Main Image: Garth Milan/Red Bull Content Pool
Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you on the first Friday of the last month of the worst year ever, depending on whether or not you were here in, say, 1942, or maybe 1918. December is upon us, which of course for SX/MX enthusiasts means it’s time to start checking your social media and the message boards for the big “December surprise”—that unfortunate moment where a potential contender goes down on a practice track with an injury that complicates the coming season. This year it didn’t take many refreshes before Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha 450 rider Dylan Ferrandis posted a video of a very scary crash he just had out at Lake Elsinore in Southern California. At first it was thought that he was okay, but the two-time 250SX West Region #1 and 2020 250 Pro Motocross Champion later reported that he had a broken hand. (A follow-up CAT scan on Ferrandis’ swollen right hand proved inconclusive, so his team is hopeful that it’s not as bad as it could have been.)
Posted Ferrandis, "Unfortunately I crashed yesterday while practicing, I « only » have broke my hand and bad bruises on my body, it could have been a disaster crash... I will try to heal and come back as fast as possible to be ready for the supercross."
Technically, this wasn’t even the first December surprise, nor was it even the first injury on that particular section of jumps. Earlier in the week, Derek Drake was there riding a BarX Motorsports Suzuki when he apparently hit a rock that had been coming up through one of the jump faces. It threw him over the bars, leaving him with an ugly compound fracture of his femur. It was the first in the latest string of these December surprises that have long haunted our sport, though they aren’t limited to December at all, as David Bailey’s life—changing crash came in January 1987, Ricky Carmichael’s knee-jarring ’03 crash happened in November, and Jeff Emig’s double broken wrists happened on New Year’s Eve of 1999—which was weird because we were all worried about the global economy-threatening Y2K bug and not the rhythm section at Stephane Roncada’s backyard track in the Perris badlands.
So why does it happen? It really just comes down to a numbers game. When you have every supercross rider in the sport out practicing every day, testing new bikes or new settings on public or semi-private tracks, lap after lap after lap, something is bound to go wrong. As one longtime agent told me,
“These guys have run so many laps, on so many tracks, that they can maybe sometimes become a little bit complacent or make a simple mistake, and it bites them pretty hard.”
This agent also told me that this season may see a little more of that, as the riders are going into a new system in 2021 where, rather than having one race every seven days—the usual calendar for our sport—we’re still in the middle of this pandemic, which makes scheduling extremely difficult, as a lot of traditional stops on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross tour are unavailable (specifically the stadiums in California). So a reconfigured schedule will see three races run over the same period that used to host two, which we saw a bit of in Salt Lake City in order to get the 2020 series completed. It’s not totally foreign—kids grow up racing day after day after day in big amateur races like Loretta Lynn’s, Mini O’s, Ponca City, the JS7, and more—but this is the first time they’ve had to plan for it since the old days of doubleheaders at the Pontiac Silverdome. It’s thrown a little wrench into the works, though nothing insurmountable. It’s also understandable, given the challenges every sport faces going into an uncertain new year.
So as we wait for January 16, 2021 and the start of a new season in Houston, let’s hope we’ve already had our fill of December surprises and the rest of the guys stay healthy and on two wheels through the holidays.
Talking '21 (Jason Weigandt)
As Davey said, Monster Energy AMA Supercross begins on January 16, which is about ten days later than usual but also just over a month away, so it's boot camp time for the stars of the sport. During the off-season we here at Racer X usually leave the riders alone for a month or so, but on December 1 I started texting and calling riders to line up interviews for this website. Turns out most of them are deep into the busy season by now! Still had some good conversations this week and I want to thank the riders who found time to do it. First, on Tuesday I talked to Jeremy Martin about his surprise decision to return to Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha. Jeremy did not leave the team on good terms after the 2016 season. With GEICO Honda closing, Jeremy went shopping for rides and said he had interest from Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki and Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GasGas, but in the end he went back to Star because he knew some of the staff there and figured the transition would be easier, plus, maybe there's a chance of a 450 ride in the future since Star now runs a 450 team. He knew a year with Pro Circuit would not ever result in a factory Kawasaki 450 deal, because that team is full. What Jeremy didn't really stress in my interview was how fast the Yamaha YZ250F is, but I have a feeling that was a huge factor in his decision, as well. He actually emphasized the handling of the bike more than the motor! Martin will be a beast on that bike outdoors, but he knows he has to get a supercross championship to really get that 450 ride he wants so badly. You can read my full interview here.
