Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you on the 10th day of December, which means 15 days until Christmas, and 21 days until New Year's Eve, and 29 days until Anaheim 1 2022. The supercross test tracks have been busy this week, not just with testing and training but that time-honored December tradition known as the team introduction and photo shoot. That's when the new race bikes, new graphics, and new riding gear are all put on display for the press, as well as a few photographers and videographers, in order to build out autograph stock and press kits for the upcoming season. Jason Weigandt and Kellen Brauer will have more on these intros a little further below.
We also had our first "December surprise," and it was a bad one. Rookie-to-be Jett Reynolds, new to the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team, was just starting to get comfortable on a supercross track when he went down hard. He injured his pelvis, which means he could out for all of supercross. Reynolds, one of the most successful minicycle riders of all time—he once won a record nine titles in a row at Loretta Lynn's—has had a run of bad luck and injuries ever since getting on bigger bikes. He's one of the very fast Bakersfield kids that have been coming through the ranks, and a lot of folks were looking forward to seeing him make his AMA Supercross debut. He was looking forward to it as well, as he told our Aaron Hansel just a few days ago. Now it appears that we might not be seeing #124 until later in the spring. Here's hoping he has a full and speedy recovery.
Here in Morgantown we are expecting a flood of visitors this weekend as the annual GNCC banquets are taking place right down the road at the Waterfront Marriott. Racer Productions has to have two banquets, one for ATVs (tonight) and one for bikes (tomorrow). They are expecting more than 800 folks for each night! GNCC Racing is coming off of its biggest season yet—another sign that the powersports industry made a huge recovery this past year.
Jeffrey Herlings came out on top of an incredible 2021 FIM Motocross World Championship season. The Desert Said Dance will document one teams’ efforts to contest the grueling but beautiful Baja 1000. The 2021 Ironman GNCC finale was a mudder for the ages, with the title on the line. The 2021 Racer X Gift Guide returns! These features and much more in the February issue of Racer X magazine.
We also just dropped the February '22 issue of Racer X magazine, featuring MXGP World Champion Jeffrey Herlings on the cover. Before the last two rounds of the 2021 FIM Motocross World Championship, Red Bull KTM's Herlings and Monster Energy Kawasaki's Romain Febvre and HRC Honda's Tim Gajser were all virtually even in the standings after a remarkable season, so we decided that whichever of the three ended up taking the title would get the next cover. After Gajser was issued a penalty for an off-track excursion in the next-to-last round, it came down to Herlings and Febvre, and the two entered the last moto tied in points. It doesn't get any closer than that! In the end, Herlings pulled through, winning his 99th Grand Prix as well as the world title, and that landed him on our cover for the third time in his career. When I sent him the cover, which was shot by Ray Archer, Herlings was stoked: "Awesome boss, looks great!"
Actually, we're all stoked on the new issue, which includes Adam Wheeler's feature on the MXGP endgame, another bit called "Waterworld" about the Ironman GNCC finale that was nearly sunk by a rainstorm, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie The Desert Said Dance, and much, much more. But then we got to the free pullout poster that Yamaha ordered up for Dylan Ferrandis' 450 championship in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross … and realized to our horror that the poster had been bound in backwards by the printer, which made "pullout" part of this beautiful two-sided poster impossible without scissors or a knife! Our publisher, Scott Wallenberg, immediately called the folks at Yamaha to tell them the printer had made a mistake and apologize, and also let them know we will be running the poster again next month. So when you get your issue but can't get your poster out, please know a properly bound Dylan Ferrandis championship poster is coming next month. We are very sorry for the inconvenience, and so is our printer.
Rene Hofer (2002-2021) (DC)
Rene Hofer, a promising young Red Bull KTM rider on the Grand Prix circuit, was killed last weekend in an avalanche while on a ski trip in the mountains of Austria. Hofer and ten of his friends were swept up in the avalanche, which was reported to be a wall of snow said to be approximately 650 feet wide. While eight of the skiers made it out alive, Hofer and two others could not escape the huge wave of snow and perished. He was 19 years old.
Hofer came up through the minicycle ranks in Europe, winning an 85cc world title and showing great promise. In September he had his first big break on the professional scene, winning the MX2 class overall at the 2021 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations in Mantova, Italy. It marked the first time in motocross history that an Austrian had won a class in that prestigious event. A couple weeks later Hofer added another victory, this time in the MX2 class of the Grand Prix of Pietramurata, which was held at the Arco Trentino circuit in Italy. It marked the first overall win ever in MX2 Grand Prix racing for an Austrian rider. It was becoming apparent to many on the world circuit that Hofer, with his speed and engaging personality, was going to be a star one day. And as an Austrian, he was set to be a superstar for the KTM brand, just as Heinz Kinigadner became in the 1980s when he won two FIM 250cc World Motocross Championships—the only world titles ever taken in premier GP racing by an Austrian.
