Last week I hit send on Racerhead, then headed off to a school function for my kids. I didn’t realize there was a terror attack on Paris, and I was stunned to return home later that night and turn on the news. I also couldn’t help but think how lucky all the riders and industry friends were that the annual Bercy Supercross now takes place in Lille, a city north of Paris. Had they still been racing in Bercy, they would have been caught in the middle of the net that French police had to throw out to contain their city and the attacks. Scores of French innocents died in the attacks, and I am sure we all feel just as bad for what happened there as some of the attacks we’ve had here. It just feels like the world has changed again—and for the worse. Just like after the whole Charlie Hebdo attack, it’s France that is on the front line right now. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who live there, and I worry about what’s happening over there, just as we worry here.
James Stewart had a bad weekend racing in Lille, but it was nothing compared to what was happening in and around Paris, and what he posted this week on his social media summed up what pretty much every American over there for the Lille Supercross was thinking:
Tough weekend but I did enjoy my time with the unbelievably loud French crowd. As always they showed me mad love and helluve bummed my night ended like that. Waiting for results on my ankle so I hope things aren't as bad as they feel now. But in the big scheme of things I shouldn't even mention my injury. It's The ones in Paris who need our support. We all get caught up in our little world and think when things are going wrong, the man is punishing us only. Take a step back and look at the big picture, we all should be grateful to have a chance to complain, suffer or whatever we choose to do because In dark times just realized everything always can be worse. Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forget about the ones who don't and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. I won't say it'll be easy but I promised it will be worth it. Im grateful to have an opportunity to spend another day with the people I love and the great fans I have. I appreciate you guys and will always continue to fight everyday. My condolences goes out to everyone who were effected in all of this sadness.
“Tough weekend but I did enjoy my time with the unbelievably loud French crowd. As always they showed me mad love and helluve bummed my night ended like that. Waiting for results on my ankle so I hope things aren't as bad as they feel now.”
“But in the big scheme of things I shouldn't even mention my injury. It's The ones in Paris who need our support. We all get caught up in our little world and think when things are going wrong, the man is punishing us only. Take a step back and look at the big picture, we all should be grateful to have a chance to complain, suffer or whatever we choose to do because In dark times just realized everything always can be worse. Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So love the people who treat you right, forget about the ones who don't and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. I won't say it'll be easy but I promised it will be worth it. Im grateful to have an opportunity to spend another day with the people I love and the great fans I have. I appreciate you guys and will always continue to fight everyday. My condolences goes out to everyone who were effected in all of this sadness.”
This week, I’ve been on a mission with my friend Nick McCabe, picking up a car he bought in Texas and helping him drive it back to the Northeast. We stopped last night in Centreville, Mississippi, where Kevin Windham lives and where he’s hosting his annual Party in the Pasture, a combination ride day/country music festival/bonfire/fundraiser. MX Sports’ Nick Koester and Racer X's Jordan Roberts came down, too, and our plan is to help K-Dub and the gang from Road 2 Recovery (who help organize the whole event) by doing whatever we can to help—flagging, parking cars, whatever. So that’s been the better part of my week so far, and why I need to turn Racerhead over to the other guys and get the caution flags out.… We will try to keep up with some photos on Instagram all day via @racerxonline and @promotocross, as we’ve got Jeremy McGrath here, Will Hahn, Jordon Smith, Brett Cue, Mike Mason, Matt Buyten, and a slew of other good guys that will be out having fun on (and above) Windham’s track.
Here’s to better days. Vive la France.
The Racing There (Jason Weigandt)
Watching the news last Friday night, it didn’t seem likely that the Bercy-Lille Supercross was going to take place on Saturday and Sunday, but indeed the show went on. The racing was really good, too, with Autotrader/Toyota/JGR Yamaha’s Weston Peick ultimately taking the King of Bercy honors. Christophe Pourcel and Cooper Webb were also in contention for it, but Peick’s big charge to second on Sunday (and crashes by Webb and Malcolm Stewart) sealed it.
