So finally, it’s time. The 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship begins at Angel Stadium in Anaheim tomorrow. The off-season is over, everyone is tied in points, and the possibilities of some real drama are all there, underneath the white tarps that have covered the track since Dirt Wurx came to town. Fortunately—and hopefully this won’t jinx it—the weather has been much better than the heavy rains and storms predicted all week. It’s downright beautiful right now and is looking good for tomorrow.
But the rains did drown out the chances for anyone to glimpse the riders on the track for yesterday’s press conference. And I don’t mind that. For me, it only builds the suspense for tomorrow’s opener. And while seeing thirteen guys up on the stage may have seemed more like a Republican debate than a pre-race presser, it was cool just trying to imagine how fast Ryan Dungey will be, especially now that he’s definitely eating his Wheaties! What will Chad Reed look like back on the bike that propelled him to two previous SX titles? (Remember, never count the man out.) Ken Roczen seemed totally relaxed and at ease, something he didn’t often show last year, even though he won this round. Will Eli Tomac mesh as well with his new Kawasaki as well as he did on a red bike last year? And what about his shoulders?
And speaking of Honda, can Trey Canard and Cole Seely get their first 450SX supercross title in 2016? Marvin Musquin has finally moved up, and Christophe Pourcel finally has a solid 450SX ride—what will they do and what might be a tricky track tomorrow night? Will Justin Barcia bring the same speed and confidence he showed last summer and fall? And nothing brings more questions and intrigue than the return of James Stewart to the Yoshimura Suzuki team. Jason Anderson, Will Hahn, Justin Bogle, Jake Weimer—all were 250SX champs hoping to get into the 450 mix in a truly stacked field. It’s actually going to be hard to even qualify with so many fast men out there now.
That’s not even mentioning 250SX and the title defense of Cooper Webb, who seems to be everyone’s favorite in that class. Add it all up and it’s going to be a fantastic night, and hopefully it will be a battle all the way to the end. The races will air live on FS1 (Fox Sports 1) beginning at 9:30 p.m. Eastern with a pre-race show with racing starting at 10 p.m. Eastern, 7 local time.
The whole industry has been abuzz out here as the race approaches. There are product intros like the new TCX boot, dealer parties like the big Parts Unlimited get-together at the convention center, the unveiling of Dungey’s breakthrough Wheaties cereal box—right after Feld Motor Sports presented him with his championship ring. Today it was a sprint around the stadium area, like a visit to 6D Helmets, which is now five years into its “relentless pursuit of better brain protection,” and of course a stop at Pro Circuit just to see all of those championship bikes on display.
And then there was my belated Christmas present from Simon Cudby, which he gave me right before the press conference started. It was a souvenir program from the first Anaheim race, which took place in December of 1975. The race wasn’t a part of the AMA Supercross Series that year. Instead, it was called the American Finals Motocross. The book cost $2 and featured a painting on the cover of two Honda riders, albeit one on a yellow Honda. The event was produced by Michael Goodwin’s Media Max Inc. Entertainment Enterprise, and the title sponsor was a radio station, KEZY. The race was a one-off, run-what-you-brung stadium motocross. Eighteen-yea-old Tony DiStefano won on his factory Suzuki, though Team Honda’s Marty Smith turned the fastest lap time of the night on his RC125. There were Can-Ams and Bultacos and Maicos and CZs and Ossas and even a Jones-Islo, along with all of the Japanese bikes. There was a one-moto “High School” support class won by a kid named Broc Glover. The track itself ran out by the old Big A, which has since been moved. The promoter called the track “a man-made monster.” The attendance was optimistically announced as 23,000. I have yet to find any video footage from the race online, nor are the results in the Vault.
Of course Anaheim is now the de facto capital of the supercross world. The track is branded by Monster Energy and practically the whole world can watch it live. The Bultacos and CZs and Maicos and Can-Ams and Ossas and the Jones-Islos are all gone now. So are some of the riders from that first race, including the recently deceased Buck Murphy—a Can-Am factory rider in 1975—and Maico factory rider Gaylon Mosier and Bultaco rider Jim Pomeroy and Ossa rider Kenny Zahrt.… But Bevo Forti, mechanic for Bultaco rider John Savitski that night, is still here, now with 100% and a living legend.
It’s amazing to see how far this has all come in forty years, and much has changed, not just in the sport but in the world around us. Thanks for book, Simon. Let’s get started with Racerhead, and get ready for tomorrow and a brand new season!