I also talked to Shane McElrath about his move to SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda. At one point Star Racing, his 250 team, offered him a 450 deal, but McElrath said he was already talking to HEP Motorsports Suzuki, JGRMX Suzuki teams and MCR and he wanted to fulfill the promises he made to those teams to test and try their bikes. Malcolm Stewart also had a Star offer, and Malcolm pounced on it quickly. McElrath really didn't entertain MotoConcepts' offer at first because they're a supercross-only team, but JGR couldn't really offer anything (and as we know now, the team closed its doors) and then McElrath actually rode the MCR bike. He couldn't believe how good it was! That made him really consider the supercross-only scenario, and he negotiated a good deal with the team and signed it. MCR is known for giving bonus-heavy contracts. A lot of factories only pay bonuses for wins and podiums but MCR pays well through the field. For a 450 rookie like McElrath, this could work well because rookies are often fighting for top-tens instead of podiums. It also gives some sense of accomplishment if a rider finishes eighth. We all know the 450 class is loaded these days and it's hard for rookies to know where they should slot in. McElrath doesn't have to feel like it's podium or bust in year one.
I also talked to the Lawrence brothers last night. Poor Hunter Lawrence is again on the mend from an injury, as he needed shoulder surgery after the Fox Raceway National. He'll be on the bike in a few weeks and will have two months to be ready for the 250SX West Region opener in Glendale on February 20. Jett Lawrence said he's feeling much better and faster than he was a year ago, and he'll be ready for the 250SX East opener on January 16. The Lawrence brothers have 250 Honda HRC deals locked in, the last vestige of the old GEICO Honda team. The boys got to bring their old mechanics over and a few other staffers have moved into the factory truck to help manage Honda's 250 effort. Good to see Honda trying to keep as many staffers employed as possible. Now, can the Lawrence brothers live up to the hype of being "factory" Honda 250 guys? The bikes and staff aren't really going to be any different, but the factory truck always changes the perspective.
HONDA 250F RIDERS? (DC)
Am Instagram friend of mine, @aahrens83, hit me with a pop quiz this week: "Who was the last FACTORY Honda 250F rider before the Lawrence brothers?" Good one. Honda has had riders in the smaller division since Marty Smith, Chuck Bower, Bruce McDougal, and Mickey Boone were all signed to race the brand-new Honda Elsinore CR125 in 1974, but for the better part of the last 15 years, the 250F riders were mostly under the arm of the Factory Connection program, which ended as GEICO Honda after the 2020 season. But there were exceptions. The first to come to mind were Andrew Short and Davi Millsaps, but then I remembered they moved and Tommy Hahn was still there in 2007. But then "Fresh Air A" reminded me of the star-crossed signing of New Zealand's Ben Townley in 2008. "BT101" was coming off of the East Region SX title with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki, and Honda hired him to ride the 250 East in SX and then possibly the 450 outdoors. Unfortunately, Townley got hurt badly—and often. He missed all of SX in '08, rode two 450 nationals that summer, got hurt again, and then again, causing him to miss all of 2009, then SX yet again in 2010. After two full years off, Townley finally rode the full outdoor series in 2010 aboard a CRF450, but it was actually with the Troy Lee Designs Honda squad.
But that still doesn't answer the question about the last Team Honda FACTORY Honda 250F rider. A much closer look reveals that we had the right year—2008—but the wrong guy. When Ben Townley got hurt, Honda needed a fill-in rider. They didn't want to lift anyone off of the formidable Factory Connection Honda program—Trey Canard, Josh Grant, Jake Weimer, Daniel Reardon—so they looked way, way off the grid for a fill-in for Townley. The news of who they finally found was actually broken by familiar and popular French supercross star….
