Jan 20, 2009

Supercross Anaheim 2, thoughts

My trip to A2 definitely didn’t go the way I had planned it. Trusting American efficiency once more, I had booked a morning flight into SNA arriving at noon, right on time to jump into my Avis car and drive to Angel Stadium. Unfortunately a very efficient coalition of very bad Midwestern weather, United Airlines maintenance schedule and a mechanical failure on the Airbus A319 that was commuting me to SoCal made it all possible to change my day’s agenda. I ended up taking of 3 hours later than planned from O’Hare and landed at LAX instead of Orange County’s john Wayne Airport.

I arrived at Angel Stadium at 6:45 p.m. :-(

I tried to do a quick round of the pits before the intro ceremonies, trying to see if I could catch anything interesting before the night show. I very quickly realized that I wasn’t really in the mood for shooting, not doing the right thing, getting the wrong settings on my camera and decided to just enjoy the night and Supercross and stick to a few snapshots of peoples instead of trying to do some photography.

I love being at the races and enjoy a lot of what’s happening on a Supercross weekend but some of my favorite times, apart from the racing itself, are the early mornings when the SX circus wake up and crews are opening the pits, doing the track walk with riders who are discovering it for the first time and watching the mechanics working during the practice sessions. But my preferred moment and place is the tunnel before the opening ceremonies. I love the atmosphere down there, seeing the way riders behave differently, who’s really focused, who’s relaxed, who’s socializing, the anxiety of some wrench guys and team managers, the Feld guys trying, usually looking very serious and a bit stressed, trying to run everything as planned as possible, etc, etc… It is a very cool place to be and observe.

Of course it was a privilege to see McGrath, Carmichael and Bubba all together, waiting for the show to go on. I mean, how many times one can see so many Supercross/Motocross victories and championships like that in one place. There is a lot of respect and a bit of complicity between these guys.

Before the race I had talked to some riders and team managers who said that they didn’t like the track saying that it was too dangerous, especially the way the landings of some jumps were built and I thought that the races would see some big crashes and first turn pile-ups, but it really went well. Nothing bad happen and we got some very good racing, in both classes.

James Stewart managed against all bike odds to win the 450 class but there is no disputing the fact that Chad Reed is the fastest rider on the track right now (the only one to go down to 58” a lap during the race). Reed looks smooth and comfortable on his Suzuki and turns it like a BMX. He reminds me of MC on his Chaparral Yamaha when he came back to take the title from Emig.

Outside of the bike, the Chad Reed 09 is a different person too, with a very positive attitude and approach on things.

Of course I think that any other rider who would be racing the #7 Yamaha would often be on the ground and only an outstanding rider like James Stewart can ride it and save it like he does right now. I saw him casing more jumps at A2 that I did all of ’07 and believe me, I case a loooot. After he passed K-Dub in the Main, James saved it a-la-Carmichael when everyone in the press box thought that he was going to hit the dirt. Unbelievable!

Like others, I don’t think that Bubba is going to be able to do that every race. If the bike settings are not sorted soon, James may crash hard at some point, especially if Chad Reed has a good start and is right on his tail.

Chad came back from the back of the pack after a first turn crash to pass Kevin Windham for second, in the last lap. We can speculate that if the race had 25 laps, CR would have won it. And the same would have happened in Phoenix the previous weekend.

Anyway, the racing is good right now. 2009 is on the gas.

K-Dub finally got back to speed and rode awesome, leading the Main for 11 laps. He looked like Mr. smooth again, more comfortable than at the first 2 rounds. RV rode very well too, fighting for 2nd most of the race. His first podium is close.

Short rode well again and seems the most comfortable on the new Honda. The #29 should make the podium again this season.

And what about Josh Grant people! The guy is legit and after 3 very good Supercross races, I really believe that he is there to stay. I am not sure whether he is going to be able to secure a podium overall but I repeat myself and he is definitely Top 5 overall at the end of the season. At A2, he tightened up towards the end but was once again racing for the podium and rode good to a 5th. Had he managed to pass Kevin Windham early in the race, I think that he would have secured a podium spot.

Ryan Dungey took his second win of the season in the West Lite series and we should expect to see him ride smart to secure his first title this year. Again, the PC boys were strong and rode great, Morais being very surprising and edging Jake Weimer again for a PC 2-3 podium result. The title chase is still very close right now, but Morais is definitely not where I would have thought. Great effort and a good surprise for sure.

Jason Lawrence is not riding as well as expected right now. His heat race was bad, out of control and sent him to the LCQ again. Hopefully for him J-Law gets things back on track at Houston and makes more podium but for sure, the title is out of reach for him unless something crazy happens.

Brayton and Sipes looked good. Dan Reardon rode well too and should get more Top 5 before the end of the season. A quick shout out to my buddy Mike Sleeter for making the Main again, coming out of the gnarly and very difficult LCQ. Mike has been going to the races on his own this year and is grateful to get some help from One Industries and KTM.

A quick info about French rider Cedric Soubeyras: He was racing his last US SX of the year at Anaheim 2, before going back to Europe, to race the World Championship in MX2. Cedric was coming form a great performance at Phoenix but crashed really hard in practice and ended up at the hospital with a collapsed lung and broken ribs. A bit banged up but he’ll recover quickly and get ready on time for the MXGP’s. Hopefully team MD Racing and Soubeyras will come for a full West Lites season in 2010. Cedric is one of the very few pro riders who wear the RXR chest-protector.

My MotoXdream fantasy team wasn’t very lucky this weekend, especially my Lites team where I had Soubeyras :-(

On another note, Monday was important for me at work as we had the first annual Dainese Media day at the Dainese D-Store in Costa Mesa. We presented the company’s new structure in the US to about 35 members of the press who were treated to a fashion show presenting our 2009 collection. While my colleagues-buddies Mark and Allan presented the Dainese products the models had, I was taking care of the AGV helmets introduction. It was a successful event thanks to everybody involved, from Supercross.com’s Amanda who was hosting, to the models, the editors and journalists present as well as the full Dainese crew. We should see some good exposure coming our way soon along with new sponsorship announcements as we are trying to get much more involved in road racing in the US.

So, it’s back home for a day for me and back on the road, off to Houston on Thursday and SoCal on Monday.

By the way, who will win the 2009 SX series? Ha! Right now I believe that Chad has everything lined up for it. 2 more races like that and Chad will have it secured.