Welcome to Racerhead, where the countdowns continue: 8 days to Christmas, 15 days to the New Year, and 23 days to the 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship opener at Anaheim. The test tracks and team HQs were busy all week long with riding, testing, and the occasional photoshoot or team intro. Most will take a day or two off next weekend for Christmas, but beyond that it’s become a full-on sprint to Angel Stadium for the 450SX riders and the 250SX West Region (and no, no details as to who is racing in the West and who is waiting for the East). And we still haven’t had that unfortunate December surprise, at least not in the supercross sense. But there were a few surprises around the sport this week that were not directly related to supercross. At least not yet.
Let’s start with last Friday’s drop of the new podcast by the last person I would have ever guessed was going to start a new podcast, and that’s James Stewart. It’s been a while since we really heard from the former Fastest Man on the Planet, as he’s been living a quiet life in Florida, raising his family and popping up at the occasional event. But last week, after hinting that something big was coming, the Bubba’s World Podcast dropped, with James chatting with his longtime sidekick at Seven and best friend, Roger Larson, and media Cole Beach, just talking about life in general, COVID-19, the corner gas station, the recent Mini O’s, amateur factory support, Seven MX, that big crash at Colorado, Chad Reed, the Paris Supercross, the upcoming season, and how James nearly retired in 2012 after a big crash at the Houston Supercross. It’s a good listen and awesome to just hear from James again, and it sounds like they plan on making this a weekly show. Check it out.
An even bigger and more unexpected surprise came early on Tuesday morning with the news drop from Barcelona about a brand-new electric motorcycle company, Stark Future, and their first model, the VARG. With Sebastien Tortelli, Josh Hill, and Mat Rebaud as the test riders, Stark made an impressive splash with slick videos, cool photos, and a very good-looking electric dirt bike. The specs are impressive, as it’s lighter than the previous e-bike of the future, the Alta Redshift MXR, and it boasts an eye-opening 80 horsepower. Stark Future CEO Anton Wass says the bikes should be available for the public in late 2022, and he hopes to be racing the bike as soon as 2023, but there are a lot of things to be settled first, including where exactly the VARG fits into the current class structures of both FIM and AMA racing.
Our European colleague Geoff Meyer of MX Large dug into what exactly it might take to actually get the bike on the starting line of an FIM Motocross World Championship MXGP or an AMA Motocross round, so he called up Infront Moto Racing’s Giuseppe Luongo first in regards to the FIM World Motocross Championships.
“You know our vision is always to be very open to new technology and to new manufacturers who are interested in Motocross, therefore I think this is a very good announcement for all the Motocross fans,” Luongo explained. “Sure, we are very interested about this. And if they are really interested in MXGP they will have to formally make a request to us, and then there will have to be an evaluation if the bike can compete at the same level as the actual 450 and that there can be no advantage or disadvantage for anyone. Sure, the idea is very exciting and now we have to investigate if technically it’s going to be possible.”
Geoff also reached out to me regarding MX Sports Pro Racing and the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, and I explained that the Stark announcement was very exciting and really grabbed everyone's attention here in the U.S. We all know that our future almost certainly includes electric bikes, and the Stark VARG (meaning “strong wolf” in Swedish) just made that future seem a lot closer than we realized. Obviously, there's still a lot to sort out in regards to where exactly it will line up, and the FIM and AMA will have their work cut out for them figuring out where exactly this bike fits in, or maybe even adding a whole new division just for e-bikes in general. We were at a similar crossroads with the Alta a few years back, and while they were adamant that it belonged in the 250 class, the AMA never really got the chance to make a full assessment of where it belonged. I'm sure the people at Stark Future realize they need to work with the FIM and AMA in helping them understand the potential and the limitations of these new models, because while electric bikes are certainly coming, the motorcycles we have now are not going away anytime soon. I finished by adding that I do look forward to riding the Stark VARG here in the near future—the bike looks like a blast to ride!
I also had the chance to speak with Wass last week (yes, I knew about the VARG ahead of time but really didn’t want to be the guy who ruined one of the best-kept secrets in motocross history), and he and his company seem up to the challenge of producing a competitive motorcycle. He also understands that it’s not going to be as easy as just rolling up to the starting gate at Anaheim ’23. But they are committed to going racing at the highest level, so stay tuned.
There was some other news from Spain concerning Jorge Prado, who just made a lateral move, going from Red Bull KTM to Red Bull GasGas, which puts some ground between the young Spaniard and the guy he will be chasing after in 2022, Jeffrey Herlings. But this was surprising because, with Antonio Cairoli retiring, KTM in Europe went from three big-hitters to just one in Herlings. And here in the States, GasGas announced a contract extension for Justin Barcia through 2023.
There was also a surprise from the AMA, as Brandy Richards, the first rider in the more than 100-year history of the International Six Days Enduro to win every single test in her class, was named the 2021 American Motorcyclist Association Motorcyclist of the Year. Over the course of six days, she won all 28 tests in Italy. She anchored the U.S. Women’s World Trophy Team win, which won the 2021 ISDE by more than 15 minutes over runner-up Great Britain.
