Racerhead #52Friday, December 28, 2007 | 1:12 PM
Honda is the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, and the undisputed leader in motorcycle technology. More motocross riders have won titles on Hondas than on any other bike. When you’re serious about winning, Honda is the machine for you.
In this article…
- James Stewart
- Ryan Villopoto
- Jake Weimer
- Josh Grant
- Josh Hill
- Chris Pourcel
- Kevin Windham
- Ivan Tedesco
- Andrew Short
- Jason Lawrence
- Jeff Gibson
- Ryan Dungey
- Grant Langston
- Chad Reed
- Jeff Alessi
- Travis Pastrana
- Mike Alessi
- Ricky Carmichael
- Tim Ferry
- Ryan Sipes
- Billy Laninovich
Well, that’s about it for 2007. We close our eyes and another year passes by…. This was a good one, for the most part, though we are also left with a somewhat uncertain future. There are huge things going on in our world—the long war, ongoing terrorism, a struggling economy, the growing divide—that make motocross such a small matter in comparison. But motocross is what we do, and we do it because we love it and it helps make all of the other difficulties in life a little more worthwhile.
The year ends with a lot of excitement about the immediate future of our sport—supercross is starting in eight days, there’s preview show tomorrow on CBS, and James Stewart vs. Chad Reed and everyone else will be shown live next Saturday night on Speed TV—and also some not-so-clear forecasts. Bike sales are suffering, the nationals question is still up in the air, NOISE is still a problem, and we really have seen the last of Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath on AMA circuits.
The Racer X Motocross Show on Motocross.com was a smash-hit, and my thanks go out to the AMA, the Speed TV crew, and of course the Wasserman Media Group for helping pull all of that together. Oh, and Wes Williams, the 21-year-old director of those shows, is going to be a star in this industry.
After 26 years, Loretta Lynn’s was bigger and better than ever—full props to the MX Sports gang on the other side of the building for continuing to make that event better with time (and a lot of hard work and effort). And while the High Point National was another excellent race, the weather turned Steel City into a mess. We will rebound in 2008, I promise you that.
Looking back here in this last Racerhead of 2007, I thought it might be a good place to compile a list of the most interesting/provocative moto people of the last 12 months. I know, it sounds like a People magazine thing to do, but with a brand new season upon us, this is as good a place as any to put a bow on this season and start all over again.
Unfortunately, I probably won’t see what Ricky Carmichael does next, because it won’t happen at a motocross track. The greatest of all-time has completed his motorcycle racing career, and he’s now climbing the considerable ladder of the hyper-competitive stock car racing world. RC had a plan going into 2007 and he stuck to it. He was almost as fast as James Stewart in SX, but he stopped right where he said he would. Outdoors, he really was faster, winning all six of the nationals he competed in, but he stopped right where he wanted to there too. Granted, the MXoN did not go the way he hoped, and only afterwards did he find out that he had developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome from his unbelievable schedule—two sports, two new babies, and the everyday pressure on himself to succeed at everything. Carmichael gave it all he had, every time he had to. What more can we ask for from our heroes?
James Stewart dominated the AMA Supercross Series in an RC, MC-type way, winning 13 of 16 races. But it didn’t seem like it was going to be like that for #7 after his disastrous trips to Canada in December ‘06, did it? The only races the mercurial Kawasaki rider lost—San Fran, San Diego and St. Louis (all saints?)—came by his own mistakes. Those mistakes of course caught up with him outdoors, and he won a single national before having to bow out with a knee injury—maybe the worst thing that could have happened for his 2008 competition. How so? Stewart took time off, started working with RC’s trainer Aldon Baker, and the word around the SX practice tracks is that his is cut, he’s ready and he’s riding better (and smoother) than ever. We’ll see soon enough!
