Welcome to the first Racerhead of a brand-new year.… Another year of Monster Energy AMA Supercross is upon us. That's right, there's just one more day to the off-season, and this is it.
Is there a town mentioned more in our sport than Anaheim? It's been the site of more SX races than any other town in the world, and as the annual season opener, as well as its multiple stops each year, it gets pretty much all the mentions in the off-season too. And whenever someone gets hurt or makes a big team change, they are almost always trying to be "ready for Anaheim." How exactly did Anaheim, California, and not the actual birthplaces of supercross—Daytona for daytime purposes, Los Angeles for the nighttime version—become the capital of supercross?
Lost? That’s because that’s how the first Racerhead of 2020 started off.
One year ago, the world was a much different place, and so was the sport of supercross. Now in 2021 there is no Anaheim on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross schedule, nor any other city on the West Coast. COVID-19, which certainly wasn’t on my radar, or probably anyone else’s in the supercross world, has changed everything—temporarily at least. We hope. Now the series is starting a week later, with a three-race set in Houston’s NRG Stadium, with three races in eight days—another thing no one had any inkling would became a thing for SX/MX/MXGP. But for now, that’s what promoters are forced to do to try to get a full series in, along with limited spectators, mandatory pre-screening COVID-19 tests, social-distancing protocols, masks and face coverings for everyone in the paddock, virtual press conferences on Zoom, and all those other things we never thought we’d be dealing with as late as the first Friday of last January.
Now we’re headed into the 2021 season with a lot of changes. A lot of things are no longer a part of the series. Chad Reed seems to have truly, finally retired (though we’re still not counting him out), the Joe Gibbs Racing Suzuki squad is gone, as is GEICO Honda, not to mention Yamaha’s in-house factory team and all of its familiar faces. Even longtime television announcer Ralph Sheheen is no longer calling supercross, and NBC Sports Gold is no longer a thing either. None of those have been very good developments.
On the other hand, there’s a new OEM coming to the starting gate with the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GasGas Factory Racing team, the Honda factory team is back in the 250cc ranks, the highly successful Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing team has expanded to include Yamaha’s 450 efforts, Suzuki is giving more help to the Bar X team, and by the looks and sounds of it, almost everyone is healthy and ready to go—er, well, there was one January surprise, as SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda’s Shane McElrath announced on social media:
Yes, despite the ongoing pandemic, Monster Energy AMA Supercross and the sport in general keep plugging along, making the changes the world requires to keep it all moving forward, knowing that this thing is going to go away someday. There may not be an Anaheim this year, but the fact that there’s a 17-round series about to be up and running is a very good thing that we can all be thankful for.
Supercross, of course, is not the only series or league affected by the current health situation. Everyone is dealing with some unexpected changes and altered plans. The NFL playoffs begin tomorrow with heavy restrictions on fan attendance, and same goes for the NCAA College Football National Championship, though the teams (Alabama and Ohio State) are very familiar. And did anyone see where the entire NCAA Basketball Tournament (or March Madness) will be played within the state of Indiana? They are doing a sort of "expanded bubble" like the NBA did in Orlando to try to thread the needle for a month of games in the Hoosier State, with all the teams staying in the hotels attached to the Indianapolis Convention Center—where all of us motorcycle industry folks stayed every year for the old Indy Trade Show.
Some folks don’t like all the hoops we have to jump through to even get permission from a city or state to hold an event, but that’s the world we live in right now. We just have to make the most of it and get through it, and then maybe we can really start to have us a modern version of the “Roaring Twenties,” because this winter is going to be a long one. Thank goodness we’re about to have a new racing season to watch.
Good luck to everyone getting ready and going to Anaheim—sorry, I mean Houston!
One other thing you can still count on: our Monster Energy Supercross 2021 Racer X Preview Shows! Here’s the first episode, featuring Weege, Matthes, JT, and Kellen:
Also, the brand-new issue of Racer X magazine is out, and it’s Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing’s Malcolm Stewart on the cover! Look for it on the newsstand, in your mailbox, or via the digital edition on your computer right now:
And it didn’t take long for @legomotox to recreate our cover with Malcolm. Great work!
Load Em Up Move Em Out (Jason Weigandt)
I spent this week on the West Coast, first spending two days at Matthes’ PulpMX house to shoot our Monster Energy Racer X Supercross Preview Shows (and also doing Steve’s janky radio show) and then two more in California. I got to host the GasGas 2021 team intro alongside Phil “Smagical” Smage, and then I continued to Party in Temecula to check in on some other teams and riders in the final mad dash to Houston’s NRG Stadium next weekend.
