Main Image courtesy of KTM Images/Ray Archer
Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you again from Maine and my off-season vacation. There is a lot of racing going on this weekend, including the beginning of the MXGP tripleheader that will take place over the next nine days in Italy, and our Jason Thomas is en route to cover the events as that three-way battle between Honda HRC’s defending champion Tim Gajser, KTM's Jeffrey Herlings, and Kawasaki's Romain Febvre rages on. Right now, Herlings is up 12 points on Febvre and 15 on Honda's Gajser. There's also the very close Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series, where KTM's Ben Kelly has a small lead of eight points over Steward Baylor, this after controversial decision to penalize Baylor and 15 others for going too far off the course at the last round Buckwheat 100 in West Virginia, based on video evidence. Here's the full story on the penalties and here is a more in-depth explanation from Jason Weigandt after Baylor took to social media last night.
Baylor has become a crowd favorite in GNCC racing and off-road in general because he's a no-bullshit type of guy who leaves it all out on the track every time, not to mention his trademark finish-line loop-outs when he wins. Before this penalty was handed down last Saturday, Baylor and Kelly would have been in a winner-take-all showdown at the finale this weekend at Ironman, which is traditionally the biggest GNCC event of all. However, Kelly now holds an eight-point lead and has room to win the title even with a second-place finish. Baylor addressed the situation yesterday on his social media:
Like I said, a stand-up guy through and through. If you want to see how this all turns out on Sunday, you can watch the live stream of the race beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon on www.racertv.com.
There have been little bit of news here and there, like the not-surprising Aaron Plessinger to Red Bull KTM news that was delivered by AP himself in a hilarious video. There was also the 57 motorcycles stolen from the KTM Canada warehouse in Montreal, or the signing of 2021 AMA Rookie of the Year Max Vohland to a Fox Racing clothing deal, and even the fact that Lotte Van Drunen, the very fast and impressive girl from The Netherlands, is lining up this weekend to race the 125 EMX class at the MXGP of Italy in Arco Trentino, in part because he's still too young (14) to race the WMX class at MXGP. Lotte has already proven herself a few times against the boys—she finished third last month in the EMX85 class in the European Championships in the Czech Republic—but this one will be a tall order, as she's just getting on the 125. I met Van Drunen and her family at the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations in Assen, Holland, back in 2019, as they were interested in possibly coming to America to compete at the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, but travel restrictions and COVID-19 wiped that out before she could get to an area qualifier. She is a very cool and driven rider that's going to be fun to watch in the years to come. Give Lotte a follow on Instagram.
And finally, some good news for a change! Earlier this week I wrote this about the Paris SX, which had been postponed again and seemed to be doomed for 2021:
"Ugh, another one bites the dust: The on-again, off-again 2021 Paris Supercross is unfortunately off again. The longest running, most prestigious supercross in Europe was to be held on November 6-7, but on Wednesday it was postponed again, though the promoters are holding out hope that they can still get it in, somehow, before the end of the year. The culprit? COVID-19 travel restrictions, particularly for those coming from the U.S. Here's the English translation of the announcement..."
And then earlier today we got the good news: The Paris SX was back on, only now it's scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend (November 27) for one night only, and the lineup is quite impressive—even Chad Reed is signed up to race! And so is Antonio Cairoli, Marvin Musquin, Romain Febvre, Justin Brayton, Cole Seely, Justin Bogle and more. I was honestly not expecting to hear this, though when I recently spoke to one of the organizers, Eric Peronnard, he told me that he and his longtime collaborator Xavier Audouard "have never worked so hard" to organize this event, which has been around since 1984 and is easily the most prestigious SX race outside the U.S. Here's the full release on the rescheduled event, which thankfully give us all something to look forward to for the next month.
With that, I am going back to walking around the Maine woods with my friends Porcupine, Sky and Cammy. Have a great week, see you at the races.
