Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

2006 road race calendar…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Superbikes, AMA Supermoto, MRA, MotoGP, Other Forms Of Racing, WSBK

The 2005 MotoGP field streams through

Last year I built a combined road race calendar for 2005 (with race dates for AMA Superbike, AMA Supermoto, World Superbike and MotoGP, as well as local races like the MRA, the local round of the AMA Supermoto series, the local round of the AHRMA series and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb). I found it really useful so I decided to do it again for 2006. Here is the current road race calendar for this year:


25 - WSBK @ Losail International Circuit; Doha, Qatar


5 - WSBK @ Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit; Phillip Island, Australia

11 - AMA SBK @ Daytona International Speedway; Daytona Beach, FL

26 - MotoGP @ Circuit de Jerez de la Frontera; Jerez, Spain


8 - MotoGP @ Losail International Circuit; Doha, Qatar

23 - WSBK @ Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo; Valencia, Spain

23 - AMA SBK @ Barber Motorsports Park; Birmingham, AL

29 - AMA Supermoto @ California Speedway; Fontana, CA

30 - MotoGP @ Istanbul Park; Istanbul, Turkey

30 - AMA SBK @ California Speedway; Fontana, CA

30 - MRA @ Pueblo Motorsports Park; Pueblo, CO


7 - WSBK @ Autodromo Nazionale Monza; Monza, Italy

14 - MotoGP @ Shanghai Circuit; Shanghai, China

21 - MotoGP @ Bugatti Le Mans Circuit; Le Mans, France

21 - AMA SBK @ Infineon Raceway; Sonoma, CA

28 - WSBK @ Silverstone; Silverstone, UK


3 - AMA Supermoto @ Road America; Elkhart Lake, WI

4 - MotoGP @ Circuito del Mugello; Mugello, Italy

4 - AMA SBK @ Road America; Elkhart Lake, WI

4 - MRA @ La Junta Raceway; La Junta, CO

10 - AMA Supermoto @ USA International Raceway; Shawano, WI

17 - AMA Supermoto @ Miller Motorsports Park; Salt Lake City, UT

18 - MotoGP @ Circuit de Catalunya; Catalunya, Spain

18 - AMA SBK @ Miller Motorsports Park; Salt Lake City, UT

24 - MotoGP @ TT Circuit Assen; Assen, Netherlands

25 - WSBK @ Circuito Internazionale Santa Monica; Misano, San Marino

25 - PPIHC @ Pikes Peak Hill Climb; Colorado Springs, CO


2 - MotoGP @ Donnington Park; Donnington Park, Great Britain

8 - AMA Supermoto @ The Palace of Auburn Hills; Detroit, MI

9 - MRA @ Miller Motorsports Park; Salt Lake City, UT

16 - MotoGP @ Sachsenring Circuit; Sachsenring, Germany

23 - MotoGP @ Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca; Monterrey, CA

23 - WSBK @ Brno; Brno, Czech Republic

23 - AMA SBK @ Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca; Monterey, CA

30 - MRA @ Motorsport Park Hastings; Hastings, NE


6 - WSBK @ Brands Hatch; Brands Hatch, UK

6 - AMA SBK @ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course; Lexington, OH

13 - MRA @ Pueblo Motorsports Park; Pueblo, CO

20 - MotoGP @ Automotodrom Brno; Brno, Czech Republic

20 - AMA SBK @ Virginia International Raceway; Alton, VA

27 - MRA @ La Junta Raceway; La Junta, CO

27 - AMA Supermoto @ TBA; TBA, CO


3 - WSBK @ TT Circuit Assen; Assen, Netherlands

3 - AMA SBK @ Road Atlanta; Braselton, GA.

10 - MotoGP @ Sepang International Circuit; Sepang, Malaysia

10 - WSBK @ Eurospeedway Lausitz; Lausitzring, Germany

10 - MRA @ Motorsport Park Hastings; Hastings, NE

17 - MotoGP @ Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit; Phillip Island, Australia

17 - AHRMA @ Miller Motorsports Park; Salt Lake City, Utah

24 - MotoGP @ Twin Ring Motegi; Motegi, Japan

24 - MRA @ Pueblo Motorsports Park; Pueblo, CO


1 - WSBK @ Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari Imola; Imola, Italy

1 - AMA SBK @ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course; Lexington, OH

8 - WSBK @ Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours; Magny-Cours, France

14 - AMA Supermoto @ Music City Motorplex; Nashville, TN

15 - MotoGP @ Circuito do Estoril; Estoril, Portugal

22 - WSBK @ TBA; TBA, South Africa

29 - MotoGP @ Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo; Valencia, Spain


4 - AMA Supermoto @ Queen Mary; Long Beach, CA

Well, it looks like I’ll be making a few trips to Utah in ‘06 since both the AMA has moved from the now deceased Pikes Peak International Raceway to the new Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City. They have even thrown in a Supermoto event to make the event even more enticing despite the long drive. Then AHRMA moved their Fall event from the Pueblo Motorsports Park to Miller Motorsports Park as well. I already have my tickets for the combined MotoGP/AMA races at Laguna Seca in July so I will definitely be out there this summer. Finally, I’d like to catch some MRA races, since I try to support the local racers, but that will be pretty challenging this year since all of the races are so far away from the Denver metro area. Naturally, I will continue to watch everything on TV and do my best to provide some coverage here on the blog for all the races and in my WSBKPod podcast for the World Superbike races. Make sure to mark these dates on your calendar and watch some racing this year, preferably in person but if not then at least on the tube.

[image from the web site.]

