Welcome to Racerhead. We’re within a month of Anaheim and things are starting to get serious.
DC has gone missing for the day. Apparently he’s somewhere in Ohio doing something with his daughter Sloane. These are #offseasonproblems December represents both the last chance to get serious business done before the season begins, and also the last chance to do all the things you won’t get to do when the season begins, like stuff in Ohio on a Friday with your daughter. For the last few months, the industry has been able to relax a bit, because there was time to fix any problems. Now we’re getting to the point of no return. If bikes, parts, riding, fitness, and sponsors aren’t set by now, it’s on the verge of being too late to fix. We’re down to details, with teams completing their photo shoots and making small bike changes. Riders are hunkered down in boot camp, pushing through the last sets of big reps before they have to taper down to race day. Essentially, all business needs to be done by now.
That brings us back to one of the most puzzling off-season topics we’ve ever covered. James Stewart’s provisional suspension dates back to a failed anti-doping test back in April at the Seattle Supercross. Since the results were announced in June, he’s operated in a sort of purgatory, not sure what direction his career would go. His suspension didn’t apply to the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, and there was plenty of time for Anaheim. And yet, things are still not sorted. I called Jake Klingensmith from Yoshimura Suzuki on Tuesday for an update. James had a hearing in Europe back in October, and he was supposed to have an answer within thirty days of that. Those thirty days have come and gone with still no answer. Klingensmith heard they could get an answer today, but as of 5 p.m. Eastern, we’ve heard nothing.
Look, we know how all James Stewart stories go. Some of you are rooting for him to be penalized harshly and some want to see him cleared to race at Anaheim. It will always be polarizing with him. But I believe everyone feels James and his team should at least get an answer at all—good or bad. Throughout this off-season, the team has operated as if they’re going to be racing, still testing and training as usual. And in October and November, you can get away with that. But now it’s getting very late. This week, our staff worked on completing the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross souvenir yearbook—without knowing if James will be competing in the series. Feld Motorsports produced a trailer for the series promoting their new #whosnext tag—without knowing if James will be competing in the series. Suzuki was putting together their team photo shoot—without knowing if James will be competing in the series. Klingensmith said James has done a good job so far focusing on the riding, but I’ve got to think eventually this is going to be impossible to ignore as Anaheim gets closer and closer. Will he race or won’t he?
We know these things take time, but eight months is a lot of time. To give you an idea, just this week in the NFL, Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was suspended four games for presumably testing positive for addereall. Check this ESPN link to learn more about it—the video contains good analysis on the use of the drug.
The most telling thing is that Ngata got his punishment quickly. He didn’t have to go through eight months of waiting.
While James’ people wait, things are moving fast throughout the rest of the racing world. I talked to Eli Tomac this week as he was making the drive out from Colorado to California. The weather’s getting pretty frightful back home, and there’s more testing to do on his GEICO Honda. So far he’s happy with what he has. “I feel like I’m in a really good spot. I’m definitely in a better spot with my base bike settings, physically I feel better, I can get through my motos better. Everything is a lot better than last year," Tomac said.
Tomac was flying in recent off-season races in France and Italy. Due to an injury-plagued 2014 rookie 450 season, we didn’t see much from him, but expect much, much more this time.
The Monster Energy Kawasaki team also put together their photo shoot this week, and the new KXFs sure look sweet under Davi Millsaps and Wil Hahn. Man, what a supercross season we’re in for.
The Red Bull KTM team made a huge announcement just last night with their 2015 Factory Edition introduction. We already knew about the KTM riders, but we didn’t know exactly what they would be riding until now. Well, the Factory Edition bikes are radically different than the regular 2015 models. KTM claims the new 450 is a whopping ten pounds lighter than the previous bike, and the 250F is seven pounds lighter. To me, the bikes even resemble trials machines, as the engines and chassis are so compact. These are essentially 2016 production bikes rushed into order quickly under the high-dollar Factory Edition tag in order to meet AMA production rules. You will be able to buy them at your local KTM dealer, although they’re pricey. The retail price of the 250 SX-F Factory Edition is $9,299 while the 450 SX-F Factory Edition will retail for $10,199. Will they be a game changer for the likes of Dungey, Wilson, Short, and Brayton? Hill, Musquin, and the TLD boys? You can read more on this below.
This afternoon I cruised over to the Toyota/JGR Yamaha test track to check out the team’s 2015 photo shoot with Justin Barcia, Weston Peick, and Phil Nicoletti. Barcia is manic, man. Photo shoots are a bit of a slog with lots of waiting around, and Barcia sucks at waiting. He started ADDing his way around the place, goon riding like crazy. Then he started doing wheelies down a dirt road. Then standing seat wheelies. Then he tore off into the woods and blazed some trails, did some more wheelies and stoppies, and goon rides back on the SX track. The guy has energy to burn, but when it did get serious, my was he on point with his fast laps.
Over in Europe, the Geneva, Switzerland supercross is underway, and now with some bad news: Adam Cianciarulo’s return to racing has ended with a stretcher ride, and we fear he might have hurt the same shoulder that knocked him out of racing last year. We’re working with the European journos at MXVice.com to get more info. They’re onsite and filed this: "He flew off in the first rhythm section and hit the wall and was then taken off on a stretcher quite a while later. We have no idea on the severity of the injury, as a trip to the paddock resulted in conflicting reports."
Also competing over there is Malcolm Stewart, Marvin Musquin, Josh Hill, Kyle Chisholm, and Jimmy Decotis. Look for coverage of the race here next week.
