You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!
You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!
Photos by Rich Shepard
1- What’s the technique for the mud like we saw in moto two and end of moto one in the 450’s?
I was always pretty good in the mud and always got decent results but I grew up in the south of France where all the tracks are not prepped and they’re hard packed, dusty and it never really rains. Even when it does, the dirt doesn’t have clay in it so it’s not really thick and sticky mud more like slop with a hard base. I won a big 80cc race in the mud in France when I was 12. It was a MXDN-like format with 3 guys from each 20 french regions. I’d never really practiced in that kind of mud before but that was a big turn in my “mud” career. In staging, other teams and riders from the rainy north of France were making fun of us, riders from the south, because we never really rode in the mud, never really practiced in it and they were saying we were going to be horrible.
I remember my dad telling me, put weight on the back of the bike, keep your feet on the pegs and ride like the track like it’s dry. It was maybe the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I went ahead and crushed that moto. I think I even lapped 3rd place. Too many riders get a mental block when it rains but mud races aren’t rocket science. Don’t put weight on the front end of your bike, keep your feet on the pegs to get the most traction possible and just ride it. You obviously have to stay away from the deep soft mud/deep ruts and often parts of the track with water is your friend. If there’s water, it means it’s hard underneath and it cleans your bike up…
Marvin is on a roll right now and closing up on the points.
2-Marv’s won six motos in a row and besides being good at Unadilla, he’s great in the mud. Why is that and why did he shine?
Like I said above, he wasn’t doing anything extraordinary. He was using his usual technique and rode the track. Whatever I’ve been talking about, for years, about riding a dirt bike works in every track conditions. Momentum, riding in the right gear/rpm, opening the turns, be creative with lines, not get stuck in lines that don’t work, don’t lock the rear brake, don’t use the clutch excessively. Proper riding techniques work everywhere. Not proper technique can’t work on very specific tracks and you can still win races like that but when conditions are drastic, super hard packed, slick or muddy, riding with a basic proper technique will always be more efficient. That’s what Marvin showed Saturday.
Tomac had a decent second moto in the mud but the first one wasn’t great.
3- Is something wrong with Tomac? He pulled all his tear-offs in moto one and lost some spots, second moto he took a fifth.
I don’t want to hear the excuse of the goggles and tear offs. When there is a chance of rain in the forecast and huge black clouds in the sky, you got to go out in the moto with roll offs. Roll offs have come a long way over the years. The new goggles are developed for rolls off use. The film is thicker, the canisters on the goggle are fixed wider which give you way better range of vision. The lenses are better too. We used to use fishing line between the lens and the film so the film wouldn’t stick to the lens. It was a pain to do but it worked. Nowadays, lens are made with little dots for that purpose. I would agree on riders choosing 28 laminated tear offs versus roll offs 10 years ago even if I was always a roll off guy.
But today, with how good the roll offs systems got, if you go out racing in a threatening rainy weather with tear offs, you’re just stupid. Since Southwick, Eli has had a pretty significant points lead. He doesn’t have to win races or battle to win with a rider, Marvin, who has nothing to lose. He showed it in Washougal where he could’ve gave Marvin more a run for his money but it looked like he settled for a smart 2-2 score. Eli isn’t allowed to go 10-5 and only score 27 out of 50 points like in Unadilla especially with that field. He shouldn’t get beat overall by Davalos, Seely, Wilson, Boggle and Craig unless he’s racing with only 1 foot peg.
4- Are you worried for his title hopes, can Marv actually pull this off?
Mathematically, Marvin is still in the title chase. Realistically, it might be too little too late but the French rider can still hope. Since his dominant performance in Southwick, Tomac has lost a lot of ground on Marvin after his 6 moto wins in a row. The gap between Eli and Marvin in the championship after Southwick was 72 points. It’s now, after Unadilla, 31 points. Eli blew 41 points in 3 races. That’s 13.66 points loss a race in average. Eli scored 109 points in 3 races. 109 divided by 6 motos, that’s 18.16 points per moto which is 4th place. If Eli finishes 4th in the last 4 motos and Marvin win all 4, he will lose another 28 points. He has a 31 point lead today which leaves him with a 3 point margin. With his crash in the second moto in Millville and his below par performance in Unadilla, Tomac is putting unnecessary pressure on himself for the last 2 races of the championship and giving a lot of confidence to Marvin. As we saw in the SX season, a rider with nothing to lose is very dangerous. Eli had this role in SX and now it’s Marvin’s turn. Now, we’ll have to wait to see if Eli will be as strong and compose as Dungey was in SX. One thing Eli doesn’t have is a teammate who accidentally will make a mistake in a last lap to gift him a couple points… Too soon?
5- The PC team went testing with Joey Savatgy, didn’t change much but since that chassis test he’s ripped off overall and moto wins…why are you riders such fragile little flowers? Confidence is SUCH a big thing in our sport right? What did you see in the 250’s?
Confidence is a huge bonus when you’re not able to find the solutions of your problems in a rational way. There’s always rational answers and solutions in dirt bike racing but too often we put it on bike set up and confidence. Solutions can be in line choices, body position, being creative with the track, race strategy, strategy depending on what rider you’re racing against, tire choices and often thinking outside the box. As far as bike set up, riders always want to have closure and ride with something they know worked and something they got a good results with. McGrath, for example, rode with the same CR250 for multiple seasons. He did the same at Yamaha with the YZ250. I believe he used the same pipe for multiple seasons at Yamaha, not because there wasn’t anything better, but because he knew it was good enough to win and didn’t have to question his choices. I’ve seen many times riders find better better set-ups in testing, looking more comfortable but as soon as they hit practices at the races they didn’t feel right (maybe it had nothing to do with the new set-up) and they chang everything back to they basic set up they did good with. I’m a guy who believes in change to improve. If you do the same thing over and over in training and practice and use the same bike, you will not improve.