Here's an excerpt from Racerhead back in February 2008:
David Vuillemin has a future as a journalist, online and otherwise. Sure, he’s a Racer X columnist and all, but this week he broke the story on his personal website that Benjamin Coisy, the very fast Frenchman who opened some eyes at the Paris-Bercy Supercross, was getting a tryout at the Honda Supercross track. How did DV12 know? Either because he speaks French (albeit with a Corona accent now) or because the Honda track is right below the Suzuki track! That made filming convenient, which someone from DV12 did, then posted it on www.dv12.com!
So how did Coisy do in 2008? Not bad, as you can see from the Vault:
But he didn’t win anything, and Honda soon relied almost entirely on Factory Connection/GEICO to guide their 250F pro racing efforts. So we think the answer of Honda's last 250F rider is Benjamin Coisy, at least before the first race of 2021 when Jett Lawrence lines up at the Houston opener for the 250SX East Region; his brother Hunter will be riding in the West.
Here's another trivia question for you: has there ever been a set of brothers on Team Honda at the same time before? Answer further below.
MONSTER ENERGY MASTER OF THE PIT (DC)
Remember back in the spring when the Moto Fite Klub kind of just came out of nowhere and turned out to be a super-fun event, the perfect escape from the early days of a nationwide quarantine? It had everyone from Ryan Villopoto to Travis Pastrana to Kevin Windham to Damon Bradshaw to Jeff Stanton to Broc Glover and more show up at a track in an industrial complex in Youngstown, Ohio, for a weekend of fun and racing on Fite.tv, a pay-per-view site that specializes in this type of one-off event. Fite.tv even recently hosted a Mike Tyson fight! Andrew Fredrickson and myself went to check out that first event, which was won by Mike Alessi, and ended up really enjoying the whole adventure of watching these recently and not-so-recently retired legends race together again, albeit for fun and charity (Road 2 Recovery).
Tomorrow night Rob Buydos, Denny Hartwig, and the gang at Fite TV are having another cool event, this time the Monster Energy Master of the Pit, a race for pit bikes at Switchback MX in Pennsylvania. Villopoto, “world’s best retired guy,” will be there competing again, this time with the likes of Willy Browning, Carson Brown and more. The race is tomorrow evening, though tonight they are having a free roundtable ZOOM discussion/bench race that you can watch at 7:00 p.m. ET
Turns out they’re having an industry class, and both myself and Luke Nesler of Impakt Media here in Morgantown, West Virginia, volunteered to come up and hang out (and maybe even race if it works out, which means “if not enough other people show up, we will have a bike for you, so bring a helmet just in case”). This should be a lot of fun either way, and thanks again to RV and Rob and Denny and everyone at Fite.TV for giving us something to watch while we wait for the Monster Energy AMA Supercross to get underway!
CANVAS MX (DC)
And speaking of RV, we were very surprised to see this PR today, but also think it’s a pretty cool development for both the Canvas MX brand and Ryan Villopoto—RV is now joining the Canvas MX team. Canvas was founded by former pro Michael Leib as a boutique gear brand that could quickly turn around one-off designs, retro-inspired pieces, and just anything that a creative moto mind desires.
In mid-August 2020, Villopoto found himself reevaluating his role as a Brand Ambassador. Villopoto said he could have signed with a few different gear companies but saw a bigger opportunity when it came to Canvas.
“I could have gone to another gear company for a paycheck, yes, but I see a bigger future with Canvas,” said Villopoto. “I wanted the opportunity to have a bigger piece of the pie and be a bigger part of not only a company but in the moto industry. And I think in a short amount of time Canvas is going to be a household name.”
Canvas MX was created and founded by Michael Leib, former Supercross racer, in 2015 when he saw a lack of support from gear companies and non-endemic sponsors which later caught the interest of Chuck Carothers, former X Games Gold Medalist, who joined Leib in 2016.
Leib said Canvas does not operate under the normal regulations that other gear companies have to. The pants and jerseys are made in the USA, completely customizable dye sublimation, and manufacturing takes only 2-3 weeks.