Remember Paris (Jason Weigandt)
As DC wrote above, when the Paris Supercross’ announced date of November 6-7 got postponed, it appeared we were headed to another cancellation, like so many other events since March of 2020. However, inside sources at the event said this was not true, as the event would really go on at a later date. Now it’s back, for one-night only on November 27. Why push back a few weeks? It allows MXGP riders to compete because the GPs will be wrapped by then. What that really does it open the door for Antonio Cairoli to race, which will be a big deal since his career is winding down. AC222 has announced his retirement, but he’ll still be around for various one-off events in the future. This is the first.
MXGP riders rarely headline Paris because this is a supercross race, the domain of American-based riders. But it’s tough to get American-based riders to go this year, partially because of international travel rules and regulations with COVID-19. This is not a vaccination thing, though, because I have heard the promoter has gotten concessions and non-vaccinated athletes can actually come and race if they follow some other rules. There’s a separate problem, and a simple one: since this year’s event is one-night only, and with overall budgets down (the event didn’t even take place last year) that start money is less than the usual rate. Paris is nice the in fall, but we all know the riders are going there to make money. If you have less money to offer, you’re going to get fewer big-name riders. So now, for the 1,000th time: hopefully we’ll see things back to normal next year.
Anyway, Marvin Musquin is in, and that will be a popular choice with the French fans. Justin Brayton has made a career of off-season international events, so he’s in. Cairoli and Romain Febvre are in, and MX2 World Championship leader Maxime Renaux will race the 250F class. The rest of the crew consists of Justin Bogle, Alex Martin, and semi-retired types like Cole Seely, Ryan Sipes, Josh Hill and, yes, Chad Reed!
It will be great to have at least one off-season race, with so many others still on the sidelines. No Monster Energy Cup, no Red Bull Straight Rhythm, no AUS-X Open, no Geneva SX, no Montreal. Paris is the grandfather of all of these races, and it’s the lone survivor for 2022.
Speaking of both Brayton and Alex Martin, I hung out with them yesterday at the ClubMX facility in South Carolina. Check out The Weege Show (below) for some thoughts from Brayton on his near-retirement, and then his decision to come back and race at least one more season. At least. This might not be the end.
As for Martin, now on a 450 for the ClubMX team, he’s just getting back in the riding groove after a tough 2021 season filled with multiple injuries. He told me he’s in pre-testing condition and once he gets some more riding in they will start diving into the bike as he ramps up toward Anaheim. Same for privateer Cade Clason, who is just getting onto his new SGB Racing Storm Lake Honda, and has some suspension testing planned for next week. It’s always interesting to see riders in different shades of prep during the off-season. I can tell you I’ve seen plenty of riders FLYING AT THE TEST TRACK in October only to fizzle once the season begins. A few years ago, for example, I saw Justin Hill at the JGR track and he looked absolutely amazing. Actually, I said the same about Justin Barcia the year when JGR switched from Yamaha to Suzuki. It didn’t really work out well for either rider once the season began. The off-season can be weird. I’m just glad we get at least one race to watch, though.
Speaking of Justin Hill, do you remember him? We just had some news drop about him returning to racing for 2022: Justin Hill Returns to Professional Racing With PRMX Racing.
I would just like to say that you absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, trust or believe anything Weege says about Justin Brayton's riding. Thank you, have a good day.
Honda Took A Chance (Keefer)
As most of you know by now there is a new recruit on the Factory Honda squad and that new face is Chance Hymas. He could be today's most talented young amateur rider that you may never heard of. Why? Well, let me give you a couple reasons and give you some backstory on the young kid from Pocatello, Idaho. Chance comes from the land of meat and potatoes and up until recently he has been flying under the radar in the shadow of Jett Reynolds and Ryder DiFrancesco over on the Kawasaki Team Green amateur program, but not because of his results, in fact he was the top Team Green rider in 2021, if you add up all of Chance's amateur overall finishes over the course of the year. The only other rider that was near Chance's speed over the long spread of the amateur schedule was Loretta Lynn amateur graduate (and Nicky Hayden AMA Motocross Horizon Award winner) now Monster Energy/Star Yamaha rider Levi Kitchen. Another reason why you may not have heard much about Chance is he is not the type of kid that beats his fist against his chest when he wins, he doesn't have the prototypical mini parents and has taken all of his amateur success very quietly, which is humbling to see. Being a parent myself to a 15-year-old, I am constantly trying to raise a good human, not just a fast motocross rider, so when I get to talk and see a 16-year-old with his shit together, like Chance, it makes me a fan of the kid and appreciate what work his parents put into him as a human!
