Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from beautiful Park City, not far from Salt Lake City and the site of tomorrow night’s 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship finale. It’s been a long, strange trip for the riders and race teams, as well as the series itself, but everyone knew nothing was going to be easy anytime soon as we continue coming out of this pandemic. Hats off again to Feld Entertainment for doing such a good and important job of making a full series happen, with limited spectators and lots of added costs that may not look good on the balance sheet, but kept a lot of people employed through the first half of 2021.
And while all three titles are still up for grabs, these championships each have clear favorites who only need to manage their points tomorrow night and simply not panic: Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb in 450SX, and Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing’s Colt Nichols (250SX East) and Justin Cooper (250SX West). Of course Nichols and Cooper and everyone else in East and West will be racing together for the one and only time of this series, as the East/West Showdown will have both red plates on the same starting gate, along with the other main-event winners in 2021. The Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Showdown should be a fantastic race. (And on behalf of my mom, Rita, and my sister, Carrie, and brother, Tim, a profound thanks to the series organizers for memorializing our dad with this event each of the last 22 years.)
After tomorrow night, SX 2021 will be all over but the shouting, and 2022 is shaping up nicely. The world is coming out of this health crisis, and hopefully the ’22 schedule will return to some of the sport’s most popular stops, like California, Washington, Michigan, New England, and more. Despite few of us getting to see races in person this year, the series thrived, the motorcycle industry is booming, and hopefully the starting gate is getting ready to drop on a new “Roaring Twenties” for everyone. And congratulations to all involved with the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship Series on reaching a very important finish line.
Dick Mann (1934-2021)
The motorcycling world lost another giant this week when Dick “Bugsy” Mann passed away at the age of 86. Mann must be considered one of the best—if not the best—all-around motorcycle racers of all time. He was world-class on pavement, in the woods, motocross, TT, everything. He won the Daytona 200 in 1970 on a Honda CB 750 Four, the first win every of a major U.S. race for the brand. He came back the next year and won again on a BSA. Mann won the AMA Grand National Championship twice, which combines results from five disciplines: road racing, TT, short track, mile and half-mile. He also earned an ISDT bronze in 1975 at the age of 41.
As far as motocross goes, Mann shared class wins in 1969 at the very first AMA-sanctioned motocross race, which took place in Ohio in 1969, winning the 250 class on a BSA while Gunnar Lindstrom won the 500. And then three years later, Mann raced his BSA in the ’72 Cal-Expo AMA National—just the third national ever—and finished 14th. It was the one and only outdoor national he ever rode, as well as the one and only time a BSA scored points in AMA SX/MX.
Reese Dengler made this shot of Mann doing a vintage race in 2013. Said Dengler: "Dick Mann will always be known for his AMA Grand National Championships and winning the Daytona 200. But Motocross, especially Premier class AHRMA Motocross, was his true love. I’m sure if you counted up all the motorcycle races Dick was in over his life, motocross far outweigh the flat tracks and road races."
Reese also sent a photo of a course a Dick Mann laid out for the Chehalis Washington AHRMA National, adding: “Dick laid out the best Vintage Motocross tracks and he loved when he had good grassy terrain to work with. Dick knew how to lay out a track like nobody else, which always had multiple lines, big sweeping combination turns that you could rail around the outside in 1 big arc, or take the inside and square off the two turns instead. And the amazing thing is both lines would take the same time to negotiate, which made for great racing.
“Dick was a prolific builder of vintage competition motorcycles also. Over the years he built hundreds of bikes. He would build you a bike but you had to use it, in vintage competition or on the road, no garage queens allowed!"
And then of course there is the movie On Any Sunday and Mann’s cameo appearance, racing with a broken leg in the climactic flat track scene:
They just don’t make ‘em like they used to. Godspeed, Dick Mann.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
Fin. Конец. The end. After a successful 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship that featured residency rounds and a very strange, to be honest, East/West schedule, we wrap up this campaign for the second straight year in Utah. While it doesn't have the fanfare that Las Vegas does, Utah has welcomed our sport much more warmly than Nevada ever did. (Did they even know we were there?) I really do hope Vegas returns in time, though. There is simply no other city like it.
As for the riders, there are so many different approaches and motivations throughout the field. There are the championship hopefuls who are just aiming for a smooth, uneventful day (JC32, Nichols, Webb). There are those needing absolute anarchy (Roczen, H. Lawrence, McAdoo, Shimoda). There are those who are going through the motions with the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship on their minds. And then there are those looking for an opportunity for a win (a la Osborne in 2020). Those are the most interesting scenarios to me. With the champions avoiding risk and a few contenders just trying to leave healthy, opportunity can arise. The riders I think of here would be Marvin Musquin (obviously), Jason Anderson (assuming no sickness), Eli Tomac (bouncing back from a bad weekend), Chase Sexton (nothing to lose), and Malcolm Stewart (confidence from last week). There are others with a chance like Aaron Plessinger, Dylan Ferrandis, Justin Barcia, etc., but I think they are less likely for various reasons.