Monday, January 23, 2006

Aged like fine wine…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA MX/SX, AMA Superbikes, AMA Supermoto, MotoGP, Other Forms Of Racing, WSBK

So I, like most of the official motorcycle press, spent a lot of time last year heralding the new guys that were joining the sport of bike racing. Guys like James Stewart, Ben Spies, Max Neukirchner, and Marco Melandri got more than their fair share of bits and bytes at the beginning of the season. However, as it turns out, 2005 was a good year to be one of the old folks. Despite many current racers being considered near retirement age, the old guys generally stuck it to the youngsters last year. What is really amazing is that this trend was pretty consistent across all disciplines of motorcycle racing.

First off, the sports of Supercross and Motocross have always been considered a young man’s sport. They are two of the most physically intensive sports in the world and the combination of jumps, ruts and crashes can exact a harsh toll on the body. The top news story at the beginning of the 2005 AMA Supercross season was the 19 year old sensation James Stewart. However, at the end of the season, it was the seasoned veteran Ricky Carmichael, at 25 years old, who swept both premier AMA Supercross and Motocross classes. In SX, 23 year old Chad Reed was second overall but the runner-up in the outdoor series was Kevin Windham who is two years older than Carmichael. Impressive stuff for guys on the second half of their twenties but the real surprises are found just a little further down the championship points listing.

As I pointed out in a blog posting last season, old timer Mike Larocco embarrassed most of the factory teams by bringing his privateer Honda home in 5th place in championship. Not bad for a then 33 year old. Even 34 year old Jeremy McGrath turned in some strong riders in his one-off appearances in ‘05, showing that the King of Supercross can still teach the youngsters a thing or two.

John Dowd at Washougal

Want to really blow your mind? Take a look at the AMA Motocross points table for 2005. Despite competing in the most physically demanding form of dirt bike racing, 40 year old John Dowd managed to snag 7th overall in the AMA Motocross division aboard his privateer Suzuki! This guy was born in 1965, turned pro in 1988 and was the 1998 West Coast 125cc Supercross Championship…the year Dowd start racing in the Pro ranks James Bubba Stewart was two years old and Chad Reed had just turned six. For a little perspective, remember that Reed finished the ‘05 season in 8th, 15 points *behind* Dowd, while Stewart finished up in 12th a staggering 135 points down on the vet. Lets all say it together now…”JD is the man!”

Alright, so the more experienced riders did well in the premier class. Surely the young guys made their mark in the entry level 125 classes. I mean, there has to be a whole hoard of teenagers out there just waiting for their chance to race with the twenty-somethings, right? Well, sorry to disappoint but the stats don’t bare that out either. The 125 champs, Grant Langton (1st in 125 SX East and 4th in 125 MX) and Ivan Tedesco (1st in SX West and 1st in 125 MX), are both already in their twenties. Langston was 23 last year and and Tedesco a year older. Not exactly ready to hand up their riding boots but not representative of a youth movement either.

Fortunately, things in the dirt world aren’t totally bleak. James Stewart looks to have turned around a miserable ‘05 and is riding strong this year and starting to live up to the hype. The teenage Alessi brothers seemed to have knocked the edge off their egos and are steadily improving as riders. Ryan Sipes, who had some strong showings in the 125 class last season, is just barely breaking the twenty mark. The two Ryans, Villopoto and Mills, are still in their teens and both are riding well so far in this year’s Supercross Lites class. Hopefully these are the guys that can step it up and run with the grey hairs. Frankly, I think they will have to if they want to justify their getting a factory ride in the year couple of years.

Okay, lets shift gears now and look at my personal favorite: Road racing. Its generally understood that road racing is an environment where older and more experienced riders can be competitive against the young up-and-comers. Still, the stats for 2005 have to be a little disappointing for the folks that are looking to the younger generation for the next big thing. Of the four championships crowned in the AMA series, three of them went to riders who are in their thirties. Matt Mladin won his *sixth* AMA Superbike title while at the same time celebrating birthday number 33. His 32 year old teammate Aaron Yates topped the ultra-competitive Superstock class to put a third championship trophy on his mantle. Miguel Duhamel, the elder statesman of the AMA series, brought home his seventh AMA title by winning the Formula Xtreme class despite being just a couple years shy of forty. Even Tommy Hayden, the relative spring chicken of the 2005 AMA champions, isn’t exactly representing the youth movement since he was 27 when he sewed up his second straight AMA Supersport title. This trend towards old riders is generally true across the entire AMA Superbike paddock with only a handful of riders under the drinking age and all of them eligible to vote.

Okay, lets look a little further afield. 2005 World Superbike Champ Troy Corser was 34 when he lofted the title trophy last summer. In fact, the WSBK paddock has more riders over the age of 25 than they have riders under that age and the series appear to be skewing their average even higher in 2006 with ex-GP castaways like Alex Barros, Troy Bayliss and Max Biaggi rumored to be racing there. It is nearing the point where WSBK teams should drop sponsorship from youth oriented companies like Corona or Koji and switch over to old foggie brands like Geritol and Metamucil.

Alright, since I mentioned the topic of MotoGP up there I’ll admit that things are looking better in the Grand Prix paddock. While seven time World Champ and 2005 title winner Valentino Rossi isn’t exactly a rookie at 26 he’s also a decade years younger than some of his competitors were in ‘05. Things really start to look up when checking the stats of second place Marco Melandri (23) and third place Nicky Hayden (24). The outlook is even brighter when checking the age of the new comers to MotoGP for ‘06 as Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Chris Vermeulen are all under 25. Finally, things are downright heartening in the 250 and 125 classes were the average age on the podium is regularly under 20.

Alright, how about a couple more quick examples of how old age and experience is overcoming the exuberance of youth? In the world of AMA Flat track racing, it has been Chris Carr who has dominated for the past half decade. The younger riders in series look up to him as a mentor and, at 37, its a good thing they do because he is old enough to be their father.

