Main Image courtesy of MXGP
Welcome to Racerhead, which is unfortunately not coming to you from lovely Mantova in Italy, site of this weekend's Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations. As you know, 2021 will be the year without Team USA (or Australia or New Zealand, or even Puerto Rico, for that matter) as the COVID-19 situation lingers, making transatlantic travel a risky business right now. Of course, that didn't stop Team Canada from going, nor Racer X contributor Jason Thomas (who did a fine job on MXGP-TV last weekend from Sardinia alongside the always-excellent Paul Malin). But for many AMA-based riders, going to Europe right now was not in the cards—though not for lack of interest. The team of Justin Barcia, Chase Sexton, and RJ Hampshire all wanted to go, and I think they would have done well, but we’ll never know. I just hope that all three—especially Chase and RJ, who have never been on Team USA—get another chance to be part of this great event, hopefully as soon as next year.
Despite Team USA not being there, I plan to be in front of my computer screen all weekend long watching on www.mxgp-tv.com, because the race will go on without us, and it's shaping up as a good one, despite the absence of some top MXGP riders. The Netherlands, the reigning champions based on their 2019 win at the Assen TT circuit (there was no MXoN in 2020 due to the pandemic), will be very tough to beat, given the fact that new MXGP points leader Jeffrey Herlings is there and in peak form right now. Also remember that, technically, Herlings' teammate Glenn Coldenhoff has a four-moto winning streak going at this race, having won both of his motos for the Netherlands at RedBud in ’18 and Assen in ’19. The Mantova circuit is somewhat sandy, which only adds to the Dutch strength. Another interesting thing is the fact that MXGP frontrunners Tim Gajser and Romain Febvre decided to pass in order to concentrate on the remaining rounds of the 2021 FIM Motocross World Championship; Herlings committed to the MXoN back when many thought he had no chance of catching those guys in the points, but now that he has, he's still in for the Netherlands. Hard not to be a fan of #84.
- Team PresentationLiveSeptember 24 - 11:00 AM
- MXGP Qualifying heatLiveSeptember 25 - 8:20 AM
- MX2 Qualifying HeatLiveSeptember 25 - 9:20 AM
- Open Qualifying HeatLiveSeptember 25 - 10:20 AM
- Final BLiveSeptember 26 - 4:50 AM
- Race 1 (MXGP & MX2)LiveSeptember 26 - 7:00 AM
- Race 2 (MX2 & Open)LiveSeptember 26 - 8:30 AM
- Race 3 (Open & MXGP)LiveSeptember 26 - 10:00 AM
- MXoN Race 1 (Delayed)September 26 - 10:00 PM
- MXoN Race 2 (Delayed)September 26 - 11:00 PM
- MXoN Race 3 (Delayed)September 27 - 12:00 AM
You can also expect to see Antonio Cairoli there for the home Italian squad, despite last weekend's massive crash at Sardinia that knocked him out of the MXGP running. Cairoli announced his impending retirement last week, so this is going to likely be his MXoN swan song. Antonio already has a place in MXoN history, though: in 2006 he became the first man to win a moto outright on a 250F motorcycle. The azzurri blue will be waving all weekend long for King Cairoli. Hopefully he goes out with a bang on the biggest stage of all.
Here's a quick preview of the event, and don't forget to sign up and watch on www.mxgp-tv.com. Good luck to all of the teams participating, we will be back in 2022, and hopefully Team USA can finally win this thing again—it's been a while!
Check out our man Jason Thomas' onsite MXoN preview.
The year without Team USA...
Erik Kehoe (DC)
Following the Hangtown Motocross Classic, where Jett Lawrence gave Team Honda (the actual factory team, not GEICO Honda) its first AMA Pro Motocross title since Ricky Carmichael in 2004, the smile on team manager Erik Kehoe's face was ear to ear. Kehoe is the longtime team manager for Honda's in-house efforts from 2002 to '12 (he was at the helm in '04 when Carmichael swept all 24 motos in the 450 class), and then he returned in 2018 and has been there since. Lawrence's title was huge for the team, as Honda had absorbed both Jett and his brother after the demise of the GEICO Honda effort by Factory Connection. The Lawrence brothers made up Honda's first in-house 250 four-stroke effort since the stillborn plan to get Ben Townley out there in 2008, which made their first and third overall finishes in the 2021 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship a big deal for the brand, and especially for Kehoe.