Something I had not considered is that normally teams load the semi trucks for Anaheim 1 and come right back to the shop after the race. Now they’re faced with loading the trucks for good, as once they leave California (probably this Sunday or Monday) the trucks will not return, most likely, until supercross is complete in May. Every part has to be stocked and ready, which is not easy in the year of COVID-19 delays and massive bike and aftermarket sales. Parts and pieces are harder to get right now, but teams also need more stuff stashed in those trucks than ever! Several truck drivers commented on the massive shipping bills that are coming in 2021. Also, I personally spotted Rockstar Energy Husqvarna truck drivers Big Wave Dave and Paul Delaurier sweating it to get every to-do list done before the trip to Houston begins. Across the street, the Muc-Off Honda team was completing its graphics wrap for the semi. The Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GasGas Factory Racing team had just gotten its truck back from the painter, fresh with new GasGas colors. There’s always, always a mad scramble before Anaheim. This year the opener comes a week later, but the scramble is more scrambled than ever.
Over at the GasGas intro I got to watch Justin Barcia and Michael Mosiman log some laps, but I think the test track was a little dry and they were in cruise mode. Sure enough, when I went by the track again at the end of the day, the sprinklers were on to prep for more riding the next day. Barcia, though, is actually trying to back it down. He started riding earlier than the other KTM and Husqvarna 450 riders because he wanted to get on his new GasGas quickly, but now he feels he was on the verge of peaking too soon. None other than Roger De Coster told Justin maybe he should back down on the riding, and Barcia indeed is going to chill a bit to be ready for Houston. By the way, I heard that Jason Anderson and Barcia did a lot of their pre-season riding together out in California. That’s an interesting combo of two riders who could really surprise, or remind, some people of how fast they are in ’21.
One other squad to mention is the Bar X/Chaparral/Ecstar Suzuki team, which is now Suzuki’s professional 250 squad after primarily operating as an amateur squad. This means good old Larry Brooks, the Bar X Team Manager, is back in the supercross game! I saw Larry over in the Bar X shop working his tail off. He says he’s missed being at the supercross races but he did not miss the scramble before the opener. He’s right back in the thick of it now, as are so many out grinding in the shops and tracks of California and Florida. Only one week to go—and so many who wish they could get another week or two to get those rigs ready.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
One. More. Week. It’s the final off-weekend before we kick this thing off. The hardest work is long since over now. It’s down to the final details and ensuring that everything is 100 percent ready for Houston. Next week will be the first full “race week” where riders try to find some sort of normal routine. The challenge for 2021 is that the schedule is so different than every other season. Three rounds per week forces trainers to completely shift their approach.
That fundamental shift in training and recovery is what I am watching for most. Will there be any sort of residual effect from racing on a Saturday and turning around to race three days later? I personally don’t see it as insurmountable, but nagging injuries could certainly be a bigger factor with less time to heal. Nevertheless, it will be something to watch for. Midseason adjustments might be more difficult with less testing time between rounds. That will put more pressure on riders and staff to “get it right” early in the season. A big settings miss, a la Eli Tomac at A1 last season, could be difficult to correct as quickly as in prior seasons. The challenge is the same for everyone but how everyone approaches the challenge will be a fun dynamic to watch unfold.
Short Stopped (DC)
SX/MX star-turned-rally racer Andrew Short and reigning champion Ricky Brabec had a lot of people in the states excited for this year’s Dakar Rally, which is being held in Saudi Arabia right now, but Brabec has had troubles in the early stages of his title defense, and Short had to completely drop out early.
He reported his DNF by Instagram:
"Day two of @dakarrally started off great but after re-fuel I had what I think was a fuel related issue. I tried everything I had on the bike to get the bike moving again but in the end couldn’t get it going again. So sad to be out of the race but I know this is racing and especially Dakar. This event is really special and you work all year for this event. I really enjoyed how difficult and challenging the navigation was this year so far. I want to thank the team for all the hard work as they live for this race with the same passion as me. Thank you everything for the support and I can’t wait for next year.”
Check out how rough the terrain, and how lost all of the riders were in Day 5 of the Dakar Rally over in Saudi Arabia:
We're so close to H1, I can almost taste it! Yeah, that's kind of gross, but you know what I mean. Anyways, we have a lot decided going into Houston but there's still, to me anyways, some real questions that I need—no, DEMAND—answers to! Such as...
