Main image by Sam Nicolini
I took much of the last two weeks off for vacation/honeymoon but was stoked to return to find the brand-new issue of Racer X magazine on my desk. It features double-champion Eli Tomac on the front cover, following his last-round knockout of Chase Sexton in their “Battle of the Ages,” which is also the name of the feature Jason Weigandt penned about their summer-long duel for the Lucas Oil 450 Pro Motocross Championship title. It’s Tomac’s second Racer X cover riding blue, as he earned his first back in May while he was on his way to the 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross crown. Previously, he’s had multiple covers on Kawasaki (2016-2021) and Honda (2010-2015). There’s also a feature about Team USA Junior winning the FIM Junior World Motocross Championship in Finland in August, Blake Wharton goes all vintage for Diamond Don’s down in Texas, and then a story I penned about privateer Justin Jones, the son of Gary Jones, and the last man to score a point in 50th anniversary season of AMA Pro Motocross. There’s also more on the big breakup of Ken Roczen and Honda.
Eli Tomac and Chase Sexton put on a battle for the ages in 450 Class Pro Motocross. Team USA Junior came home from Finland FIM Junior Motocross World Champions. Justin Jones scored the final point of the 50th anniversary year of AMA Pro Motocross—fitting, as his dad was the series’ first champion. Blake Wharton hits up Diamond Don’s 20th Annual AHRMA Vintage Motocross weekend. These features and much more in the December issue of Racer X magazine.
But I want to get back to Tomac’s season for a second look. He of course switched teams, from Kawasaki to Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing, and then promptly won both titles for the first time in his very distinguished career. He then added his first-ever win in the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations at RedBud MX, alongside his Team USA teammates Sexton and Justin Cooper. And then for good measure he added a 1-1-1 win at the World Supercross British GP opener last weekend. Tomac has one more announced race on his ’22 schedule, the Paris Supercross. If he wins that as well, would Tomac’s 2022 season be considered one of the greatest single seasons of all time?
For perspective, there were times like 2011 when Ryan Villopoto won both titles, as well as the MXoN with Team USA, and then added the million-dollar bonus when he swept the old Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas. There’s also Ricky Carmichael in 2005, when he switched from Honda to Suzuki and then swept both titles (SX on the RM250 and MX on the RM-Z450). And in both 1989 and ’90 Jeff Stanton won both titles, as well as the MXoN, though in ’90 he also added the 250cc USGP win at Unadilla. And back in the day Roger De Coster often won in both the Motocross (500cc) and Trophee (250cc) des Nations, as well as both the FIM 500cc World Championship and the old Trans-AMA tours, giving him some best-ever season candidates as well. And let’s not forget Bob Hannah’s 1978 season, when he won AMA Supercross, 250 Pro Motocross, and the Trans-AMA Series, as well as the Florida Winter-AMA Series.
But one could mount quite the argument that the best-ever overall season might remain Jean-Michel Bayle in 1991. That was the year the Frenchman won the AMA Supercross, 250 Pro Motocross, and 500 Pro Motocross titles. He also won the 500cc U.S. Grand Prix at Glen Helen, as well as King of Bercy laurels at the Paris Supercross. JMB also won the Masters of Motocross title, which was a five-race series in Europe, sweeping the first four rounds in Monaco, Milan, Barcelona, and Villars-Sous-Ecot, France, in a field of both American and European riders. All told, JMB won four different series in the same year. Bayle did miss the ’91 MXoN, however, due to a long-running spat with the French federation than began when he announced his plans in the winter of 1988 and ’89 to move to America and the federation charged him $10,000 to release him from his license so he could race on the AMA circuit.
Here’s a great JMB-vs.-Jeff Stanton battle in 1991 at the Monaco SX as part of the Masters of Motocross Series.
Tomac won’t add the new FIM World Supercross crown to his ’22 haul because he’s only doing the one of the two rounds, but winning in some many different series', and getting the MXoN monkey off his back, has definitely made Eli’s ’22 tour one of the most successful seasons ever in SX/MX history.
