and Myra Thomason, and course designer Jody Weisel. It was a really good day at the races, and Jody gave everyone a preview of the course he was setting up for this weekend. We also ran into Travis Preston, who’s back in California full-time, and got to see some fast guys—both young (Carson Mumford, Sean Cantell, Ryan Surratt) and old (everyone else)—and it made really me wish I was going back out this weekend to ride!
After traveling back East midweek, I came into the office and stepped right into a small mess. A post had gone up on Vital MX about the passing of Merlyn Plumlee, the former Honda road racing team manager, and I clicked on the story and read through it and was very sorry to read the news, then asked Chase Stallo to post the link on Racer X Online. Turns out it really wasn’t news—Merlyn had passed several years ago—but the story popped up again on a widely read road racing site, so people (myself included) began passing it on. I quickly got a call from a couple of good friends at American Honda explaining the mistake, and we pulled it down and posted my apologies for making a freshman mistake. I am truly sorry that I did not investigate that whole deal better.
So with that, I am benching myself for the rest of this Racerhead. Let me turn it over to Chase Stallo, with news from Europe.
HERLINGS STAYING PUT (Chase Stallo)
There was some news that dropped this week in Europe: Jeffrey Herlings is staying put. The Sandman agreed to a new deal with Red Bull KTM that will keep him on the brand through 2017. Herlings has been with the team since 2010, amassing forty-three Grand Prix wins and two MX2 World Championships during that time. He will vie for his third title in 2015 in MX2, but the question everyone has when he will move up to the MXGP class. I reached out to Racer X Contributor and On Track Off Road Editor and FIM MXGP correspondent Adam Wheeler this morning for some insight:
“KTM surprised the motocross community this week by tying Jeffrey Herlings to the factory Red Bull team for another two years, meaning the most sought after rider in Grand Prix racing will be on SX machinery (250, 350, or 450) for 2016 and 2017. There was always a good chance that Herlings would stay with KTM considering the way Pit Beirer, Stefan Everts, Ruben Tureluren, and the entire crew have almost raised the 20-year-old since his early teens; Herlings came into Grand Prix as a 15-year-old and has grown in the public eye and in the confines of the race environment from Mattighofen (Austria). The double world champion is currently at the Red Bull rehab center in Salzburg, and it seems that Beirer has taken full advantage of the Dutchman’s presence in Austria to close the deal. Herlings would have had the choice of any team and virtually any terms for 2016 and beyond, and aside from the contract extension in 2013 that tied Tony Cairoli to KTM until the end of ’16, this is arguably the most important Grand Prix agreement with a single athlete we’ve seen in recent years.”
We tried to reach Jeffrey today but he was unavailable for comment.
So Herlings stays Orange. But where will he race? He has already stated that his decision to stay in MX2 for 2015 was his alone but fully supported by KTM who were understandably keen to keep control of the category they have ruled since 2008. It turned out to be not such a bad call considering the events that unfolded this season and the loss of his crown to teammate Jordi Tixier in the last laps of the championship. Depending on what happens in ’15, he is likely to head into the premier class, MXGP, and race in the same structure—if not the same side of the awning—as Cairoli and would augment further KTM’s presence on 350 and 450 technology in the division; and that’s not ruling out the job that Tommy Searle could do in 2015 on his return to Red Bull KTM."
LAST SERIES STANDING (Jason Weigandt)
Taddy Blazusiak is under attack! For years, the Polish Rocket has owned GEICO Endurocross to the tune of five titles, one perfect season, and more career wins than every other rider in the history of the series combined (go back and read that last stat again). But last year, finally, the pack started to close the gap. It was everyone's old favorite rider Mike Brown who put Taddy against the ropes, winning a few early races. He and Taddy went into the final round tied on points, and Blazusiak just escaped with another crown. As good as Brown is, though, the real threat was beginning to build through two young converts from trials riding, Colton Haaker and Cody Webb. As these two built speed and confidence, it was only a matter of time before they got to Taddy, and that time is now.
This season has been crazy, with Blazusiak, Webb, and Haaker sharing the wins and fighting over the points lead all season. Each has won two races. Brown and Taylor Robert started the season slow with injuries, but they're back in the mix to act as spoilers, with Robert winning the previous round. Just about every major American dirt bike title for 2014 is wrapped up, but these boys have two rounds remaining (Boise, Idaho, on November 15 and the finale in Ontario, California, on November 22). Webb, who we like to call the MasterBeta thanks to his factory Beta 300cc two-stroke, has a 7-point edge over Taddy right now. Can he hold on and end Blazusiak's five-year title streak? Can you imagine how much arm pump these dudes will have fighting over these tracks while a title hangs in the balance? It should be pretty cool. Endurocross.com has the details if you want to check out one of the rounds or learn more about these guys.
