Welcome back to Racerhead and the last stretch of the 2019 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season. The teams are gathered at Unadilla for the 50th anniversary of one of the world’s most iconic motocross tracks, which held its first race in 1969 and its first pro race, the 1970 Trans-AMA, one year later. The first winner? British legend Jeff Smith aboard a BSA. Now the race marks the tenth stop of the 12-race Pro Motocross tour, with Budds Creek next weekend and then the grand finale at Ironman in Indiana.
Unadilla ’19 starts tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. ET live on MAVTV as well as NBC Sports Gold, which will stream all four motos live. And tomorrow’s second 450 moto will air live on the big network of NBC at 4 p.m. ET. (The second 250 moto will be shown on NBC Sports, beginning at 6 p.m. ET).
When we last left the series at Washougal, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac had taken command of the 450 Class again with two masterful come-from-behind rides, and he now enjoys a 50-point lead in the standings. And how solid is Adam Cianciarulo's 250 Class motocross approach going so far? He didn’t win at Washougal, but he was right there in both motos. He's got 394 total points, which is actually two more than soon-to-be-teammate Tomac has in the 450 Class that he's leading. Cianciarulo has been mixing it up with Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Dylan Ferrandis and Justin Cooper since the start of the series, but he has yet to have a really off day. His lowest moto finishes of the season are a pair of fifths, the only two times he has not been on the podium in 18 total motos. Ferrandis has won six of the last nine motos, but until Cianciarulo slips up, the damage is minimal with each moto win.
Besides the 50th celebration going on at Unadilla, with Rick Johnson as Grand Marshal, there will also be the announcement of Team USA for the 2019 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations, which will take place in late September at Assen, Holland. That was thrown for something of a cold bath when Kawasaki officially announced yesterday that neither Tomac nor Cianciarulo would be going. (More on that below.) I’m afraid that’s not the only disappointment Team USA fans will hear, as they aren’t the only ones who let the AMA know that the MXoN is not in the cards for their riders this time around.
We will get into more of that shortly, but first a look back at another big race.
Loretta Lynn’s (DC)
All week long we’ve been posting interviews and reviews of all that happened last week at Loretta Lynn Ranch, where the 38th Annual AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship went off over the course of six days. There were a total of 36 titles up for grabs, with each class running three long motos. With 108 championship motos in all, it was nearly nonstop racing from 7:30 a.m. until about 7:00 p.m. We were very fortunate with the weather, as it only rained on the last couple of motos, and only the very last 65cc moto was truly a mudder. Lots and lots of really cool stories emerged, from underdog Hardy Munoz winning one of the Pro Sport classes to Jazzmyn Canfield topping Lucas Oil Pro Motocross competitors (and bitter rivals) Jordan Jarvis and Hannah Hodges. Jett Lawrence, the younger brother of GEICO Honda’s Hunter, was a revelation (more on that later). And it was very cool to see Max Vohland, the son of Tallon, dominate the Supermini classes. He and his dad (and uncle Tyson) then put all of Max’s minicycles up for sale. Look for him at the pro level in two years, or maybe even next summer after Loretta Lynn’s. Nick Romano got the better of Ryder DiFrancesco and the rest of the senior mini riders in both classes, and Haiden “Dangerboy” Deegan and Daxton Bennick were a treat to watch all week long as they split the younger 85cc titles.
It’s impossible to give all of the champions and their competitor the room they deserve in Racerhead, but I will say that there are a whole bunch of fast young kids coming up through the ranks, as well as some older ones like 47-year-old Mike Brown who seems like he will never slow down. Thanks to all of the riders and friends and families that came out this year, as well as to the industry and all of the past champs. We will be remastering all of the motos that aired live on racertv.com so stay tuned to see the whole race all over again!