1.) Last season’s 10th-place 450SX finisher (and he was much higher than that before the seven SLCs), Justin Hill, decided to not re-sign with the MCR Honda guys, and now he's gone. We think he's racing for Munn Racing Husky, but does anyone know for sure? Has he been riding? Is he going to move to FMX? I have a lot of questions about Justin and his career management, but I would like to see if he's racing.
2.) Blake Baggett quit the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS team (rumors are he wasn't getting paid) and had some surgery on his hand. I've heard from a source close to Blake that, contrary to what I heard, he is healed up and could race SX if he had a team and/or bike. Soooo what's Blake Baggett's plan for 2021? Does anyone know? I sent a text out to BB4 but, to no one’s surprise at all, have not heard back.
3.) Who is going to be the big-name 450SX rider who does not make the main at Houston 1? Just look at the list of riders in the class and knowing they take 22, there are going to be some upset people I predict at the end of the night in Houston. DEEP FIELD!
4.) We just had the summer of Justin Rodbell; is this now going to be the winter of Rodbell?
5.) I'm looking at Joey Savatgy and seeing if, on one of the better bikes in the pits, he can rebound from his injury and a poor 2020 to become a top-five guy where I think he was on track to be when he was on Kawasaki. Can he be the sleeper?
6.) Myself, JT, and Weege are in an Airbnb for a week in Houston and I'm closely looking at Weege to see what he spends money on and how much it freaks him out. If he uses coffee grounds for two days in a row, I might need some bail money.
PULPMX FANTASY (Matthes)
Besides the three Yamaha YZF's we are giving away in Pulpmx Fantasy we also wrangled a TTR 100 that we are giving away to a random person that signs up for SX and MX before Houston 1. Make SX more fun than ever, sign up to play PulpMX Fantasy people!
First Cancellation of 2021
This popped up on Tuesday morning—the first cancellation of 2021 related to the ongoing pandemic, which came in Great Britain:
Hawkstone International MX
It is with much sadness and disappointment that Salop Motor Club have to announce the cancellation of the International Motocross scheduled for March 14th at Hawkstone. The new national lockdown which will run well into February and maybe beyond makes it impossible for us to put the event on, even if restrictions were eased slightly we would still not be allowed the spectators and this event is all about letting them see and meet the top GP stars. On top of that we have riders travelling from all over Europe and the World, logistically this would be a problem as a lot of countries are in the same situation as us and travelling should be avoided.
For sure we will be back with a bang in 2022 and put a really big event on probably returning to the normal date in February.
As a club all of us are absolutely gutted to have to make this decision but we know it is the right one in the current situation, for now it is essential that we all follow the government guidelines, stay safe and look forward to getting back to some normality in the near future.
Event Secretary Salop Motor Club
That was the bad news from the UK; here was the bad news from France and the famous Le Touquet Beach Race:
In a statement released today, January 7, 2021, the organizers say despite their best efforts, “we regret to announce the decision taken in consultation with the local authorities and the municipality of Touquet-Paris-Plage, to cancel the 46th Enduropale of Touquet Pas-de-Calais.”
The decision has been taken in view of the “disturbing” progress of the Coronavirus epidemic, which means it is unfortunately not possible to make the event, even behind closed doors, at this late stage. The race was scheduled for January 22-24.
Hopefully we don’t get many more of these announcements…
Fantasy Finale (Denny Stephenson)
Tonight, MotoXDream360.com drops the gate on the final race of our 21SX Preseason 2017, ’18, and ’19 retro game. Over the past eleven races we have gone from Eli Tomac winning 2017 Detroit opener and the “Lime-gate” debacle mudder in 2019 in San Diego, to his dominating wins at the 2018 Seattle SX and his popular hometown victory in 2019 at Denver's Mile High Stadium. Hell, the MX360 database even managed to select the 2017 Las Vegas Finale where Tomac tried everything to keep Ryan Dungey from winning the title and Jason Anderson snuck in for the win. Or as I like to call it, the “Tomac Train to... 2nd.”
