Welcome to Racerhead. As the countdown to Anaheim continues (not to mention the Christmas holidays), we’re overwhelmed here at the main office getting the souvenir yearbook together for the 2015 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, which starts on January 3 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. We’re also on an early magazine deadline because it has to be in to the printer a week earlier than normal due to the holidays, which is weird because we got the most recent issue in our hands only just today! Here’s the cover, featuring Monster Kawasaki’s Wil Hahn.
Simon Cudby is prowling the test tracks, getting photos done not only for the book but for the various teams and companies he works with. Langers and Mike Fisher and the new girl, Michelle, are burning up their computers designing everything, and the whole staff here is burning the midnight oil. And yet there’s no way we’re working as hard as the riders and teams that are trying to get everything in perfect working order—bikes, bodies, rigs, pit presentation, etc.—and I can only imagine how busy they are at Feld Motor Sports getting the whole series up and running. Supercross is in the collective home stretch of the off-season, with kick-off right around the corner.
With all that said, we all pretty much knew that the phone would ring one day or an email would pop up reporting someone injuring themselves as they got ready to race. It happened last year with both Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin, though Roczen’s upper-arm injury turned out to be not so bad, and he ended up winning Anaheim!
Alas, there will be no Anaheim for Adam Cianciarulo—or any supercross at all in 2015. The super fast but seemingly fragile Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider went down hard at last weekend’s Geneva SX in Switzerland. Photos immediately showed up on social media of him being attended to, but then there were a few days when neither rider nor team said anything about the severity of his injuries. That changed yesterday when the emails popped up announcing that AC50 was out for the entire 2015 supercross tour.
It was a stunning turn of events. I don’t think there’s a person in the sport who doesn’t like this kid—he’s fast, he’s funny, he shares with his fans, and he has a good eye for funny photos. He was just getting ready to start his third season as a pro, and he was the favorite for a quite a few people in 250SX, no matter which region he lined up for. Now it’s another long stretch on the sidelines, which follows him missing most of last season with an injury to the same shoulder. As I wrote in yesterday’s Rapid ReaXtion, Adam is getting dangerously close to a Robbie Reynard/Travis Pastrana-style chronic injury that may ultimately rob him of some of his best years of racing. I feel bad for Adam and his family, not to mention for Mitch Payton—he needed #50 out there. But Payton’s been down this road before, just last year with Darryn Durham. The nature of motorcycle racing means that you can and will get hurt from time to time; even Ricky Carmichael missed the entire 2004 AMA Supercross Championship with a torn-up knee. Good luck to Adam and get well soon.
JAMES STEWART FIM PENALTY UPDATE! (Steve Matthes)
I’ve touched base with WADA and they say it’s up to the FIM to decide on a penalty for Stew’s Seattle SX positive test. I’ve touched base with an FIM official over here and he says he’s heard nothing. According to people I trust, Yoshiumura Suzuki has heard nothing either.
It’s pretty ridiculous that just three weeks before the opening round no one has any idea if one of the biggest stars of the sport will be on the gate. It’s got to be tough for Stew, his sponsors, Suzuki, and everyone to be prepping and testing for a series that they may be sitting on the sidelines for. I’ve been pretty adamant that I don’t think JS7 is going to miss any 2015 races for this test, but obviously I could be wrong. Either way, can we get some closure here? I need this to end.
FAVORITE YEARS (DC)
What was your favorite year of AMA Supercross? Was it the 1986 duel between Honda teammates Rick Johnson and David Bailey? How about the 1978 battles between Yamaha’s Bob “Hurricane” Hannah and Honda’s Marty “Typhoon” Tripes (as Larry Huffman called him)? Any series involving Jeremy McGrath was something to behold as well, and the whole Ricky Carmichael/James Stewart/Chad Reed three-way of 2006 has to be on everyone’s podium for best supercross season ever.