Which is turn made the news this week something of a surprise, as Kehoe has decided to again step away from managing Team Honda, hoping to spend less time on the road—30 rounds of SX/MX races all over the nation is a huge commitment for everyone on the circuit. In Kehoe's case, that commitment has been almost nonstop since the early 1980s when he first turned pro after a stellar minicycle career as a Yamaha factory rider, and later as 125cc standout for Team Suzuki. Erik won his first of several nationals in 1985 at High Point Raceway, and he would also add a 125cc USGP win at Steel City in 1987. But his racing career is probably most remembered for his stunning finish-line leap at the 1993 Gatorback 125 National when he pinned his Honda of Troy CR125 and launched out of the Gator Pit to hold off Jeremy McGrath for the moto win—a moment captured in an iconic shot by Paul Buckley that ended up running in Inside Motocross. It wasn't long afterward that Kehoe went into managing the late Phil Alderton's Honda of Troy team, which morphed into Yamaha of Troy, where Kehoe's riders Ernesto Fonseca and Stephane Roncada won AMA 125 Supercross Championships. From there he went to Team Honda in 2002, helping guide RC to five championships in three years. (The only one Carmichael didn't win while at Honda was the '04 SX title, as he was out with a knee injury.) Now Kehoe finally has his touch-prints on another title with Jett Lawrence, which makes now a good time to call it a career.
“This decision to retire was very difficult, but at the same time, I know it’s time to slow down my pace,” Kehoe said in the press release. “I would like to thank American Honda, and [manager of sports & experiential] Brandon Wilson in particular, for giving me the chance to return to the team this last time. I really wanted to help get Honda some positive momentum in supercross and motocross, and this past season, I think the team has enjoyed many successes. I’ve truly enjoyed my time here, but it’s time to focus on some personal projects that I’ve been putting off for some time.”
Erik Kehoe has always been a true professional, whether as a racer or a team manager. He was a hard worker who took great pride in both the results and the presentation of his team. He was a pleasure to work with as a journalist, as well as a series promoter. He always tried to offer good ideas and solutions to make the sport better. We will all miss him at the races. Good luck to Erik in his future endeavors, congratulations on a job well done.
What’s Next? (Jason Weigandt)
It’s nothing shy of depressing to know the Motocross of Nations is going off this weekend without Team USA or any AMA-based riders. Chase Sexton, Justin Barcia, and RJ Hampshire are not going, we could have had two Lawrence brothers on Team Australia, Ken Roczen wanted to ride for Germany, Marvin Musquin was selected for team France before getting COVID-19, etc. It’s a shame. One can only hope next year aligns and the event goes off properly, Team USA, the Lawrences and Roczen return, and Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing gets back in the game. Star was busy this off-season moving a race shop from California to Florida. If they’re back next year, it would unlock talent for both the U.S. squad like Justin Cooper or Jeremy Martin, and perhaps even … Eli Tomac! Plus Dylan Ferrandis could return to Team France. Lots of things could happen, but they’re all reminders of what won’t happen this weekend.
It also sounds more and more like the traditional off-season international supercross races aren’t going to happen this year. We know there won’t be a Monster Energy Cup or Red Bull Straight Rhythm. It’s going to be a much quieter off-season than usual.
As for the regular season, there’s going to be quite a bit of change once racing resumes in 2022. Some riders, like Tomac, are changing homes (which will all be announced on October 1), but there’s more behind-the-scenes moving than usual. The biggest would be Erik Kehoe retiring from Honda HRC management, as Davey mentioned above. I also have heard that Josh Wisenor, the old GEICO Honda 250 team manager who moved to Honda HRC to continue to run the 250 program, is heading elsewhere. This means quite a shift in personnel at Honda, and a replacement for Kehoe has not been announced. Honda and Kehoe did a good job bringing the 250 program in house and winning a title with Jett Lawrence, but I’ve got to imagine there’s frustration with the long 450 title dry spell, which dates back to 2004. I asked Kehoe this year if he’s aware of that dry spell, and if he feels that pressure. He said, “Yes, yes, and yes.”
