We have changed the format to Breakdown this year. The Racer X staff will pose some burning questions from the weekend and I'll take my best crack at them.
All of these opinions are my own and usually in stark contrast to anything Steve Matthes would believe.
The sand section caused problems all night. Why was this specific section so troubling?
The sand was tough for everyone and even more so on the start. There were two main reasons for the difficulties. One, this was pure Florida beach sand. There might as well have been waves crashing in the background because this sand was from right off A1A. It was soft and loose, tires spinning and sand flying in every direction. Also, the base of the track was very hard and I heard several riders mention the difficult combination of soft sand on top of a hard base. The rear tire spins up quickly to a high rpm in the spin-inducing sand, but when the tire gets to the base, that rpm becomes very difficult to predict. When riders are veering wildly from one side of the track to the other, you know it’s tough to manage.
Another factor was the two distinct line choices. The inside line was the shortest distance, but riders started from a virtual standstill on exit. The outside was easier to maintain momentum and get back up to speed but it was the long way around and opened up to a block pass. Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin were playing cat and mouse with these two lines in the main event. I was a fan of the outside line for most laps but there was more risk involved. To use the outside, riders had to remain aware of who was around them.
The start was especially tough this year, with several crashes throughout the night. Why?
The sand caused several slow crashes at the end of the straightway but the most violent incidents were at the apex of the first corner. As I have talked about several times in my Staging Area column, this start variation is prone to problems. The reason is the geometry and physics of the layout. With riders barreling into the 90 degree turn, the riders on the inside flow to the outside. Those riders on the outside who are desperately trying to beat them there have no room to move if the pack flows their direction. This inevitably happens on most starts. The inside meets the outside and contact ensues. The Tuff Blox on the outside of the course add another obstacle that usually can’t be avoided in traffic. We have been lucky in recent weeks with this start variation, largely avoiding issues in Detroit. It’s unavoidable over a large sample size, though.
Can you explain the roller coaster that is Eli Tomac?
Haha, no. My only conclusion is that he has a tendency to let adversity affect his poise. If things aren’t going to his liking, he can sometimes struggle to persevere. This isn’t an every-time type thing but we have seen it enough to recognize the pattern. I just don’t know what else it could be.
For several laps, it looked like Webb was going to make a pass stick on Musquin but couldn’t. Explain.
This is becoming a pattern between these two. Musquin seems to be faster than Webb most weekends but isn’t earning the critical points needed when all is said and done. Oakland, Detroit, Atlanta, and Daytona were all situations where I feel Musquin was faster but wasn’t able to translate that into a better finish than Webb. Whether it’s Webb rising to the occasion or Musquin leaving points on the table is up for interpretation, but the simple fact is that it’s resulted in a 19-point margin.
Another question that could be asked here is if their familiarity of practicing with each other is changing the dynamic on race day? Does Webb know Marv’s tendencies? Is he certain that Marv won’t go for the take-out move because they are both teammates and training partners? There are several layers to their weekly battles.
Marv seems to be making more mistakes than usual. Feeling the pressure or what’s up?
I think it’s a combination of frustration and urgency. He knows he needs to put wins on the board and more importantly, beat Cooper Webb. Neither of those are happening and he’s running out of time. I think he’s pressing a bit and is out of his comfort zone. I think that’s actually a good thing because he absolutely needs to get on a win streak, but he has to find a way to remove the untimely mistake(s). That’s a big ask for someone who hasn’t really ventured out of his comfort zone very often. The elephant in the room is that his knee injury set him back early in the season and he’s been playing catch up ever since. He’s riding as good or better than Webb but the points deficit will be difficult to reel in.
Austin Forkner is ROLLING. Will anyone be able to stop him?
The only person in the East Region that will stop Austin Forkner is Austin Forkner. He has every aspect of his game dialed in right now. His starts are impeccable, he has been able to remove all mistakes from his races, and he seems to have the other guys on their heels. I think Chase Sexton might find a way to sneak a win in, especially when Forkner starts thinking title, but this series is over barring catastrophe.
Anything else catch your eye 250SX wise?
I am still perplexed by Martin Davalos this season. He hasn’t had the speed we have come to know but he also isn’t having wildly erratic ups and downs either. I am guessing that’s correlated but I don’t think this approach will pay dividends, unfortunately. His raw speed is what’s kept him on factory equipment for over a decade.