April 29, 2005

Sparkplug #1

This is the first installment of a weekly column that will only be available on this site. I decided to call it “Sparkplug” because I want it to ignite thoughtful discussion about the subject presented. I'll try my best each week to tackle topics that the motocross world is chatting about at the moment.

This week, after the announcement of Mike Brown's return stateside to contest the 125 National Championships, along with Ryan Hughes' well-publicized on-track preparations to do battle in the tiddler class as well, brings up an old question: how long is too long to compete in the 125 class?

Perhaps a little background on my perspective is necessary. I grew up back when the premiere class was the 500cc World Championship. Period. Everything else took a back seat to the big bikes. And here in America, while the 125 class was always respected as a full national championship, every rider... EVERY rider... eventually made the move to the bigger bikes.

Marty Smith will be forever known as one of America's top 125 pilots, but he also won a 500cc crown. Bob Hannah ripped the 125 plate right off of Smith's Elsinore, but he's even more well known for his 250 titles. With his small stature, Jeff Ward had the best excuse for remaining a lifelong teacup pilot, but he was even more menacing on his big KX500.

So when did it first become acceptable for experienced professional motocross racers to fashion themselves “125 specialists”? Some might say Steve Lamson was the first; maybe it was Mickey Diamond; these guys won multiple 125 titles, but were never able to distinguish themselves on the bigger bikes. Some point to the rise of the semi-factory support teams that make it possible to earn near-superstar salaries without ever having to face the very top riders. To me, it doesn't matter who was first or even what caused the trend. I just think it sucks.

I mean, I understand the concept of these pros wanting to get paid so they can take care of their families. But that's simply cherry picking, plain and simple. A lot of people gave James Stewart a lot of grief for staying in the class in 2004. It was his third year! Yet look at someone like Brock Sellards... how long has HE been in this class? Don't get me wrong; I've always liked Brock, and he has had more than his share of bad luck keeping him from that elusive title. But I think he's a great rider that should add to the mix in the 250 class. That same sentiment goes for Ryno, Langston and Brown. These guys are old pros; they need to step up and run with their peers, and leave the 125 class to the kids.

Maybe the new rule should be that once a rider turns 21 AND they have held a pro racing license for 5 years, then they are no longer qualified to compete in the 125/250F class.

April 27, 2005

About that last article...

Apparently that Ricky Carmichael interview by Steve Cox was ORIGINALLY posted at Transworld Motocross' site, and somehow "found it's way" to the MotoWorld site.

Either way, it's a great read.

Ricky Carmichael... Notorious?

Here's an excellent article on Ricky Carmichael posted by Steve Cox over at MotoWorldRacing.com. Steve gives us a good glimpse into the mindset of the man who happens to be king, the kid with nothing left to prove: Mr. Two-Perfect-Seasons.

And yet, there still seems to be a bit of an edge to RC's responses. That's a good thing. He's actually still concerned about whether he'll finish this supercross season with the title, and he clearly doesn't expect to dominate the outdoor nationals. More than most fans, Ricky Carmichael seems to understand exactly where he stands and what's going on. He almost sounds like he's conceding the 250 National Championship already... ALMOST (he said he'll be "trying to get a championship")... but knowing Carmichael and his support group, they are probably prepared to pull out all the stops to make sure they bring it all to the table.

As Cox noted, it's going to be an unforgettable season!

April 26, 2005

Mike Brown Has A Ride For The Nats!

Over at RacerXIll.com they're reporting that Mike Brown has just signed a deal with Mitch Payton's Pro Circuit to campaign a private Honda in the 250F, er, 125 class this year.

I'm glad to see Brownie back in the States doing his thing, but a Pro Circuit Honda? Pro Circuit has proven without a doubt that they build the fastest Kawasakis in the world, and I get the concept that there's no room in the semi for a fifth team rider at this point (although there is the absence left by Roncada... I don't think he'll be ready to take the gate on May 22nd), but still... I would think they could hook Mike up with a private KX250F.

In any case, all of a sudden the 125 class is going to be even more interesting, with past champions Langston and Brown and should-be-a-champion Hughes fending off attacks from will-be-champions Davi Millsaps and Mike Alessi. My money's on Alessi, in case you wanted to know...

A Better BikeStand?

Every once in a while you can find something cool in those little ads they run in the back of motocross magazines.

I found this item in the back of the latest Racer X Illustrated: it's a ride-on bikestand being sold by a company called Risk Racing. They even have a little flash animation demonstrating how it works. And it looks like it works pretty well.

Just the thing for tired old vets after a long, 4 lap moto!

They also sell a practice starting gate, but this one has a twist: it has an electronic delay starting mechanism, so you can practice starts without a helper. Again, check out the site; it's pretty cool.

April 25, 2005

Speaking of James jumping...

Jason "Wildman" Weigandt has a theory about Stewart's suspension setup versus RC's over at his "blogANDT" at theracingpaper.com. Jason seems to think Carmichael's softer setting could be causing problems with handling these new step-on/step-off tabletop sections that Dirt Wurx has been building into the supercross tracks.

