Former pro racer Jason Thomas was right on the floor during Saturday’s Oakland Supercross as he was the floor analyst for Peacock’s coverage of the racing. As such, not only was JT able to visually see some of the key moments of the race, he also got an up close and personal view of just how gnarly the track got. We fired some questions his way about the track breaking down and how that can contribute to a multitude of mistakes.
Technical track with soft dirt. Eli Tomac said he was surprised they built it this steep. What did you see?
It was certainly a difficult track when accounting for the layout and the softer dirt. Had this layout been on hard-packed dirt, it wouldn’t have been as challenging. The ever-changing ruts and bumps added a layer to the race. Often times, track builders will tone down the angles when we have softer dirt, knowing things will get dicey late in the main event. Not so much in Oakland. I like it when they ramp up the difficulty, though. Knowing when to press and when it’s necessary to respect the track a bit is all a part of race craft. Finding that balance is an underrated part of the sport. It’s really brought to the forefront on weekends like last.
What’s the physical toll at the end of a long rhythm like the turning section with turns in Oakland? Some talked about how long you have to stand and push through, which is longer than a normal rhythm.
This track was taxing on many levels. Riders needed to squeeze with their knees much more at Oakland than on some layouts. That turning section forces riders to use their legs and core to manipulate the motorcycle in the air. When you leave a jump face aiming one way but need the bike to land facing a different direction, the only way to do that is by sheer force. If anyone ever tells you that racing motorcycles isn’t physical, understand that they’re likely a moron.
Same thing: if you blitz two whoop sections and a dragon’s back, how are the legs arms back and lungs feeling?
Those back-to-back sections are really difficult to manage on a breathing level. Most riders hold their breath through the whoops, meaning they hold their breath through three sections in a row. Most times you can feel that heart rate spike immediately after as you’re trying to catch up to the oxygen just used through those sections.
For muscle fatigue, that was more likely a cumulative effect over the course of the race. The track asked a lot as far as fitness goes. With softer dirt, the front tire wants to “grab” everywhere and veer this way and that. The only way to counteract that is to hold on tight and force the motorcycle where you need it to go. On hard-packed tracks, the motorcycle flows more and feels conducive. Tracks like Oakland almost gives the bike a mind of its own, much more unpredictable.
Do riders actually plan “rest” sections to relax for a second when dissecting a track? Could this be done in Oakland?
At many rounds, the rest factor isn’t necessary. On a much more difficult track like Oakland, it does help to find a place to be able to take a deep breath and relax for a second. Bigger jumps like a triple or finish line can offer it but I also liked to do it through sections that didn’t favor aggression. The short straight after the wall jump was a good opportunity, albeit short-lived. Something as simple as taking a deep breath and briefly resetting can really help over the course of a main event.
Any idea why Chase Sexton crashed? He made a bobble earlier that lap but said that didn’t create the other crash. He said he hit that jump the same way every lap and he just went into a two-wheel drift out of nowhere.
I’m beginning to wonder if his mind is drifting during the main event. James Stewart was prone to this same type thing. He would be looking great, checking out on the field and then whammo, he was upside down. It only takes a split-second lapse in concentration to lose traction. Sexton is on the front end of speed and risk, only furthering the amount of focus required. His crashes seem to pop up at strange times and don’t have warning signs. It would be interesting to be inside his head just before disaster to know if his focus has drifted from the immediate. It literally only takes a momentary lapse to ruin a weekend.
Throw in the towel in 250 West?
Can we just add the West Region guys to the East Region series? Ten Triple Crowns to end the series? Make Jett start backwards? I’m open to any suggestions here but we need something. Between Jett’s talent and the attrition behind him, this series is tough to build hype around.