Kickstart: MiniMoto SX

Last weekend was a moto-lover’s delight. There was the MiniMoto SX at The Orleans on Friday night, SX on Saturday, and the Supercross awards banquet on Sunday night. Add the usual assortment of fun and entertainment that’s available in Las Vegas, and it’s the longest-week-stuffed-into-72-hours around. We’ll break this Kickstart into three chunks, one on each of the nights. Sorry for the lag in posting it. We wish it were a more interesting What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas story, but it’s not. Anyway, here’s some of what we saw…

There’s no doubt that the MiniMoto SX stepped up in a big way compared to last year’s premiere edition. There were 537 entries, compared to 384 at the first time around, and with between 5,800 and 6,000 capacity for spectators, they were completely sold out. But maybe the biggest difference was how much things have stepped up since last year when it comes to equipment, support, and intensity. 

The quantity and size of the rigs in the parking lot was up by a bunch, and while there weren’t any semis (and probably won’t be for a while), there were some pretty impressive haulers. The equipment had already stepped up by a bunch. Race promoter and MiniMoto Publisher, Tim Clark said, “What you’re looking at here are companies who really recognize where this industry’s going. They’ve really stepped up to the plate and they’re building actual works motorcycles. You’ve got $12,000, $13,000, $14,000 race bikes out there where everything’s replaced except the center cases.”

“I think what’s pleasantly surprised me was how the industry has embraced the sport. How all these mom and dad shops and companies have started building products and have really grown into significant companies.  There’s BBR and Red Baron. Extreme didn’t even exist three years ago, and now they’re a major manufacturer of motorcycles.  The industry is really at the very beginning, and it has a lot of room for growth.”

Inside The Orleans arena, there was the MiniMoto Expo, with all sorts of apparel, and every conceivable widget. As Tim Clark mentioned, “The industry is not a fad. It is a craze, people are just crazed over it. Some of the biggest OEMs are here in the stands studying us tonight. There are research companies hired by OEMs studying exactly what’s happening with the crowd. with the people on the track, and the people outside in the pits. It’s all good, it’s all positive, and it’s all here to stay.”

Walking through the MiniMoto Expo at The Orleans, we spied a sample of the SDG’s second-edition minis. Our personal favorite was the new Pro Mini, which is a scaled-up and pumped-up (125cc) version of the 107cc Speed Mini that they introduced last year.  Apparently it wasn’t only popular with us, as the SDG guys said that people were walking right past the Speed Mini (which sold 6,800 units last year) and their new kid-sized Lil Mini to get to the bigger bike. They should be arriving here soon (like the first week of July), and go for $3,299. If you want all the specs, check www.sdgusa.com.

It was also interesting roaming through the pits. Chopper builder Jesse Rooke and Champ Car driver Jimmy Vasser were hanging out in the Red Baron pit area, and plenty of equipment and talent to ogle throughout the rest of the pits. There are currently at least two full-time publications devoted exclusively to minis (MiniMoto and PitRacer), with at least one more on the way (MiniMX), and all were vying for attention.

A couple things that had definitely ramped up interest among the competitors were the availability of AMA titles…and of course, the $15,000 purse for the pros didn’t hurt, either. When asked about the AMA titles, Tim said, “It was really important to us to bring in the AMA this year. The reason why it’s important is that it really brings a lot of credibillity to the sport. When OEMs look at what we’re doing, they determine how successful we are by who is really supporting us. The AMA receives a tremendous amount of support from the OEMs. When the OEMs see this and recognize it, that’s going to help the sport grow. It was one of my goals last year to bring the AMA in this year. The fact that you’re actually earning an AMA number one plate, it gives you something to work for all year long to win next year. This is what we do. We race. You don’t race for second place; you don’t race for third place. You race to win. We really created something with the plates and the purse that’s significant enough that you really want to win it.”

The track received rave reviews for being fun and challenging, and it was also fast…or the bikes have gotten a lot faster in the last year or so. Mark Barnett, Glen Bates and Lou Banka put it together. There were rhythm sections, whoop-filled straights, and enough technical sections to keep anyone’s attention. They also replaced the cardboard blocks used to line the track with real foam this time around (which was much better), and had all the normal SX accessories, like a 30-second girl, and podium eye candy. The event received raves from the riders for organization.

David Pingree holeshot the 10-Inch Expert with Jeremy McGrath right behind him. Jeremy came into the second corner too hot, slid out, and created chaos in the pack. Chris Gosselaar and Michael Sleeter filled out the final two podium spots. Ping nabbed a $4,000 check, and caused at least one smart-ass in the pits to cut loose with, “Ping finally won an AMA title.” Even funnier was when Ping described the riders on the small-wheeled bikes (including himself) as, “Circus bears.” The 10-inch wheel bikes are scary-fast, considering their small wheel size.

In the 12-inch Expert class, Chris Gosselaar went wire-to-wire, for a big check and his own number one plate. But the chaos behind him was worth the price of admission by itself. Jimmy Fishback and Jeremy McGrath were dueling early in the main, before Jeremy got punted over one of the berms. In the same corner where MC got railed, even long-time friends and competitors Randy Lawrence and Dave Cullinan bounced off each other, with Cully going off the track. In the end, Willy Browning took second, with Aussie Blake Williams in third.

With the jump upward in equipment, competition, and intensity from one year to the next, we can only wonder what next year’s event will be like.

10-Inch Expert

  1. David Pingree
  2. Chris Gosselaar
  3. Michael Sleeter
  4. Ryan Abrigo
  5. Jimmy Fishback
  6. Kyle Coen
  7. Jeremy McGrath
  8. Derek Costella
  9. Ryan Dudek
  10. Ryan Beat

12-Inch Expert

  1. Chris Gosselaar
  2. Willy Browning
  3. Blake Williams
  4. Jeff Gibson
  5. Ryan Beat
  6. Derek Costella
  7. Kyle Coen
  8. Darcy Lange
  9. Michael Sleeter
  10. Rich Taylor

Stock

  1. Dustin Miller
  2. Duane Brown
  3. Nick Saia
  4. Jimmy Lewis
  5. Larry Gipson

10-Inch Amateur

  1. Drew Petrie
  2. Mike Keller
  3. Chris Denison
  4. Wil Collins
  5. Alex Gaines

12-Inch Amateur

  1. Adam Booth
  2. Ben Hunkins
  3. Cory Krasel
  4. BJ Barlin
  5. Patrick Fleenor

Women

  1. Jen Krick
  2. Cassie Cherry
  3. Jamie Little
  4. Kristin Juday
  5. Jamie Lilly