While Tony Cairoli and Steve Ramon won the FIM World Championships, it’s the two men who lost their way in 2007 that come to mind from the European tracks. Josh Coppins had the MX1 title in the bag—he even flew a bunch of family and friends to Europe from New Zealand to see him finally conquer the world after ten years of trying. But then it all went to hell in a hurry when he had a problem with his motorcycle in the Czech Republic, rammed himself into a fence post and ruined his title hopes. Josh will be back, but it was horrible watching this thing slip away from the really cool Kiwi while he tried everything to bounce back in time to save his season.
Even more tragic was the ordeal of Christophe Pourcel, the defending MX2 champion who already had a ticket punched to the U.S. after winning the Lites class at the Phoenix SX. The French teenager landed on a fallen rider’s bike in practice in Ireland and broke his pelvis. Worse, he did some nerve damage, and while he can walk, he’s having trouble with the internal injuries. He’s been rehabbing and healing as best he can, but his dream of racing in America in 2008 is on indefinite hold. As a result, Branden Jesseman, the unlikely winner of the Orlando Supercross and 2003 Eastern Regional 125cc SX champ, gets a chance to show one last time what he can do with a premier bike.
One more SX/MX rider I really followed this year was Darcy Lange. He’s a tough, inspired racer from Canada, and he was given a last-minute shot by Pro Circuit to ride the East Region. He damned near won it all, and his story was every bit as good as East Region champ Ben Townley’s, or AMA Rookie of the Year Ryan Dungey’s…. But then Darcy found out he had cancer, and his story changed dramatically. He’s recovering well back home, but he’s a no-go for 2008. Here’s hoping that when this kid comes back, he’s still got a seat in the same rig and another shot at an AMA title.
And there’s Kurt Caselli. He’s the WORCS Champ now, but it’s what he did at the ISDE in Chile that made his season. That’s where he became the first American to lead the whole thing, as well as the highest-finishing American ever in second overall. The ISDE isn’t followed quite like it used to be here in the U.S., but it’s amazing that in the 88-year history of that race, no American has done better, which speaks volumes for Kurt Caselli.
Off the racetrack, there were lots of headlines, from Rob Dingman’s stunning makeover of the AMA and racing as we know it, to Giuseppe Luongo’s bid to run both the FIM Grand Prix Series and the AMA Motocross Series, to Leticia Cline being on both the Racer X Motocross Show on Motocross.com and The Howard Stern Show (decidedly different vehicles, wearing decidedly different outfits). Jeff Ward and Jeff Fox retired just as Damon Bradshaw came out of retirement to race monster trucks. Kevin Walker got his Loretta Lynn’s record, and Travis Pastrana set his own record by not suffering any serious bodily damage in a whole year. Supercross founder Mike Goodwin was finally found guilty of the double murders of his former business partner Mickey Thompson and his wife Trudy, a notorious crime that was unsolved for nearly 20 years—he is working on his appeal right now. And, alas, our tender daredevil Evel Knievel is jumping with the angels now….
But the single person who I think had the most influence in our sport this year was The Icon himself, David Bailey. Always a champion, Bailey had been quietly suffering through some health issues, while also keeping an eye on things around our sport. When his friend Ryan Sipes nearly broke his neck in a practice crash, Bailey decided that he had to do something about safety in motocross. So he propped himself up in the bed he’d been in for nearly a year, looked into Guy B.’s VitalMX.com video camera, and made a case for every rider to at least consider wearing the Leatt Neck Brace.
Speaking of Bailey, we currently have a fresh supply of David Bailey mousepads for $12.98 in which all proceeds go to UCIrvine Research Center. You can purchase one right here.
So that’s about it for 2007. There were more interesting and provocative people out there for sure, but I’m running out of time here—a new little girl named Sloane Michael Coombs and her big brother Vance require the rest of my evening.
I thank everyone for coming here on Fridays to read Racerhead, and I thank “Bad” Billy Ursic and the rest of the Racer X crew for helping pull all of this together on a weekly basis. As I mentioned before, there are lots of big things coming in a hurry, and I can’t wait to share them with you. But that’s next year.
Now, for some of our regularly scheduled programming….
The Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship is right around the corner, and the 2008 season preview is on CBS Sports tomorrow, Saturday, December 29 at 4 p.m. EST.