Watch for the start of the main event to be a huge influence on how this dynamic goes. If any of these riders gets a bad start or crashes in the first turn, I expect the effort level to reflect a desire to leave the series healthy. For those who happen to get a great start, though, expect "full send" mode in hopes of a podium or win. The battle at the front could heat up if the right group finds themselves in good position. I personally don't expect Webb, Nichols, or Justin Cooper to take any unnecessary risks, which is code for "I don't think they will win." Watch for a strange results in both classes as everyone varies their approach. The finale, above all else, usually brings volatility and that results in excitement.
Well folks we’re here, we made it. We’re at the hundredth meridian and also the end of the 2021 supercross season. As I covered in my OTOR column and this week on the Fly Racing Moto: 60 Show with Weege and Anton, I’m amazed we got through the series with no major issues unlike the mainstream sports.
With all three titles pretty much locked down, I thought it would be interesting to see when it comes to SX 2022, what stays and what goes. I was out MTB biking with Sean Brennen and Doug Cabrera from Feld Entertainment yesterday and we were all remarking that due to budget and safety things on their end, we as a series stumbled onto some good things. Mid-week races, more speedway races, no track walk, no dealer signings are all things that I could see being permanent in ‘22.
The Race Day Live guys definitely had to work with a reduced budget and they found some really good things from the Blair/Hubbard team with Blair also doing a great job with the play-by-play at round 16.
It’ll be interesting to see what lays ahead for next year.
As far as being out here, we’ll yeah it’s been a blast! Lots of mountain biking and a PulpMX Show last Monday from Fuel Clothing with some great guests. Fun to hang with some racers like Cade Clason, Kyle Peters, and Josh Osby, taking Sean and Doug from Feld out on some Intense Tazers was cool. Lots of climbing out here!
Jo Shimoda (Andras Hegyi)
Japan has been a leader in motocross for a long time, mainly thanks to its four brands Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki. But Japan does not export very many top racers in SX/MX. There were a few top Japanese motocrossers racing in Europe on the FIM Motocross World Championship circuits. Torao Suzuki is the only Japanese rider to get a Grand Prix win in the 250cc class, when he emerged victorious in a very muddy Austrian GP in May 1977.
But the most successful Japanese motocrosser in history is Akira Watanabe. The one and only Japanese motocross world champion took the 125cc Grand Prix title in 1978, then was runner-up in ’79. All told, Watanabe took seven GP wins. His last GP win came in 1981.
Between 1982 and 2020, Japanese motocross did not have any international successes. But last Saturday in Salt Lake City, 18-year-old Jo Shimoda won the first SLC round in the 250SX West Region aboard a Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki. With the hundreds upon hundreds of wins Japanese motorcycles have had on the AMA circuit, it’s hard to believe this was the first win by a Japanese athlete.
Broken Arrow Trans-AMA (DC)
When it comes to motocross races and coverage from yesteryear, rare is the time nowadays when we find diamonds in the rough online. People have been uploading old race footage for years, and most of it stays up for our viewing pleasure. The hard part is just finding it in the first place.
Earlier this week, Racer X publisher Scott Wallenberg sent me a look at a film called Motocross on the nonprofit Texas Archive of the Moving Image. It was coverage of the 1971 Trans-AMA race at Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and it featured American motocross at the beginning, when the Europeans were dominant, tracks were almost all natural, and the whole setting rather quaint. And it’s amazing! It’s narrated in part by the rider it focuses on, a privateer named Jack O’Leary from Austin, Texas, which makes sense when you realize at the end that this was a student film project from three kids at the University of Texas in Austin. O’Leary is a very good rider, though largely unknown because he was done racing professional motocross within two years. His high-water finish was a seventh in the 1973 Lake Whitney National in the 250cc class. O’Leary also did some test-riding for Motocross Action magazine, making the cover of the November 1973 issue while testing a brand-new Yamaha YZ. And the 14-minute film itself is amazing, especially once the race begins.
Here are the liner notes that accompanied the film:
“Produced by University of Texas at Austin students Fred Holmes, Courtney Goodin, and Donald Flint, Motocross is a 1971 documentary that captures a motocross race in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Racer Jackie O'Leary provides narration throughout the film, explaining the ins and outs of the sport. Clips include brief appearances by famous racers, including Roger de DeCoster, John DeSoto, and Sylvain Geboers. The second half of the documentary captures the actual race with a combination of slow-motion and real-time photography. Holmes went on to direct Barney & Friends (1997-2009), Forget Me Not: The Anne Frank Story (1996), and Dakota (1988). Goodin worked in the sound department for Dexter (2007-2011), Honey I Blew Up the Kids (1992), and Shogun Assassin (1980). Bill Mackie was a professor in the Radio-Television-Film Department at the University of Texas. He now works as an independent broadcast media professional.”