I bring it all up because I have been working on the forty-year countdown of seasons as we approach Anaheim, and we’ve been digging through old event programs and Cycle News papers, magazines, and photo collections. It all brings back a remarkable amount of fond memories, as well as some sad ones, like when you spot a photo of lost legends like Gaylon Mosier, Danny “Magoo” Chandler, and Jim Pomeroy or badly injured friends like David Bailey, Ernesto Fonseca, and others. It’s also remarkable to see just how much the sport has grown and changed, with a cast of characters (good and bad) that pop up time and again.
Personally, mine were 1991 and 1992, for wildly different reasons. The ’91 season was a chance to watch Jean-Michel Bayle elevate his game (not to mention the way people actually rode supercross), beating us Americans at our own game and then trying to ride off into the sunset … but of course they wouldn’t let him just ride away, not with three #1 plates! So 1992 was a much different year for JMB, as he just kind of rode around sometimes, uninterested in even trying to win one weekend, then blitzing everything and everyone the following weekend! And then it was all down to Jeff Stanton and Damon Bradshaw in what was basically a winner-take-all showdown at the Los Angeles Coliseum. I was lucky enough to be covering the racing for Cycle News and Dirt Rider back then, plus some magazines in Europe, and in the newspaper that became Racer X Illustrated. If you get a chance this weekend, check out 1991 and 1992, which will go up later today. Check them out, or whatever your favorite year was, as we count down to the Anaheim kickoff for Monster Energy AMA Supercross.
A FAMILIAR PATH (Chase Stallo)
There’s an old adage in motocross: “It’s not if you’ll get hurt; it’s when.” Motocross is an inherently dangerous sport. It’s something we all know very well. At the professional level, those risks intensify. It’s almost inevitable a race or two will be missed somewhere along the way with the amount of riding a professional does, combined with the wear and tear of a grueling schedule. It’s because of this that Jason Anderson’s achievements are that much more remarkable.
“It's no secret that his supercross career progressed very slowly at first, but this was not due to a lack of consistency or an abundance of crashes,” James Hanson, Rockstar Energy Drink motocross manager, told us earlier this week via email. “One thing you can say for this young man is that he has been able to avoid the large crashes as well as anyone.”
Since turning professional in 2011, Anderson has made thirty-three of thirty-six career starts in Monster Energy AMA Supercross. He’s missed just three rounds in four years, and only two were due to injury. (He failed to qualify for Phoenix in 2013.) He has made 91.7 percent of his starts in supercross.
“It seems that when he does have a rare inevitable big one, whether it’s his fault or caused by another rider, he always bounces right back up like nothing happened and quickly remounts his machine,” says Hanson, who has been a mentor for Anderson since he turned pro. “If I remember correctly, the first couple rounds that he missed were from the repercussions of Marvin Musquin getting out of control and whiskeying into the side of his leg in Oakland.”
Anderson’s start percentage and his ability to avoid the “big one” have drawn him comparisons to Ryan Dungey. Of a possible 114 career starts (Dungey raced three 450SX races in 2008), Dungey’s made 108. He’s missed just six SX races in his career—five due to injury. (Dungey failed to qualify for Daytona in 2007.) And those five races came in a one-year span—he suffered a collarbone injury in 2012. In eight seasons, Dungey has started 94.7 percent of his races.
“That’s interesting, as well as encouraging,” Hanson said of the comparison.
It’s too early to tell if Anderson, now riding a Husqvarna full-time in the 450 class, will enjoy the same successes as Dungey in the premier class, but the signs are encouraging.
FOX NEWS (DC)
There were a lot of people in the motocross industry breathing a sigh of relief at the news that things have finally settled down at Fox Racing. As we mentioned earlier in the year, the company had just moved into their beautiful new headquarters in Irvine when there was a shake-up of sorts and Pete Fox took a leave from the company his father founded, so there seemed to be an uncertain future for the brand. But then this week it was announced that Pete was back as chief creative director, and the family has retained a significant share of minority interest while welcoming Altamont Capitol Partners in as new partners. And some of the names affiliated with Altamont—Ricky Carmichael and Carey Hart—have had very long friendships and working relationships with everyone at Fox. They will all help the brand keep a boot firmly in motocross while also continuing with other sports like mountain-biking, surfing, and more. And Fox Racing will continue to support riders like Ryan Dungey, Ken Roczen, Marvin Musquin, and Justin Hill, plus privateers and amateurs all over the world.