Finally, as a sign of respect, I’ve saved the oldest for last. Logic would dictate that a rider that is 44 years of age shouldn’t be able to win at anything in competitive motorcycle racing. Yet the legendary Jeff Ward did just that in 2004 by tying up the premier class in the AMA Supermoto series and it was only a stalled bike in the final round that prevented him from winning it in 2005 as well. In fact, the past three seasons have netted Ward one Supermoto championship and two second place finishes…not bad for a guy who won seven AMA Motocross championships in the 80s.

I want to see the various forms of motorcycle racing grow and thus I’m always looking at the young guys to see who will be the next big thing. However, for 2006, I have to say “Viva la Veterans!”.

[image from the web site.]

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Out of the ordinary…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Supermoto

It is tough being Jeff Ward.

In 2003, when the AMA made the surprising leap into the world of supermoto racing they decided to do something different with the series. Rather than having a conventional season where points are awarded at each round until one rider gains enough to win a championship the AMA decided to have each round just a qualifier for a single end-of-the-season, winner-take-all race. During that initial season, it was ex-motocross legend Jeff Ward that consistently won races. Coming into the ‘03 season finale in Las Vegas, Ward had won three of the five races. However, those wins didn’t mean anything in terms of the Supermoto #1 plate. When the green flag flew in the final race of the season it was Ben Bostrom that got the job done and was crowned the inaugural AMA Supermoto champ. Ward crossed the line a disappointed third behind second place Doug Henry.

Last year, the AMA decided to run a traditional season without any of the final race shenanigans. With this more conventional setup Ward was able to use his consistent riding to trounce the field. In ‘04 Ward won three times, was second twice and third in the other two races. He was never off the podium and that dominant riding earned the seven time Supercross and Motocross champ his first AMA Supermoto title. KTM’s Jurgen Kunzel was second with Doug Henry third.

This year, the AMA was up to their old tricks again. Not content to just build another exciting series they again changed up the rules for the Supermoto series. First, each round of the 2005 season would feature two races for the premier Supermoto class as well as the usual one race each for the Supermoto Unlimited class, the Supermoto Lite class and the Junior Supermoto class. This meant the Supermoto guys would have twelve different races at which to earn points toward the championship. However, the rules mavens weren’t content with just this twist to the rules. They also deemed that the final race of the season, race two at the finale in Reno, would pay double points. This meant that there were effectively 13 races based on the amount of points that would be available throughout the season. Finally, another rule was added that anyone could race the final event but only those that earned points in the earlier rounds would actually be eligible for points at the end. Confused already? Good…

The season has once again been primarily about Jeff Ward. Despite a slow start to the season by the time everyone headed to the final round it was Ward that held a commanding 31 point lead. Back in June, when the season first got started at Road America, Wardy was still trying to race cars. The distraction of going cage racing meant he wasn’t training and that showed with a pair of fourth place finishes. He followed those up with an equally uncharacteristic 6/4 showing at Shawano. It was at Copper Mountain here in Colorado that the Team Troy Lee Designs rider really hit his stride winning all four of the races held during the Suzuki Cycle Fest weekend. That quad set of victories propelled him into the points lead in the championship and he backed that up with a second and another victory at the Nashville round. When the riders showed up in Reno for the Red Bull Superrmoto A-Go-Go all the money was on Ward to sew up his second Supermoto championship. I even predicted as much in my race preview last Friday.

Jurgen Kunzel

But it wasn’t to be. The funky AMA rules once again got the better of him and stole another championship right out from under him. Ward came in second in the first race of the weekend doubleheader behind Mark Burkhart but ahead of championship rival Jurgen Kunzel. Since this was Burkhart’s first weekend racing the premier class in ‘05 he wasn’t eligible for any points meaning Ward effectively won the first race. This allowed him to carry a 35 point lead into the final double-points paying race of the year. Despite the large points lead, Ward made a rare mistake by crashing while battling with race leader Burkhart. Ward was able to get back up and finish but he was outside the top 20. Burkhart won the race while Kunzel took the runner up position. Again, because Mark had no previous points in Supermoto this season he got zero points while Jurgen got the full 25 which was then doubled to 50. Because of the double points situation, Kunzel’s 2/2 finishes netted him a total of 72 points for the weekend versus just 25 for Ward’s win in race one. This allowed the German to jump ahead of Ward in the points battle and thus to snatch away the 2005 Supermoto Championship. Once again, Ward has been torpedoed by a screwy rule from the AMA.

The Supermoto Unlimited class came into Reno with a much closer points battle that that in the premier Supermoto category. Three riders were separated by only six points and two of them were yet to win a race this year. All five of the races leading up to Reno has been won by either Troy Herfoss or David Baffeleuf. However, it was Herfoss, along with Micky Dymond and Darryl Atkins, who were in the title fight as Baffeleuf missed scoring points at the Colorado races due to an injury from a crash in the first race at Copper Mountain. Those DNFs left the Frenchman a distant fourth in the points. While both Atkins and Dymond had visited the podium neither had yet won a race and yet they were separated by only one point in a near 1-2 tie for the championship. This lead to the possibility that the Unlimited champ might never have stepped to the top of the podium if one of them earned the title without winning in Reno. Coming into the final race the title fight was on.

In the race that proved particularly true. Since this was effectively a winner-take-all race for the three title contenders the racing was going to be pretty tight. As it turns out, the racing may have been too tight. Once the race was underway it was Atkins, Herfoss, Dymond and Baffeleuf that went to the front. Almost immediately there after, Herfoss and then Baffeleuf ended their race with crashes both while leading the race. Now the title was between Atkins and Dymond and they were both up front battling for the lead. After an initial exchange of positions it was Atkins who held the front position in every corner except the final one. He held a tight line going into the last corner but then ran a little wide when he got on the gas for the charge to the line. The seasoned vet Dymond saw the gap and went for it but ended up making contact which sent Atkins slamming into the trackside barriers. Dymond crossed the line for the win while Atkins remounted to take third behind Rodney Taplin. The win netted the veteran KTM rider the points necessary to claim the title over his New Zealand teammate.

