Main Image of High Point Raceway. Photo by Andrew Fredrickson.
Welcome to Racerhead. Let’s start out with something positive for a change: we’re riding tomorrow at High Point! Thanks to the Safe-to-Race Toolkit and the best practices developed by the Task Force, High Point Raceway has received the green light to host a recreational Ride Day tomorrow, this Saturday, from noon p.m. Eastern to 5 p.m. The Ride Day will consist of an unprecedented 5 courses available to riders depending upon their bike size and age. Admission and registration processes will follow strict social distancing and hygiene guidelines, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For more information, read this full post that details the rules, admission/registration processbefore attending the event.
Next Tuesday, at a private location, racing will resume, but in a very novel and interesting way, as you will see if you have been following any of this on social media. The Moto Fite Klub will offer a chance to see and hear from a lot of our favorite riders over the past few decades of American motocross and supercross. Ryan Villopoto, Kevin Windham, Travis Pastrana, Jeff Stanton, Damon Bradshaw, Mike Alessi, and more are getting together—albeit while trying to stay at least six feet apart—for what promises to be a fun race/reunion. The event will take place at an undisclosed location on Tuesday, May 12, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern/2:00 p.m. Pacific exclusively on Fite Pay Per View. Also, Moto Fite Klub is partnering with a number of charities, including Road 2 Recovery, Goggles for Docs, and more. The guys just want to get together, do some smack-talk and bench racing, and give the rest of us moto fans something to watch, as well as a way to help out some friends, albeit without any fans around. This Moto Fite Klub is a private one, albeit on PPV!
And next weekend in Georgia, we’re racing. The 2020 AMA Grand National Cross Country Series will start up again with a return to the place where it came to a halt two months ago: Washington, Georgia. And instead of calling it the General, this time it’s the Bulldog, and it’s shaping up as the first race of a new era—the #socialdistancing Safe-to-Race era. While we all have been waiting out this whole coronavirus health crisis, we’ve also been working hard coming up with the necessary tools to get back to racing and riding in a safe and responsible manner. Tracks are starting to open for ride days, practices, and smaller events (though the biggest series of all, Monster Energy AMA Supercross, is still working on a plan to return soon and complete it’s championship run). The Safe-to-Race task force has built and distributed a tool kit for any motorsports track or club that is considering getting back on track and might find the information and recommendations gathered from all over the country to be helpful, and you can find it right here.
Motorcycle racing—and the whole world, really—is approaching a crossroads. We are all contemplating how and when and where we can start getting back to our normal lives. The U.S. economy has seen recently best-ever jobs numbers decimated by the millions, to the point where we have the worst unemployment numbers since the Great Depression. Schools have closed, businesses are shuttered, sports are something we used to watch and do together. This all happened in the last two months, and we know the effects it’s all had on our world. We’re all in this together. Getting back out, of course, comes with risks. And as motorcycle enthusiasts, risks are something we all know well.
Yesterday I went to a local track to work on a project and ran into a couple of riders I know and their friends. Everyone was basically from a different state, and each state has a different situation, different rules, different warnings when it comes to coronavirus. One of our states is already on the gas and relaxing mitigating and social distancing regulations; the other states are going a slower route. Georgia, where the race will take place next weekend, is one of the more proactive states in all of this. If the next race were scheduled for, say, New York, well, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. But the following weekend, the WORCS Series will resume in Nevada. The states that are opening up are doing it cautiously, as are the event promoters, because of the risks involved—not just the racing ones but the exposure ones as well. You will see social distancing, mitigating, little contact, and lots of masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, and more.
Welcome back to racing in this strange new world. But if it’s not for you, or if you don’t feel comfortable with the risks in leaving your home and getting back on a motorcycle, by all means wait until you do. Then get back out there.
And if you’re looking for a cool and moto-fashionable way to protect yourself from the hidden elements, check out all of the new-era PPE products at our friends right down the road at www.raceawards.comas well as Gear Medical Supplies on Facebook. And keep washing those hands!
Mr. Motocross Boot (Andras Hegyi)
The entire motorsports world—both auto racing and motorcycle racing—lost an icon earlier this week when Sante Mazzarolo passed away. He was an Italian shoemaker who founded the world-famous Alpinestars brand, which is involved in practically every form of motorsports racing in the entire world. Signor Mazzarolo was 91 years old.