“I never thought I’d be considered for [Motorcyclist of the Year] even after winning ISDE,” Richards said upon hearing the news. “It’s amazing that the AMA recognized me … and I’m shocked and grateful to be given this honor.”
Also from the AMA was the news that the 2022 schedule is out for the 41st Annual Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships—the Areas, the Regionals and the finale itself at Loretta Lynn’s (August 1-6). Read more right here.
Also, there are a few rule changes on the table that are up for public comments through December 24, which is next Friday, including limiting points-scoring ex-pros to just two age classes (Junior +25 and Masters +50) and mandatory longer motos at the Regionals. You can check them out here and weigh in with your comments.
So, no real supercross-related December surprises yet, thankfully, but there are still a couple weeks to go before we reach January. And once the series starts, there’s the possibility of a different kind of surprise….
It's Still Here (DC)
Toward the end of the 2021 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, an outbreak of COVID-19 derailed several riders and race teams, including Red Bull KTM's Marvin Musquin and Twisted Tea/HEP Motorsports Suzuki's Max Anstie. Fortunately, it did not affect the championship in either class. The pandemic and associated travel restrictions/concerns also had the unfortunate consequence of basically preventing Team USA from attending the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations in Italy. The hope was that the coronavirus would have run its course by the start of the 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, which kicks off on January 8 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim (a round that, of course, didn't happen in '21 due to the same health concerns).
Unfortunately, a glance at this week's mainstream sports headlines does not paint a positive picture as to where we’re in this ongoing epidemic. "The NFL now has had 75 player positives for COVID the past two days, per source," tweeted Adam Schefter, ESPN's football insider. "Brooklyn's COVID-19 protocols list grows to seven, including James Harden," said an ESPN.com headline concerning the NBA. "Odell Beckham Jr. among nine players placed on COVID-19 list by Los Angeles Rams," was another headline. And finally, “NFL point spreads moving dramatically as sportsbooks deal with COVID-19 fallout.”
The weird thing is, when you watch the NFL or NBA or NHL, there's usually not an empty seat in the grandstands, as stadiums and arenas are packed to the roofs with fans. If the same percentage of fans were suffering from COVID-19 as the players on the teams, a Brooklyn Nets basketball game would only have half the fans in the stands, because half of the actual team tested positive. Of course, the inconsistencies between the amount of players out and the amount fans in the stands is because players get tested practically every day, according to league protocols, while the fans do not.
With the start of the season rapidly approaching, we're sure the people at Feld Entertainment have been working nonstop to set up as many safety protocols and policies as possible to get the 2022 series up and running, and to make it feel as normal as possible, just like it did at the start of 2020. But they will be testing the riders often, and the odds are that at some point in the championship COVID is going to show up in someone's test and knock them out of a race or two. And just like we're seeing in other sports, the show will almost certainly go on, and the fans will be there (though some may have to adjust their PulpMX and MotoXDream360 fantasy teams). It's just the world we are still living in right now.
Supercross Preview Shows (Jason Weigandt)
We’re about ten seasons into shooting annual Monster Energy/Racer X Supercross Season preview shows. We will shoot the 2022 shows next week, so episodes will roll out during the holidays and get you all the way to January 8 and Anaheim 1. We’ve got some cool ideas planned with some guests joining us for analysis, alongside myself, Steve Matthes, and Jason Thomas. I can’t believe we’ve been doing these things for ten years. We actually used to shoot them at our old friend Jason Hooper’s house in North Carolina, then we spent some years shooting them at Pro Circuit’s shop in California, but COVID-19 is making it hard to know who will be open when, so we’re using Steve Matthes’ PulpMX Studio in Las Vegas for now. Would be cool to get back to California for next year’s shows. Either way, get ready for epic bench racing as well as a way to get caught up on all the stories you might have missed through the off-season.
I’m a little bummed, though, as I went to ClubMX this week to watch some guys ride, but the great Justin Brayton was not there. Turns out JB had a big crash early this week and is going to need some time off. He will be back and ready for Anaheim, though. Test track crashes are always a scary prospect, and our man Phil Nicoletti gave his thoughts on it this week in his UnPhiltered question-and-answer column. Also, Phil complained about having to spend money on Christmas gifts. He thinks Christmas should not be about spending and just feeling the spirit. How convenient!
News is coming in hot and heavy. We had all these team photoshoots and such over the last week, and then Stark Future shocked the industry with its new electric bike, the VARG. I’ve now learned Stark means “strong” in Swedish, so consider the company name to be Strong Future. Will it have a strong future? I’m hearing many positive things about the company and the people behind it. There’s more to electric bikes than just making an electric bike. You’ve got to raise the startup money to seed a company from the ground up. But electric is very, very appealing as a startup, especially in motocross, which holds relatively short races. If the rider gets tired before the battery does, and charging doesn’t take too long, the problem is solved. That makes electric very appealing for this sport. I shared some thoughts on this on my own YouTube channel.