In Supermoto Lites it was Brandon Currie that took advantage of Mark Burkhart’s absence from the final race of the sesason to grab his first win. Just to make sure that Supermoto Lites didn’t get overlooked in the drama comparison between the classes Currie went about winning the race in an unusual way…he threw the bike away in the first few laps and then had to fight his way back from the crash to get to the front. He was aided in this by earlier race leader Joel Albrecht who’s bike started having brake problems at the mid-point of the race. Currie’s eventual win allowed him to gain enough points to solidify second in the ‘Lites class for the year.

So my picks for the weekend…Well, clearly all the champions deserve a quick shout-out:

Supermoto - Jurgen Kunzel
Supermoto Unlimited - Micky Dymond
Supermoto Lites - Mark Burkhart

However, I also think Jeff Ward deserves props for again being the most impressive rider in the Supermoto series, all this despite being 44 years of age. Had it not been for strange rules, Ward would now be a three time Supermoto champ. Sure, Ward shouldn’t have been racing with Burkhart since the Yamaha rider wasn’t elligible for points but its in the heart of a racer to race. Besides, had the AMA not put the bizarre rules in place it probably wouldn’t have been an issue.

Second, I think Mark Burkhart deserves a lot of recognition for his undefeated season in 2005. As if sweeping all the Supermoto Lites races he entered wasn’t enough he then stepped up to the main class for the last race of the season and won both of those as well. His dominance in the Lites class wasn’t all that surprising…after all he was racing a factory supported Yamaha in a class mainly populated by privateers. It is the fact that he won both races in Supermoto against the other factory supported bikes that impressed me. Rumor has it he’ll be racing Supermoto full time in ‘06 along side Doug Henry so the other riders better watch out. I expect to see a bunch of blue on the podium next year.

I think Atkins deserves a little more credit as well. Losing a championship is bad enough but losing it because your teammate took you out is harsh indeed. As with many racing incidents it is hard place blame but I still think that Atkins had done everything he needed to do to win the race and did it without crashing into other riders. Dymond won the glory for the day but he did it in a questionable manner. Lets hope rough riding doesn’t become the norm in Supermoto.

Finally, lets hear it for the fans in Reno. The official count for the weekend shows that 45,000 people attended the Supermoto races over the weekend. That is more than attended most of the AMA Superbike races this season and in line with the max for most of the AMA Motocross races. This is a case where being able to hold a race in the middle of a substantial sized city, along with offering free admission, is going to draw a lot of new eyes to the sport. If any of those eyes are impressed enough to come back again then the AMA has done a great job using Supermoto as marketing for all the various forms of motorcycle competition. Bravo!

Finally, it will be a long winter waiting for the Supermoto series to get cranked up again next year. In the meantime, I’ll be feeling bad for Wardy and will be wondering what unusual rules the AMA will think up for next season.

[image from my photo collection.]

Friday, September 30, 2005

Another one bites the dust…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Supermoto, MRA, MotoGP, WSBK

This weekend will be another one that is jammed packed with racing. Since there are a lot of racing I’ll just say a little about each one.

Losail Circuit in Qatar

First up, the MotoGP guys return for their second ever race at the Losail circuit in Doha, Qatar. The race is being held on Saturday, in deference to the local Muslim population, which means the bikes, teams and riders have had to get from Malaysia to Qater in just four days to be ready for first practice on Thursday. The 3.36 mile, 16 corner track has a right hand bias with 10 of the turns heading in that direction. Like most of the new tracks built primarily for F1 the track surface is billiard table flat and the asphalt is almost perfectly smooth. In the the only negative thing that can be said about the track, because after all it is in the middle of a freakin’ desert, is that it is hot and sandy. This means that it will again be a race where tires may be the deciding factor. Because the track is so smooth and the circuit is so flowing the bikes can be set up with a relatively soft suspension. This is definitely a good thing because it will help the riders with all important front tire feel which is essential due to the heat and sand. It is especially true in turn 1 were the riders are slowing down from around 200mph for one of the slowest parts of the track. Last year this race was the most dramatic of the season with the now infamous penalty against Rossi’s team for their cleaning his grid position by doing burn-outs with a pit scooter. One of the repercussions of that was the Rossi “curse” which was placed on Gibernau forecasting that the Spainard would never win again. After Sete won at Qatar last year, that prediction has held true. If Gibernau could win at Qatar it would be an amazing turn of events. The favorite going in, other than Rossi, has to be Capirossi who has won two in a row on the resurgent Ducati. Biaggi desperately needs a good race to maintain his spot as #2 in the title chase. Melandri is still riding hurt after his foot injury in Motegi. Hoffman and Bayliss are still out. Jacque is riding the Kawasaki while Byrne is again subbing at Camel Honda. Finally, there should be some more silly season info leaking out this weekend so watch for that news.

Next up is the World Superbike race at Imola. This is the penultimate race for the WSBK series so the riders hoping to claw their way back into the championship points battle better be on the ball at the Santamonica track. Obviously, all eyes will be on the championship battle between Chris Vermeulen and Troy Corser. Both of the Australians will probably be at the forefront all weekend though both have histories of having championship runs fizzle at the end of a season. The other riders to watch at Imola will be the Ducatis. With Bologna only a short hope away, the riders of the Italian equipment will be under a lot of pressure to perform for the bosses. To add to that pressure, the four year history of WSBK coming to Imola shows Ducati have won five of the eight races and that every race has been won by a v-twin. Talk about big expectations! Toseland is probably looking for a job next year and thus needs to impress. Laconi is coming back from injury and needs to settle any lingering doubts among his bosses that he should be their star rider in ‘06. Superstar Lanzi is back with the privateer team but now armed with factory bikes. He’s looking to solidify his position as Laconi’s teammate at the factory next year. The field of honor for this weekend’s event is a historic track with a fantastic layout. The 3.01 mile long track has 16 turns with over half of those being of the left hand variety. Nearly half a lap at Imola is spent at high speed making flip-flop transitions through fast, flowing turns. There are three tight left hand turns and one right hander but otherwise its a high speed circuit. Add in a rough track surface and you have an event where the suspension guys will be earning their money. The always slippery Pirelli tires will get a workout so expect some guys to have tire trouble in the later stages of the first race unless everyone decides to run the hardest thing in the tire truck.