ANAHEIM 1 PRESS CONFERENCE (JORDAN ROBERTS)
It was certainly a packed house inside of Angel Stadium’s Diamond Club for the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship opening press conference, not only because of the high attendance level from SoCal industry members and more, but also due in part to the large number of riders invited to the event. We’ve seen about six or seven riders invited to the Anaheim 1 press conference in recent years, but a whopping thirteen filled the stage to talk about the 2016 season: Cole Seely, Ken Roczen, James Stewart, Ryan Dungey, Chad Reed, Eli Tomac, Davi Millsaps, Marvin Musquin, Justin Bogle, Justin Barcia, Jason Anderson, Christophe Pourcel, and Trey Canard. Though some of these riders have higher expectations—from themselves, their teams, and fans alike—any one of them could take home a win if the stars align, and with the rain clouds still looming over Southern California, the opportunity to capitalize on a chaotic racing environment is now.
As far as any major revelations are concerned, the season-opening press conference rarely unearths new information regarding a rider’s program—though Chad Reed was roughly 24 hours shy of making his factory Yamaha team announcement there—and HRC Honda’s Trey Canard probably addressed this best, saying, “I think everyone’s going to have the same answer: bike’s great, team’s great, off-season [has] been the best one yet. I’m excited to go racing. I think everyone up here is excited to go racing, rain or shine. We’re all as ready as we can be, and I fit that shoe as well.”
The waning hours before this Saturday are largely a poker game. The riders will answer any question, but they won’t delve into their mentality and show their hand. There are simply too many questions that will go unanswered until the riders hit the track. Can James Stewart rebound from his less-than-stellar off-season supercross racing? Are Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin 100 percent after their off-season surgeries? Has Chad Reed had enough time to test with the Yamaha factory guys? Where will Christophe Pourcel and Justin Bogle fit into the mix during their rookie 450SX season? Is it Saturday yet?
At the end of the press conference, however, we did get to witness a first for the sport: a rider to be featured on a Wheaties box. A General Mills spokesman, with the help of Ryan Dungey, unveiled a large print of the box featuring last year’s two-time 450 champion. General Mills provided a free sample for all in attendance, and we’ll also see the Ryan Dungey edition Wheaties box in stores later this month. Who would’ve predicted this ten years ago? The champ was also presented the 2015 450SX championship ring by Feld’s Dave Prater, so it was certainly a great day all around for the Dungey camp.
Did you miss the live stream of the Anaheim 1 press conference? Don’t fret, you can watch the entire broadcast on Supercross Live!
Notes on Tomac (Kyle Scott)
Kawasaki was kind enough to let me attend their annual team kickoff party this week at their U.S. headquarters in Irvine, California. This is a really cool event full of even cooler people. The event is designed to get the 9-5 employees some face time with the riders and get everyone excited for the year to come.
Before the kick off started, crew chief Mike Williamson gave me some insight on different preparations that go into getting ready for a new supercross season. One interesting thing I learned is that some of the specialty parts factory Kawasaki gets from Japan have to be ordered six to eight months in advance due to the lead time required to machine them outside of their normal production lines. That means prep for the next year’s A1 doesn’t begin after motocross season is over, but rather before it even starts, with some orders going in as early as April.
I’m new here at Racer X, and thankfully Mike didn’t go too hard on me when I began shooting pictures of Eli’s scratched-up practice bike when the shiny, immaculate race bike polished by Brian Kranz was sitting just two feet away. Remember when you dumped the clutch and stalled your bike the first time you rode? Yeah, that’s what this was like. First gear down, second gear up. Got it.
The team began testing with Eli at his house in Colorado in the middle of November. After Eli was set up and comfortable, he stayed there to burn some laps before coming to California for final testing. When I asked Brian what kind of final tweaks they’ve been making in the sprint before A1, he said, “We’ve been fine-tuning everything from motor package to suspension to every last detail you could think of.”
It was raining hard outside, but that had no affect on the mood inside the building. Kawasaki needs to put 2015 behind them, and 2016 is looking bright. Their team is stacked and everyone is anticipating the gate drop to see if ET3 can get Kawasaki back to the top of the podium. The weatherman is predicting rain come race day, but we’ll have to see. He’s been wrong before.
Pro Perspective (David Pingree and Jason Thomas)
Ping: Some people like to call mud the great equalizer. I guess so, but if you suck in the mud as badly as I did, it was more of a handicapper. But I don’t have an ax to grind here, so let me just tell you what a mud bog for an opening round feels like from a rider’s perspective.
These guys have been hammering away now for months getting ready for Saturday night. Every thought that goes through their head is centered on January 9. The number of laps they did, lap times, fluid intake, nutrition, cardio work, strength training, supplements, sleep, stretching, massages, visualization—all of it pointing to 7:00 tomorrow night. Well, before the track got turned into a bowl of dirt soup by El Niño. Guys who suck in the wet like I did will try to convince themselves that the track will be okay. After all, it’s covered in plastic and has been all week. The forecast for Saturday is low chance of rain. Maybe the track will be decent?
Look, this racetrack is going to be about as decent as Bill Cosby offering you a nightcap.