It no longer seems shocking when Peick does big things, like getting podiums or winning races like this. Take a quick step back, though, and it remains amazing. Two years ago he was scraping funds together for a privateer Suzuki effort. He finished fifth one night a few races into the series and his rig was completely surrounded by well-wishers, just shocked at his rise from barely-making-mains guy to top five. Then last year came podiums. Now he’s won a race—not a real AMA Supercross, but not a joke either.
In our online poll, we asked what would have been the most shocking headline two years ago. You voted Peick winning King of Bercy second, behind only Ryan Villopoto’s GP foray and retirement but ahead of James Stewart getting a sixteen-month suspension from WADA. Wow. We keep trying to find parallels to Peick’s rise through the ranks, and we continue to not find any examples. Now we’re just left to wonder if he can keep improving and move even further up the ranks. Can he someday win a real domestic 450SX race? At this point, it’s getting hard to doubt anything.
Silly Season (Chase Stallo)
When we released that “What would have been the most shocking headline two years ago?” poll earlier in the week, we never thought we could add more just a few days later. But, what about these:
"RV to race Baja 1000”
“Chad Reed to return to GPs”
Well, it appears both are true. As we reported earlier this week, Villopoto will race the Baja 1000 driving a stint of the race in the Brenthel Industries truck alongside Jonathan Brenthel. According to Brenthel, Villopoto will be driving a “portion of the course.” He’s driving, folks, not strapping a big tank and a headlight on his KX450F and riding the race.
“I was able to drive Johnny Greaves’ Monster Energy Pro-4 on the track at Lake Elsinore once but this is my first time racing a truck in the desert; it’s the first time I’ve been to Mexico,” Villopoto said. “We are heading out to prerun the course today.”
As we continue to wait to see where Chad Reed will end up in Monster Energy Supercross, the two-time supercross champion stoked the fire earlier this week when he released an Instagram of the 2016 FIM World Motocross Championship schedule with the caption “It's been 15 years since I last raced a MXGP. The mind says yesss lets go race in the sand the body says are you $ning crazy!?”
Later in the week, Reed said that he would race “select” Grand Prix events next year, not a full series. On Thursday he tweeted: “Early planning looks like the UK and Italy GPs best fit my 2016 schedule plans.”
In other news, Albertson Enterprises and Motorcycle Superstore announced a partnership to form a four-rider team to contest Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross in 2016 aboard Suzukis. The team—officially called Motorcycle Superstore Suzuki—will compete in the 250 classes in both series.
“This is just the opportunity that we have been waiting for,” Jimmy Albertson said. “After sitting down with the crew at Motorcycle Superstore, our plans and visions aligned perfectly. I couldn’t be more excited to start this relationship.”
Albertson said earlier this week that the team has signed all four riders for next season and will be announcing them soon.
[Update: The four rider team has been announced.]
Honda Opens its Doors (Spencer Owens)
On Wednesday in Torrance, California, the Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) opened up its state-of-the-art race shop for the industry media. This place is head-to-toe amazing, from the machine shop and parts room to the standard mechanics’ area.
“This is the first time I can remember that we’ve had a bunch of journalists in our race shop, and it was nice hosting some of our sponsors as well,” said team manager Dan Betley. “The shop has been home to many riders throughout the years, and it has been changed and reworked many times.”
Returning HRC racers Trey Canard and Cole Seely were also on hand for the event. “It’s always great for me to come to the shop, but I think it was really special for the people who don’t ever get to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff,” Canard said. Added Seely, “It was fun hanging out with the journalists here at the shop—I’ve actually only been here a few times myself!”
So Canard and Seely are returning to the Honda Racing Corporation’s 450 division, and new GEICO Honda 450 graduate Justin Bogle also made an appearance at the event. Honda also announced something new this year with an amateur-level 150cc division team, represented by multi-time Loretta’s champ Carson Mumford. He will be Honda’s premier athlete for the Supermini class in 2016.
