In Preparation: Prepping the High Point NationalThursday, June 9, 2011 | 9:40 AM
Today, Aaron Hansel digs in on track prep for this weekend’s Rockstar Energy Drink High Point National with track builder Marc Peters.
If you’ve ever been to any of the nationals, you’ve had the opportunity to see some of the best tracks in the world on their best day of the year. Track prep simply does not get better than when the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship comes to town, and High Point (as well as Steel City) track builder Marc Peters has been working hard all week to make sure this is the case for the thirty-fifth annual High Point national this weekend in Pennsylvania.
Initially, it might seem like all that goes into building a track is ripping soil and sculpting jumps, but that would be like saying slapping on an aftermarket exhaust and putting graphics on an CRF450R are all it takes to build a race bike for Chad Reed. Factors such as dust, weather, spectating areas, moisture, passing opportunities, lap times, and more, all have to be taken into consideration when building a track worthy of the most prestigious motocross series in the world.
Peters recalls one year when lap times were too short, and he and his crew had to work deep into the night in order to make the necessary revisions. “Davey (Coombs) and (Tim) Cotter came up to me and said, ‘Hey we need to add another 15 seconds of lap time.’ Jeff Russell and I moved some motor homes out of the way, and we worked till about midnight on the new section and got it all done. We worked on it for about four and a half hours, and we all worked on it together, and we had to cut trees down and stuff. The next morning Davey walked out and he was like, ‘What? Oh my god! Where did this come from?’ That was probably about three years ago, it was pretty cool.”
Another section of the track, one of Peters’ favorites, has become a favorite of the riders and fans as well. “We did a part where it drops into a hole, then you’ve got an uphill kind of turn,” Peters explains. “It’s a hip jump, and the riders seem to really enjoy that, and they get completely upside down for the crowd on the grass.”
Another consideration that is taken into account is the makeup of the soil. At Hangtown, the Dirt Diggers hauled in thousands of tons of sand and rice hulls, while the Freestone track received a healthy dose of sand. High Point’s clay soil also has sand brought in, and receives a helping of sawdust as well. When tilled into the soil, the mixture of sawdust, sand and clay creates moist dirt that gets extremely rough, and develops nice lines and deep ruts in the corners. “The dirt reminds me of some of the old-school west coast tracks like Carlsbad and Saddleback back in the day,” Peters says. “It’s cool having a real clay track to work on. I love it. When you get that thing prepped nice, it just holds the moisture so good.”
Of course, not all of the preparations have taken place in the immediate weeks leading up to the national weekend. At High Point the viewing area is one of the most important considerations, and those considerations took place over three decades ago when Dave Coombs Sr. chose the location and laid out the track. “When Dave (Coombs) Sr. had a vision and laid the track out, he did something special. You can be anywhere almost and see the entire track. For a spectator, it’s the ultimate,” Peters says “I’d have to give it an A+ for that.”
Unlike some of the other tracks on the circuit, you never know what kind of weather you’re going to get at High Point. Of course, if it does rain, Peters already has a plan in place. “If we know it’s going to rain, we don’t rip it,” he says. “We’ll try to compact the track as much as we can, and basically we’ll just drag the course and seal it as tight as we can so after the rain runs off the circuit, if we have a good couple hours in the morning when the sun starts coming out, we will till the track and make it unbelievable.”
Lastly, Peters takes feedback from the riders seriously. “As you tweak it, the riders throw me feedback as they’re riding, They’ll come by and hoot and scream at me if I’m on the side of the track watching. That tells me everything is good,” Peters says. “At the end of the day they say, ‘You know what? It’s fun!’ That’s cool when a rider says it’s fun, that they can pass and had a good time. It sums it up.”
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