The 2020 Supercross Champ ET3 has racked up a game-leading six race wins, as he has maintained the highest salary over any of the riders from the three seasons—although we have seen the evil Elito rear his ugly head in two races. More like bad luck at 2017 Arlington inside Jerry's World, where Tomac suffered front brake issues that led to a crash, a cut brake line in the mechanic's area, and a disappointing 15th. Then there was the mystery in 2018 Oakland where Eli crashed and rode around to an uninspiring 13th. One thing you know when hiring Tomac in MXD360 for a million dollars: you could get a couple wins or a couple grenades. Fortunately for the 21SX Preseason game, Eli has been delivering for his team managers.
Wednesday night Anderson picked up his third win of the game at the 2018 Oakland SX. This race was easily an instant classic and one I highly recommend every take the chance to rewatch.
If it doesn't get you fired up for the 2021 Supercross season, you might be dead inside.
Speaking of, I want to announce our Storm Lake Honda 2021 SX salary game is now open and ready for signup. Thru SLH, we have teamed up with the @TiLubeHondaRacing team by Buddy Brooks and are stoked to be giving away one of their 2021 Honda 250 CRF replica race bikes as our Grand Prize to the overall series winner.
So head over to MotoXDream360.com and get signed up to play the one and only SX salary game with a chance to win weekly prizes and a shot at a 2021 TiLube Honda 250! Four 450 riders. Four 250 riders. A $3.5 million budget. So easy a monkey could do it. Heck, ask DC—he’s in fifth with one round to go, after seeing his team riders go 1-2-3-4 in the last round!
Clement Desalle (DC)
We got an interesting note from our colleague Mathias Schrader from the German CROSS Magazine. Mathias recently interviewed retiring MXGP star Clement Desalle about his epic career, which saw him win more than 20 MXGP rounds, finish second in the championship four different times, as well as third twice and fourth twice. He asked Desalle, who spent nearly 15 years in the FIM Motocross World Championship, about his future plans.
“You know, my dream has always been to compete in the US Nationals and I'm really interested in it right now," responded Desalle. "We'll see, maybe with the right bike and the necessary preparation time there will still be an opportunity for 2021. The championship with all the routes is very appealing to me and since motocross will always be my great passion, I could well imagine as long as my body is involved to race there.”
Desalle, who is 31 years old, has visited the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship on three different occasions, taking time off in the middle of the MXGP calendar to race against his AMA-based counterparts. He landed in the top ten every time, famously finishing a close second at Unadilla to Ryan Dungey in 2010. The veteran last won on the MXGP tour in 2018, and ended the 2020 tour in seventh-place, winning a moto during the last set of races in Italy. He could still be very competitive if he follows through and finds a good team to race for this summer.
Highlights of the 2010 Unadilla National, featuring Desalle, Dungey and James Stewart.
Tom Corley R.I.P. (DC)
Sad news out on the West Coast this week. Tom Corley, a prolific race photographer who was out at the tracks shooting countless photos of the riders, passed away, a victim of COVID-19. Corley photographed and documented Southern California's most famous tracks of the 1970s and ’80s: Carlsbad, Saddleback, Indian Dunes, Ascot Park, and more. Tom was an unsung but vital part of the SoCal motocross culture throughout his life. This past fall he was out at Glen Helen Raceway shooting at Scott Burnworth's SoCal Vintage Motocross Classic before he took ill and came down with coronavirus-aggravated pneumonia that caused blood-clotting in his lungs. He passed away in Whittier Hospital on Monday afternoon at the age of 65.
Brett Smith of We West Fast posted about a recent conversation he had with Corley.
Corley took more photos than any of us could ever count and anyone who has ever read a motorcycle magazine saw his work. I didn’t meet Tom in person but over the years some of my written work improved greatly simply because his photos graced the pages. I once asked him what his favorite photo ever was (that he took) and he sent me the above.
"The scene was in the early seventies, CMC Motocross at Carlsbad Raceway, and my first time there shooting with a Ricoh 35mm camera,” Corley said. "It was an era when the Honda Elsinores came in big time. Look here as you can see the Mettco-tuned Penton machines of Mike Paulsell (8k) and Bruce McDougal (2A) still have the power to pull away right off the gate.
The Old Scrambles Racing Group posted this:
On Monday, January 4, 2021 at 3:00pm, we lost not only a legendary motocross photographer and journalist, but a true friend to so many people around the world. Tom Corley meant so much, to so many people in ways that only those touched by his kindness and love can understand. One of the greats in the motorcycle industry will be missed. He was always at the track shooting pictures of all of us racers week in and week out, supporting the motorcycle community with all his heart.