The big finale of the AMA Supermoto series is being held this weekend in Reno and it promises to be a hoot. Both the Supermoto and Supermoto Unlimited classes are yet to crown a champion, though Jeff Ward will almost certainly tie up the former but with double points being paid in the second race there is still a chance for second place Jurgen Kunzel to win the thing. The Unlimited class champ is anyone’s guess as three riders are all bunched within six points of each other: Darryl Atkins, Micky Dymond and Troy Herfoss all have a shot at the title this weekend. Even David Baffeleuf and Robert Loire still have a long shot chance being only 23 and 24 points back respectively. Mark Burkhart has already sewn up the Supermoto Lites championship. The track is a mix of really cool stuff and some pretty boring stuff. The 12 turn, 1 mile track has a small but technical dirt section and a interesting sounding banked turn that goes up onto the side of a building. Sadly, about half of each lap is a point-n-shoot style square going around a city block with three short straights connected by 90 degree right hand turns (why not turn the track around 180 degrees so these turns become left handers and thus give the dirt track guys an advantage?!?). Not exactly the most inspired layout in that sense but with this being in the middle of downtown Reno it is example of the philosophy that Supermoto racing can be set up anywhere. I *love* Supermotos so I suspect the track will prove exciting and the racing will be good. It bad enough that I can’t be there to watch but to add insult to injury OLN isn’t broadcasting the race until mid-November.

Finally, another series is coming to a close this weekend. With fall right around the corner here in Colorado this Sunday marks the season ending race for our local MRA club. As as been the tradition the past few years the final race of the season is being held at Second Creek Raceway out by Denver International Airport. As is typical of the tracks our club races at the place is small. In fact, it is only 1.7 miles in length but with 10 turns crammed into that short space. Despite its size the the layout is actually interesting and it makes for some great racing. Shane Turpin has already tied up the premier Race of the Rockies GTO title but needs to win this weekend to complete a sweep of every race for the season. Likewise, he has already locked up the Race of the Rockies GTU championship as well but a uncharacteristic fourth at Pikes Peak ruined any chance of him sweeping every Race of the Rockies event this year. I’m heading down on Sunday to watch the racing and to catch up with my buddies ‘05 SuperTwins GTO champ Jim Brewer and Modern Vintage GTU points leader Tony Baker.

[image from the Losail Circuit web site.]

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Stormy weather…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Supermoto

As I mentioned in my Friday evening blog posting, this past Saturday I rode up to Copper Mountain for the first day of the weekend long Suzuki Cycle Fest. I headed up with just two things in mind: To participate in the Suzuki GSXR 20th Anniversary event and to watch some Supermoto racing. I’m happy to say that I was successful on both accounts!

I got up early on Saturday so that I could do some work on my old GSXR 1100’s hydraulic clutch system. I didn’t have the parts needed to repair it properly but some judicious application of teflon tape and RTV, along with some re-torqueing of all the bolts and thorough bleeding, managed to get some pressure back into the clutch lever. I checked the weather before leaving the house and found that rain storms were expected in the mountains in the afternoon. With some spare tools and brake fluid to deal with possible roadside repairs thrown into the tail trunk with my rain suit I headed west into the mountains. The GSXR is still a hoot to ride especially with a properly functioning clutch but the suspension that I fully rebuilt recently is set up horribly. It somehow manages to pogo and bottom (too soft?) while transmitting each little bump straight into the bars (too hard?). Back to the drawing board…

It started to rain just before I reached Copper Mountain but once I arrived I found the first thunder claps had already occurred. First, the GSXR events were already in full swing. Unbeknownst to me, a free lunch was available for GSXR owners as well as the customary swag: T-shirt, pins, stickers, posters, etc. I also got to spend some time talking with ex-Suzuki GP star Kevin Schwantz, mainly hearing how dedicated he has become to bicycling and how enthusiastic he is about the Kevin Schwantz Suzuki school. I opted to skip the dyno shootout and the parade lap through the Copper Mountain village as I figured I’d have enough trouble getting home on the GSXR clutch *without* any added abuse!

The bit of news that rained on my day was hearing that Yamaha rider Doug Henry had started the day as the fastest rider but then crashed in practice and was sent to the hospital. During the early laps of practice, Suzuki rider Travis Pastrana was making a triple jump out of a section of two small kickers with a low table top in between. Henry successfully followed up with his own triples through that section but then came up short on one attempt and cased the bike on the final kicker. He got thrown over the front and then his YZ450 threw a pile driver onto his chest. The result: a broken pelvis, broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Ouch! Doug’s weekend was done.

This is, of course, proof that the proverbial lightening of supermoto bad luck can in fact strike twice. Last year’s supermoto races at Copper Mountain started out great for Henry but then turned sour when his bike had a mechanical failure while he was leading the second race. As a result of the DNF, he handed the lead in the title chase over to his then-teammate Jeff Ward and was never a factor in the 2004 championship battle again. Well, Doug came into Colorado leading the ‘05 AMA Supermoto title chase and left with *four* DNFs (this weekend was a double header and each day had two Supermoto races) and with Ward once again in the points lead. If the physical injuries are an “ouch” then the quadruple goose eggs in the score column is the mega-ouch.