Honda Brothers Trivia Answer (DC)
In 1973, brothers Gary and Dewayne Jones were both signed to race on the new Honda Elsinore CR250M in the 250 Nationals (AMA Supercross as a series did not exist back then). Gary ended up winning the title while Dewayne finished ninth. And then in 1980 brothers Chuck and Ron Sun both signed to ride for Team Honda. Chuck Sun ended up winning the 500 National Championship while Ron ended up tenth in the 125 Nationals.
PRAY FOR LANE (Matthes)
Our buddy Jason Weigandt was up to his usual tricks again this week and I, for one, wish his son Lane well in his future years with his therapy bills. You see, earlier this year, Weege got Lane into the Stacyc race at halftime of the Dallas SX, and his son was basically last after he missed the flag indicating the race was starting. Weege definitely didn't coach Lane up there at all, and it was a poor showing. Weege tried to tell us all there was no flag, but video evidence provided by a Schustin Smayton (whose daughter was one of ALL THE REST of the kids that saw the flag) proved otherwise. All the parents were standing behind their little racers to make sure they saw the green flag. Except Weege. He was off to the side doing nothing.
Then little Lane seemed to take a shining to BMX riding and Weege has been going out there "helping" his son out there, which is cool. I'm glad the kid wanted to get on anything after the embarrassment in front of thousands of fans in Dallas. But of course our guy Weege didn't want to pop for a BMX bike (those things cost, you know, money) despite getting a hookup offer from BMX gold medalist Connor Fields, and Lane had to ride around the BMX track on a—wait for it—mountain bike! Yes, you read this correctly.
Eventually, Weege did find a deal on a BMX bike for the sum of $100, which was only because another parent felt bad seeing Lane out there trying to compete on a mountain bike. Lane took a shine to racing BMX. However, the latest debacle might just be it for Lane. Despite Weege's flagman and quad racing past, Lane Weigandt seemed to be decent at racing his $100 BMX bike (imagine what Chad Reed, who's been out there neck deep in BMX racing, thinks of Weege's whole "program"), but in the latest debacle, Lane had the win stolen from him by ... his dad.
Yes, it seems that Lane had crushed the competition to the tune of 1-1 in a three-moto format race. So Weege somehow decided that ... that ... he didn't need to win again? Weege told his son that he didn't need to win the third moto, but forgot the part about how he still needed a second to win the overall. So our guy Lane, confused by Daddy's passive instructions, went out and let the kid in third pass him! He was just told, "Hey, you don't need to win" and just followed instructions. I mean, the kid had won the first two races. WHY WOULD YOU SAY ANYTHING TO HIM? Do you think Big James just told little James, "Hey, man, you got the win in moto one, you don't need to win anymore." Why say anything? The race wasn't over. Lane should go out there and try his best every time, and if that resulted in another win and a 1-1-1 sweep, then great. If it was a great race and he got second then that's STILL the overall! But to tell your kid to just cruise, you don't need to win, is just another example, after the Dallas incident, after the mountain bike incident, of why we need to really keep Weege away from his son’s racing efforts. Daddy is clearly the weak link in the program here. Poor Lane, poor Alisa, poor whatever his daughter’s name is.… SAD!
We Went Fast-GIVING TUESDAY (Brett Smith)
GIVING TUESDAY Contest! We Went Fast is raising money for the Road 2 Recovery Foundation. This community has been so good to me and I want to give some back to my favorite non-profit.
Go to wewentfast.com/giveaway - contest is 100 percent free. For every unique entry, YOU get a chance to win a $250 Amazon gift card. R2R gets a $1 donation from We Went Fast (up to $5,000).
Open through December 10.
For extra chances to win the $250 gift card, upload a personal PW50 photo or one of your first bike. Then tell a friend for another bonus entry.