GNCC IS OVER (Weigandt)
Like I said, almost every major dirt bike series is now wrapped, with the AMSOIL GNCC Championship completing last Sunday at the Ironman. The AMA put out a press release today saying the race drew 2,300 riders, which is both ridiculous and an all-time record for GNCC. The previous record was set just a few weeks earlier when 2,078 riders raced at Unadilla. Why are these events so popular? Well, we could go on (this series is a sister company of Racer X, by the way) but I'm going to sum it up like this: If you race a GNCC, you know when your race will start, you know you'll race for either two or three hours (depending on your class) and then you'll go home tired and happy. Motocross racing requires as much sitting and waiting as it does racing, where these off-road events give you a heck of a lot of bang for your buck. You could show up at a GNCC at 8:30, sign up, race at 10, and be back on the road home by 12:30. That's efficient. With motocross, I also think there's a certain intimidation factor in a short race with jumps. One first-turn crash or one double you don't want to jump pretty much decides your day in a motocross. I personally remember sitting in the pits at a local motocross just being nervous all day waiting and waiting for my motos, but I don't think I ever got nervous before a GNCC. There, you know one tiny mistake wouldn't ruin everything, and you knew one big jump wasn't going to change your life (for better or worse).
We're seeing some other series work into hybrid mode, such as the J Day series in New England, which is a little bit different format than GNCC but still has off-road stuff. And they'll be holding a race at Southwick! The Full-Gas Sprint Enduro debuted a few weeks ago in South Carolina, which basically had six-minute sprint laps followed by a few minutes of rest/hangout time and then more laps. These are still off-road events, though. Somehow, somewhere, someone is going to figure out how to package a motocross-style race that can let everyone race a lot of laps in a short amount of time. I'm not sure how, but it's key. There's a reason so many riders now practice but no longer race. At a practice day, you show up when you want, ride as long as you want, and leave when you want. That's a whole lot better than sitting around all day waiting for your gate to drop. But for those with a competitive fire, practice isn't perfect. A few of these off-road series and events are combining the riding with the racing, and even in what's supposed to be a down time for bike sales, racing, and the economy, more riders than ever are showing up. Think about it.
OFF TO EUROPE (Chase Stallo)
Ryan Villopoto is headed to the FIM World Motocross Championship in 2015. The ten-time AMA Supercross and Motocross Champion recently made his first trip across the pond to meet with the team and Kawasaki brass. You can read his blog about the trip here.
RV and the team went through some suspension and hard parts, and he visited a few tracks in Germany, France, and Holland. Although he wasn’t expected to be back on the bike until November, Villopoto flew to Spain to have his knee examined by his doctor, who works for the Barcelona soccer team—one of the biggest clubs in the world. Everything checked out, and RV was cleared to do a bit of testing.
“I was pretty surprised with how good the bike was. I didn’t have to change anything,” he wrote. “I started off with my current setting and hard parts. After I rode once, I put on the team’s stuff and it was good straight out of the box. We ended up riding at a sand track in Germany. It wasn’t obviously the best track to ride for my first day back on the bike, as it’s hard to ride sand slow. So I had to ride a little more aggressively than I would have had we rode on a hard pack track. I was definitely sore after that, haha. But it was good to be back on the bike…”
Villopoto has some cool insight in his piece about the culture and some changes in his program. Make sure to give it a read.
2014 INTERNATIONAL SIX DAYS ENDURO (Jared Bolton)
Shortly after the conclusion of last weekend's finale at The Ironman GNCC (in fact, the next morning), there were a number of top riders already en route to Argentina for this year's International Six Days Enduro. This year's ISDE kicks off on Monday and runs through next week, with the finale happening next Saturday.
The main focus is on the World Trophy teams. Each country selects six riders to make up their World Trophy team. This year's American team is made up of former AMA 125 National Motocross Champion Mike Brown, who serves as team captain alongside Kailub Russell, Charlie Mullins, Thad Duvall, Taylor Robert, and Zach Osborne.
Just under the World Trophy teams are the Junior Teams for riders under 23 years old. The Junior Teams are made up of four riders, with this year's U.S. team being Steward and Grant Baylor, Trevor Bollinger, and Justin Jones—the son of three-time AMA 250 National Motocross Champion Gary Jones.