So when I started to hear some rumblings about Honda maybe wanting to take Chance under their preverbal "wings", I thought it would be a great fit. Getting out of Team Green's top two amateur prospects shadows and being able to stand on his own two feet, at place where they just don't hire any new upcoming amateur talent is an honor and I think Chance as well as his family saw this. Think about this... Chance will get to soak up riding technique from of today's most technical professionals on the track. Ken Roczen's smooth/riding a gear high nature, Chase Sexton's effortless style, Jett Lawrence's young, but insanely mature race craft, oh what about the positive energy and testing ability of one Trey Canard. Not only all of this, but gets to have a mellow mannered team manager like Lars Lindstrom who has been around the block a time or two. This kid has everything he needs to succeed, and he has some time to get there. Honda is not just giving this kid a couple years to shit or get off the pot. They are grooming him and making sure they do it the right way.
Chance just came off of two big wins in the 250/450 Pro Sport classes, in his first race as a Team Honda rider at Ponca City. The plan is to race all of the amateur nationals in 2022 and then get his feet wet in the pro ranks come summer 2023 in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. You can guarantee though that the kid from Idaho will be at the supercross track in Corona between now and 2023 learning and soaking up all he can from Team Honda's crop of talent. If you don't know who Chance is yet, standby because he is coming and it's refreshing to see some new talent coming from an unlikely place that only has had a few standouts. Oh and that Weimer guy who comes from Idaho, yeah he's helping Chance make the transition to the pros and the kid even took Jake's old number 21!
Motocross Books (DC)
Last week we mentioned the book that Jean-Michel Bayle has been working on, an autobiography about his life and career. I have since learned that multi-time 500cc World Champion David Thorpe is also working on something, and also, I've been tracking down photos of the great Sylvain Geboers (easily one of the best Grand Prix racers of all time to never win the world title) as he contemplates a book project as well. And we've also been helping Racer X contributor David Dewhurst as he works on what should be an excellent book about his travels as a photographer/journalist in the motocross world. With so many book offerings on the horizon (not to mention the fact that this is the off-season) I went back and found the index of existing motocross books that we have on the shelves at Racer X Library from a few years back for anyone who wants to see what's out there and maybe find a copy for your own motocross book collection:
Finally, I mentioned our longtime friend Rob Andrews' book The Inside Line about his travels, triumphs and trials while racing the FIM 500cc World Championship circuit in the 1980s. Rob send us a note about the fact that his brilliant book is now on its third print run ahead of the Christmas season, because it's the perfect gift for the motocrosser in your life--or yourself! Here's the press release on The Inside Line:
THE INSIDE LINE: RACING THE 500cc WORLD MOTOCROSS CHAMPIONSHIP
NOW ON THIRD PRINT RUN AHEAD OF CHRISTMAS 2021
After exceeding all sales expectations Rob Andrews’ critically acclaimed book, ‘The Inside Line: Racing the 500cc World Motocross Championship’ is now on its third print run and is the perfect Christmas gift for the motocross fan.
With a five-star ‘Excellent’ rating at Trustpilot.com – and described by some reviewers as “Quite simply the best motocross book I have ever seen” – ‘The Inside Line’ is available at theinsidelinebook.com.