Supermoto racing at Copper Mountain

As for my view on the racing it mirrors my view of supermoto overall. First, it is spectacular stuff…moreso even than supercross, motocross or road racing. In fact, the only other motorsports that I find so immediately breathtaking are trials competition and mile long flat track races. Watching riders pitch a bike sideways on pavement and surf it to the apex of a corner is just astounding. Throw in some jumps, a wide flat-track style corner and some high speed paved sections and you get a lot of “Wow!” in a very small space.

Additionally, the AMA has done a fantastic job of getting factories involved. In just three years, the event has grown from a few small vans and some 10×10 canopies to full factory semi-trucks, hospitality areas and teams of mechanics. Having this kind of professional presence gives the series instant credibility both with sponsors and fans. It also helps that so many different manufacturers are jumping in: KTM, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Husqvarna and Husaberg all had at least some presence in the Copper Mountain pits. This is amplified even more because RPM does such a phenomenal job with their events. At Copper Mountain there was not only the racing and the Suzuki event but also the Red Bull Freestyle Motocross demonstrations, stunt riding show, trials exhibition, demo rides from multiple manufacturers and an ATV test ride area. Nice!

Finally, the AMA series already has a great depth of talent, including big name riders like Doug Henry, Jeff Ward and Travis Pastrana. Most of the riders are older and have a lengthy history of success in other forms of AMA pro racing. This means the series has instance fan appeal while waiting for new riders to grow into stars specific to this form of motorcycle racing. To give the series even more credibility and an international flavor, there has been an effort by either the teams or the AMA to bring in some talented European riders like Jurgen Kunzel, David Baffeleuf, Alex Thiebault, Troy Herfoss, Ivan Lazzarini and Massimiliano Gazzarata. All of these riders are top notch and all bring more to the weekend’s program than just an unusual name. They bring the prestige of international riders coming to compete in a US series.

As a side note there were two women riders who were attempting to qualify for the races at Copper Mountain but unfortunately neither turned fast enough laps in qualifying to make the mains. Hopefully both will keep trying because getting some fast ladies mixing it up in Supermoto will go a long ways towards breaking the gender barrier in motorcycle racing. Anything that can bring greater diversity, both in terms of gender and race, to the motorcycle racing community is definitely a good thing.

My only complaint with the AMA Supermoto race series is that it seems to to have very little actual dicing. I don’t know if this is because of the style of tracks used in the US, the varying quality of the riders or just the reluctance of Supermoto guys to mix it up but the races are often too processional. Every Supermoto race thusfar held at Copper Mountain has basically been a romp by the eventual winner. The last ingredient in the Supermoto recipe has to be finding a way to prevent these run away wins and develop track designs and rules that result in tight racing. Watching someone like Ward back a bike into a fast corner is very cool but it would be exponentially cooler if he backed that bike in underneath another rider on every other lap while involved in a battle for the lead.

To Sum up the weekend’s racing: The old guys were sticking it to the young guys. The international riders were running near the front. But in all classes the winners inevitably ran away with the win. Forty four year old Jeff Ward went four for four in the Supermoto class, each of those wins being by a substantial margin after initially battling with guys nearly half his age. In the Supermoto Lites, Yamaha’s Mark Burkhart went two for two, both times leading Kawasaki mounted riders Joel Albrecht and Brandon Currie across the finish line. The Unlimited class was another sweep with 18 year old Australian Troy Herfoss putting his Husqvarna atop the podium in both races. Just as Henry had a disastrous weekend at Copper Mountain, so did Unlimited points leader David Baffeleuf. He crashed his KTM on the rain dampened track Saturday and injured his knee. He missed the restart of the first race and then couldn’t ride on Sunday, giving him a double DNF. Worse yet, his accident was caused by a run-in with his KTM teammate…things were probably pretty stormy in that pit Saturday evening!

Travis Pastrana never fails to grab attention wherever he goes. In this case, he was continually improving all weekend and was the fastest person in the dirt during the Supermoto races. Unfortunately, as is Pastrana’s MO, he was a little to fast which resulted in a crash on Sunday while running near the front. I guess I can’t really call him inconsistent anymore, since he is pretty consistent in his ability to crash motorcycles. Travis will always remain an enigma!

Perhaps a more interesting story is the comparison of the old guys versus the youngsters. The four Supermoto podiums were topped by old man Ward but his young teammate Chris Fillmore was second twice and third once in the four races. Also upholding the honor of the class rookies was Cassidy Anderson who came in second behind Ward in the first moto. Italian Massimiliano Gazzarata too the second place spot in the last race of the weekend. Seasoned rider (and KTM team boss) Kurt Nicoll once again put in an iron man performance with two third place finishes in Supermoto. Jurgen Kunzel filled out the final podium spot with a third in the second moto on Sunday. In this class, the old guys clearly still hold the high ground though a couple of guys half their age are steadily improving.

After a day of watching great racing, dodging rain showers and enjoying an overload of Suzuki GSXRs I headed back home. Like the rainbow breaking through a cloudy sky, the GSXR got all the way back home without a single clutch problem. Now, if only the crappy suspension action would mysteriously clear up!

[image from my photo collection.]

Friday, August 19, 2005

Super moto weekend…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Supermoto

This coming weekend is the 3rd annual Suzuki Cyclefest at Copper Mountain. This event was started in 1993 by Colorado’s Race Promotion Management, aka RPM, and features a wide variety of attractions including demo rides, a market place, trails riding demonstrations by Geoff Aaron, two rounds of the AMA Supermoto series and organized rides in the Colorado mountains. Something for everyone!