Both of these teams are arguably some of the best teams the U.S. has ever fielded, but the ISDE is a whole different breed of animal compared to what we're used to here in the States. The short sprint tests of the ISDE coupled with "weird" Euro-spec tires make things tough on American riders who are used to longer off-road events.
The USA has never been able to take a World Trophy win at the ISDE. However, all riders competing this year are no strangers to the format, and the team has grown stronger each year. It's definitely going to be interesting to watch it all unfold.
Good luck, men, and bring home some gold!
Our friend Michael Stusiak spotted a great story about a young racer with a rare ailment who is doing his best to keep riding and racing.
A few weeks back we ran a picture of #82 Ed Morse in 1990 at Foxboro Stadium for our bi-weekly trivia feature, Classic Pix. Ed's wife, Bonnie, saw the feature and sent us an update on Ed, who is still riding, and their son.
Thanks for allowing us to relive old memories. I remember being at the event like it was just a few short years ago. An update to share: our 15-year-old son began racing NESC last year 2013 as a novice. Won his class and moved up to amateur this year. He’s plugging along. As for Ed, after watching our son for one season, he dusted off his old ’92 Yamaha from his last race at Southwick and started riding again this season. He just wrapped up 1st place 40A class with NESC (#10) on his new YZ450. Loving getting back into the sport seeing old friends like John Dowd, Mike Treadwell, Billy Dill, Keith Johnson, David Rudnicki, etc. Thank you Racer X!!!!
Strung Out’s Jordan Burns was cleaning up his house and found an old photo of him from about twenty years ago, drumming away while wearing a Racer X T-shirt! The co-founder of Moto-XXX sent this note with the pic: “Time flies, man, and all these years later and I’m still a supporter! Thanks for all the love over the past man, many years!
Just got this from RedBud's Tim Ritchie, who was kidding... I think.
Just imagine, sponsor logos on custom round bail covers…
Tim is known for incorporating a heaping compost pile into RedBud's annual Grass Race, and if compost is a said by-product of this new invention... Well, local racers may be more involved in the event than ever.
The November issue of Trials & Enduro News is live and ready to read! In this issue, we take a look at the Red Bull City Trials in Manchester, England, as well as the Full Gas Sprint Enduro in South Carolina and the Denver EnduroCross. We also talk to Pat Smage about winning his seventh national MotoTrials championship and what his thoughts are on things like no-stop and riding in Europe. There’s also a cool story about trail riding in Michigan.
Michael "Rock" Rigdon's step-daughter made a drawing of the pop singer Lorde from New Zealand and gave it to here before a recent show in Los Angeles. Lorde apparently loved the drawing and posted it on all her social media. Pretty cool!
With Halloween tonight, we are calling all moto fans to send us their best moto related Halloween costumes. The best costume will receive a pair of Smith goggles. To enter, please send photos with the title “Halloween Contest” to email@example.com.
From our friend Timmie Bowman: My comment from Vintage MX Friends on FB, "Just sent a formal complaint to the Charlotte City Council. I noticed in todays Charlotte Observer newspaper several streets next to the stadium have been shut down because of tonight's game, yet they declined to allow the AMA the same necessity. The Panthers team and stadium owner want the supercross there. If you're a Carolina or Charlotte native please send your concern or complaint to city council."
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #45.
Finally, former Team Honda manager Wes McCoy forwarded me a link with an update on the Mickey and Trudy Thompson murder case and the convicted Mike Goodwin’s appeal of his double-life sentence. It’s way too deep to go into the nuances of the whole case, which began with the shotgun slayings of the Thompsons in their driveway in 1988 and then rolled into years of mystery and accusations against Goodwin, who had mysteriously disappeared aboard a yacht and then lived in Belize, which did not have an extradition treaty with the U.S…. And that’s just the beginning. Goodwin, who hosted the first Superbowl of Motocross in the Los Angeles Coliseum, is now 69 years old. According to his conviction, he has no chance for parole. Here’s the update.
And if you really want to know more about the actual killings and the background animosity between former business partners Thompson and Goodwin, or even the long crusade by Thompson’s sister to get justice for his family, well, no one has told it better or more even than this LA Weekly feature. If you have time, it’s an incredible story and the perfect way to spend your Halloween weekend.
That’s it for Racerhead, thanks for reading, Happy Halloween, see you at the races.