Our sincere condolences to his family, the love of his life, Ermelinda Cabaluna Sotelo, the motorcycle community and all who called him friend.
The following GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the recent medical expense the family is left with along with Tom's final funeral arrangements.
If you would prefer to send donations directly, please forward them to Tom's brother Ronald at the following address:
Ronald Paul Corley
1520 Beechwood Dr.
Martinez, CA 94553
Antonio Cairoli (Andras Hegyi)
For nine-time world champion Antonio Cairoli, the 2020 MXGP season was not an easy one. Even before the season started, he sustained a knee injury that hampered him all season long, as he kept reinjuring himself. Cairoli still rode well—he took three Grand Prix wins and seven podiums—and he finished third in the final standings. But it was a disappointment because he had a great chance to win a tenth title after fellow KTM rider and points leader Jeffrey Herlings dropped out with his own injury.
On December 5 in Antwerp, Belgium, Cairoli was finally able to have an operation on his left knee. He was able to begin his rehabilitation this week, starting by riding his bicycle. But the big question is: when can Cairoli return to ride motorcycle? With MXGP starting much later this year (April 3 in Oman) the Italian legend has an extra month to get ready to compete. And 2021 might be a farewell season for Cairoli, as he renewed his contract with KTM for only one year. The International Italian Championship is hopefully set to start on February 21, but it is not certain that he will be ready for that. He did write on social media, "Hello everybody and Happy New Year! I quite recently started riding bicycle again after my knee surgery. In a couple of weeks I am going to get back to the bike. I keep you updated.”
The march 2021 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Hey, Watch It!
Racer X Films: DOC MX 2020 KTM 250 SX-F Motocross Dirt Bike Rebuild
Racer X Films: Justin Barcia with Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull GasGas
The Weege Show: GasGas Goes Supercross Racing
Vurb Original: Justin Barcia GasGas 450 + Vurb Original
Listen To This
Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing team boss Bobby Regan has put together one of the largest teams in the history of motocross and supercross. Can quantity bring them victory in 2021? Jason Weigandt reads his feature article "Recruitment Center" from the March 2021 issue of Racer X magazine.
For more from DC, Jason Weigandt, Steve Matthes, and the rest of the Racer X crew, subscribe to Racer X.
Racer X Read Aloud is brought to you by Renthal.
Dave Antolak started the iconic TUF Racing dealership in Illinois and ran it for years very successfully and along the way supported more than a few racers. This week on the Fly Racing Racer X Podcast, host Steve Matthes called I called up Dave to talk about his roots in the sport, working with UFO now, getting his race team going, years of SX and MX racing, and more.
And with today being January 8, we would be remiss if we didn’t remind you to check out Matthes & Weege’s Re-Raceables Podcast about the January 8, 2005 Anaheim Supercross, the “Perfect Storm” race and a really fun listen, if you haven’t already:
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“ESPN Apparently Fell for a Fake Adam Schefter Account”—Sports Illustrated
Just a quick thank-you to Ralph Sheheen, who has always been a big fan and a great voice for our sport. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea at times, but he was a steady, strong, and entertaining voice who really preached supercross every single chance he got. We will miss him and hope he’s not out of the TV booth forever. Ralph posted this on social media:
If you’re looking for some live racing this weekend to get you ready for next weekend’s big kickoff of SX 2021, there is a AMA Kicker Arenacross this weekend in Starkville, Mississippi, and we understand Mike Alessi will be participating. Check it out on the FloRacing.com.
And if you're looking for a sign that all is still right in the world, the 50th Florida Winter-Am Series begins this weekend on the Diamondback course at Gatorback MX Park in Gainesville, Florida. Good luck to everyone lining up in the Sunshine State for this classic American motocross series.
Finally, last week we mentioned some rare old photos that our friend Bryan Lepley sent of Jeremy McGrath in 1990, just after he signed with the first Peak/Pro Circuit Honda team. McGrath was visiting Lepley's place in Pennsylvania and wanted to ride, so he borrowed a the new Honda and took off in the gravel pits behind their house. Then we forgot to add the photos to the column, sorry! Here's Jeremy McGrath in 1990...
Remember our Readers’ Choice Survey Contest? We have ourselves a winner: Wisconsin’s Tammy VanVreede will be getting a set of O'Neal gear and this Ogio bag. Thanks to everyone who participated, and congratulations to Tammy!
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!