Jeremy Martin won another overall on the year for the GEICO bike.
As far as the 250 race goes, I was glad to see JMart where he belongs as a 2-time National champ. He’s had a very rocky 2017 season since A1 and it’s good to see him back on top of the standings. Savatgy is confirming his good form. His first moto was very good with the win and the fastest lap time. Osborne is still grinding to score max points when he can with whatever circumstances come to him. With a 63 point lead, he should clinch his SX/MX title sweep in Budds Creek this weekend. What about Justin Cooper? A top 5 overall for a first pro race and an amazing second moto. The kid gave JMart a run for his money for the 20 minute and one lap of the moto. He even had the fastest lap time in the second moto! I always love to see rookies crush their first race without worrying about the names of the jersey of the riders they’re racing with. He wasn’t as good on the dry in the first moto but his second moto performance was great. I was almost rooting for him to win the moto. That would’ve woken up all the 250 veteran riders but his 2nd place in moto 2 might have done it too. Now for Justin, the toughest thing to do for him is coming… He has to confirm his Unadilla 2nd moto form in Budds Creek this weekend.
6- Give us a Unadilla story?
My Unadilla story isn’t ready a moto story. I actually was nervous and excited to go race such an iconic track and didn’t know what to expect. My first time going to Unadilla was a nightmare. I had a layover in Chicago on Friday. We used to have practices on Saturday and races on Sunday. Got to Chicago. The weather was horrible. Outside it looked like it was the end of the world. The airport was a zoo. All the flights were canceled and I couldn’t get to Syracuse that night or any close by airports. We were rebooked with flights on Saturday but it would mean I would’ve missed practices. On a track I didn’t know I couldn’t afford to miss Saturday practices. I was with my dad and we decided to rent a car and drove to Utica, NY where our hotel was. It’s 2000, there weren’t smart phones, Google maps, Waze or any of that stuff.
I was in Chicago and didn’t even know where we were going. We asked the rental car guy how far Utica was. He looked it up and said 12 hours. It was 7pm in Chicago and 8 in Utica. That would’ve put us at the hotel or at the track around 8. We got a one way rental and off we went. We stopped in a gas station to buy a map to figure out the itinerary. We went straight to the Holiday Inn in Utica to check in and take a shower and went to practice on no sleep. Since we didn’t take our connecting flight, we didn’t have any luggage. Good thing I had everything I needed in the semi to ride. We went to buy the necessary stuff we needed after practices and our bags were waiting for us at the hotel Sunday night after the race just in time to fly back to California.
For the record, I went 7-5 at my first Unadilla. I lost a shroud in moto one. I spent the moto getting my knee brace caught on the radiator. In the second, a rock made a huge hole on my pipe and I rode with the power of a 175cc instead of a 250. That’s when I realized why they called that race Una-fu%^&-dilla. It was a nightmare…
7- So looking at the Team USA, France, Belgium and waiting on England, what do you see happening at the MXDN?
Even with Marvin out and Febvre in, France are the favorites. The 3 riders are riding good and they can ride the mud well. There’s a big chance that it will be a mud race. October 1st in England isn’t the best weather on earth. Belgium will be good too, they have good riders too but they won’t light the world on fire. I think they can be consistent but I don’t see them dominating. They’ll be on the box. Lieber could be a question mark though. Remember they ride an under-23 MX2 class in GP’s and the 250 riders have to race 450s all day at MXDN. It’s a big challenge and the pressure on them is to perform well in the MX2-Open moto. To win MXDN, you have to have 4 top 3-5 results by the 450 guys and 1 good results from the MX2 rider in the MX2-Open class. Most likely, the 250 guys won’t do as good in the MX1-MX2 moto.
As far as team USA goes, I’m very skeptical with the line up especially the 450 guys. Osborne is a given but Seely and Covington is very thinking outside of the box or even thinking outside the zip code. I understand Cole is the next first American in the points standing but I don’t think his profile fits a race like MXDN. You have to outperform yourself in 2 motos, ride with authority and being aggressive. No disrespect to Cole, I’ve seen him ride in practice like he could be SX Champion but, in my opinion he’s been underperforming for a while and he’s not known to push people around in race situations, unless it’s Anderson the last couple years. He has a huge potential but I don’t think we’ve seen it yet. It’s why I’m skeptical with this choice.
For Covington, he’s not lighting the world on fire in GPs (once again in an under-23 class) and he’s put on a huge scene on a bike he hasn’t raced in a while and never at this level of competition? Those 2 picks are weird and feels like gambles in the wrong way. If you really want to gamble and have an upside, we have a 2-time national champion, JMart, who showed us can ride a 450 very well. He was flying in Daytona where he got second. He also won 3 motos this summer before they’ve announced the team and had 4 now. Even if he’s not having the season he wants nor his team wants, those stats convince more than Seely’s season. Same goes with Webb. I’d gamble on him, a National champ, a new 2018 YZF450 and his experience at that race… Team USA isn’t favorite on paper but they almost won it last year with some kind of a B team with having only 1 rider race the last moto. I guess we can’t never write the Americans off. Remember Manjimup 1992? It looks a lot like Matterly Basin 2017…