So, set your DVR or TiVo or just watch it live.
You might also want to check out this video interview with the Metal Mulisha's Brian Deegan and Maddo that's posted on MetalMulisha.com.
First of all, I was sent this and thought that it was really cool. Whether you know someone in the military or not this is worth the time it takes to load. It was made by a 15-year-old girl.
The Perris Pro Invitational was brought back to life last weekend and, though the gates weren’t full in either class, there were quite a few fans there to watch. The Lites class was basically a Torco Racing Fuels Honda test session as Jake Weimer and Josh Grant scrapped back and forth for the top spot. Weimer got the nod at the checkers after a pretty aggressive pass on his teammate. Weimer will be a contender on the west coast this year. Third place went to Billy Laninovich on his new MDK/KTM ride.
The 450 class had a total of eleven riders. It didn’t matter much though as the racing was great up front. Honda-mounted Jeff Alessi pulled the holeshot in the final while heat race winner, Josh Hill, was stuck in the back of the pack. San Manuel Yamaha's Nathan Ramsey slowly moved to Alessi’s rear fender and went by as Jeff bobbled in the whoops. Hill slashed his way to the lead battle on his factory Yamaha only to wash out in a tight corner before the finish line. He got up and closed the gap on Ramsey, showing him a wheel with one lap to go, but ran out of time.
Ramsey won the briefcase full of cash followed closely by Hill and then Alessi. Josh Hill was impressive, especially in the whoops. This kid is the new Travis Pastrana in deep, rutted whoops. The word at the Yamaha test track has been that Hill is impressive (and he also may have a new trainer soon…)
You can read more about the Perris SX Invitational right here in this race report by Eric Johnson.
Did you know that Racer X has a MySpace page that has a ton of cool features and contests? Check it out at www.myspace.com/racerxill.
I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade here, so to speak, but I happened to glance at the ten-day forecast for the Anaheim area and, well, it looks wet. Friday and Saturday of Anaheim 1 have a 60 percent chance of rain. That means that there won’t be a press day and guys that consider themselves “mudders” are smiling big. Kevin Windham has come through in the slop before but James Stewart is no slouch either. Isn’t Josh Hill from Oregon? Jason Lawrence loves the mud and if it is a muck-hole, I pick the Boost Mobile/Yamaha of Troy pilot wearing #338 to win the Lites class.
Either way here, the biggest loser is… the bikes. All of those hours put in by the mechanics to meticulously piece their race machines together are wasted as they are smeared with mud and ruined. That is a bummer. Keep your fingers crossed for some dry weather!
The Racer X crew will be joining in at Ride at the Ranch, Asterisk’s Med Center benefit Ride Day at the famed “MX Heaven” (Castillo Ranch) on January 23. Will we bring a camera, an editor; maybe, most of all, we are bringing our bikes, plus our work gloves to help build a bitchin’ track for the lucky folks that get to go ride there. If you do not have your ticket yet, go to http://asterisksuperpass.com before they are gone.
He also sent us the MV Bayle 10th Anniversary cover, and said, “Everything is well here in Paris. Cold, rainy and cloudy! Have a good New Year’s Eve.”
Fox Racing just posted a new video of Ivan Tedesco, one of their three main men on the Honda CRF450Rs for the 2008 season.
To check out Ivan-in-Red, go to Foxracing.com, click on the video channel and look for #9. Or click here.
Here’s another video to check out, this time Cernic’s Kawasaki team riders Dusty Klatt and Jeff Gibson, by Guy “Noir” B. of VitalMX.com.
The winner of the contest will get his photo published as a full-spread Gate Pics image in our April issue, plus a bunch of cool swag from etnies and Racer X. The runners-up will all share a second Gate Pics spread. Vote now!
Finally, here’s a note DC got from his old friend and ’85 Rodil Cup competitor Bader Manneh, when he asked the Italian transplant if he was coming back for more SX at age 41: “Oh I wish, I’m staying in Italy and doing some schools.”
That’s all. Have a safe and happy new year’s and see you at Anaheim!