There’s real pressure running a high-budget factory team that expects to win.
The real story to play out on the MXGP side is a potential Cinderella plot line with Tony Cairoli trying to bounce back and help Team Italy win the event this weekend after a big crash kept him out of last weekend’s GP. Team Netherlands is the favorite this weekend, but one stroke of bad luck can knock a team out, and if Cairoli is reasonably healthy, Italy has a shot on home turf. I also feel like France, even without Ferrandis or Romain Febvre, could pull off a win, because it has found a way before. That will be the stuff to watch this weekend. Let’s hope next year we’re back to watching all the players.
Down on The Farm (DC)
Earlier this week I had a chance to catch up with Ricky Carmichael on a wide variety of topics, from Team USA not going to the MXoN to adventure-bike riding to his beloved Florida State Seminoles college football team starting their season 0-3. At one point we got to his sale of the Farm, the training facility above Tallahassee where he minted so many championships under his mother Jeanie's watchful eyes and stopwatches, to the Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing team owner Bobby Regan, who is in turn building a workshop there to base his entire race team out of—riders, race crew, trainers, everyone.
"I think Bobby's forcing others' hands with this move, to do the same thing," Carmichael explained. "It's like he's setting up a complete program here to just get better, and that's crazy given the run he's had since, what, 2014? The impact he has had on the sport is profound." RC went on to talk about how Regan is in this for different reasons than most of the teams he's competing with. He doesn't have a race team because he's making or selling a specific product, like parts or riding gear or whatever. "He's just in it to win, and he's obviously investing everything. His ideology and approach to racing is just different than pretty much anything that we've ever seen." And with the impending addition of Eli Tomac to the 450 squad, he's building a real juggernaut down there on the Farm.
RC was also interested to hear about the 2022 numbers and the fact that his trademark #4, which was claimed back in 2012 by Blake Baggett after the AMA put a five-year hold on it, is back in play as Baggett, who didn't race at all in 2021, did not contact the AMA to let them know if he was coming back or not. That meant that either 2021 Pro Motocross Champions Dylan Ferrandis or Jett Lawrence could choose #4, or #5 or #8, which are also available. Instead, Ferrandis kept #14 and Lawrence #18—Lawrence despite the fact that his trainer and coach Johnny O'Mara, who happens to have been RC's longtime coach, tried to get him to take #4 or #5 since Johnny himself won titles with those numbers. No matter, the 18-year-old Lawrence held his ground, and his number.
MXDN DON'T (Matthes)
This weekend’s MXoN kicks off in Mantova, Italy, and it should be a good race—but really a shell of what it could be with many top riders not racing and countries like USA and Australia not going. It's with this backdrop on the race that I decided, for the first time since 2007, I won't be at this race. I had a ticket, I had intentions of going, but I just couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to take the long trip over. Flying with a mask on sucks, also, the testing one needs to go isn't ideal—if I tested positive for COVID-19 over there I'd have to stay for ten days, etc., etc. All of this would've been still okay for me but looking at the rider and country lineup just didn't get me fired up. I also didn't count on Antonio Cairoli lining up after his crash last weekend, but he's in, which is awesome, and if Italy or he can go out a winner after announcing he's retiring at the end of the year, that would be pretty cool. So go Team Canada, and I guess I'll be watching from the couch like many of you!
FIVE HUNDY (Matthes)
As you read this today, I'll be out at Perris Raceway with Keefer riding the 2022 Yamaha YZ450F and also theYZ250 two-stroke. But yesterday at Glen Helen Raceway, I took out my 1990 Honda CR500 and Kris and I did a Racer X Films on it. You can see more about the build here on PulpMX.com and it was weird to ride my old bike again. The guys at MXA were there working on a test with another CR500 there, and Josh Mosiman was riding that. So, lots of CR500s out there yesterday! I won't ruin it too much—you'll have to watch the video by Spencer Owens—but a good time was had by all!