It was like Hofer was running on a parallel track with Japan's Jo Shimoda here in America. Before 2021, only one rider from Japan had ever won a major race, and that was Akira Watanabe in the late seventies on the 125cc Grand Prix circuit—which is weird when you think about the fact that Japan has long made the vast majority of motocross bikes. Then in '21, Shimoda, riding a Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki, broke out with a win in the 250SX class at the Salt Lake City 1 round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, joining Watanabe as the only international winner from the country that makes so many of the motorcycles.
Now Austria is making a lot of the bikes, with the KTM Group also owning the Husqvarna and GasGas brands, but like Japan, they have only had one racer come through as a world-class contender, and that was Kinigadner. Then came '21 and Rene Hofer, and finally Austria had another world-class rider to cheer for—and he was riding an Austria-made motorcycle. Like Shimoda here in the States, Hofer had a very bright future ahead of him.
Upon the news of Hofer's tragic passing, KTM offered their condolences to the Hofer family, as well as the other two young me lost in the avalanche:
"The entire KTM family is deeply saddened by the terrible news that MX2 factory racer Rene Hofer, along with two of his friends, has passed away following a skiing incident in Austria. KTM would like to send love and heartfelt condolences to Rene’s family, friends, his team, along with the entire motocross community during this incredibly difficult time. Rene, a multi-time junior champion and GP winner with a bright future in Grand Prix ahead of him, will be remembered not only for his talent on the track, but also for his approachable, fun-loving and friendly personality, along with his ever-present smile... Rene will be greatly missed by everyone in the KTM family. Ride on peacefully Rene. You will be missed immeasurably. #711"
Said Dirk Gruebel, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager:
“Rene came into the team with some pressure that none of the other guys had to deal with. He was a big hope for Austria. It is a testament to him that, even at his young age, he never really showed the weight of that expectation... He is gone way-too soon and has left a large hole in our team and our lives.”
Here is a tribute video for Rene Hofer featuring Harrison Rhys, edited by Tinus Nel.
And here is another tribute video for Rene Hofer:
What a Week (Jason Weigandt)
There’s a standard cadence to the off-season, and this week signaled a major tremor, with several teams holding photo shoots, Feld Entertainment hosting two days of media work at Angel Stadium, and then KTM and Honda hosting team intros for the media. Now it’s real. Nerves are going to start building, and tension will be high. That’s actually part of the reason Feld now hosts media obligations a month before the season. You know all those shots you see on TV before they go to commercial? The “Hi, I’m Ken Roczen and you’re watching Monster Energy Supercross on NBC Sports” stuff? Well, they used to shoot all of those the day before Anaheim 1, but the riders were always stressed and nervous thinking about race day. By getting all of this stuff done now, everyone is in a better mood.
But the riders are already getting antsy. Roger De Coster and Carlos Rivera told me the Feld obligations, the team photo shoot, and the team media intro meant the riders would probably lose out on some training motos this week, and the riders really start to sweat that at this time of year. There was also rain in the California forecast this week, further adding to the fear that they would lose a day or two at the test track. In October, a missed day or two probably doesn’t bother anyone. By December, the riders are counting every minute.
After Feld held two days of interviews, photo shoots, and more at the stadium, KTM hosted its team intro at its headquarters on Wednesday night. I got to host the event, but even I wasn’t allowed to see the all-new Factory Edition bikes until right before the event started. These bikes are brand new, with only the front wheel, front brake, and handlebars carrying over from previous-generation KTMs. I knew a new 450 was coming, but I didn’t know a Factory Edition 250F was en route as well. The 250 is so new that Max Vohland only just got to ride one a few days ago, and he will be racing 250SX East just to get more time on the bike. Max did say his whoop speed improved massively as soon as he got on the new bike, and Cooper Webb echoed those thoughts. If Webb gets better in the whoops … look out, everyone.
The vibe seemed pretty good over at KTM, although everyone is always excited and “flying at the test track” during the preseason. Roger De Coster remains very high on what he’s seeing from Marvin Musquin, and Aaron Plessinger is no doubt the same fun-loving Aaron Plessinger he has always been. And this bike is damned exciting.