The Inside Line is a unique, detailed, and comprehensive first-hand account of life as a pro racer competing in the 500cc motocross grand prix series back in its 1980’s heyday. Tracing Andrews’ inspiring journey from unremarkable amateur, through to factory Kawasaki rider, GP contender, and member of Great Britain's 1985 Motocross des Nations team, The Inside Line describes what it was really like to climb through the ranks to become a 500 GP star.
Discover how it felt to be a professional rider, racing a full-factory 500 against some of the sport’s most decorated stars, and on the world’s most famous and revered grand prix motocross circuits like Namur, Sittendorf and Carslbad.
“I have been thrilled with the book’s reception and success”, says Andrews. “I have received such amazing feedback, and many have commented that reading it made them feel like they were ‘on the journey with me’. To me that is a huge compliment and very satisfying.”
With a massive, 416 full colour, litho-printed pages, and superbly illustrated with nearly 400 incredible images from some of the sport’s most acclaimed photographers, ‘The Inside Line’ has raised the bar for motocross biographies.
Priced at £40 (which is around $55) plus shipping, Rob Andrews’ book can be ordered at theinsidelinebook.com.
The news this week that privateer hero Justin Rodbell had left his home of the past few years at SGB Kawasaki to go over to PRMX Kawasaki was a bit puzzling. Rodbell is a Maryland native and the SGB team started with him and Jason, the owner of SGB, is from MD. Plus, although 2021 450SX wasn't great for Justin, he had done well again in the 450MX series. It seemed that although the SGB guys were switching to Honda's with the help of Storm Lake dealership, that Rodbell would just sign up to ride alongside Alex Ray and Cade Clason.
I caught up to the personable Rodbell this week for a Privateer Island Pod and in it he talks about the switch. He did seem a bit frustrated by certain things on the team and admitted that 450SX is a whole big thing that he wasn't ready for. He's going back to 250SX for next year, he's going to stay at the SOB complex where PRMX will be based and he's looking forward to riding with Justin Hill who will be his teammate there. When I asked whether him and Jason are still okay with each other, he replied "I hope so" which means to me that the parting didn't go real smoothly maybe? I like Rodbell and I like the SGB guys, so I hope it works out for both of them in 2022. Don't forget, Clason went from PRMX to SGB for 2022 so it's sort of like a trade, right? Should be interesting to watch.
Ted Abdon (RIP)
We are very sad to report the passing of Ted Abdon, a longtime motorcycle industry friend. Ted loved racing and riding, and he started in the motorcycle industry at an early age. He began his career in the industry working Indiana motorcycle dealerships like Atkins Cycle in Marion, Max Pitts in Peru, and Stoughton Cycle Ranch in Indianapolis. Ted eventually moved on to a sales rep position for several companies, including No Fear, Pro Circuit, Acerbis, Oakley, and eventually AXO and Renthal. All of this led Abdon to the position of Director of Racing and Product Development at Mechanix Wear.
Ted Abdon was a very special individual. If any of you in the industry ever met him, you know this. He was a regular visitor to Monster Energy AMA Supercross as well as Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, checking on products and supporting his many, many teams.
Ted Abdon will be missed by all. Godspeed.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
I am a fan of Aldon Baker’s program. Watching the transformations and improvement of nearly every rider he worked with was impressive from the outside looking in. In 2010 and 2011, I was fortunate enough to ride with Ryan Villopoto, Nick Wey, and Jake Weimer as they worked under Baker’s watchful eye. The discipline and diligence exacted upon them left little doubt as to why they were so strong on the weekends. Every minute of the day was considered, no time was wasted. Both hard work and dedicated recovery were approached with precision and careful planning. Blood work was done to ensure maximum potential, as well as gauging fatigue levels throughout a long season. There simply wasn’t much left to chance from what I could tell. Twenty plus years into Baker’s assault on this sport, the results tell an inarguable tale. The best go to Aldon to get better.
That’s not to say there aren’t detractors. With a strict regimen and zero room for flexibility, the program might not fit every personality. Riders like Ken Roczen and Adam Cianciarulo both departed Baker’s program a few years ago, citing a need for change in diet among others. Outsiders have had their reasons for criticism, too. Anything that logs success on such a gargantuan level invites it, whether out of competitiveness or envy. It’s the natural reaction for some. Still, I think most have to acknowledge the results that have come out of that program. Dozens of titles in succession are impossible to disregard.