Canard didn’t want to fall into the standard cliché trap of saying he’s feeling great this off-season but, well, he thinks it’s the truth. He said he’s feeling strong and confident coming into the 2016 season and feels he is in a good place with the bike. “We haven’t changed a whole lot, but we had a great supercross bike last year and have made progress,” he said. When asked what would he improve upon the most coming into the season, he said, “I’m going to be a lot better about my personal hygiene. The team truck smells after motos!”
Last year was Cole Seely’s rookie season in the stacked 450SX class, and he finished with a solid third in the championship. He came into the outdoor season with high hopes but injured his shoulder early on and was forced to sit out the rest of the season. “It’s been a long few months with my shoulder recovery, but I’m getting back into it,” he said. “I started by riding outdoors for a couple of weeks to make sure everything was strong before I hopped on a supercross track. We’ve got a bunch of testing lined up for the next month and a half, so I should be 100 percent when we line up for Anaheim.”
“I’m eager to get this off-season over with and get back to racing, because I feel like we’re in a good place,” Betley added. “It’s about refinements from where we were, and I’m excited to get it started.”
Pretty cool for Honda to open up the race shop to the press and get the riders out there for some questions and answers before they go back to the grind. We’ll have a photo gallery up over the weekend to give you a look behind the scenes, and don’t miss Simon Cudby’s Racer X Films piece with Canard, Seely, and Bogle.
Two-Strokes and Back Bacon (Matthes)
I was in France last week and didn't get to weigh in on the new Canadian racing rules for the 2016 Nationals. They basically banned anyone that wasn't Canadian from racing a 250 two-stroke. I spoke with CMRC president Mark Stallybrass about the thought process behind the rules this week and there has been a revision made already. CMRC eliminated the "Canadian citizen" part of the rule and you now have to be a "Canadian resident" to race the two-stroke.
As Mark explained (and it's not hard to deduce what happened even without talking to him), his other OEM partners were not happy that KTM's Kaven Benoit won the last two MX2 titles (he rode a thumper for half of the 2014 series) on a two-stroke, a machine that three of the five companies don't make. Insert DC nodding his head here in complete understanding of this—like it or not, these teams really, really don’t like it when rules allow bikes they don’t even make to compete and win. There's no doubt that most of the time the two-stroke has an advantage over a four when they're equal cc's, and you can't have a racing series where you collect money and support from OEMs and then turn around and give a couple of them rules that really hurt their chances to win. If you want to see what it looks like to shoehorn a rule like this in, go see how American road racing is doing. Most of the factories just stopped racing altogether.
You can hold your breath and stomp your feet yelling that they should make two-strokes, but they made a decision to go all-thumper when all of us bought eight CRF450s to two CR250s back when both bikes were produced. They were in effect giving us all what we wanted—a choice—and we all made the same choice. But this is another discussion for another day.
Okay, back to CMRC. Mark himself believes two-strokes make racing more affordable for privateers and didn't want to block riders from racing them, so that's why he didn't ban them outright. By his count, this rule affects fewer than five American racers who lined up on a two-stroke last year and is a compromise to his other OEM partners that still want to race two-strokes. And to say he doesn't like Americans racing his series is silly, as the Canadian nationals have long been a haven for American riders to go up and make a bit of money (in the MX1 series anyway). So there you have it, and to recap: CMRC likes Americans but wants to make all its OEM partners happy, and Mark himself believes in two-strokes and helping privateers save money. That's four different groups wanting four different things, and that’s how we got to where we are now.
As for myself, I'm not a fan of the rule at all and actually predicted this exact same scenario would play out in a podcast when the new two-stroke rules were announced. Mark's trying to juggle chainsaws here and make everyone happy, but when you do that, usually no one is. We'll see how this plays out. I suppose it doesn't really affect too many racers, but I do wonder what he's going to do when some Canadian racer who meets the rules starts doing very well and then cannot ride the bike anymore. This discussion is probably not over.
EnduroCross Down to the Wire (Weigandt)
There’s really just one major dirt bike series left without a champion in 2015, and it’s GEICO EnduroCross. That ends this weekend, with the series finale hitting Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. This is a good event for that series because industry insiders in California can come see it firsthand. What they’ll be watching is a title fight between today’s two EX stars, Cody Webb and Colton Haaker. Webb dethroned Taddy Blazusiak last year to win the title, and he’s been rock-solid consistent this year and holds the points lead. It’s seriously been more that two years since Cody has had a bad race!