I left the KTM event Wednesday night just in awe of the powerhouse this brand has become. But just 12 hours later, we were gathered at Blackmore Ranch for Honda’s team intro, and when you see the Lawrence brothers, Ken Roczen, and Chase Sexton roll out and do laps, well, you have to be in awe of Honda's talent too! Hard to find a group that looks better on a bike from a pure style standpoint than these guys. New team manager Lars Lindstrom updated us on the progress of the new CRF250R. They’re still doing quite a bit of work to the bike, but it already has much more torque than the 2021 race bike, and they’re going to find more top end also. For supercross, that torque really helps. Lars believes the earliest 250Fs, because they were considered a replacement for 125s, were all based on high-revving power curves. All of the 250Fs have grown on the low- and mid-range side through the years, and the riders have learned to ride the bikes in that range. The new Honda engine is much better at low revs, and that’s the key these days, even in the 250 class.
Of course, a month before the season, everything is positive. Everyone loves their new bike, everyone feels comfortable, everyone is flying at the test track. The nerves will start building from here. Anaheim is real now. And it’s coming soon.
The Countdown (Kellen Brauer)
It’s been the week of team introductions, photoshoots, video edits, and more between California and Florida. Being back in California now myself, I was on site for the launch of the new KTM 250 SX-F and 450 SX-F Factory Edition bikes at the Red Bull KTM team intro on Wednesday night with Weege. Even though many had already seen the 450 SX-F through leaked images, not many had seen the 250 SX-F, especially with the updated bodywork to mimic the 450. It was great to finally see both bikes out and shown to the public, and the sentiment was echoed by the riders. Last week in Florida, I spent about an hour at the 83 Compound, where at one point I walked around the corner and almost into the back of an unsuspecting Cooper Webb. Webb seemed shocked to see us there and appeared to get a little defensive of his bike that was sitting about five feet away. I asked him about this at the intro on Wednesday, he said, “We basically got told that no one sees this bike or your ass is on the line.” It’s been strange not seeing anything from the defending champion or from his new teammate Aaron Plessinger for nearly two months, but that was what was asked by KTM. It even went so far that Marvin Musquin had to jump from testing the new bike back to the old bike for three days to race the Paris Supercross, then right back onto the new bike.
The whole new KTM conundrum aside, it was also nice of KTM to welcome the media to their facilities for this intro, where KTM North America president John Hinz was kind enough to walk us through the whole factory race shop. He, along with Roger De Coster, detailed their engine department, machine shop, dyno room, mechanic bays, and much more. It was a cool glimpse behind the curtain that not all teams would be keen to show off. They did tell us they hid a few secret internal engine parts, though! Probably the best part was hearing about how invested in small details De Coster is. Hinz told a story of how he happened upon Roger in the machine shop late one night and asked what he was working on. Instead of some trick new engine component—Roger certainly has worked on many before—De Coster was simply machining some aluminum rivets for the semi truck canopy because he thought the canopy looked a little loose one time. Always eyeing perfection.
Moving to Thursday, Honda HRC held their team intro at Blackmore Ranch in Murrieta, California. As expected, the presence of the Lawrence brothers probably loosened the whole thing up, as it wasn’t 10 minutes into the riding segment of the intro when the goon riding came out in full force (which you can check out in the video section below). Jett and Hunter were playing around and got Ken Roczen to join them in the fun. Then the whole gang moved over to the flat track on the facility and started kicking up a dust tornado. It was a good time. In terms of the more serious business, all four Honda HRC guys sounded optimistic about 2022. It’s usually a broken record in the off-season—“Everything’s great and we’re ready”—but the guys all seemed hungry for the new season. A lot of people are high on Chase Sexton’s second year, and he’s certainly heard the talk, but he knows he has to walk before he can run. His sentiments were more about maturing, as he knows he has the speed, but putting together a full race week after week is what he really needs. Roczen spoke about the feeling of moving more into the “veteran” part of his career but how having a team of such young and enthusiastic riders around him is really keeping him young as well. And the Lawrence brothers both know how strong 2021 was for both of them and see no signs of slowing down for 2022. The only noticeable change within the team is Lars Lindstrom stepping into team manager after Erik Kehoe departed, but the now long-tenured Roczen said that it feels like nothing has changed because everyone is so familiar with Lars already.
What’s really great about this whole week of team intros is that it feels like Monster Energy Supercross is just so much closer. It doesn’t really feel like the off-season anymore, it now feels like the preseason. Thirty days sounds pretty far but also will go by so quick over this next month.
Last-Minute Moto Gift Shopping? (Ryan McLeod)
With Christmas fast-approaching, you might still be looking for some gift ideas for the riders and race fans in your life. So how about some rider merchandise from some of the sport's top stars? We scoured the internet to find as many riders’ websites as we could to give you this handy guide for the holiday season. Also, don't forget to check out our own store!
