After all four motos at Muddy Creek Raceway were said and done, Jason Thomas, veteran of 15-plus years of pro racing, grabbed some photos from round five of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship to explain how things went.
Marvin Musquin and Justin Barcia
Passing is not always easy at Muddy Creek. There is usually a lot of cat-and-mouse at this track, specifically with lines crossing back and forth. Riders need to think ahead to find passing opportunities and make them count. We were all amazed at Justin Barcia’s epic pass on Weston Peick, but not every move is so dramatic. Passing a rider like Barcia is even more difficult. His race acumen is very high, and he knows where passes are likely to come. He is also not scared to ride rough, putting an element of doubt into the opposing rider. For Marvin Musquin in this sequence, he knew he needed to make a smart, decisive move. Passing Barcia has to be swift and absolute. Leaving Barcia a window in the following corner will almost always result in contact. It’s just Barcia’s way and has to be accounted for.
As Musquin and Barcia enter the corner in the picture above, they both have their own agenda. Barcia is protecting the inside and riding an inside-out-type line. That’s usually not the fastest route, but it disallows anyone to execute a block pass. It also disallows momentum and exit corner speed is adversely affected. For Musquin, he has the luxury of seeing where Barcia is going and responding accordingly. When he sees Barcia stay to the inside, he knows that Barcia will suffer through the corner and on the exit. Musquin can then draw a much more efficient arc by swinging wide on the entry, carrying speed through the apex, and exiting much faster. If he can draw this “road race”-type line and also avoid running into Barcia, he should be able to pass Barcia on acceleration. Musquin’s line is outside-to-inside while Barcia’s protective approach is inside-to-outside. As we see in this sequence, Musquin line pays off and he would make the pass.
Another interesting subtlety of this photo is Barcia’s last-ditch attempt to hold Musquin behind him. As he realizes Musquin has cut under and is likely to make the move, he leans back to the inside in hopes of blocking the line. As he leans back inside, he also loses traction, and his rear tire spins to the outside with the shift in body weight. If he was able to get two or three feet more to the left, he would force Musquin to brake and possibly maintain his position. He isn’t able to get to the spot, however, and Musquin has a perfect window to accelerate through. In the last of the photos, Barcia leans back to the middle, both to regain traction and after realizing that Musquin has occupied that available space. It’s cat and mouse on both sides of the coin.
Justin Hill and Marvin Musquin
This photo of Marvin Musquin and Justin Hill is fairly unassuming. The reason I chose it is the line choice depicted. Musquin is using the inside line while Justin Hill is carrying momentum around the outside. There are two things in play here. First, Justin Hill is using more of a 250-type line. Railing around the outside would be much more likely for 250 riders, and as Justin Hill is only a few weeks into his 450 career, it makes sense that he would default to the longer, momentum-carrying line. That may change in time as his 450 experience grows and he learns where a 450 can be more efficient.
For Musquin, inside lines are his M.O. He is always looking for ways to “shorten” the track. Musquin knows that he has the power to regain his momentum quickly and can look for the shortest distance to cover. He is also a master of throttle control and doesn’t need the excess traction that berms provide. He finds traction when others can’t, and he also makes lines work that most don’t even consider. This photo is a poor example of that because the inside line is clearly established, but the principle remains.
Alex Martin, chief conductor of the Troll Train, is railing around a downhill left-hand turn in the photo below. This turn had an inside/outside option as it descended. The inside is typically going to be a shorter distance, but this section had a roller jump to slow speeds on the inside. A-Mart chose to rail around the outside, requiring more speed to cover the extra distance.
The aspect to note here is that Alex is standing up on the footpegs instead of sitting like most riders would. He is able to attack the corner and be aggressive. Standing also allows the motorcycle to work more efficiently, balancing the weight applied to the suspension. That balanced approach would provide for more maneuverability if he were to hit a bump wrong or face any sort of unexpected mistake. He has his weight back for stability, but is also leaning forward to make sure he doesn’t lose front-tire traction as the track is falling away from him. Lines like this are fast when executed correctly, and A-Mart has it dialed.