Author: site admin
Category: AMA MX/SX
The drought in my blog postings seems to have coincided with the start of the 2006 AMA Supercross season so I’m already falling a little behind in commenting on what is happening in the deafening and dirty world of indoor motorcycle racing.
Well, the first sound to roll out of the arena this season has been the thundering sound of four strokes. Just as the big thumpers swallowed the motocross season in one big gulp in ‘05 they have now turned their appetite to supercross. Everyone has known that the two strokes where soon going to puff their last cloud of blue smoke but a few people have undoubtedly been surprised by just how fast this wave of cam shafts and overhead valves has descended upon the supercross landscape.
The second sound, immediately following the first, was a deafening shattering sound when James Bubba Stewart crushed the year long reputation he’d gained as being immature. Stewart’s legacy from the ‘05 Supercross and Motocross seasons where that he was blindingly fast but unable to control his emotions and that he was destined to crash his brains out long before he’d win any titles. (I myself put those same criticisms on this blog and still stand by them based on what I saw last year). However, Stewart showed up at the Amp’d Mobile World Supercross opener in Toronto and flat humiliated the assembled masses. No small feat since both Ricky Carmichael and Chad Reed, the current superstars of supercross, were in attendance. In fact, Bubba was so on his game in Canada that he crashed on the first lap but still went on to smoke the field by 5 seconds. Since one win, especially a win after a crash, doesn’t set the record straight Stewart when on to the second round at Vancouver and did it all over again. James is fast, incredibly fast, but also seems to have his head in gear as well.
With the tinkling echos of the exploding Stewart image still coursing through the paddock, the next sound was the huff and puff of the rest of the field trying frantically to up their game. In particular, both Ricky Carmichael and Chad Reed left Canada with a angry look in their eyes. I have a feeling their trainers got a phone call early Monday morning after the Vancouver races telling them not to make any plans for the next few weeks.
Around mid-December the sounds again changed and this time it was a big whump sound followed shortly thereafter by a lot of cussing. That was when Kevin Windham got launched off his Honda while training and broke his arm. The accident was bad enough that Windham is probably out for the first half of the 2006 SX season. If you listen careful, you can hear the sickening sound of the life leaking out of Windham’s professional career. 2006 seemed like a make or break year for the likable Honda rider. He already had SX experience on the four strokes, he’s earned a strong (if distant) second to Carmichael in the outdoor series and he had the hopes and dreams of Big Red resting on his shoulders. Its gonna take a second miraculous comeback for him to recover from this accident…
When the starting gun cracked off a shot in Anaheim for the first official round of the AMA Motocross series, it was again Bubba that was making the most noise. Carmichael lead early but then went into the dirt and Stewart decided not to hang around in second while RC was dusting himself. He again flew to the front and won the race in fine style. However, both Reed and Carmichael were in touch this time around so the other message that was loud and clear is that they had both gotten the hurry up message from the Canadian rounds. If the race at Anaheim did anything it was to convince everyone that they better get the 2006 Supercross rounds programmed into Tivo. We won’t want to miss a single round.
Then, bang, things exploded again last weekend when the second AMA round burst into Phoenix. In a reversal of the Anaheim race, it was Stewart who crashed out during the race and Carmichael that looked dominant. Reed ran up front early in the race but a big incident in which the Aussie spectacularly crashed but somehow missed the hitting the ground part. This handed the lead to RC while Reed got the bike pointed back in the right direction and got back up to speed. Bubba charged from the back of the pack to third with Chad hanging onto second. The big wins put Carmichael and Stewart even in points but Reed’s consistent second places have him only one point behind. Exciting stuff.
The top three riders weren’t the only ones making noises. First up was the sound of stiff joints and geritol bottles being cracked open as Iron Man Mike Larocco picked up where he left off in ‘05 by smacking the youngsters around. He took the finish line jump at Anaheim in fourth place behind Stewart, Reed and Carmichael. Then, as a followup lesson to the whippersnappers in the field Jeremy McGrath stuck it to them in Phoenix by finishing in fourth (again behind Carmichael, Reed and Stewart). The Rock kept it in the top ten with an eighth at around two. Maybe its because I have a head of grey hair or maybe its because I’m stick of hearing cocky little punks talk smack in front of their factory semis while finishing outside the top ten but I think it is awesome that these older racers are doing so well. It is time the younger factory riders catch the clue that even if they aren’t good enough (yet) to run with the front three they damned sure better make sure they’re fast enough to beat the guys who are eligible for the vet class. Besides, the roar of the Phoenix crowd when Showtime McGrath and his ring-ding two stroke went to the front on lap one brought back some great memories.
That’s still not it for the soundscape that is the 2006 Supercross series. Another distinctive tone was the forehead slaps from the AMA officials when they realized that these big, powerful four strokes where faster than the current track designs allowed. In Canada, the front guys weren’t carrying much corner speed but would just slam the bike into the corners on the brakes, get the bike back upright and then still have enough acceleration to go from a dead stop to nailing a big triple in just a few yards. By the third race at Anaheim the track layout seemed to have gained back some complexity but then some of the riders complained it was too tough. Hopefully, the designers can find a way to build tracks that are challenging for the four strokes without being so dangerous that riders are getting hurt. The deep trenches in the Phoenix whoops seemed like a good design, as did the rhythm section in Anaheim. In fact, I think even the dry, dusty track surface at Phoenix added another level of complexity that was good for the competition.
Thank you sir, how about another? Well, maybe some moaning is what we should be talking about. That moaning being the sound of the rest of the field after being handily spanked four races in a row. Last year, it seemed pretty obvious that the depth of talent was rising in the 125 class (now called Lites) while it was shrinking in the 250 class (now just called Supercross). Well, now it is easy to see why that is happening…the front three are so far ahead of everyone else on the track that even crashes aren’t keeping them off the podium. Sponsors have to be questioning why they are shelling out bucks to put their name on rider’s bikes when those bikes are never getting any camera time. In fact, the guys at the back of the field are probably more sponsor friendly because they are getting lapped twice and thus offer up twice the opportunity to show up on TV. Meanwhile, the Lites class is chock full of talent and is already offering up close racing and a variety of fast guys. The cha-ching of sponsorship change may soon be falling into the coffers of Lites riders rather than those in the supposed premier Supercross class.
One thing I don’t want to hear this season? The ambulance. With Windham already out, the field of potential race winners has shrunk 25%. With the front three all riding on the ragged edge (and all three having fallen or nearly fallen a few times already this season) is seems like the danger level is well into the red. There is a barely controlled intensity to the riding right now and just a little bad luck could result in a season ending crash. Lets hope these guys ride hard, but safe, this spring so we can enjoy the competition all season long.
Okay, that does it for tonight. The next sound you hear is the last byte of data falling into the bit bucket as I sign off. Have a good, and silent, night.
[image from the Discover Today’s Motorcycling web site.]