And a few retired racers:
Chad Reed - https://mountain-motorsports.myshopify.com/collections/cr22-official-gear (appears to be all sold out though)
2022 Kawasaki KX450SR (Keefer)
Kellen Brauer and I reunited on Wednesday to meet up with the Kawasaki crew to shoot the latest addition to their 450cc fleet. The KX450SR (Special Racer) was going to be called the Tomac Edition, but Eli kind of screwed that whole deal up by signing with Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing. You will not be able to get any information out of me until Tuesday at 6 a.m. Pacific, but I can tell you that the Racer X Films video as well as the Keefer Tested Podcast about this machine will be worth the wait. The KX450SR has KYB suspension, a ported/polished cylinder head, X-Trig clamps, Pro Circuit full exhaust system, DID chain/ST-X rims, Renthal sprocket, Hinson clutch cover, and Monster Energy Racing graphics. In the world of "Factory Editions," this Kawasaki should make it interesting for those special buyers out there!
I did a Privateer Island pod with newest SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda rider Mitchell Oldenburg about signing with that squad, how he started a fence company last year and was maybe not going to race if he couldn't get a good ride, racing 450s in the West Region and then 250s in the East, the struggles last year, and being teammates with JB10 again.
I've always liked Freckle—he's a good dude and he's got good skill on a motorcycle. With Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM, he was pretty good and collected some podiums, but injuries have always seemed to strike him at the worst time. Remember when he was a privateer Yamaha kid? He had good speed against the factory guys. Should be interesting to watch him this year on that team. I hope it goes well.
Weege and Kellen have more from the KTM and Honda intros, but thinking of those events made me think of my time wrenching and the intros that I had to be ready for as a team. One year at Yamaha we rented a go-kart place in Orange County, drove the semi there, parked the bikes, introduced the team, and drove carts all day long. That was fun. There was one intro with Yamaha where we didn't have the parts we needed to build motors so the "race" bikes we had on display were basically dummy bikes! Good thing we didn't need to start them up. One year at KTM our shop was down in San Diego and we invited media down to check everything out and only like two guys even came down. That was a day of just hanging around. We did one media day at Gorman where Tim Ferry grabbed a YFZ quad and was out on the track with some guy he told me later was "pretty good on these things," and that guy turned out to be Barry Hawk, factory Yamaha quad god back then. Good times at the intros!
On the PulpMX show, we had past Dakar winner Ricky Brabec and SX/MX hero Andrew Short in-studio this past Monday to talk all things Dakar. They were out here training with Jimmy Lewis and brought Jimmy along to talk about the upcoming rally. They leave on Christmas Day, and Ricky's gone 2-1 in the last two while Shorty's had some bad luck at this race. It's such a crazy, exhausting race where anything and everything can happen. Listening to their stories about the luck, the skill, and the bravery it takes to do well at this race makes me shake my head.
I think having Ricky and Shorty do this race really elevated the interest in it, and I still think Shorty is crazy for doing it, but as he said over and over on the show, he just loves to ride his dirt bike!
Check out the show below, they come in-studio an hour in if you want to zoom to that part.
"Little Giant: The PW50 Story" (The Movie!) (brett smith)
"Little Giant: The PW50 Story" (The Movie!) premieres on Saturday, December 18 on RevZilla's YouTube channel.
It's so much more than a story about the PW. It's a 29-minute documentary about a first bike, a rescue, a restoration, time travel, fostering friendships and the ultimate daddy/daughter experience.
Even if you didn't start on a PW50, you'll still enjoy and find common ground in this story, which features my oldest daughter, who can now forever say that she started on a 1981 Yamaha PW50, the very same bike her dad rode when he was a boy.
Check out the trailer below!
Hey, Watch It!
Norm spent a lifetime playing at the edges of one extreme to another. His body hasn't thanked him for the experience. But Creo SL keeps him riding.
PODIUM IN PARIS - Part 1 (Paris Supercross 2021)
PODIUM IN PARIS - PART 2
HONDA DREAMING | Chance Hymas
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“CDC tells 35,000 anime fans to get tested for COVID-19”—CNN
“Arizona Coyotes pay taxes, won't be iced out of arena”—ESPN.com
“Footprints in Spain show meat-eating dinosaurs were fast and furious”—NewsTrust.com
“Plumber finds cash in wall of Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church years after burglary”—New York Post
“Plumber who found cash in wall of Joel Osteen’s church receives $20K reward”—New York Post
“Woman leads police on crazy car chase across Florida golf course”—CNN.com
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #49.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!