My '88 GSXR1100

For me, there are only two attractions. First, Suzuki is using CycleFest as one of the stops on their GSXR 20th Anniversary Tour. As a result, GSXR owners get free entry into the event, preferred parking, a free T-shirt and various other perks. I’d intended to ride my old ex-Team Hammer ‘88 GSXR1100 to the event but have been having problems with the hydraulic clutch getting air into the slave cylinder. I ordered clutch master cylinder and slave cylinder rebuild parts from Colorado Powersports two weeks ago but this week found that they ordered the wrong parts. They ordered a brake master cylinder kit instead of the parts to fix the clutch slave cylinder. (Since I had to re-order anyway to get the correct parts I went ahead and ordered a stainless steel line to replace the 17 year old stock line as well). At this point I’ll either ride the GSXR and just plan on bleeding the clutch numerous times or I’ll have to ride the Beemer. We’ll see how much of the GSXR 20th Anniversary celebration I get to enjoy.

The second thing on my list for the weekend is to watch the AMA Supermoto race on Saturday. I have plans for Sunday so I’ll only be able to watch half of the weekend’s double header. The track at Copper Mountain is the shortest of the tracks on the Supermoto calendar (surprise, surprise, another rinky dink track in Colorado) but it appears they have lengthened the dirt section this year so RPM is clearly making an effort to improve that shortcoming. Now they just need to make the paved back straight a little longer so that the guys with a roadrace background have a chance to show their stuff with some really fast sections…

No matter what the track looks like the racing looks like it will be good. For one thing, the AMA has added a new class this year. In addition to the Supermoto and Supermoto Unlimited classes, there is also a Supermoto Lite class for 250cc four strokes. Given that this weekend is a double header and that the Supermoto class races twice each day there will be a total of *eight* races spread over the two days. That is the best race value of the year! Add in the big names racing in the series like Doug Henry, Jeff Ward, Jurgen Kunzel, David Baffeleuf, Alex Thiebault and Thierry van den Bosch. The rest of the field, while not as well known, is also packed with talent. Returning from last season are: Mark Burkhart, Chris Fillmore, Ben Carlson, Leonardo Bagnis, Alex Thiebault, Kurt Nicoll and Micky Dymond. Even the new comers add excitement with European stars and talented new comers like Andrea Bartolini, Massimiliano Gazzarata and Troy Herfoss joining the seriers. Perhaps the biggest change for this year’s Copper Mountain event will addition of two female riders with Michelle DiSalvo racing Supermoto and Erin Normoyle racing Superrmoto Lite . That is guaranteed to increase the popularity of the event!

There are still a few things that need to be improved with CycleFest. For one, the demo rides fill up first thing in the morning so if you get to Copper Mountain after 8am you aren’t taking a demo bike for a ride. Second, the market place area has been a little short on quality vendors for the past two years. The first year I got a chance to meet Malcom Smith since he had a booth for MSR but otherwise the vendor area has mainly been booths selling sunglasses and metal polishes. Hopefully, as the event gains popularity it will also draw a wider variety vendors for the market place.

Even if the event is still in its growing stage, having a chance to ride into the mountains on a weekend and watch some racing makes it a “must see” event. I’m looking forward to being there this coming Saturday and hopefully I’ll be there on my old GSXR!

[image from my photo collection.]

Friday, June 3, 2005

The heart of the matter…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Supermoto, MotoGP

This weekend brings racing to two tracks which may well be the heart and soul of their respective series: MotoGP comes to Mugello in Italy and the AMA Superbike series travels to Rd. America in Wisconsin.

Mugello crowds

The headliner has to be the MotoGP race. Mugello is perhaps the heart of MotoGP. The organizing body (the FIM) is based in Italy, the top rider is Italian, the largest fan base is arguably in Italy and the Italian track has provided some of the most exciting races of the series going back to the glorious days of Doohan domination. The Mugello race was the best race of the 2004 MotoGP season and may have been the best race of 2003 as well. In addition to incredible racing, Mugello keeps things interesting by having the second longest straight of the entire series (second to the new Shanghai track in China). This long straight puts stresses on tires and engines that mean the teams have to be on their A game. Last year Bridgestone found the limits of their new MotoGP tire thanks to a horrific tire failure which slammed Kawasaki’s Shinya Nakano to the tarmac at 190 mph+. That long straight also means that everyone better bring horsepower and plenty of it. Honda seemed to have Yamaha covered in that respect last year but this fact just allowed Rossi’s amazing skill as a rider to shine through. The RC211V’s of Tamada, Biaggi and Gibernau could pull four or five bike lengths on the M1 of Rossi down the straight but impossibly late braking and crazy corner speed allowed Rossi to pass them back in turns one or two. It was extraordinary riding and that accomplishment was made that much better when rain late in the race meant the event was finished as a six lap wet sprint race. Rossi showed he was a master of the wet as well as the dry by slicing through the pack for the ultimate win. If this year’s race at Mugello is only half as exciting it will still be the best race of the season. Another aspect of the Tuscan track and its fanatical crowd of spectators is that it always seems to make the Italian racers ride just a little bit harder. As a result, the red-blooded natives seem to switch into “win it or bin it” mode. This reached its peak in 2003 when Rossi, Capirossi and Biaggi all fought from start to finish in a ferocious battle to win in front of their countrymen. All came close to crashing and in the end it was an all Italian podium, including an Italian Ducati, so the crowd really got its money’s worth. If Melandri, Biaggi or Capirossi are going to challenge Rossi this season, this race may be their best shot. Expect all of them to ride with 100% of their heart.