Honda's Grand Prix winners (Andras Hegyi)
As we await the start of the 2021 season, here's a look back at what Honda has done as a manufacturer in the FIM Motocross World Championship, in existence since 1957. Going back to the very first Honda rider to win a Grand Prix—American hero Marty Smith at the 1975 Mid-Ohio 125cc U.S. Grand Prix—Honda riders have been able to take 342 GP wins in all. That's across all categories that the FIM Motocross World Championships have had: the former 125, 250, 500, 650 and MX3 classes, as well as the current MXGP, MX2 and Women's classes. The 342 Honda wins were collected by 84 different riders, and the one that has been the most successful aboard a Honda is current MXGP World Champion Tim Gajser from Slovenia, who has 29 GP wins with Honda. He's also the only four-time world champion aboard Hondas. Gajser surpassed the Belgian legend André Malherbe this season as the Honda record-holder. Malherbe had 27 GP wins with Honda, the last of which came in 1986.
Also of note is the fact that the first Honda GP winners in each of the three classes in the 1970s, when Honda started campaigning in motocross, were all from the AMA circuit. As mentioned above, Smith won Honda's first 125cc Grand Prix in 1975, Dutch rider Pierre Karsmakers, who raced in the U.S. from 1973 through '78, was Honda's first 500cc Grand Prix winner when he topped the 1975 Canadian 500cc Grand Prix, and finally Marty Tripes won Honda's first 250cc Grand Prix at Unadilla in 1978.
Honda’s top GP winners:
Tim Gajser (Slovenia): 29 GP wins
André Malherbe (Belgium): 27
Stefan Everts (Belgium): 24
Eric Geboers (Belgian): 21
Dave Thorpe (Great Britain): 19
Jean-Michel Bayle (France): 15
Frederic Bolley (France): 12
Mickael Pichon (France): 10
Greg Albertyn (South Africa): 10
U.S. Honda riders to win Grand Prix races
Ricky Johnson, Trampas Parker, Jeff Stanton (4 each)
Marty Smith, Brad Lackey, Johnny O'Mara, Billy Liles, Mike Brown (3 each)
David Bailey (2)
Marty Tripes, Donnie Hansen, Danny Chandler, Chuck Sun, Ron Lechien, Micky Dymond, Rodney Smith, Kevin Windham, R.J. Hampshire (1)
Western PA Time Machine (DC)
The Western PA Time Machine is a Facebook Group put together by a local friend and lifetime enthusiast Bobby Show. He started the page as a way to remember all of those local races and racers from our area, which is Western Pennsylvania, and to a lesser extent West Virginia and Eastern Ohio. Friends share old photos, home movies, event posters, results, stickers, pit passes, and just about anything else that might have happened over the years. And we’ve had some pretty fast guys from here, including Branden Jesseman, Broc Hepler, Mike Jones, Jeff Glass, Mark Garrison, Sammy Bosnic, Tommy Bioux, Mike Bias, the Hand brothers, the Andrews boys, and more.
One of the early heroes to come out of our area was Gary “Iron Man” Pustelak, who rode a Maico, then Suzuki, then briefly got a ride with Kawasaki, then later Husqvarna. His primary years were 1978-1983, and he was a regular on the AMA Pro circuit as well as the Florida Winter-AMAs. I mention all of this because I stumbled upon a crazy photo of Gary in the Cyclenews.com Archives from one of the old 125/500 Nationals at Sears Point when he literally snapped a Kawasaki Uni-Trak in half, at high speed! The photo was shot by Jim Gianatsis, who described the crash like this in his report:
“Drop-off jumps played havoc with the heavier machinery, blowing apart wheels and frames like toothpicks. RPM rider Gary Pustelak was full throttle down a rough straightaway when his production KX 420 Kawasaki hand-grenaded its frame and the two ends parted company, leaving ‘Iron Man’ flying through the air with nothing beneath him but a prayer.”
