Southwick. MX338. The Wick. Whatever you call it, this national is legendary. The only true sand race of the season is up next and will be a big ask after a brutal Florida event. We haven’t seen riders suffer in that fashion for a long time. The first 250 Class moto winner, Chase Sexton, wasn’t even able to race the second moto, and many others were surely in distress, too. With temperatures expected in the high 80s again Saturday, we will see who can bounce back and who can’t.
This track is a tricky one. It’s sand, yes, but it has a harder base than most would anticipate. That creates a more slippery feel than a typical sand pit. Some of the corners up at the top of the circuit are not even sandy by late in the second moto. The outside berms will be deep sand but the inside lines are often firmer and take a very careful throttle hand to navigate efficiently. There are often battles consisting of one rider flying around the outside of the corner while another tip-toes through the inside. The fun part is that they often end up around the same speed and make for intense racing. As the track gets rougher, riders must stay vigilant. New lines form several times throughout the day and if you stick to the same tired line from qualifying into the second moto, you are probably losing time to a quicker option. Sand riding requires constant thought and an open mind. The loose dirt is in constant flux, berms being built and decimated from lap to lap.
The best sand riders can almost see the lines changing before it happens. When a berm is about to blow out, they will anticipate it and make their apex lower in the turn or switch lines altogether. It’s an ability and aptitude that comes from thousands of laps, learning from mistakes, and being proactive. A great sand rider will come into the corner a bit slower and a bit more mindful of burying his wheels into the softest part of the turn. That makes it easier to regain speed on the exit. The deeper the sand, the more important these tactics and techniques become. Go back and watch 2018 the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations at RedBud for multiple examples of this. Southwick isn’t as extreme as the October RedBud conditions were but the concept applies—the European riders were masters of keeping their bikes on top of, instead of buried, in the soft stuff.
I always enjoy watching the local New England Sports Committee (NESC) riders approach the Southwick course in comparison to the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship regulars. Everyone is going fast, of course, but the thought process is different in many cases. The NESC riders have unorthodox lines, changing their entry points throughout the day. Riders with less experience on this track will be much more likely to take the obvious line. Not to say they won’t finish up front, they are the best riders in America for a reason, but I still believe there are lessons to be learned from the less famous local riders. Riders like Robbie Marshall (and many, many, many others) have frustrated the sport’s elite at this race. If there’s any race where local knowledge still matters, it’s definitely The Wick.
Questions I Need Answered
Will we see any obvious residual effects from the difficult Florida weekend?
Has Marvin Musquin finally arrived for this series?
Zach Osborne had these two rounds (Florida and Southwick) circled as potential successful days, can he find a moto win this weekend?
Ken Roczen gave up a few points with a tough second moto. He has had epic battles with Tomac here in the past. Can he steal some points back from the defending champ?
Dylan Ferrandis was great at this race last year and won his first moto of the season last time out. Has he found his mojo after a supercross championship hangover?
Tomac gained solo possession of the red plates in Florida, winning the second moto.
Justin Cooper won his first overall ever and cut his 250 Class points deficit back to 18 points.
Musquin won his first moto of the year as well as the Florida overall.
Sexton won the first moto of his career.
Alex Martin put in a solid day but is still looking for more entering one of his best tracks.
Freddie Noren had a heck of a day, battling with Tomac and showing his grit. He also earned a ride with the JGRMX/Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing team for the remainder of Pro Motocross.
Sexton was unable to line up for the second moto after overheating on the podium.
Thomas Covington gave it a shot, riding the first practice in Florida but was unable to continue.
Joey Savatgy took a step back in Florida after a great High Point.
John Dowd holeshots the first moto and ends up third overall.
After the heat related issues last weekend, mechanics spray their riders with super soakers each lap as the come by.
Freddie Noren has several people crossing their fingers Saturday.
Eli Tomac wins the second moto.
Justin Cooper cuts the points lead to under 15.
Steve Matthes is arrested for stealing a second jar of Southwick sand.