The AMA trip to Road America brings them to the heartland of America and one of the best tracks in the country. The four mile long circuit includes a very, very fast straight away and some 14 turns meaning it is a challenging place to race. In the past, the Wisconsin track has been dominated by Ducati and Honda. The two brands have won 18 of the 30 races at the track and it is no coincidence that both brands have been known for making race bikes with lots of power. Last year the event was dominated by one man: Miguel Duhamel. In fact, the Canadian has won both legs of double-headers there twice, also winning in 2002. The Honda doesn’t appear to be the bike it was in 2004 but the track is the closest thing to a home race for Duhamel and he always seems to set it up there. Naturally, another favorite has to be Mat Mladin. The Suzukis have plenty of horsepower this year and Mladin is riding his best ever. Finally, the Ducati of Neil Hodgson should do well. Road America is similar to the traditional European race tracks on which the Brit has raced for the past three or four years and its high speed corners should play to his strengths. The track always makes for exciting racing and this year should be no different.

Sunday will bring five hours of road racing on SpeedTV including both legs of the AMA Superbike races and the AMA Supersport race from Road America as well as the MotoGP and 250GP races from Mugello. Should be a great weekend of racing!

[image from the waepoint web site.]

Thursday, May 19, 2005

May \’05 odds and ends

Author: site admin
Category: AMA MX/SX, AMA Supermoto

So things have been happening so fast in the motorcycle racing world that I’m falling behind in getting out the news while still maintaining my one post per day format. As a result, I’m going to cut back on how much I say on each topic for today and try to get out a lot of information in an effort to get caught up…

OLN TV logo

First, after what as been the most exciting Supercross series in years ESPN decided to drop their option to cover the upcoming AMA motocross season. So don’t tune into ESPN2 this summer if you want to watch Bubba, Ricky, Chad, Kevin and all the others duke it out. Fortunately, OLN snapped up the contract and will be televising the series in its entirety. More good news is that OLN is rumored to be getting David Bailey to handle their announcing duties. Based on what I’ve heard when he’s announced the Daytona Supercross on SpeedTV David should be better at color commentary than ESPN’s Cameron Steele or OLN’s Jerry Bernardo. The bad news is that OLN plans to show the motocross races one week after the event rather than showing them live or tape delayed the same day. The current schedule is to show the 250s on Saturday one week after the race and then the 125s will be shown the Thursday after that. The first race at Hangtown in Sacramento will be shown on May 29th. Tune in and support OLN!

Speaking of dirt bike racing, I never got a chance to give a review of the AMA Supercross finale from Vegas. Neither the much anticipated mano-a-mano battle in the 250s or the east-west comparison in the 125s really materialized. In the 250s, Stewart crashed in his heat race which jammed his thumb and he chose to skip the race. With Bubba out, I think Ricky decided to play it safe rather than risk an injury that would put him behind for the outdoor races. Kevin pushed too hard and crashed out while leading. The result was a big win for Reed, hopefully boosting his confidence for the upcoming motocross season. A big crash in the first lap of the 125s put a lot of the front runners at the back of the pack, so the Langston/Tedesco/Ramsey/Hansen/Walker/Millsaps/Grant battle didn’t happen. Millsaps got the win, somewhat redeeming himself after early season crashes took him out of the east coast 125 championship battle. Like the first race of the season, the anticipation for Vegas turned out to be more exciting than the actual race. Now its time to look forward to the opening of the motocross season this coming weekend…

One person that will be missing the AMA Motocross series is Suzuki rider Sebastien Tortelli who broke his wrist in a practice crash just before Vegas. This is too bad for two different reasons. First, Tortellli has always been a better outdoors than supercross rider. He did well during the SX season, finishing seventh, so looked to be ready for a strong season on the motocross tracks. Second, his job during the SX season was to develop the four stroke RM-Z450 which both he and Ricky Carmichael will be running in the outdoors. Now Tortelli won’t have a chance to benefit from all the development work he did throughout the Supercross season. Hopefully Sebastien can return for the last few motocross races.

Back on the asphalt, the support classes for all the roadrace series have eclipsed the premier series, the only possible exception being the MotoGP series. I’ll try to do some postings in the future that review how these series are developing but I will encourage roadrace fans to tune into the World Supersport, 250 and 125GP races and the AMA Supersport and Superstock races on SpeedTV when they are shown on Tuesdays.

A press release that raised my eyebrows this past week was a message from Yamaha announcing that Doug Henry will be racing a pair of factory supported Graves Yamahas in the AMA Supermoto series. Last season it seemed like the AMA Supermoto series stalled out after a first year growth that surprised and excited many of us fans. This faltering seemed even more clear when the first round of the ‘05 season was cancelled dropping the season to only seven rounds. Having Yamaha join KTM in the series as factories with supported teams should help add some much needed prestige this season. Lets hope they can get Honda enticed into fielding a full factory supported team and get supermoto growing again.

In the MotoGP world, Tony Elias has now joined the injured list after breaking his wrist and leg in a testing accident on Monday. He will miss the June 5th MotoGP race at Mugello. The list of who is healthy in the MotoGP paddock is pretty short these days. Its even worse if you think of the mental beating that everyone has taken by Rossi. Those bruises to every other rider’s confidence could be more damaging than any back or wrist injury.

The sad news coming out of California this morning confirms everyone’s worst fears that Team M4 Emgo Suzuki rider Vincent Haskovec has been paralysed after his accident at Infineon Raceway. The Team Hammer web site posted an official announcement. This is sad, sad news not only because Vincent was a popular rider but because he had taken a big step forward this year as a rider and was a genuine contender for the Superstock title. Add in that he was the top non-factory Honda rider in Formula Xtreme and its easy to see how big a hole his absence from the paddock is going to create. My best wishes go out to Haskovec for a speedy recovery to full health and that he has all the support he can get for the rocky road that lies ahead for him.

I think that’s enough for my first effort at catching up. Tomorrow I’ll post my review for this weekend’s AMA race at PPIR.

[image from the OLN TV web site.]