Mike Brown appears to be getting faster as the years stack up. Davey Coombs And Ryder D. may have jinxed himself when he rode out with "6-Time" on the back of his pants. (Jeff Stanton just took his shirt off!) Davey Coombs Max Vohland one of his six Supermini moto wins. Davey Coombs Look closely and you will see that one of these On Track graduate students has a little salt & pepper scruff going…. Davey Coombs
GREEN MEANS NO-GO (Matthes)
Interesting to see the Kawasaki PR put out yesterday saying that their riders, Adam Cianciarulo and Eli Tomac, wanted to go to the MXoN this year but "After discussing the details of the team’s off-season plans with each rider, both were in agreement with the team’s decision." So Kawasaki's out of the race after supporting it for many years with lots of different riders. Both green guys are the current points leaders, so once again, Team USA will not be sending its theoretical best team to the MXoN. (You can read the post here.)
You can blame the OEMs, you can blame the riders, but the simple fact is this race doesn't really work out for Team USA anymore. I've been saying that for a while. The timing is terrible, and the MXGP series doesn't seem the least bit interested in helping get its number-one attraction to the race. It's also expensive, and the whole team will have done 29 races in 37 weekends and will want a break as well. It's four weeks after the last national, the Monster Cup is a couple of weeks after this race, Straight Rhythm is the week after, and to keep doing outdoor motocross riding/testing after the Ironman National finale in Indiana just doesn't work out for many teams and riders. Something has to give or more OEMs will, in my mind, join Kawasaki in saying no mas. You just can't wrap the flag around you when it makes very little sense to do so, and the rewards for winning are a shrug, and on to Monster Cup we go!
I think Kawi is to be commended for putting this PR out. It allows ET and AC to get out from the flack they'll get (I mean, of course they'll still get some) for skipping this race. Team USA will be announced this weekend, and it'll be a strong team. So just get behind them and pull for USA to do its best at this race. But also understand a reasonable decision by Kawasaki was made.
Press Release Redux (DC)
“In spite of an advance planning process and open dialogue with key members of the motocross industry, in the end it proved unrealistic to send a team this year,” said an AMA official. “While we had some riders express a willingness to represent the United States, in most instances it was not possible to secure the necessary approval and support from those riders’ contract holders.”
Another AMA official mentioned the added cost and timing of doing the race: “There must be a value return on such an expenditure. Event scheduling and broadcast coverage are just two areas we would like to see addressed.
“It’s apparent that the American motorcycle distributors and most of the riders consider competing in the AMA Championship to be their main priority. Under the current circumstances, committing the resources necessary to travel to Europe for the MXoN after having spent the past nine months contesting the AMA Supercross and AMA Motocross seasons is a difficult business decision for everyone.”
The words above were not spoken by any current AMA official, nor were they spoken this week. That’s from a 2004 press release when Team USA decided not to even go. The officials quoted were Steve Whitelock and John Farris. The point is, we should be grateful that at least some guys and their teams still want to go (and I know I am going to cheer on whoever they ended up sending).
And just a note to add on to Matthes’ opinion on the matter: We talk a lot about Honda having not won the AMA Supercross Championship since Ricky Carmichael in 2003. While the dry spell for Kawasaki only goes back to Ryan Villopoto in 2014, they won four straight titles with RV before he retired and were used to being the best team in SX. Although Eli Tomac has won more races than anyone since he got with Kawasaki three years ago, he’s somehow 0-3 on winning SX titles.
But he’s not the only one focused on getting ready for SX come September. As a matter of fact, none of the 2019 champions—Cooper Webb (450), Chase Sexton (250 East), or Dylan Ferrandis (250 West)—will be going to the MXoN either. Ferrandis, who was on the winning French team last year, said he doesn’t want to go this time. And Webb was thought to be a yes, but then he apparently decided otherwise. Sexton has struggled with his health since the Florida National and likely wasn’t a serious consideration for this fall.
And like Tomac and Webb, also apparently skipping are two other title contenders in Germany’s Ken Roczen and France’s Marvin Musquin. They will be well into their supercross work by the time the starting gate drops on the Motocross of Nations in late September.
Now, if you think this lack of interest in the MXoN is something new, it’s not. Back in the day, the seemingly very best American representative, 500cc World Championship contender Brad Lackey, rarely went. Bob Hannah and everyone else turned it down in 1979, leading to Team USA not even going that year nor the next. In 1992, Jeff Stanton, Damon Bradshaw, Mike Kiedrowski, and Donny Schmit all passed, as did team manager Roger De Coster. Jeremy McGrath went twice during his career and won both times, but he also turned the gig down a few times. Both Ryan Villopoto (2013) and Ryan Dungey (2015) passed on the MXoN despite winning that same year’s 450 MX titles. Chad Reed almost always stepped up for Australia, but he passed on racing the MXoN in 2015 after his Team TwoTwo Motorsports shut down, tweeting, “Putting in my countries colors isn’t something I take for granted but right now I’m focused on ME and how to show up in January the best ME.”
And in 2004, as mentioned above in the press release, the entire hierarchy of AMA SX/MX—Ricky Carmichael, Chad Reed, James Stewart, Kevin Windham, and even De Coster—said no, so we didn’t send a team at all. That year the last AMA National was September 12 at Glen Helen, and the Motocross of Nations was October 2-3 in Lierop, Holland.
The decision by Kawasaki not to send Eli and Adam is understandable, as is Webb passing on the race, or any of the other myriad of riders over the years who have passed. Fortunately, the lineup we will be sending sounds like it wants to be there, both the riders and the teams.
JETT & THE RECORD (DC)
One of the most unreachable of all records in motocross is the youngest to win an AMA Pro Motocross or AMA Supercross main event. That's because the man who holds the all-time record, Marty Tripes, shocked the world in 1972 when he turned 16 on June 28, 1972, just 10 days before the first Superbowl of Motocross was held. Tripes then won the race in the Los Angeles Coliseum, meaning that any rider who would ever challenge his record had to celebrate his 16th birthday less than 10 days before he rode and won his first professional race. The closest anyone has ever come to matching that record is James Stewart, who turned 16 on December 21, 2001, and entered his first AMA 125 Supercross 15 days later. Even if he had won that Anaheim opener, Stewart would have missed the record by five days. Instead, he finished second to Travis Preston. One week later in San Diego, he won, which left him second on the all-time list at 16 years, 22 days.
A few years ago there was talk that the rising Spanish superstar Jorge Prado, now the dominant force in the MX2 World Championships, was going to come to race 125 West Region Supercross. Born on January 5, 2001, Prado would have been 16 years and 4 days old for Anaheim 1, but he decided to stay in Europe instead and focus on the FIM World Championship.
Back in 2004, Davi Millsaps turned 16 on February 15, six days before he would make his pro debut at the Minneapolis Supercross. Millsaps was considered such an immediate contender that his agent even considered getting an injunction that would allow him to race the February 14 Houston SX, the start of the 125 East Region that year. That never happened, so Davi was 16 years, 6 days when he lined up at Minneapolis. It didn't quite go according to plan, and the Suzuki rider struggled under the pressure to finish 14th. But two weeks later he was on the box with a runner-up finish at Daytona.
Which leads us to Jett Lawrence. The Australian prospect turned 16 this past Wednesday, August 8, and will line up tomorrow for his first AMA Pro Motocross race for GEICO Honda in the 250 Class. Now, we just watched Jett all week long at Loretta Lynn's, and he is very impressive. Can he win? That would be a very tall order. However, it is mathematically possible, and it just goes to show how difficult beating Tripes' record would be, as you have to have the perfect birth date and be able to win immediately.
Here's another thing: Lawrence will have two chances at Tripes' record, as he will be 16 years, 3 days old tomorrow at Unadilla, and then 16 years, 10 days come Budds Creek next week. As Jim Carrey might opine, So you're saying there's a chance....
And if you're wondering about the youngest Grand Prix winner ever, Ken Roczen was just 15 years and 53 days old when he won the MX2 class in the MXGP of Germany back in June of 2009. (The FIM's minimum age is obviously younger than that of the AMA.)
Finally, for comparison’s sake, the aforementioned Supermini rider Max Vohland was 16 years, 5 months old on the final day of Loretta Lynn’s; Jett Lawrence was 15 years, 11 months, 27 days.
Press Day (Mitch Kendra)
Although it was only a press day ride, today we got our first glimpse of several riders who will be making their pro debut this weekend at the Unadilla National, the tenth round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Jett Lawrence, Jo Shimoda, and Carson Mumford all participated in the ride—and they all looked pretty good (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Jalek Swoll is also making his pro debut as well but his team did not participate in the event, therefore he did not ride). Mumford was the first rider to take off out of the starting area once the riders got the okay to go as Lawrence and Shimoda practiced their starts together. It will definitely be interesting to see how these guys do tomorrow once the gate drops in the first 250 Class moto.
Aside from the youngsters fresh off of Loretta Lynn’s there were several other riders flying around, as the teams invited to take place in press day included: Honda HRC, GEICO Honda, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing, and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha. RJ Hampshire, Ken Roczen, Justin Barcia, and Dylan Ferrandis were all showing speed on the iconic course. And we saw several bike whips and Nac-Nacs thrown on the Sky Shot jump as well. The weather for press day's events was perfect and if it's a nice tomorrow we will be in for some good racing.
Check out some highlights from the ride below:
Red (Sand) Rider (Andras Hegyi)
Despite having won on some world-famous sand tracks like Assen (Holland), Kegums (Latvia), and Mantova (Italy), the Slovenian Honda rider Tim Gajser was mainly considered a hard-pack specialist. But last Sunday he changed that perception a bit when he got his maiden victory at Lommel, Belgium, the shrine of riding sand. Historically, Tim was not an enormous success there, as in the past he was not able to even get a podium result at Lommel. In 2014 and '16 he was fifth, in '15 he was sixth, while in '17 he finished eleventh, and then last year he was seventh. Gajser has now put an end to his less-than-stellar results there by winning the MXGP last Sunday.
Honda was also able to take their very first GP win in Belgium since 2005. Between 2006 and '18 Honda could not win any GPs held in Belgium, during which time there were 14 GPs in all. The last Honda GP winner in Belgium was the two-time world champion Mickael Pichon, who won in MX1 at Nismes, at the GP of Wallonia in 2005. Through Gajser’s triumph Honda also got their maiden Lommel victory in the premier class, as before 2019 Honda's only win at Lommel came in the MX3 category in 2005 too.
By winning Lommel, Tim Gajser caught up with Stefan Everts in a couple of statistics. Lommel marked his 9th GP win of 2019, which ties him with Everts for most GP wins in a season aboard a Honda. Everts had nine GP wins in two seasons as a Honda rider, once in 1997 while racing in the 250cc class, then again in '98, though this time he collected eight GP wins in 250cc racing and then one GP win while riding as a wild card in the 500cc Grand Prix at Namur in Belgium. In addition, Gajser got his 24th-career GP win, all of them in saddle of Honda, which also ties him with Everts. Stefan raced for Honda between 1996 and '99, getting 24 wins all together. The most successful Honda GP winner is the 3-time 500c World Champion André Malherbe from Belgium, who got 27 GP wins as a Honda crosser.
Twelve (Andras Hegyi)
Jorge Prado, the best Spanish motocross racer of all time, is actually a Lommel, Belgium, boy. The 18-year-old was pretty much raised at Lommel, arguably the most brutal motocross track in the world. Prado has raced and trained there since his childhood. Last Sunday he became one of the greatest Lommel aces ever. Besides Antonio Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings, and Max Anstie, Prado is the fourth rider to get three GP wins at Lommel. The Red Bull KTM rider has been undefeated there in MX2 since 2017. Moreover, besides the British rider Anstie (who went DNF-1 in the MXGP class after a first-turn crash in the first moto), Prado is only the second one to take three consecutive GP wins at Lommel.
For Prado, it marked his 13th GP win in 13 starts this year (he missed the British GP due to an injury). He has already improved from his 2018 season when he got 12 GP wins on his way to his first world championship. In addition, Prado now has 12 consecutive GP wins, catching up with Stefan Everts. The 10-time world champion Everts got 12 successive GP wins in his last season, in 2006, riding in what was then called MX1. Only the four-time world champion Herlings had a longer winning streak than Prado in the history of the FIM World Motocross Championship. The record-holder is Herlings, who got 14 straight GP wins in 2013 racing in the MX2. If all goes the same way it has all season, Prado can tie that record in Sweden and then break it at the next-to-last round in Turkey.
One note on this record involving Everts, the greatest GP motocrosser ever: In 2003, when the GPs were one moto and three classes, Everts regularly rode both MX1 aboard a Yamaha YZ450F and MX2 aboard a 250F and won both classes. And then, at the very last round of the series, he rode (and swept) all three classes. If you count his consecutive wins there, he won the last seven MX1 and MX2 races and then the MX3 in the last round, giving him 15 straight single-moto Grand Prix wins over the last seven rounds of the series. It doesn't count as the record, though it is pretty damn impressive!
A Chip Off the Old Block (Andras Hegyi)
This week, the reigning Motocross of Nations Champion French team announced its lineup for the 73rd MXoN. Longtime captain Gautier Paulin, Romain Febvre, and Tom Vialle will represent France as they go for a sixth consecutive win. If Team France wins again, they would be only the second team to take home at least six consecutive Peter Chamberlain Trophies, joining only the U.S. in doing this.
The biggest name in Team France is Paulin. He is a legend in the history of the event, in existence since 1947. Paulin will race in his 11th consecutive MXoN, as he has been there since 2009. If France wins, he would become the very first motocrosser to get six successive victories at the Motocross of Nations. Besides Paulin, only the American David Bailey has five wins in a row there. And besides American Jeff Ward, British rider Jeff Smith, and the Belgian legend Roger De Coster, Paulin would be the fourth to get at least six wins at the MXoN.
Febvre is ready for his fourth MXoN. He was selected to take part in 2015-’17. In 2018 he missed the race because of injury. If Team France wins again, he would increase his record as the winningest Yamaha rider in the MXoN, as right now he has won three times, which is more than anyone in the event’s history for that brand.
Team France also has a rookie in the lineup as 19-year-old Tom Vialle will be the MX2 rider. He debuted in the world championship this year and he immediately was signed to the factory Red Bull KTM team. In the first 14 rounds he has collected five podium results and thanks to his performance he is third in the overall points standing. And now being a Team France member, Vialle can follow in his father’s footsteps. Vialle senior is Frederic Vialle, a top French motocrosser in the 1990s. Vialle Sr. got three GP wins, he was third in the overall in 1996 racing in the 125cc World Championship, and he took part in three Motocross of Nations (‘91, ‘94 and ’97) though he was never on a winning team.
The october 2019 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
The October 2019 issue of Racer X magazine is out now. Sign up now for the print and/or award-winning digital edition. And if you're already a digital subscriber head to digital.racerxonline.com to login.
Inside the October issue of Racer X Illustrated: How top riders deal with heat in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, behind the scenes of the film Bennett’s War, exploring Unadilla history, and a trip to Wheels & Waves in the south of France. All these features and much more inside the October issue.
“Triathlon” by Jason Weigandt
A brutally hot summer took its toll during a three-race stretch spanning the 2019 Florida, Southwick, and RedBud Nationals.
“Hollywood Moto” by Davey Coombs
Go behind the scenes of Bennett’s War and how it hopes to change the way motocross is presented on the silver screen.
“Unadilla Established 1969 - Part 2” by Davey Coombs
We explore the fabled New York track’s decades on the AMA Motocross circuit.
“French Dressing” by David Langran
What better place to visit in the summer than the south of France—especially during the arts-and-motorcycles party known as Wheels & Waves.
Poster Info (Print Edition Only)
Our pull-out collectible poster features Rockstar Energy Husqvarna riders Jason Anderson and Zach Osborne blasting around the Southwick National.