2015 KTM FACTORY EDITION AND TEAM LAUNCH (Nick McCabe)
On Thursday afternoon, KTM North America hosted members of the press and media at its California headquarters. Located in the inland Empire of Temecula, KTM’s large industrial building serves as a beachhead for the sales and marketing arms of KTM North America. It also happens to be the home of KTM’s American factory racing program, which includes Roger DeCoster’s motocross and supercross program as well as all the various other off-road and desert racing efforts that the KTM factory supports.
Suffice to say, when I received the invite to the event, I felt like I had just received the Golden Ticket, just like Charlie Bucket in Roald Dahl’s classic story Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The first thing you see when walking in is a mock KTM dealer showroom, which includes most of the accessories and products that the company sells. In every corner of the building, there is cool memorabilia, posters, parts, and merchandise—as well as the occasional old race bike, decoratively lingering in a corner. The facility is state of the art, and the bright lights and shop benches resemble more of a modern hospital than a gritty race shop.
A further walk around shows that it is clear the Austrians have made a major investment in their American program. The place is a maze of engine-assembly rooms and bike-building workstations. But KTM had not invited the media out to look at memorabilia or bench race; we were there to learn about the new 2015 factory-edition motorcycles—and they are very big news.
The bikes are significantly redesigned and look quite different than the previous models. The big news for 2015 is that KTM is now offering a 250 version as well some significant weight loss in both models. The company has somehow managed to make a more compact and lighter motorcycle, which saves nearly ten pounds through a focus on mass centralization.
In addition to the launch of the new bikes, KTM also had the entire BTO Sports and Troy Lee designs teams in attendance, as well their 2015 team bikes. While KTM’s rider line-up has generally been known for the past few months, it was nice to see all the fresh 2015 race bikes.
In competitive motocross, KTM has come a long way in the last ten years. It is clear with the introduction of these models that they have a laser-like focus on making the best motocross bikes on the market, and they are one of the few OEMs who are willing to invest tens of millions of dollars to accomplish that goal while others are content to focus on bold new graphics. When the gate drops at Anaheim in a few short weeks, the bikes will face the ultimate test.
GOLDEN GOES FOR HISTORY (Chase Stallo)
Vicki Golden has transcended the sport of motocross. In 2013, she became the first woman to win a medal (bronze) in Moto X Best Whip at the X Games. A year later she added to her list of firsts—becoming the first female to complete the Ricky Carmichael Road to Supercross. While Golden admits it's nice to be the first in many aspects of her racing, it's not what drives her.
“It’s definitely a bonus," she told Racer X earlier this week. "I guess I do have a lot of female firsts on my resume, but that’s never why I go out and do all those things. It’s more to know what, as a racer and an athlete, I’m capable of."
While Golden still have many goals left to check off before hanging up the boots, she says getting her pro license was one of them. "That was one of the things—getting my [professional] license. I knew I was capable of doing it. It was just an added bonus to say I was the first [female] to do it."
Next year Golden will attempt to add to her list of firsts, by qualifying for a Monster Energy AMA Supercross main event. “It would be huge," she said of reaching that goal. "It would pretty much cap off all my racing goals that I’ve had for myself. I’m one little step away from completing everything I’ve wanted to do."
Golden says that while it's nice that her racing provides inspiration for younger female racers, she races to prove herself, just like every other racer. "I'm happy it does provided inspiration to all the younger girls out there," she says. "I just want to prove to myself what I can do, just like any other privateer out there."
Details have yet to be finalized, but Golden expects to race the 250SX East Region in 2015.
TRACKING SOCIAL MEDIA (Chase Stallo)
Hookit, a company that "connect(s) athletes with sponsors through the Internet," released their November 2014 social media report yesterday, and James Stewart has retaken the top spot. In October, Roczen's social reach expanded to over 500,000 fans and generated over 1.5 million fan interactions, according to Hookit, making him the biggest motocross star on social media. This month Stewart has seven of the top ten Instagram posts of the month, and his total fan base grew by 44,000 fans and reached over 2.5 million, according to Hookit. Those fans generated 1.3 million total fan interactions, giving Stewart back the crown of top social media motocross athlete.
No surprises in the 250 Class, as Adam Cianciarulo lead the way. He generated 714,000 fan interactions in November, and his fan base grew by nearly 18,000 fans, according to Hookit.
The top 450 Class rising rider in November was Heath Harrison. The privateer's fan base grew by 11.7 percent last month. Jeremy Martin's fan base grew by 19.4 percent, giving him the highest growth in the 250 Class. Check out some more numbers, courtesy of Hookit.
Australian Taylor Potter is looking to continue his dream of racing in the US again next year. Here is how you can help.
The FIM World SuperEnduro Championship returns this weekend, and the opening event from Gdansk, Poland will be broadcast live on the Internet. Check out the likes of Taddy Blazusiak, David Knight, and more tear apart a course that would make most riders tap out in the first ten feet. Go here to watch.
Registration is now open for the 2015 Ricky Carmichael Daytona Amateur Supercross (RCSX). The 6th Annual RCSX returns to Daytona International Speedway for the biggest two-day amateur supercross event on the planet. Following Saturday night’s Daytona Supercross by Honda, amateur racing kicks off Sunday, March 8 and continues on Monday, March 9, 2015. Most classes sold out in 2014, so don’t delay if you want to be a part of one of the most unique events on the 2015 race calendar. For more information and registration, visit the redesigned www.racedaytona.com.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #50.