That streak needs to end if Rockstar Husqvarna’s Colton Haaker is going to steal his title. EnduroCross pays bonus points for heat-race wins and fastest time in the Hot Lap qualifying program, so the math is a little fuzzy, but basically, if Webb finishes around fifth in the main, he wins the title. Haaker can certainly win, as he took the last race in Idaho, but he needs guys like Mike Brown, Taylor Robert, and others to shove KTM’s Webb further back. We’ll see what happens.
By the way, the background between Haaker and Webb is interesting. They were both raised as trials riders in northern California, so they’ve known each other forever and usually claim to be friends. As this title tension builds, though, friendship is predictably going away. At the last race they even did some brake-checking and contact while fighting for the lead. Could be interesting on Saturday. Check out www.endurocross.com for more.
Suzuki Back in Australia (Stallo)
In September, Suzuki Australia announced it would close the factory Motul Suzuki operation at the end of the 2015 Australian Supercross Championship. The team, operated by Jay Foreman Racing, had been a big part of Australian supercross and motocross for the better part of two decades.
“Suzuki is not stepping away from off-road racing all together,” national marketing manager Lewis Croft said at the time. “On the contrary this decision will allow us to initiate new marketing programs which will see an increase in the number of RM-Z motorcycles in competition, thus ensuring the brand awareness of RM-Z motorcycles remains foremost in the mind of the consumer.”
Well, the move didn’t last long. Yesterday, MotoOnline.com.au reported that Suzuki will return in 2016, but under a new team, Wilson MX. Per the report, “Jay Foreman Racing will have an involvement in developing the team’s RM-Z450 race bikes.”
The team has signed 24-year-old Todd Waters, who returns to the mainland after a two-year stint racing the FIM World Motocross Championship with Husqvarna. “After MXoN this year I started having some talks with Australian teams and Suzuki and Neale Wilson ended up being the ones who could offer me something that was the perfect fit for what I want to do back here,” Waters said.
Hey, Watch It!
Two years ago, Kurt Caselli died in a crash while leading the Baja 1000. An EnduroCross race was scheduled just a week later in Las Vegas, and the whole off-road world was in shock. A few of us whipped together this tribute video, including interviews with some of his peers, who were very, very emotional. The video played two years ago during an EnduroCross broadcast but only now has it been released on YouTube.
Kurt's legacy lives on through his foundation, which is pumping a lot of money into safety initiatives in the sport. Check this out to see how it works. When you raised money for the Kurt Caselli foundation, the money doesn't go to his family, it goes right back into racing.
RacerTV.com is releasing individual remastered motos in high definition (HD) of the 34th Annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, presented by Amsoil, allowing for everyone to recall the memories of the 2015 national in full HD. The first thirty of fifty total motos are now available, with five more being released every week over the next five weeks. Check out the latest below.
It’s not often that we run multiple subscription offers at once, but with Ryan Dungey winning two major titles this season, we couldn’t let a Rider of the Year cover shirt fall by the wayside for our traditional calendar offer.
Subscribe or renew today and receive your choice of a Ryan Dungey Racer X ROTY cover shirt or 2016 Racer X Champions Edition Calendar. Congrats on a killer season, Ryan!
Brandon Kuhn, a member of the AMA and the Western New York Motocross Association, passed way on Wednesday. He was 29. Brandon is survived by his wife, Jasmine; his son, Brody; his parents, Mark Kuhn, Cub, and Judy Dunning; and his sister, Brianne Kuhn.
Brandon was injured six weeks ago in New York after crashing his Harley-Davidson. He remained in a coma until his passing due to brain trauma. We send our condolences to his family during this difficult time. For times and viewing details, go here.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #46.
That’s it for Racerhead, folks. These are sad and scary times in many ways, but there are still many great things going on in his world as well. Enjoying them might be the best thing we can do right now. Thanks for reading. We’ll see you at the races.