DOOR LEFT OPEN (Chase Stallo)
With Ryan Villopoto jettisoning to Europe and the FIM World Motocross Championship for 2015—leaving a fifth consecutive Monster Energy AMA Supercross title on the table—the door appears open for a young, fierce crop of riders to take the reigns.
"There is a spot open now to take the title," GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac said in a recent press release. "Not saying that Villopoto would have gone on to win every single race and the championship this season, but this gives a lot of hope for the upcoming season to the other racers.”
Following a 2014 season in which Tomac raced just nine rounds due to injury, he’s happy to be considered one of the favorites next year. "It's cool to be seen as one of the riders to beat for the championship," Tomac said, "but it's also kind of expected in my mind. You put a lot of work in during the off-season to be able to be in the position of title-contender. That's where I want to be, the rider on everyone's mind."
Tomac has spent the off-season trekking through Europe, dominating in Lille, France, and Genova, Italy. "This year I feel like I'm in a much better spot heading into the season,” he said. “I feel like I have an even better shot of being in the title-fight at the end of the year.
"The off-season has been good so far. Everything just seems to be going better than before, including the motorcycle and me physically. I had a couple off-season races in Italy and France so far, and I won both those events. Those extra races really help put into perspective where I'm at as a rider and what I need to work on more before the season kicks off in a few weeks.”
In order to claim his first career 450SX title, Tomac will have to go through the likes of Reed, Stewart, Dungey, Roczen, Barcia, and more. It’ll be no easy feat, but one Tomac seems ready for. "From what I've seen so far, I think we're in a good spot right now as one to beat every race."
SHORT TIME WITH ANDREW (Nick McCabe)
Last week at the 2015 KTM intro, Racer X’s Nick McCabe caught up with fan favorite Andrew Short. Check out what Short had to say about the new BTOSports.com KTM, his upcoming fifteenth season, and more.
You have been with the BTOSports team for several seasons now, so coming into 2015, it is somewhat business as usual with the exception of the new bikes. How do you prepare for the upcoming season?
Well, we always start out in Texas after the nationals are over. Then at Thanksgiving we make the move out to Southern California. We stay out here pretty much until the series goes back east. But now that we have two kids, moving around makes it really tricky, with switching schools and friends for them. Of our two kids, we have one in first grade and one in Pre-K. It is certainly more difficult now than when they were little and did not have the school. So they basically have two different worlds, and I have two places to ride. Texas is very laid back and good, while California is a lot more competitive, and I’m normally very busy when I’m here. But I think both are great in off-season as long as you have some balance.
You guys have a new bike this year, and that means lots of work getting it ready and set to your liking. Talk to me about the testing process: How does that work, and do you enjoy it? I know the long days in the hills are not all that glamorous.
That is for sure! But I think testing is some of the best time of the year. You have so much on one time with your crew. It is really one of the best parts of the year, honestly, for me. You’re able to find out what everyone is all about. Certain days are devoted to certain things, one day all you’re doing is testing suspension while another day it might be testing chassis. But that entire day is focused on that one aspect. I really like that one focus. More importantly, the relationships are made within the team, with the personal side. The friendships last a lifetime. Our paddock is small, and I know for me, I have made a lot of lifelong friends over the years while I was testing. It’s just the joking around, the camaraderie, and all the stuff that happens when you testing.
You turned pro in 2000, which means that this will be your fifteenth season. You are coming up on Kevin Windham and John Dowd career longevity. How much longer do you plan to keep going
Yeah, 2000 was my first season as a pro, but I didn’t do the full season. But you are right—it has been a while. I just turned 32, but it’s been a long time for me, and the window is certainly closing at some point. But I feel good and strong, and you still see athletes in other sports going well into their thirties. But you never know in motocross; one bad season or injury can derail things. Also, it’s not any fun when you don’t get any results. So I will see how the cards fall with this season and go from there. And I’ll make sure that I enjoy it along the way!