Vet Homecoming (Mitch Kendra)
Over the weekend, High Point Raceway held the 31st annual Big Dave Vet Homecoming event to honor “Big Dave” Dave Coombs. The event is a giant gathering of family and friends both, young and old, who all love two-wheels. For someone like myself (a C level rider at best) it also provides an opportunity to ride (since we aren’t fast enough for it to be called a “race”) the pro-level track. Coming into the weekend it was a mad scrabble trying to piece together everything from the new plastics and graphics on my bike (shout-out to Backyard Designs for the killer job!) to the snacks and camping gear, but we pulled it off just in time.
I had a great weekend ripping around the GP grass sections and hilly moto track and chatting with friends between races. The weather worked out perfectly and there were tons of people with their campers setup from Friday night on, jamming out late into the night. My goal was to push myself every time I went out onto the track and I did that—picking new lines in certain sections, clearing a new jump, and carrying more speed around the turns. When it was all said and done, I was exhausted after riding two days, but I could not have asked for a better group of people around me. Here’s to more days at the track now that the season is over!
Check out the galleries posted on the HighPointMX.com homepage to see if you spot yourself or your buddy!
Also, we wanted to mention a get-well-soon note to Ben Parsons, who had a big crash on Saturday during the GP racing. Parsons, currently third in the XC3 pro-am class of the Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series, was competing with several other GNCC racers near the front of the A pack when he hit a tree in the woods. His family has been providing updates on social media—you can view their latest update below.
Glory to God in the highest! Yesterday Benjamin passed his physical therapy test, he was moved off the trauma floor and is being released today. He will be under the care of a neuro surgeon for his brain injury but we could not be more thrilled that we are able to take him home. Please continue to pray. Prayers are bringing him home so much sooner than we expected or imagine. God is so good and there is power in prayer!
We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers, Ben!
Derek Garcia (left) and Mitch Kendra (right) at the start of their GP moto on Saturday. Andrew Fredrickson Derek Garcia (#320) and Mitch Kendra (#310) at the start of their moto on Sunday. Andrew Fredrickson It's safe to say Mitch Kendra had a "wheelie" good time at High Point! Andrew Fredrickson Mitch Kendra Andrew Fredrickson Mitch Kendra Andrew Fredrickson Mitch Kendra Andrew Fredrickson Mitch Kendra Andrew Fredrickson Mitch Kendra and his girlfriend Caity Brooks pre-moto. Andrew Fredrickson Mitch Kendra and his girlfriend Caity Brooks. Andrew Fredrickson MX Sports' Derek Garcia with some freestyle moves! Andrew Fredrickson Racer X's Ryan McLeod on his 2021 YZ125. Andrew Fredrickson Racer X's Ryan McLeod on his 2021 YZ125. Andrew Fredrickson Racer X's Ryan McLeod with a good jump during his GP moto on Saturday. Andrew Fredrickson Racer X's Ryan McLeod sends the massive uphill triple on his two-stroke. Andrew Fredrickson
A Short Message About Off-Season Shopping (Ryan McLeod)
In case you missed the Racer X Booth at the Nationals this year, the online store has been updated with the latest inventory. Grab a tee or some exclusive Ethika underwear today!
Hey, Watch It!
Sherco: This is our first TV spot ever produced that debuted on MavTV during EnduroCross.
Infield Access: 2021 Hangtown National Raw
Red Bull Imagination Course Reveal: Riders Take Control (2021) Ep 1
Red Bull Imagination: First Hits GO OFF During Practice (2021) Ep 2
KTM's MXGP team report from Sardinia:
Kris Keefer on the SML Show
Justin Bogle keeping it real on the latest episode of the Gypsy Tales Podcast
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“Clowns lurked outside schools to promote a speech academy. Horrified parents called the police.”—GreenwichTime.com
“Woman with memory loss found alone on island inhabited by bears”—Fox 5 News
“At the 'Human Library', everyone is an open book”—France24.com
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!