Once you realize that there is no saving the track, something happens. All of the pressure you’ve been putting on yourself for the past four months dissolves in the Angel Stadium mud puddles. Sure, everybody still wants to do well, but if they don’t, they get a pass because of the mud. Sometimes having a mudder at the opening round is a nice way to ease into the series and let some of that stress go. The biggest downside is the destruction of what can only be seen by fans as works of art. Mechanics have been laboring on these bikes for weeks making sure every nut and bolt shines. The opening lap of practice will see brand new race bikes violated in ways that would make you physically ill. I would just ride my practice bike if it were up to me … and some guys probably will. The great news is that hot dogs and licorice are delicious in any weather. See you at the concession stands.
JT: Mud and rain are terrible for supercross. There, I said it. There is just no upside to it. Lurch, Fro, and Ralph will try to spin it, but it just dilutes everything great about the day and night. Riders can't jump the big jumps to wow the crowd, the whoops become a complete bore, and actually recognizing a favorite rider becomes impossible.
The one interesting variable that mud can bring, though, is unpredictability. We have seen some wild results over the years due to heavy rain. Jake Marsack's podium at Daytona in 2008, Ricky Ryan's win in 1987, and Daryl Hurley's win at Sevilla in 2003 are just a few of the wacky outcomes that mud can allow. It truly opens the door for anything and everything to happen.
Let's hope, for now, that the skies stay sunny and we get to enjoy a spectacular Anaheim race. A1 is truly an awesome display of new bikes, new gear, and riders trying to start the year off with a bang. If it does rain and things get messy, watch for the unexpected. It can throw a wrench into the whole championship and be the deciding factor at the very first round.
Better Late Than Never (Chase Stallo)
For a majority of the off-season, rumors swirled of the Crossland Motorsports Racing team’s return to racing in 2016. Initial reports were that the team had folded and would not return for this season. Team rider Kyle Peter confirmed to Racer X in December that the team was in fact returning, but under a much smaller effort than the four-rider team they fielded in 2015. We also heard that team manager Guy Cooper would not be returning this season either.
Today, Crossland Motorsports announced that the team will be receiving support from Ride365.com and American Honda, who will be providing factory support for the season. Cooper will also be returning to the team to work directly with the riders as a mentor and coach.
“We’ve got a fantastic group of people around us and are returning with many of the same sponsors we’ve had the privilege of working with in years past,” said team owner Chris Crossland in a statement. “We are working towards building an efficient and sustainable program that will last for many years to come.”
Peters will be joined on the 250SX West Region by rookie Chase Marquier.
TCX INTRO (JORDAN ROBERTS)
Following the Anaheim 1 press conference, we made our way up to the fourth level of Angel Stadium for TCX Boot’s Comp Evo product intro. We were able to get a brief introduction to this boot at the AIMExpo a few months ago, but yesterday was the first day we were able to give the all-new line our undivided attention, which wasn’t difficult. The new Comp Evo line is available in a wide variety of bold colors, ranging from a more traditional black or white to Scuba Blue. TCX also entered a unique partnership with Michelin to produce the rubber soles for the Comp Evo.
The TCX reps were certainly well versed on the boot’s production and tech specs (and you can read up on those at the TCX site), but what about field testing? Broc Tickle and Dylan Ferrandis were on hand to take questions from the media, and their answers pretty much boiled down to the boots having next to no break-in time, yet being extremely durable. They even had the boots that Tickle spent six weeks in to test and race the Genoa supercross on hand, and despite being a little dirty, they were in generally good condition after being in the hands of a self-professed destroyer of all things nice. We’re definitely looking forward to trying the TCX Comp Evo line out firsthand.
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
Hey, Watch It!
Racer X Films: Anaheim Press Day
Need a refresher heading into the season? Check out our five-episode Racer X Preview Shows leading up to this weekend.
Episode 1: The Now Men
Episode 2: Veterans and Noobs
Episode 3: Where They At?
Episode 4: The Sophomores
Episode 5:The Wild Cards
Racer X Films: The Untold Story of Christian Craig
Thor Supercross Commercial
Check out Cole Seely's kit for Anaheim 1.
Heading to Anaheim for the opening round of Monster Energy Supercross this weekend? Stop by the Racer X booth—located in the Party in the Pits—to pick up a free copy of Racer X Illustrated. You can also sign up or renew for just $25 (60 percent off the cover price) to get a one-year subscription, a FREE Racer X beach towel, and an extra issue!
We made an editing error in the second part of the Chad Sanner interview we ran earlier this week. When Chad mentioned Johnny Kuzo from Scott goggles, Kuzo was actually at Von Zipper at the time. Kuzo is now at 100%. We regret the mistake.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #1.
That’s all for now—let’s see what tomorrow brings. Thanks for reading. See you at the races.