Nice read, Wag. And great job on those supercross webcasts!

Ryno's World Champion... Again!

Ryan Hughes won the World Fourstroke Championship in the 450 class last Sunday; read the full Motocross Action report. Now Ryno has four World Thumper crowns, matching "Dr." Doug Dubach's achievement. According to the report, he had an easy time of it.

Of course, the top pros, as usual, sat this event out. They were all taking a much needed break between Supercross rounds. So Hughes' title comes with the caveat that his competitors included old vets like Dubach and Mike Bell, unseasoned youngsters like Factory Connection's Josh Grant (who won the 250 cc title on Saturday), and an assorted group of journeyman pro's.

I gotta tell you, this race no longer means what it used to. Back when Fourstroke mxers were a rare breed, it made sense. But now that the top riders are racing Fourstrokes in the Nationals and even in Supercross...well, what's the point of a separate championship that no one wants to race?

They're getting ready for the great Outdoors...

Over at Motodrive, BrownDogWilson posted some great pics of James Stewart and Michael Byrne skying at Lake Elsinore.

Although the Supercross season has been fantastic, I can't wait for what's in store when the Nationals start. What was that line about Donkey Kong??

April 24, 2005

I had nothing to do with the crashed plane behind me... ask the folks at Carlsbad Raceway... Posted by Hello

The Truth About Motocross

I originally posted this essay on Motodrive last week. It's still true!

For many, MANY of us, motocross became real when we had our first whiff of two-stroke cologne, that sweet, unmistakable (and irreplaceable) bouquet of castor-oil based exhaust.

Then there was that first time we saw someone REALLY fast blitz through a turn at a clearly impossible speed and shower us with roost... and we couldn't take our eyes off of him even under threat of permanently inflicted eye damage.

Then there was the first time we witnessed the flight of a motocross motorcycle. It didn't matter if it was 6 feet or 60, the grace of the arc etched itself into our mental dictionaries, right under the definition of "so damn cool".

And of course, there was the time we took to the air on our own, finally sampling that addictive weightless rush. There's no telling how many bones have been broken in the pursuit of that special feeling, but it doesn't even matter: we heal up and go for it again and again.

Then there is the spectacle that is Supercross. Supercross is nothing if not Super, and it overwhelms with its size from the moment we enter the expansive parking lots, trek (literally for miles) into the massive stadiums, wade through thousands of people and thousands of seats to finally gorge our eyes on a track made up of small mountains. We watch our heroes, giants all, as they soar several stories high. And we cheer for our privateer brothers as they struggle to overcome their own mortality, becoming heroes themselves in the process. (Of course, as spectators we have our own struggle with the enormous bathroom lines and sky-high food and drink prices...)

But it really all comes down to those magical Sundays standing trackside when the National Championship is being contested by the fastest motocrossers the world has ever seen. We cheer and we scream and we clap, but mostly we watch in complete and utter awe, not quite believing that these racers are only human, as they do things on their motorcycles that, basically, make no sense at all. Yet it reaches us way deep down in our gut... on a spiritual level, even. And at the end of a racing day, even if our favorite rider somehow disappointed, we still go home with the supremely happy feeling that WE ARE MOTOCROSS, and we wear our dirt with pride.

The Start of Something New


This little place is meant to be a haven and connection point for things having to do with motocross, specifically, American motocross both professional and amateur.

My name is Paul Willis, and I go by the nickname "Pdub" on the some of the motocross-related bulletin boards (like my favorite, Motodrive). I'm a mid 40's kind of guy who grew up during the that first phase of motocross growth in this country, the '70's. I started my racing experiences on a Honda XR75, quickly graduating to a 125 and finally a 250, all Honda Elsinores. The motocross bug bit me and the affliction set in deeply... I am a lifelong motocross fan, even if I never turn a wheel on a racetrack again (which is a horrific thought, come to think of it...).

Like many of us "veteran" racers, I spent a few years away from the racing of my youth. Okay, make that 20 years. But I returned to the tracks in the early part of this new century, a wiser, slower, fatter man. None of that matters: motocross is still motocross, and the bug, the ADDICTION still courses through my veins. I had to sell my beautiful, beloved Yamaha YZ250 in '03 after one last race (fittingly, the Carlsbad Christmas Grand Prix), and I am still bikeless, yet I am still addicted to motocross! I was smiled upon by Donn Maeda and the great folks at Transworld Motocross magazine and allowed to race once again at the 2004 Day In The Dirt; otherwise, I get my fix vicariously by almost religiously attending the big professional races when they get within a day's drive. And, of course, by hanging out on the web at Motodrive, Racer X Illustrated, the Dead Motocrosser's Society (DXMS), Motonews and some other cool places I'll tell you about later.

Of course, I'm counting on YOU to tell ME about the cool places and people you know about. Help a brother out, okay?