Mazzarolo founded his handicraft and artisan firm in 1963 in Maser, a little town in northeast Italy, in the region of Veneto, which is also the home of some world-famous motorcycle brands like Aprilia and Fantic. He named his firm Alpinestars after a mountain flower in the region. At first, Alpinestars produced walking boots, mountaineering boots, and ski boots. But very soon Mazzarolo turned toward motocross, a kind of motorcycle sport with a very rapid development in Europe in the 1960s. Mazzarolo was the creator of the modern motocross boot. It was named the Victory boot, and it is the ancestor of every motocross and off-road racing boot today. Alpinestars became world-famous, first on the FIM Motocross World Championship circuit, where Mazzarolo built a lifelong friendship with his first top rider, Roger De Coster, and later on the AMA circuit, with Bob "Hurricane" Hannah as one of his first and biggest stars. Alpinestars became a paragon, a standard brand in motocross, off-road racing, road racing, trials—everything. There are too many legendary riders affiliated with Alpinestars, but consider this current moment in time: Jeffrey Herlings, Eli Tomac, Romain Febvre, Justin Barcia, and Jason Anderson are all under Alpinestars-backed, as is reigning Dakar champion Ricky Brabec, as well as the most successful trial rider Toni Bou.
The maiden road racing world champion of Alpinestars was "King" Kenny Roberts, the first American world champion. Kenny was followed by several road racing legends like Randy Mamola, Nicky Hayden, Michael Doohan, Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, and Marc Marquez.
In the 1990s, Alpinestars branched into car racing—Formula One, NASCAR, IndyCar, and the rally world championship—with lots of top drivers wearing Alpinestars products, including driving shoes and fire suits. Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Jimmie Johnson, and more represented the brand.
It all goes to show that Sante Mazzarolo, who was the president of the Alpinestars until 1993, built a global empire. Now Alpinestars is one of the leading brands of clothing, footwear, and protective gear for motorcycle racing, auto sport, and action sports. Alpinestars’ biggest market is the USA, as the Italian brand has had a design center also in Los Angeles since the 1980s. Sante's son Gabriele will continue to run Alpinestars from their global headquarters in Asolo, Italy. Godspeed, Sante Mazzarolo.
And in honor of the passing of Sante Mazzarolo, check out this amazing commercial from Alpinestars and Roger De Coster:
Racing Returns! (Jason Weigandt)
We tend to say that nothing is official until you read it in the press release, and by golly on Wednesday we got a real bulletin from the folks next door regarding the Grand National Cross Country Series. This isn’t a rumor. The bulletin says actual racing is actually resuming next weekend, May 16 and 17, at Aonia Pass Motocross in Washington, Georgia. That’s big news for GNCC racers and fans, and also some momentum for other series. The very next weekend, the ATV Motocross Championship will resume, also at Aonia Pass. Yes, this is all confined into the state of Georgia, but GNCC and MX Sports have been working hard to set up plans to race with social distancing, and this weekend’s High Point ride day and these next two races in Georgia will serve as a good testing grounds.
By the way, GNCC and MX Sports are sister companies to us here at Racer X. I did this podcast interview with two principals in those series, Tim Cotter and Roy Janson, on Monday, and you can learn quite a bit about the process to get racing back on track.
Could it lead to more racing elsewhere? GNCC also says it will hold a race in South Carolina two weeks later on May 30 and May 31. After that? We shall see.
Today, I talked to Kailub Russell in one of our Instagram Live interviews about all this. Although Kailub is the son of GNCC Trail Boss Jeff Russell, he says he’s not really inside the GNCC gossip circles and focuses only on himself and his training. This morning, Kailub rode his darned stationary bike indoors for 5 hours and 23 minutes! He’s also been building a new motocross track here in North Carolina. That’s filled his time for the last eight weeks. He also said he will really, truly believe racing is back when he gets down to Georgia and the green flag waves. Otherwise, he just worries about his own program.
It’s worth worrying about. Russell has spoken several times about what it takes to succeed in three-hour races, and he often refers to the final lap of the race as his black-out zone.
“You’re so depleted, you’re so tired, but you still have to go fast,” he says. “That black-out zone, you don’t even see anyone off the side of the track, you’re just on instinct, going off of muscle memory and reacting. I won’t even remember a lot of the last lap. It’s only a few races a year where you have to do that, when you’re in a battle.”
Kailub has also said the 2020 season will be his final year racing GNCCs full-time. Has the jacked-up racing schedule changed his mind? He says it actually could. If GNCC gets most of the races in, he will stick to his retirement plan. If the worst case scenario comes true, and in the end the series gets in so few races where perhaps it doesn’t appear to be a real championship season, he would consider coming back to try to win another title in 2021.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” he adds.
With the series set to resume next weekend, it looks like it might not come to that. Should be an important test run.
Everyone is trying to find a different way to the pass the time while we wait for the world to get back up and running. Mitch Payton told me today that he’s been going through old minicycle magazines from the late 1960s and early ’70s. Mammoth Mountain MX promoter Myron Short had to cancel this year’s race, then got busy with a long-overdue 1973 Honda XR75 rebuild project. Brett Smith of @WeWentFast has been doing a deep dive into a couple of really interesting subjects that you will be seeing soon in Racer X magazine.