Okay, let me throw it out to Weege by the sea at Red Bull Straight Rhythm…
Down the Shore (Jason Weigandt)
It feels like the Pro Motocross season ended months ago, but Motocross of Nations and World Supercross, as well as the very public breakup of Ken Roczen and Honda, have kept the news flowing and now we’re back in California for Red Bull Straight Rhythm, which is back for the first time since 2019. This season doesn’t stop!
Straight Rhythm was once known for its turn-less “supercross unwound” track, but the track isn’t the key feature anymore. Since turning into an all two-strokes affair, this event has found its stride, and it’s the only race on the calendar where top factory-level riders will race on two-strokes. I penned this preview of the bikes and riders earlier this week.
Red Bull KTM has prepped versions of the all-new fuel-injected 250SX for Cooper Webb, Marvin Musquin, and Aaron Plessinger. Plessinger is even running a wild white-and-purple color combo designed to look his dad's GNCC race bikes from the 1990s! Maybe even wilder, you have Ken Roczen now on a Yamaha YZ250, supplied by David Pingree and the Whiskey Throttle gang and built by Pro Circuit! For good measure, Ping and the boys have chosen a Bob Hannah-style yellow-and-black bumblebee look. This is just beginning, as we've got a full class of both 250s and 125s. It will sound amazing, for sure.
You can check the rider’s social media to hear and see these bikes. The location of this year’s event is another bonus. For years, Straight Rhythm raced at the Fairplex in Pomona, but now the track has been built right alongside the sand here in Huntington Beach. As I write this, I’m watching the sun come up and hearing the waves crash on the shore. You can’t get a more relaxed, laid-back SoCal atmosphere, but then there’s a darned supercross rhythm section just sitting there, ready for the sound of two-strokes. Red Bull has pulled major strings (and spent major money) to make this happen. Huntington Beach has a law where the bike path next to the sand must function 365 days a year. Because the track is placed over the bike path, they had to build an entirely new boardwalk for bikes just for this weekend. Also, trucking dirt in and out of here and following all of the regulations has made for a long, expensive, and tedious build. But Red Bull didn’t want to do Straight Rhythm again unless it had a new angle. When you watch (and hear) the likes of Roczen and Webb and friends racing down the track, you’ll see the sand and the surf right next to them. Plus, you can expect some uninitiated fans to show up to watch, just because the event is so accessible. It’s pretty cool
You can watch the race (with myself and Daniel Blair doing the announcing) live on ESPN+ on Saturday starting at 2:30 p.m. Pacific, or on regular ESPN (TV) Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. Yes, ESPN on Sunday afternoon! That’s a cool boost for the sport. See you then.
Colt Nichols (Keefer)
By now you all know that Colt Nichols got Roczen's spot over at HRC Honda for a 2023 SX-only deal, and some of you may be surprised by that, but I think it's a logical choice. Colt got hurt at the first round (or first heat race) of the year at A1, which kept him from trying to get a second 250SX title. And the weird SX rule that says you can only race the 250 class for one more year after you win a title meant that he couldn’t stay with Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing unless he did an outdoor-only deal like Justin Cooper was forced to do for the same reason—he was injured the entire SX season but had to move up anyway.
You can sit there and say that Honda should have gotten someone else, but who exactly could they get who is a proven winner in supercross? Sure, Colt hasn't won anything in the premier class, but he can win races and championships on the 250, so it goes back to an old saying in our sport, "We can work with speed." Manufacturers will take a chance on an injury-prone fast rider versus a rider who gets consistent top 10s. It's just how it is and to me Colt fits the HRC brand well. He's a mellow dude, not a lot of drama follows him, I am sure he is very thankful to be where he is at now, and by the way, he's fast as shizzzzz. I try to tell my kid that there is more to getting a factory ride than just BEING FAST. You have to be easy to work with, have a good personality, as well as be a great rider. You have to have the whole package. There are plenty of fast riders, but teams do not want to work with privileged, holier-than-thou fast guys! I think/hope Colt will pay off for Honda. I have been watching Colt ride his new HRC Honda this week around Southern California, and he seems to be getting along with the red ride well, but of course it will be a different animal when he transfers onto an SX track next week. We will be getting to some test tracks soon to get you all some raw testing action shortly. But first, we are off to the GOAT Farm for the 2023 Yamaha YZ450F intro!