Tell me a little about the new 2015 Factory Edition KTM? How much time have you spent on it?
It’s really, really good. I’ve actually been riding it for quite a while. The first time I rode it, it was early on in the development process. It was actually at the end of 2013 after the Lake Elsinore National, so that was some time ago. So we have been working on it for a long time. It’s going to be amazing for KTM, and the starting point of where it’s right out of the crate will be a huge advantage. I really feel that this bike’s going to be a huge advantage for us.
JMB PLAY BY PLAY (Matthes)
DC has been doing a great job with this forty-year supercross countdown on our site as I told him in our podcast here.
Yesterday was 1991, which was the year of Jean-Michel Bayle. I sat down with the great Bayle, and he took us through his thrilling Dallas SX win here. Just scroll down to Dallas 1991 and listen in as Bayle talks about his competition that night and how he knew that he could use this one berm to pass guys. It’s thrilling stuff from the guy that was on the bike.
TONY'S KNEE (Andras Hegyi)
Remember Tony Cairoli's crash at the Motocross of Nations in September? It was a rough crash on the KTM 250 SX-F that he rode for Italy. It could have had terrible consequences since Cairoli had previously damaged his right knee and had it operated on. The post-race medical examinations determined that Cairoli had only minor damage. Despite the encouraging diagnosis, Cairoli had pain over the weeks that followed. Last Wednesday Cairoli attended a sponsor meeting in Rome, along with his teammates Tommy Searle, Ken De Dycker, and team manager Claudio de Carli, where it was announced that his injured right knee is now fine and he's ready to go. Cairoli even played soccer, so he obviously has faith in the knee. He's now into full training and riding mode, getting ready for his battles to come with Ryan Villopoto and the rest of the MXGP class.
One other thing to think about is the fact that Gautier Paulin, the star of the MXoN for the winning French team, is hovering in the shadow of the Cairoli-Villopoto showdown. He's switched to Honda, and he now has none other than Jean-Michel Bayle in his corner as an adviser to the team. If Paulin stays healthy, he could prove to be the spoiler in 2015, along with Suzuki's Clement Desalle. Both have the world's best speed at times, but they need to stay on two wheels and healthy if they want to snatch the crown from the obvious favorites.
BC BARNCROSS (Matthes)
Last weekend I headed up to British Columbia to watch the last round of the Canadian Arenacross series, and although it was cold, the racing impressed me. Supercross main-event dudes like Teddy Maier, Adam Enticknap, and Ross Johnson joined guys like Shawn Maffenbeier, Colin Jurin, and others in racing four weekends for a total of eight rounds. There was some drama in the pits and on the track, some friendships ruined, and even pyro! All that added up to some great racing.
Ross Johnson won the 450s, Teddy Maier won the 250s, and Ryan “The Newf” Lockhart won the Dash for Cash and BC Legends classes. On a wrap-up podcast over on Pulpmx.com with Newf and Ryan Gauld of Guaranteedmx.com, I said that I think next year we’ll see more heavy-hitters heading up there to race this series. The purse is pretty good, and the dealerships and Canadian teams are looking for riders.
RC AUCTION (DC)
Ricky Carmichael and his business manager JH Leale were cleaning out his race shop last week and came across a bunch of stuff that Ricky was just going to throw away! Fortunately, JH talked the GOAT into auctioning it off instead, and they are donating the money to several charities/organizations, including ECHO Tallahassee is the local charity that RC hosts a golf tournament for, and the Kidz1st Fund, which is Florida State head football coach Jimbo Fisher's family's charity, and the Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson Foundations.
Carmichael is also auctioning a couple of sets of his red, white, and blue CTi knee braces. They’re one of his original sets from 1997 that was refurbished in 2000, so they have some serious history. The other is his set from 2005 on the Suzuki. The money these four knee braces bring will go to the Asterisk Medical Unit. You can see all of the stuff and buy a cool Christmas present for someone (or yourself) right here.