For my part, I’ve been working on the history of the pre-Loretta Lynn’s AMA Amateur and Youth/Minicycle Nationals. The new issue of Racer X has the first installment of the two-part magazine feature, covering the Amateur Nationals from 1975 to ‘81, and next month I’ll dig into the Youth/Minicycle Nationals of those same years. I’ve reconnected with a lot of old friends along the way, including the Bigelow brothers, Ferrell McCollough, David Bailey, Troy Bradshaw, Mark Barnett, Rich Halstead of Iowa, Steve Ellis up in Michigan, and more. The goal is to feature each of those old races and all of the results and pictures I can find. This week we posted the first installment, the 1975 AMA/Amateur National Motocross Championships from Baldwin, Kansas. This was the race where Mark Barnett pretty much let the known motocross world know he was going to be a force to be reckoned with. You can check out the story of that first AMA Amateur National that we posted on Thursday.
Beyond that, I’ve been sneaking into the office every chance I get to clean things up, go through old files, and downsize here and there, and also continue building out the @motocrossstickers Instagram page, which is really about motocross memorabilia. And I’ve had some recent contributions, too. Thanks to Clifford Johnston for sending in this shot of his old painter cap from the 1974 Baldwin Inter-AMA and 125 National, which was the year before the track hosted that ’75 AMA Amateur National.
And here’s a cool closet/shoebox find from our friend Steve Ciallella….
The july 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
The July issue of Racer X magazine is coming to newsstands and mailboxes soon. Subscribe to the print and/or award-winning digital edition today. And if you're already a digital subscriber head to digital.racerxonline.com to login and read the issue in full right now.
Inside the JUly issue of Racer X magazine
- What happens to the business of racing when racing itself stops without warning?
- When he was diagnosed with the COVID-19 coronavirus, Rick Johnson fought back—just like always.
- Simon Cudby’s photos remind us that better days are ahead.
- The history of the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships before Loretta Lynn’s.
Hey, Watch It!
Our Steve Matthes headed out to Pro Circuit again last week to catch up with Mitch Payton and dig deeper into the gold mine that is Mitch Payton's room of memorabilia at the Pro Circuit headquarters in Corona, CA. From old engine components to historic trophies, Mitch has quite the collection of motocross history in his shop.
2020 Behind the Bars - Episode 8 - 2010 Snowshoe Bikes
Our own Kassy Cosner got to try an Oset MX-10 electric bike, and her three-year-old daughter absolutely is thrilled with that first feeling of riding a dirt bike. This is what it's all about!
LISTEN TO THIS
Nearly two months into this shutdown, patience is wearing thin. The Race Leadership Team, which consists of the organizers of Pro Motocross, GNCC, Loretta Lynn's MX, and ATVMX, has been keeping the industry updated on race dates since March, but there's a next step: how can they get racetracks and series open again? Jason Weigandt talks to two principals in this movement, Tim Cotter and Roy Janson, from our sister company MX Sports.
The Race Leadership Team has created a Safe to Race Toolkit, designed to show best practices for tracks and series to operate with social distancing. The hope is that this can spur local government agencies to allow racing to resume. Right now, a little hope goes a long way.
This week on The Fly Racing Racer X Podcast, Steve Matthes called up moto legends Damon Bradshaw and Jeff Stanton to talk about them matching up with each other in the upcoming Moto Fite Klub race, what they’re riding in it, and more. We also talk about racing Yamaha YZ 490s, Broc Glover, who they want to watch race at this event, the ’92 LA SX, and more.
And if you haven’t already, check out the first few Racer X Read Alouds, where our staff read their Racer X Magazine feature out loud.
“Carole Baskin Got Duped Into Her First Public Interview Since 'Tiger King' By Two YouTube Pranksters Posing As Jimmy Fallon”—Barstool Sports
"Elon Musk And Grimes Welcome Their First Baby And Name It X AE A-12 (No, Really)"—Barstool Sports
“South Carolina Manicurist 'Very Calm' as She is Eaten By Alligator”— TooFab.com
“Disney's profit plunged 91% last quarter as its parks closed their doors”—CNNBusiness.com
“A 5-year-old boy was pulled over in Utah on his way to California to try to buy a Lamborghini”—CNN.com
We will end on a very somber note. Connor Riley was a young motocross rider who tragically passed away after a horrific crash while practicing at a track in Texas. His father, Dennis, has started a GoFundMe page that explains just how painful the tragedy has been, and also what motocross meant to Connor and his family. It’s also another side of the risks involved in motorsports.
Godspeed, Connor Riley.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races. Soon.