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
For those who are participating in the newly launched WSX series, racing kicked off last weekend in Cardiff, Wales. With several crashes and injuries, but also standout performances from the likes of Tomac, Roczen, and Vince Friese, it was a mixed bag overall. This week saw most riders fly home before they head off to Australia for next weekend's Melbourne rendezvous. Most probably spent this week recovering, but also trying to work on perceived weaknesses that may have been exposed last Saturday. The first SX event of a series, whether off-season or in-season, is always a learning experience. Settings, fitness levels, and sprint speed all got tested for the first time in an SX environment. And with a new format, many riders were probably unfamiliar with how their bodies would react, too. The quick turnaround puts a serious strain on cardiovascular capability and also forces the body to recover energy levels faster than a typical Monster Energy AMA Supercross race. The SuperPole event showed who has the sprint speed edge, even if not able to sustain that blinding pace. Those new wrinkles will give riders plenty to work on before the gate drops next Saturday night.
One of the most underrated aspects of these events is in managing the jet lag and lack of sleep. Traversing thousands of miles and multiple time zones wreaks havoc on sleep patterns and subsequently, how riders perform. I was fortunate enough to race hundreds of these events all over the world, forcing me to adapt and adopt habits that would lessen the impact of a brutal travel schedule. One key change I made was to try to sleep any time I wasn't at the racetrack. While that may seem hyperbolic and problematic for sleeping through the night, the truth is that sleeping through the night is typically a futile exercise anyway. Catching up on those missed hours of sleep was really important when main event time rolled around. For example, Germany's SX series would have practice and qualifying conclude by around 1-2 p.m. With opening ceremonies not until 7 p.m., a nice window was available for a nap and downtime. I would immediately go back to the hotel when practice ended, eat something and shower. I would try to be in bed and asleep by 3-3:30 p.m. local time and back awake by 5 p.m. or so. Having an hour before needing to leave for the stadium, there was time for shaking off the cobwebs and eating more food. I would arrive back to the stadium feeling relatively rested and ready for racing. Contrast that to those who spent that downtime sitting at the track talking and waiting. I could see the jet lag on their faces, yawning as we were supposed to be filled with adrenaline. As the main event approached they were thinking about sleep, and I was thinking about the task at hand. It was a small thing, but it yielded great results. Sleep is arguably the most important part of these overseas trips. Without it, performance drops off without fail. Finding ways to help stave off jet lag, even if it means a two-hour nap in the middle of the afternoon, can be the difference in a stellar or disappointing result. This Australia trip is on the extreme end of jet lag and putting a toll on the body. Prioritizing rest and recovery will be more important than ever. For some reason, sleeping more has this negative connotation associated with laziness or wasted time. For athletes hoping to reach peak performance, nothing could be further from the truth.
Hey, Watch It!
SEVEN / / New Beginnings
Go behind the scenes with James Stewart as he makes his first ever TV announcer debut at Budds Creek this year.
Check out Ezra Beasley and the Budds Creek Motocross Park crew prepping for a tough mudder at the facility this weekend:
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“50 CENT: ESTRANGED SON OFFERS HIM $6,700 To Buy Back a Relationship!!!”—TMZ.com
“Kanye West shows porn video to shocked Adidas execs during business meeting”—Pagesix.com
Check out the provisional 2023 FIM Motocross World Championship schedule:
2023 MXGP Schedule
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #41.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!