Last week I shot a few Weege Show videos from the KTM and Honda team intros in California. I’d advise you to check out the Honda one for a very telling Chase Sexton interview at the end. Sexton talks about how difficult it is to win 450 supercross races, because they’re “strategic” races, and veterans like Cooper Webb, Ken Roczen, and Eli Tomac know how to play the game. The track gets so nasty and rough at the end, and Sexton is learning to set his bike up for those laps, not for going fast early. It’s not easy, though, because the tracks and the intensity only ramp up like that in the races, not at the practice track in December. For Sexton, it will take more races and more experience to truly unlock the secrets of winning 450SX races.
Back to the Vault (DC)
The Racer X Online Vault is a great place to get your moto fix in during the off-season. The Vault is an online record book that has the results of every AMA Pro Motocross and AMA Supercross race that's ever been held, from 1972 through 2021. It's a great place to check out all the results of your favorite riders over the years, as well as the place to settle bets and debates over who, what, where, and when in AMA SX/MX.
It's also fun to check your own knowledge and bench racing bona fides, which I recently did—and found out I was wrong! Let me explain: Earlier this year I mentioned that Colorado's Bobby Fitch may be the only rider to have qualified for an outdoor national in four different decades. Fitch first qualified for the '99 Hangtown 125 National, and then made several races in both the '00s and the '10s. And then last summer Fitch qualified for his home race, the 2020 Thunder Valley 250 National.
Turns out I should have checked in the Vault, because the Junkyard Dog himself, John Dowd, also raced in four different decades. A New England legend, Dowd first made the grade at the 1987 Southwick 125 National, finishing 20th. Dowd then became one of the sport's best and most durable racers, winning nationals and 125 and 250 supercross races throughout the nineties as a Yamaha factory rider. He also raced for Team Kawasaki in the early '00s and continued to race all the way through 2013, when he qualified for his last 450 National, again at Southwick, and finished 23rd overall. Dowd's time between his first and last national—26 years, 43 days—must be the all-time record, though I don't have time to really check right now.
(I did check to see if Mike Brown had raced in four decades as well, but his first pro race did not come until the 1990 Houston 125 Supercross (14th place). Brown also raced professionally all the way through 2013, his last national being Spring Creek, where he finished 25th in the 450 class.)
Moving forward, it's still our plan to add more stats to the Vault, including the old Inter-Am and Trans-AMA races, as well as the Motocross of Nations, and maybe even the old USGPs. In the meantime, if you're looking to see how Team USA did in, say, the 1974 Trophee des Nations, check out our French friend Gilou's excellent memotocross.fr site, as he has all of the old Grand Prix, Trophee, and Motocross des Nations races. And if you want to hunt down some old amateur results, like how did Mike Alessi and Ryan Villopoto stack up on 80s, or how Kris Keefer and his very fast kid did at the ranch, there's also a Loretta Lynn's Vault, which you can check out.
Red Bull’s Day in the Dirt Down South returns for Year 2 (Sam Nicolini)
Year two, you’re thinking, “Didn't this event happen in 2020?” Well, 2020, that’s year zero, we didn’t get to see the event through, but it was a tease to what was going to be a rad weekend just before the whole world shut down. This year is going to be the best one yet, the “Fastest Party on Two Wheels” is ON and race registration is OPEN!! The track is going to have a couple changes, racers will still hit the paved road, go through the barn, and back into No Man’s Land, and the team races will still be the most entertaining to watch... The Saturday Night Pit Party will be bigger than ever and a supercross watch party is in the works. Red Bull has confirmed that the General, Ryan Sipes, will be returning to defend his Ironman title. Find more information and get signed up on DayInTheDirtDownSouth.com - classes will sell out so get in early!
Not a video to watch, but here's a good read for the weekend: Motocross Action editor Josh Mosiman, big brother to Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GasGas Factory Racing rider Michael Mosiman, qualified for the season-ending Hangtown 450 National on a stock KTM, with his wife as his mechanic.
Our man in California Kellen Brauer attended the TLD GasGas team’s team intro:
Every Point Counts, MXGP of Garda | Behind the Bullet w/ Jeffrey Herlings EP11
Exhaust Podcast: Concussions in Motocross (w/ Dr. Paul Reiman)
Jason Weigandt talks to Dr. Paul Reiman, who is on staff with the Alpinestars Mobile Medic Unit, about concussion testing and protocols in the sport, the Cameron McAdoo situation from Atlanta last year, and future developments on testing and recovery. Turns out there's a lot that we thought we knew about concussions that has changed. Dr. Reiman is here to explain.
The Stark VARG in the raw:
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“O.J. Simpson a 'completely free man' as parole ends in Nevada”—ESPN.com
“Deion Sanders flips No. 2 overall college football recruit Travis Hunter from Florida State to Jackson State on national signing day”—ESPN.com
“Eric Trump says 'we weren't smart enough to collude with Russia' in interview with former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler”— non.com
“90-Day Fiancé Star Makes $45,000 a Week Selling Her Farts”—Toofab.com
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #50.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!