With all the recent talk about how unprofessional it is to have pros and amateurs practicing on the same track, another goofy aspect of motocross came to mind. It is the fact that we have the mechanics for pro riders riding on the back of the dirt bike after the race is over, as if that is perfectly normal for two grown men. Did your mechanic ride on the back of your bike, and did he ever whisper sweet nothings in your ear or compliment you on your cologne?
John in NorCal
Good point. There are so many things we accept as normal in this sport that must seem ridiculous from an outsider's perspective. Yes, my mechanics routinely rode to and from the track to the pits with me, butts to nuts, just like Harry and Lloyd headed up the pass to Aspen. I never thought anything of it, and I still hadn’t until I got your email. I don’t recall any awkward conversations, but occasionally one of them would hop on the back and then scoot up way too close to me. I mean, we aren’t going around Laguna Seca two-up on Randy Mamola’s custom Ducati, you can leave a little space between my rear end and your underwear jewelry. It’s really just a courtesy so that your mechanic doesn’t have to walk all the way back to the truck, but I can see how it would look odd. Good thing I’m usually wearing fluorescent colors while I’m riding tandem with my friend.
First off, thanks for the awesome job you do as a columnist and as a civil servant. I appreciate your candid views on what's right and wrong with our sport. I also like your insight on what goes on behind the scenes with riders and teams. Well, that's enough buttering up.
I have a comment about the state of racing in our sport. After watching the umpteenth top rider go down with another broken bone, concussion, etc., I was hit with an epiphany. Our sport will never get any bigger than what it is, or attract multiple major sponsors outside of what we already have, because we keep hurting our riders. Now, I know our sport is dangerous and injuries happen; I get it. So why create tracks with features that put our stars in the hospital? Let's face it, when the top five contenders are in wheelchairs, the potency of the championship is weakened.
No sponsor will sign on to a sport that has to use fill-in riders. It's like ordering filet mignon and getting a burger and fries. As an example, look at NASCAR. The yahoos don't turn out to see Yohan Redneck putt around Daytona. When Dale Earnhardt was killed, I believe NASCAR went on a crusade to implement safety measures to protect the lives of the drivers. No superstars to race means no monies. They created a racing environment that promotes close racing that's as safe as possible. I love SX and MX, but why have jumps that only a handful of riders can do that if said riders mess up, their careers could be over? I’ll take close racing over daredevil riding any time. In close racing, you never know who's going to win, and safer tracks ensure that they will line up to race next week and the week after. Thanks for humoring me, Ping.
Eastern Shore, Maryland
I agree with you to an extent; obviously, the races are less exciting when the stars aren’t there. Honestly, I don’t know who any of the riders are outside the top ten in the 450 Class this summer, and that’s a direct result of injuries. Dean Wilson, Jason Anderson, Josh Grant, Cole Seely, Christian Craig, and more are on the injured list, Broc Tickle’s urine will still burn through a plastic cup so his ban remains, plus guys like Chad Reed and Justin Brayton don’t race during the summer, making the 450 lineup look thinner than a runway model after a colonic cleanse.
Are there some changes we can make to reduce risk in professional racing? I think so, and I believe Feld and MX Sports are open to legitimate ideas. But there is only so much you can do. We’ve gone down a path with bikes that has made it easier to go faster, regardless of skill level. More power, more torque, more weight, and more rotating mass equates to more crashes that result in significant traumatic injuries. I don’t think watering down our tracks so that they look like TT races is the answer, but there are certainly ways to make jumps safer than they currently are. I’m hoping Trey Canard’s new venture will lead him to the forefront of the safety push in pro racing.
Since the beginning of racing, lappers seem to always play a role in the outcome of the results of motocross and SX racing. Last week at High Point was an example in the second 450 race with Musquin and Tomac. I have no problem with a lapper who is racing their hardest against another competitor and is being lapped, but when lappers are simply "cruising" around the track alone, putting in their time until the checkered flag comes out but oftentimes seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, why aren't those riders black-flagged and removed from the track for not keeping a minimum speed? Many other forms of racing require competitors to be racing at a "minimum" speed to be allowed to remain on the track.
Unlike riders outside the top 20 at a national, you make a point. For the safety of the riders and the credibility of the racing, drivers and riders who aren’t maintaining a certain pace are pulled from the course in other legitimate forms of motorsport. I don’t know how the framework would look for moto, but I know that oftentimes, privateers’ goals are simply to make the main event. That’s a fantastic step, but that’s where the work begins.
Any rider who is just circulating, or who is dangerously off the pace of the lead group, should be pulled off the course. In supercross, I’ve seen guys get lapped multiple times in the course of a final! That could certainly be a red line for that sport: the minute you get lapped twice, you’re done. For motocross, it would have to be a lap time-based criterion: If your mechanic can run a lap around the track faster than you’re currently going, then you get the black flag? I’ll leave that up to the folks who run the show, but you’re onto something here. If you don’t have the heart/fitness/talent to ride hard for the entire race, officials should pull you off and send you to the stands where you belong.
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