The Grid (DC)
Last night I was lucky enough to get invited to a de facto karting event that local resident Ken Block set up at a place just outside of Salt Lake City called The Grid (www.thegrid.com), and it was maybe the best indoor karting track I have ever seen. Ken invited some old friends like Jeremy McGrath and Nathan Ramsey, as well as a couple new ones in Hunter and Jett Lawrence. It was a lot of fun—both of the Lawrence brothers have excellent karting skills. In fact, Jett ended up winning, edging out McGrath and Hunter by fractions of a second. The cool thing was that fourth and fifth overall at the end were Rhowan McGrath and Lia Block, the daughters of Jeremy and Ken. Ken himself finished sixth, and everyone in the top six was incredibly close. As for myself, I didn’t even qualify for the main—but man, was it fun. If you ever find yourself in the Salt Lake City area and are looking for something fun to do, The Grid is it! And check them out on Instagram at @gridexperience.
Hurricane Ducks (DC)
Our old friend and longtime reader Vic Sutek sent us this note:
I thought you might get a kick out of this. I contacted Bob [Hannah] knowing he collects decoys. I am a very avid duck hunter and decoy maker. (My two passions are duck hunting and MX, thus the Moto Duck.) He contacted me back and said he would love to have one of the hallowed cedar hunting decoys. It was a lot of fun to make it in the Duck Shack while watching old footage of him racing. Just a little payback for all the good memories watching him at Mid-Ohio, Pontiac, Gatorback, Daytona, etc... Can’t wait for the High Point National this year!
2022 Bike Season/Production Times! (Keefer)
My favorite time of the year is almost here! That's right, new-bike season is right around the corner. Honda and Husqvarna have already announced most of their off-road/MX lineup, and look for KTM and Kawasaki to do the same in the coming weeks! Husqvarna and KTM look to have minimal changes for 2022, but look for all new models from the white/orange guys in 2022.5.
Assuming Honda sticks with their production rollout plan, we should see a new ’22 CRF250R, as all of their other MX machines have already been announced. This tells me that the ’22 CRF250R is getting a ’21 450 facelift. The ’22 CRF450R has updated suspension and ECU changes, which should please all you Ride Red riders out there!
Yamaha has been awfully quiet, and no matter how much info I try to get out of the Blu Cru boys, they are tight-lipped about what's in store for 2022. Announcements for the YZ lineup should come sometime in late May to early June.
Kawasaki is also slated to announce their MX lineup here shortly, and from the rumors I’ve heard, we shouldn't see that many changes to the KX250, but the KX450 looks to have some updates.
Finally, don't expect Suzuki to come blazing in with an all new bike that blows our socks off for 2022, but don't think for one minute that the RM-Army is going away. I would expect a new-ish RM-Z to hit dealers in 2023 that could finally see some weight loss as well as e-start! Don't forget that Suzuki was one the first manufacturers to implement fuel injection in a motocross machine.
Oh, and what about Beta? With the emergence of the new MXGP team, look to see some of that trickle down to North America in 2022—and from what I have gathered, they’ll be having some sort of MX/AX/SX effort next year.
If the pandemic never happened, I would have to assume some of these motocross machines would have been drastically different come 2022, but the R&D process has been slowed down, which means updated or even new motocross models might be a year or two behind. Our industry is booming, so let's hope these new enthusiasts who are taking up dirt bike riding stick with it when all of this crap is behind us. If you see a rider at your local track with a new bike but maybe looks out of sorts trying to ride, help him or her out! Let's welcome them into our sport and make them feel wanted and safe. Let's try to protect them from some of the beginner mistakes that we once did, and maybe, just maybe, our sport will grow and flourish that much more.
The June 2021 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Inside the June issue: Examining the benefits of the East-West split in AMA Supercross. MC, RC, Reedy and more go car racing. The 1975 AMA/Yamaha Super Series of Stadium Motocross opener in Dallas. A Day in the Dirt Down South makes its triumphant return and much more.
Hey, Watch It!
Some random old school: The 1976 San Antonio 125 National:
And some excellent Roger DeCoster footage from the mid-seventies:
Cooper Webb is an ATLien | Moto Spy Supercross S5E6
Supercross Yamaha Beyond The Gate - Episode 8
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
"The Facebook message was purely intended as a joke, Swain said, but to his astonishment, his name twins — and thousands of others on the Internet — didn’t think he was just joshing. They actually took his request somewhat seriously."
“RACE DOG TESTS POSITIVE FOR METH... Trainer Disqualified—"TMZ Sports
“Conor McGregor sells majority of whiskey brand Proper No. Twelve to Proximo Spirits for $600M”—ESPN
“Wanted: Chewbacca street performer suspected in French Quarter stabbing”—4WWL.com (CBS)
"ALL-NEW GASGAS ELECTRIC BALANCE BIKES AVAILABLE NOW”—PR from the motorcycle brand
If you didn’t make it to a round of supercross this year, then you probably didn’t get to see the really cool new Spinmaster supercross toy motorcycles that are out, featuring the likes of Ricky Carmichael, Justin Barcia, Aaron Plessinger, Justin Brayton and more. But on a visit to my local Target last week I stumbled upon a whole wall of them, so have a look at your local big-box store to see if you can find some. In the meantime, check out their lineup right here.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #17.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!
And here is a sneak peek of our upcoming July 2021 issue...