Hey, Watch It!
Colt Nichols posted this cool video of some drone footage of him riding the other day:
Jalek Swoll shared this video of another angle of his finish over Jett Lawrence in the first Open Pro Sport moto:
And here is Haiden "Danger Boy" Deegan's 85cc title run.
Here's a good review of the 250 Pro Sport race by SDR
LISTEN TO THIS
The Fly Racing Racer X Podcast comes in with Mike Chavez, a technician at Kawasaki, joining me to talk about the new 2020 KX250 and working with magazines on shootouts. Chavez also talks about his beginnings in the sport, wrenching for Damon Bradshaw at the beginning of his career, leaving Yamaha, and more.
The dizzying array of classes and ages makes it tough to understand what happens at the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn's, but Jason Weigandt cracks the code in this episode of The Racer X Exhaust Podcast. You'll hear his conversations with Jalek Swoll and Jett Lawrence, who are set to race pro at Unadilla this weekend, and also get some insight into their styles and personalities. Also, who are the biggest stars further out on the horizon? Familiar last names Vohland and Deegan are making their way to the front.
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“Motorcycles backfiring mistaken for an active shooter in Times Square”—CNN
“Diver attacked by shark rescued by fishing boat full of nurses in Florida”—ABC News
“No Motocross of Nations for Kawasaki Race Team in 2019”—Kawasaki team PR
You can read the team statement here.
Dan Villopoto Memorial Race coming up
UNADILLA NATIONAL RACER X ALL-DAY PIT PASSES | LIMITED QUANTITIES LEFT
Going to the Unadilla National this weekend? Want to be able to get into the pits all day?
The only way to cruise the pits whenever you’d like is with the Racer X All-Day Pit Pass, but quantities are limited! Get yours today while they’re still available and get all-day pit access plus a one-year subscription to Racer X Illustrated for $90*.
If you preorder online for this event, you’ll need to pick your Racer X Pit Pass up at Will Call, where you’ll also receive an extra copy of Racer X, the official event sticker, and Racer X stickers.
*Purchase of this Racer X Pit Pass includes a general admission ticket.
SUBSCRIBE AT UNADILLA AND GET ALL 12 EVENT STICKERS
Are you headed to the Unadilla National this weekend? Make sure you stop by the Racer X booth, located in Sponsor Village, and subscribe for as low as $15 and receive ALL TWELVE Official 2019 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Racer X event stickers. You will also receive a complimentary magazine and free Racer X stickers.
Be sure to check out our Racer X Brand items on display and grab some gear. See you at the races!
Red Bull KTM's Shayna Texter is on the new September 2019 cover of The Red Bulletin.
In case you missed it earlier this summer (like I did) here is a fantastic interview with John Fox of Fox Racing about the genesis of the ground-breaking Terra Firma videos and how they all came together, conducted by Jared Conley. It's a great read for the weekend! Click here for part one and click here for part two.
Check out the retro graphics the JGRMX/Yoshimura Suzuki squad is running this weekend to celebrate 50 years of racing at Unadilla. Here's an explanation from Suzuki's press department:
“Unadilla is the perfect location to celebrate Suzuki’s rich motocross history with this special graphics on our RM-Z race bikes,” stated Kerry Graeber, Vice President MC/ATV Sales and Marketing. “Riders who have won championships on the Suzuki brand make up a who’s who list of motocross royalty and this weekend we pay respect to every one of them. The 1970’s is really when motocross exploded in the United States, so we’re excited to run a design inspired by that amazing era.”
Suzuki is one of the winningest brands in AMA Motocross history with many of those successes coming on the famed Unadilla track, including 18 national wins. Suzuki winners from 1970 to 1989 include Roger De Coster (5), Kent Howerton (3), and Bob Hannah (1) as well as Guy Cooper (2), Greg Albertyn (1), Broc Hepler (1), Ricky Carmichael (2), Chad Reed (1), Ryan Dungey (1), and Ken Roczen (1) from 1990 to 2018.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #32.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!