PRO PERSPECTIVE (Jason Thomas and David Pingree)
JT: As we wind down to the final few days of the off-season, there is still a mad scramble going on for sponsorship. Most of the factory-level riders have long since signed, but this is the time for privateers. They are all competing and jockeying for positions in the budget hierarchy. Companies don't have a lot of money left, but there is still an opportunity to put together packages that make sense for everyone. Finding ways to increase a rider or team's value other than simply performing well is critical; social media, pit presence, and fan following are just a few ways to up the ante on perceived value.
I only ran into this situation when a team or deal fell apart at the last minute. I had a couple of teams simply pull the plug on the entire operation with only a few weeks left before Anaheim. Hoping for an ideal situation at that point is foolhardy; just making it to the races on a decent bike is about all I could hope for. Securing product and clamoring for gas money was the main goal; the bills were going to have to be paid with results. That's how it is for most of the privateer world, anyway. They are simply trying to lower their expenses and somehow eek out a living via their racing prowess. It's not a very promising business plan, but this sport is about passion and doing what we dreamed of doing. There isn't a privateer out there that wishes he were doing something else because, to be honest, they would be doing it. The true passion of the sport can be seen in the back forty of every pro pit area. They are probably losing money, but there they are, still showing up every weekend to chase this supercross dream.
PING: This is a precarious time for those who don’t yet have plans solidified. Sure, the big guys all have their deals done, but that means there isn’t much left over and every privateer effort is scrapping over those last few dollars to help fund their programs. I imagine it is very difficult to focus on riding and training when you are spending a great deal of your time trying to figure out how to pay all the expenses that come with racing. I was lucky to have pretty good rides throughout my career, so I wasn’t in this situation often. However, this is the plight of the privateer, and going into my rookie season I was in this boat, paddling like hell with everybody else. Suzuki threw me some bikes, and I budgeted the money I had saved up to get to the West Region rounds of supercross and five 125 nationals in 1994. When that money was spent, I was done. About halfway through the nationals I signed to ride for Mitch Payton and his Pro Circuit team. I told him that I only had plans to do one more national and he kept pushing me to do the rest. I told him I just didn’t have it in the budget. And that’s the tough part; you want to do all of them, but unless you are winning motos or hitting the lottery between races, you have to know when to stop. Hopefully the privateers heading into 2015 have a plan and a budget that they can stick to.
HEY, WATCH IT!
Here's Joel Robert in black and white in the 1970 Spanish 250 Grand Prix at Sabadell, a track later to become famous as the site of Jim Pomeroy's "First American" victory of 1973.
And here's a seminal moment for Kawasaki fans: a film about their 250cc Grand Prix win way back in 1978 at the Austrian GP, featuring Torleif Hansen in slow-mo on the #26 Kawasaki works bike, with cameos by #1 Harry Everts on a Bultaco (even though he was a year away from winning his first world title on a Puch) and #5 Jaroslav Falta, the nearly mythical Czech rider and CZ legend. You'll love the tracks and hate the dust—especially at the second race Kilmartin in Scotland.
The crazy Dakar Rally is coming up, and Red Bull put together this sweet video of their team bikes and vehicles prepping on the beaches of France.
PULPMX LINKS (Matthes)
Privateer Aussie rider Geran Stapleton was a guy I met in Finland and in talking to him I found his travels interesting and convinced him to write a column for PulpMX here.
Shorty Superfan Moser caught up to Andrew Short himself for this edition of Shorty’s.
As you saw in the Racer X video by Matty Fran, #project90 is finally done. Part five in the series is here.
This is my bib from the 1989 east/west shootout in L.A. at the coliseum. Yellow was west and blue for east. I won my heat race then when the main rolled around I had a couple crashes for 13th. In the shootout I rode better but still only got 13th! It was the only shootout I got to ride in as they didn't have them in 92 or 93 and I had injuries in 90 and 91 and failed to make top 10. I have a couple of blue CAMEL SUPER CROSS trucker hats also.
Anyway I thought it was a cool bib. Those articles are awesome...keep it up.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh #51.
And finally, best wishes go out to Presley Emig, who developed a nasty stomach ache earlier this week and found out she had to have an appendectomy!
Thanks for reading Racerhead, see you at the races!