Two weeks, two USGP’s have come and gone and since I just finished cleaning the sand from Glen Helen out of my truck, I thought we’d look at that and recap the week that was.
– Eli Tomac defended America’s honor with his 1-1-1-1 rides at the two races on vastly different tracks with vastly different rides. As Eli himself said, if he had gotten caught up in Charlotte on the first lap like he did at Glen Helen there probably wouldn’t have been any miracle fourteenth to first ride. Charlotte was “relatively" easy for Tomac (although I would have loved to see Tim Gajser not fall down in the second moto while leading) and Glen Helen, well that was some work.
Tomac credited the track drying out a bit in the second moto as well as his ability to swing out wide and air out the triple/triple as to how he could make up about a fifteen-second gap to first into the lead in just eight laps. His second moto ride was one of the very best I have ever seen in person. Seriously, it was amazing. Tim Gajser, Antonio Cairoli, Romain Febvre and Max Nagl are no joke, but Tomac went through them like they were B riders.
– Nice work by Jeffrey Herlings to go 1-1 at Glen Helen and, although he wasn’t as impressive to me as Tomac (Jesus might not have been), he still won both motos relatively easy. One week after looking rather human when Austin Forkner and Cooper Webb were both probably faster, Herlings established his superiority on a track that was a better test. His last MX2 ride ever (thank you!) and he left beating the best America threw at him.
– I thought Jeremy Martin was rather good on his new GEICO Honda ride. Monster Energy Pro Circuit’s Austin Forkner has been the “it" kid in the USA lately and, without a bit of bad luck and amazing riding from Cooper Webb, could’ve gone 1-1 at Charlotte, but yet Martin beat Forkner in both motos to go 2-2. It was a reminder that the two-time 250MX champ can’t quite be forgotten after a down year here in the USA this past summer.
“My fitness wasn’t quite where I want it to be. I’ve been just kind of chilling lately," Martin told me after the race. “Hats off to Jeffrey. He’s a great athlete and a champion. He’s had a lot to deal with the last two years with getting hurt. It’s always neat to see someone come back from those severe injuries, to be able to come out and get a championship."
Martin either had very little time on the Honda or a lot of time on the Honda depending on who you ask. He got hurt at Washougal on July 23rd, didn’t race again and officially got out of his contract on September 1st. He wanted to race the Charlotte USGP, but Yamaha didn’t want him to possibly beat Cooper Webb (looking back I doubt that would have happened), so they wouldn’t give him the release he needed according to his agent. His ribs were hurt at Washougal, so if he got on the Honda before his official release from Yamaha and after his ribs healed up that would shock no one. Whatever the amount of time, I thought he did well.
I asked Jeremy what he thought of the Honda compared to his Yamaha and he was pretty candid about it compared to most riders that switch bikes.
“I feel like it’s just skinnier. It corners a little better and just has smoother power, much smoother." said Martin “It’s easier to ride. The Yamaha was a good bike. It led me to many successful days and many successful times, but I was ready for a change."
– Antonio Cairoli isn’t quite ready to just hand over this crown of “best MXGP rider" it seems. The 222 was beaten the last two years by Romain Febvre and Tim Gajser, so it seemed that the gradual tailing off would happen and father time would remain undefeated. Hold that thought though, outside of Charlotte where he was sick, Cairoli beat Gajser and Febvre more than they beat him the last month or so and he ended up second in the series. This was with an injury, his usual slow start and some bike issues that resulted in him switching to a 450F. He showed in the last little bit that he’ll be much more in the mix in 2017 for his ninth MXGP title than these last two years – that makes me happy by the way.
– Just like last year at Glen Helen, I was a bit disappointed in the regular MX2 riders. Outside of Herlings and perhaps Jeremy Seewer, who gave Martin fits late in moto two, the rest of the “stars" of the class were far back both weekends. Riders like Max Anstie (winner of GPs this year), Thomas Covington and Benoit Paturel were far off the top riders. In fact, Mitchell Harrison finished third overall in MX2 and he struggled to get top ten in America. I’m not stating this to get the endless arguments going about which riders are better, I’m saying that this is two years in a row the “stars" of MX2 couldn’t get into any kind of battles with American 250 riders. Outside of Herlings that is.
– I didn’t like Jean Michel Bayle when he raced in America. I was more of a Damon Bradshaw guy and, therefore, I wasn’t in position to like the French invader. You couldn’t like both – that wasn’t allowed! But as I got older I started to appreciate just what Bayle was able to accomplish in America in just three years. It’s really hard to live in a strange country and beat the established riders at a sport they invented like supercross. When he won all three titles in one year, he set his sights onto road racing. Think about what that would be like now for Ken Roczen to just leave money, titles and legacy on the table to quit and pursue another sport? Nuts, right?
Anyways, I now get to talk to JMB whenever I go to Europe or he comes here and I love it. He’s an honest interview with a unique perspective on the sport over here or in Europe. I stopped him at Glen Helen to get his take on a few different topics.
On whether Tim Gajser is ready for America… “Tim, I think, is ready to come over here. I think he needs maybe one more year in world championship to confirm his position, his riding. But I think it will be good. Of course supercross is very different than MXGP, so he will have to work on it, but I think he’s got the talent to do it. He’s young enough to do it. Many people want to come in America but I think after twenty-four or twenty-five years old it’s too late, so he’s still young."
On man-made outdoor tracks like Charlotte versus natural moto tracks like Glen Helen… “I think these kind of tracks [Charlotte] are able to bring people that don’t know nothing about motocross and this is actually good for the promotion of the sport, to have people that are not passionate and come for the first time. It’s so easy to come, because like in Charlotte you can park your car right to the stand and you can walk there. It’s easier with a kid and everything.
“I think it’s good to have some races like this for the promotion of the sport, but not all the races should be like this. We need to go to the big tracks like this and we need to go to a real motocross track. It’s a world championship and I think you have to go a little bit everywhere. That’s what I think makes the world championship better, going from a sand track, to riding the mud, to a dry place."
On how the American fans treat him now… “I think first year it was difficult for them to accept, a little French guy coming from nowhere beating… You didn’t like that, but I think now they respect me for what I did. Actually for me it was great to ride over here. It was a dream for me. Today when I have some people coming and say hello, I’m just happy."
Words: Steve Matthes | Image: ConwayMX