I posted the grainy pic on the Western PA Time Machine Facebook page, hoping to find out more of the story. Pustelak himself saw it there, and this was what he shared about that crazy crash:
First of all, I have been thinking I'm pretty lucky at this point of my life with not that many aches and pains since my days of racing are past me now... UNTIL I SAW THIS PICTURE!!! LOL. I very much remember that day all too well. It was the third race on that bike. And the track was the old Sears Point in California. For those who have never had the pleasure (sarcasm here) that place totally sucked, especially for us East Coast guys who felt like we were riding on concrete the whole time... Not a damn berm in site, just curbs... Anyways, this was at about the 35-minute mark of the 2nd moto (remember we did 45 minute motos back then) and there was a big drop off that we had to go off of every lap and God was it a HARD landing... I still remember how much it hurt when I landed, especially my wrists and back. I was inside the top 10 that moto and this time when I landed all hell broke loose ( literally) as I had NO WARNING prior to leaving the top of the drop off and when I landed. It was the most scary feeling of what-just-happened I had ever felt or experienced! I ended up going thru the yellow fence and into the crowd tumbling in the air along with both "halves" of my AWESOME new KX420 (I loved that bike, even after the fact) and when I came to people were all around me, including photographers. Finally some people helped carry me off with a stretcher and by the time I got back to the pits I was able to gather myself and realize I didn't break anything, and I refused to go to the hospital. In the meantime my mechanic Dan Englert was being berated by the Japanese guys from Kawasaki who were there as they were very upset that the bike, which was now broke in half, was already captured by several cameras, including Cycle News, and that was the last thing they wanted to have made public since it was just released a couple of months prior to that day. It amazed me how they took that bike right out of our possession and closed it up inside one of the race team box vans, because at that time they were NOT helping me yet and my Dad bought that bike for me out of a local dealership named Hyman's Sport Cycles in Girard, PA. Needless to say, the rest of the 500 Nationals, Kawasaki provided bikes and parts for that season and they were very good to us the rest of the year as well... Ironically, the next week we had to race in Washougal and they brought us new bikes and I remember the first time I came to the high ski-jump that comes back into view for the spectators...I was scared shitless! But all ended good and after that season I was picked up by Husky which happened to be my favorite bike and team ever!
And that is why we all love Bobby Show’s Western PA Time Machine page on Facebook!
The january 2021 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Check out the cool project Red Bull did with Jett Lawrence to help announce that he's now a Red Bull athlete, guest-starring Jason Baker of DreamTraxx and Vurb's Wes Willliams, Danny Stuart and more:
Here's a cool Onboard video by Mike Vizer of Hayden Heffner in the 250 Pro Sport class at the Mini O's:
Check out Jonathan McCready of Gatedrop.com's interview with global KTM racing boss Pit Beirer on a wide variety of subjects.
Glenn Coldenhoff has moved over to Yamaha for the 2021 MXGP season, here's a look at his first rides on the YZ450 as well as the crash and subsequent rehab that ended his 2020 season on GasGas:
HEAD-SCRATCHING HEADLINE/S OF THE WEEK
“NFL HELL: All BRONCOS QBs Ruled Ineligible For Game...”— Drudge Report
“49ERS not allowed to play in stadium for 3 weeks...”—Drudge Report
“SAINTS fined $500K, lose draft pick for not wearing masks...”— Drudge Report
“11 RAVENS Players, 20 Staffers Now Infected...”—Drudge Report
“The Future is Here: Space X Plans To Have The First Ever Car Race On The Moon in 2021”—Barstool Sports
“Virtual Show to Bring the Powersports Industry Together for the First Time in Over a Year”—AIMExpo CONNECT Presented by Dairyland
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #49.
Longtime friend and fellow vet rider Bryan Friday posted this just before Cyber Monday:
Hello everyone! I don’t usually use Messenger but this will be a one-time situation. I won’t be bombarding you with constant sales emails but I wanted to reach out once and let everyone know what we’ve been up to. Like everyone COVID has altered our lives. Both my wife’s and my industry has pretty much shut down. So we decided to start our own Mom and Pop business to keep food on the table and clothes on our boys backs. Lol. “It’s Always Friday!” Our company will provide custom T-Shirts, sweat shirts, and hoodies for individuals, Businesses ,Teams, etc. We founded our ideas on a few key areas that we hold dear at the Friday household. Faith, Family, Patriotism, and Motocross. Please take a look at our website and see what we have to offer. Women, Kids, Men’s clothing with a variety of designs, sayings, and custom name/number combos. We are adding designs periodically as well. I really appreciate you taking the time to read this and hope you’ll give us a look... Please feel free to share this with a friend. Blessings to all! Www.Itsalwaysfriday.com.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!