The year 2021 has brought more change to Baker’s program. The departure of reigning Monster Energy Supercross Champions Jason Anderson and Cooper Webb, 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Champ Zach Osborne, and Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin is surely big news. Most of Baker’s 450 camp will turnover and usher in Aaron Plessinger, Malcolm “Mookie” Stewart, while retaining Dean Wilson. It marks a new era for Baker but the more pressing question for many is “why did they leave?”. I don’t know that we will ever get facts that specifically address why these riders left. I do have my personal opinion, though.
I think that the rotation away from Baker’s program is ultimately an end result of success. Riders typically join that program when they’re desperate to succeed. They are willing to leave no stone unturned, sacrifice everything else to win. Many times, that work ethic pays dividends. Riders win championships, they sign well deserved contracts, and their financial future becomes less volatile. They also learn what it takes to win. They go through seasons of Baker’s program, likely journaling the daily workload. As riders mature, though, they don’t necessarily like having every second of every day mapped out. They have families to share time with and more responsibilities to tend to. While those are in no way negative developments, these other responsibilities can create tension with a rigid schedule that is known for its lack of flexibility. I think the rigidity itself just wears on riders, too. At some point, I think most riders face the thought of “I can do this myself. I know the program. I know what to do to be ready.” That’s where I think the break typically happens. Success meets maturity and creates a lack of desire for heavy handed guidance.
I think it’s also important to note that many of Baker’s past disciples retired “early.” Ricky Carmichael, Villopoto, and Ryan Dungey all had incredible success but also retired at around 27 years old. Many have theorized that the discipline required to be so dominant is also what burned them out, leading to early retirement. So for Webb most notably, is this move in hopes of extending his career? Was he feeling the strain after three years of it? On a results level, it’s hard to argue against two SX titles in three years. If he was reaching a point where he didn’t want to race anymore, though, what’s the lesser evil? Time will tell on these moves, but their own success has set a high bar. It will be easy to point to the change if 2022 is a tough year, regardless of if it’s the actual reason why. Is it January yet?
The Desert Said Dance - Official Trailer (2021) (on the Baja 1000)
The Baja 1000 is a race like no other. It is the longest non-stop, point to point, offroad race in the world. Anyone can enter the Baja 1000, but not everyone will finish it. Some aren’t tough enough. Some don’t have bikes that are tough enough. And some make mistakes that take them out of the race. Sometimes, tragically, forever.
This is the story of four men whose passion come before any paycheck. Each with motivations of their own. A motley crew united by motorcycle, with the common goal of proving to themselves and the world that they are alive and that the dance must go on.
Join us on October 27th for the World Premiere of The Desert Said Dance, or check out the website for screenings in your area.
Hey, Watch It!
Jimmie Johnson riding with Chad Reed at Reed's Moto40MX Park
There's a revamped track coming online in Great Britain and it looks pretty damn cool. Thoresway was bought by former road racer Guy Martin and he hopes to rebuild it into a viable candidate for a possible British MXGP round some day. Here's a cool video on the whole project that we spotted on MX Large.
Check out Aaron Plessinger's KTM announcement video if you missed it
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“GOING APE Terrifying ultra-ripped chimps bearing razor-sharp fangs show why we should pray Planet of the Apes NEVER happens”—the-sun.com
“Italian flight attendants strip off to protest working conditions”—CNN.com
“106-Year-Old Berks County Woman Who Credits A Yuengling A Day For Longevity Gets Gift From Brewery”—3CBS Philly
Here's a note from Dayton Shirah from Wildwood MX for a big race next weekend:
Not sure if you know any privateers looking to make some cash or some A riders trying to get their points but we are having a pro-am with a $10,000 pro purse Halloween weekend at our track!"