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There was a sense of nostalgia over the weekend, as Infront Moto Racing released footage of the 2005 Motocross of Nations that was run at Ernee. Watching that was a brilliant way to pass the time in an otherwise quiet period. What is not to like about that! The 2005 edition was a special one for myself, as that was the year that I got hooked on the whole professional scene.
I started to wake up to everything that was going on as an eight-year-old in 2004, and then in 2005 I was following it all extensively and somehow knew everything about each guy. I still have no real idea how that transition happened. Anyway, there was a reason why going to the 2005 Motocross of Nations was such a big thing for me. It was simple: Ricky Carmichael was racing. Although most are keen to claim that having the American riders at the events is not that big a deal, I just think back to how it impacted my experience.
Funny story on that front. It was my whole goal to meet Ricky Carmichael and I found a position around his little private area out the back of the team semi, which was fenced off. I stood there for what felt like hours waiting to simply catch a glimpse of him – there was no real plan to get something signed or anything. RC eventually emerged and whilst passing he looked at us and said something like, “How are you guys doing?” It was just a pleasantry – nothing overly complicated that required much in return.
I completely froze.
It makes me laugh to this day, as I have such a clear memory of just staring with my jaw on the ground. The GOAT was there in person! That really made the Motocross of Nations experience for me. I should probably clarify that I did attend the previous edition at Lierop in The Netherlands too. Ernee felt like the first real one that I went to though – it had that international flavour that the race is built off of. I will argue to the death with anyone who says there is no advantage to having the American riders there.
Anyway, back to the whole nostalgia thing. There were three guys who I really rooted for as a nine-year-old – Ben Townley and Josh Coppins were in that group with Carmichael. I always had this need to root for guys from New Zealand for no reason and then coincidentally ended up living there in 2007. I remember buzzing during the middle of the 2005 FIM Motocross World Championship. Townley swept four motos in a row in Italy and France, then Coppins did the same at the following two rounds in Sweden and South Africa. Life was good!
Having the American guys back at the 2005 Motocross of Nations – and out in full force as well – was a highlight for most. The way that Townley rode in the final moto doesn’t get talked about enough though he sprinted away from the rest of the field and went with Carmichael! Those two were around two seconds a lap quicker than anyone else, looking at it now. Townley was already a world champion at that time, yeah, but I cannot help but feel that was a real turning point in his career. Everyone was forced to sit up and take notice.
Another point that gets forgotten about is that Townley was not even supposed to be in the Open class on a big bike. Initially, he was set to drop to MX2 for the first time since the 2004 Motocross of Nations with Darryl Hurley in the Open category. Things got shuffled around when Hurley got hurt a few weeks before the race Townley slid into his place and Cody Cooper was drafted into the MX2 berth. Funny to think that such a heroic may have never happened has Hurley stayed healthy.
Would the Motocross of Nations be what it is today had that historic event at Ernee not happened in 2005? Perhaps. The next year at Matterley Basin may have then been the springboard that was needed, had that been the case. Ernee was certainly a turning point though and Youthstream – now Infront Moto Racing – are mostly responsible, but so is Ricky Carmichael. RC took the whole thing so seriously and that added to the lure of seeing Team USA compete against the European riders. That photo of him walking out onto the podium with the American flag captures everything perfectly.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer