Monday Kickstart: Straight Outta Delmont

 

When we rolled into Greensburg, PA, near Delmont, on Friday night to check into our hotel for the Steel City National, we were welcomed by a torrential downpour blowing horizontal to the ground. The Weather Channel had predicted an 80% chance of rain for Saturday as well, so the chance of holding the usual Saturday practices and qualifiers seemed slim to none. As we approached the track on Saturday morning there was still a slight drizzle coming down, but things appeared to be looking drier on the horizon. The skies did begin to clear and the air temperature reached the mid 70s, but the damage on the ground was already done. Driving into the pro pit area was quite a bit trickier than usual thanks to a number of vehicles getting stuck in the mud. The line, which typically forms to get in to the pits, had a pretty lengthy delay while track crews worked hard to get everybody settled.

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The rumors floating around the pits that practice would be cancelled for Saturday were confirmed at the AMA riders meeting. AMA chief Duke Finch announced that the track crew worked hard overnight to keep the wet dirt and mud packed the best they possibly could, but with more rain threatening for Saturday night they’d decided to preserve the track for Sunday’s motos. Duke’s meeting, which lasted all of about one minute, resulted in a near clearing of the pits by about 3:00. Bikes were quickly packed back into semis and box vans, and riders and mechanics left the facility, leaving the pit area looking like a ghost town aside from a few die-hard fans.

Speaking of ghost towns, with every official member of their team sidelined due to injury, that’s exactly what the Team Pro Circuit Kawasaki semi looked like at Steel City. The injuries actually benefited one rider, however, as Team Green’s Richie Owens got the nod from Mitch Payton who had the injured Eric Sorby’s race bike polished and ready to go. Owens, who was stoked on the performance of his new ride, had a great day going 9-11 for ninth overall. Owens will also contend the Troy National next weekend aboard the Pro Circuit Kawi.

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Tension in the KTM pits was still high with Grant Langston and Ryan Hughes having a mere 10 points separating them for the 125cc National Championship going into Steel City. The first moto favored Hughes as he rode to a solid third place finish. Langston, on the other hand, went down while working his way through traffic after a poor start, and ended the moto in eighth. Going into the second moto, the KTM-mounted duo were now separated by only 5 points. This time, however, it was Langston who got the upper hand and rode a solid moto working his way from seventh place at the end of lap one, up to an impressive second behind¿or shall I say far behind, Bubba. Hughes spent the entire second moto in close pursuit of Langston but was never able to challenge for the pass. On the final lap while trying everything in the book to close in on LL Cool G, Hughes went down on an uphill double and handed third over to Yamaha of Troy’s Broc Sellards. Hughes remounted quickly to hang on to the fourth spot, but handed back two points in Grant favor.

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With the final round scheduled to be held this coming weekend in Troy, Ohio, only seven points will separate the two orange pilots as they make their final push toward the championship. And although unlikely, barring any sort of disaster over at Team KTM, we can’t count out Bubba, who now sits 30 points behind leader Langston. While it looks on paper like Bubba’s out of the title chase, if Grant and Ryno get caught up in any type of on-track altercations, it could leave the door wide open for Stewart who is all but guaranteed to win the final two motos.

Stewart’s Steel City ride was another schooling of the rest of the class with dominating 1-1 moto finishes. Yamaha of Troy’s Craig Anderson got the holeshot in the first moto, but Bubba railed passed him before lap one was complete and proceeded to check out to a 45-second victory. In the second moto, Stewart decided he didn’t want to get any dirt on his jersey at all, and grabbed the holeshot and again walked away. This time by only 40 seconds though. Bubba’s slippin’!

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Although 45 seconds behind Stewart, Anderson put together a great ride to take second place in moto one. With a championship chasing Hughes behind him for the entire moto, Ando never slipped and maintained a five-second margin over Ryno at the end. Craig’s fifth place in moto two was good enough to land him on the podium in Steel City with a third overall.

The Steel City fans also saw the rise of up-and-coming Suzuki speedster, Broc Hepler. Prior to the race, Hepler was heard saying that with a good start at Steel City, he felt he had the speed to run up front, and run up front he did. Hepler started the first moto just inside the top 15 and began working his way up. By lap 10 Hepler moved his way into the fifth spot and held onto it for a few laps before finally giving it up to a hard-charging Ryan Mills. Broc finished the moto in sixth place. In moto two, Hepler completed lap one in 10th spot and once again started to make his way forward. After moving into eighth on lap five, Broc had a mishap in a rutted-out section and went down. He ended up finishing the moto in 29th position, but his 6-29 was still good enough for an 11th overall.

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Amsoil/Chaparral Honda mounted Ryan Mills had a great day at Steel City. Mills looked right at home in the deep ruts and powered his CR125 to an impressive 5-8 moto tally for sixth overall.

Yamaha of Troy teammates Josh Hansen and Ivan Tedesco both had a rough second moto at Steel City. The two riders each went down hard in the same section of the track (an off cambered rutted-out sweeper) and on the same lap. Both riders were down on the ground at the same time, and unfortunately were both unable to finish the moto. Hansen sustained an injury to his hand, but the extent is unknown. Tedesco was seen leaving the track holding a large ice pack, but it sounds like he may have just had the wind knocked out of him and will be fine.

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In the premier class on Sunday, the most exciting race action came once again from Honda-mounted duo of Ricky Carmichael and Kevin Windham. With RC hoping to clinch his fourth consecutive 250cc championship and K-Dub hoping to prevent it, both riders were motivated and ready to do battle. RC jumped out of the gate first in moto number one and led every lap according to the official AMA lap sheets, but not without some heavy slugging from Windham. RC began to get away in the opening laps while K-Dub had to work his way past Stephane Roncada and then Tim Ferry. Ferry put up a great fight for about a lap before Kevin was able to open up a gap and began chasing down Ricky. K-Dub put down some extremely quick lap times, almost two seconds faster than RC, while in pursuit of the reigning national champ and eventually caught him. The two battled side-by-side for about two laps before RC was able to slowly inch away. By the end of the moto, RC crossed the finish line over 15 seconds ahead of Windham, with Ferry about 16 seconds behind him.

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When the gate dropped for moto two, the big thumper of Windham grabbed the holeshot with RC right behind him. A bobble by Ricky allowed Kevin to stretch out a near seven-second lead by about the fourth lap, leaving Ricky to play catch-up this time. Catch-up he did, and on lap 10 RC was able to get by K-Dub relatively easily. Windham appeared to have nothing left to fire back, and RC began to walk away. Ricky stretched out a nine-second lead in the remaining five laps, and threw down the quickest laps of the day on his way to his fourth consecutive, and 10th career AMA National Championships.

When asked at the AMA press conference if he would be riding the CRF450R four-stroke at the last round as rumored, Ricky confirmed that he would without a doubt be on his trusty CR250 to finish up the season. He did, however, proceed to say that he has been riding his four-stroke at home quite a bit while training. With the new race-fuel regulations going into effect for next season, many feel that the four-strokes will have a distinct advantage over the two-strokes. Ricky went on to say that at this point in his career, the four-stroke might be a nice change. Could we see RC on a CRF450R full-time next season? Sounds like a very real possibility!

RC also commented that with the title wrapped up, he planned to stay off the bike completely this week to rest and also to enjoy some of his other pastime hobbies like wakeboarding. He’s stoked to have a short break now, because after the Troy national, it’s straight into Supercross testing.

The threesome that makes up Team Yamaha; Tim Ferry, David Vuillemin, and Chad Reed, are all once again riding the potent YZ450F. You may remember that Reed made the switch over from the YZ250 at Millville. Vuillemin and Reed’s machines are equipped with a super-trick-looking header pipe with a gnarly down bend similar to that seen on Honda’s CRF450R race bikes. The idea behind the design is actually two-fold. Not only does it change the powerband characteristics, but it also changes the center of gravity of the bike. The extra length of the header pipe actually shortens the muffler length, therefore pulling the entire unit in closer to the motor. Our guess is that the new design tends to favor the riding style of the two-stroke pilots as longtime four-stroke rider Ferry has opted to stick with his O.G. header.

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In addition to the trick header pipe, Vuillemin is also sporting a brand new mustache¿

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Tim Ferry rode a consistent race with 3-3 moto scores for third overall for the day. Tim’s strong rides weren’t enough to match the pace of the Honda’s of Carmichael and Windham up front, however, finishing both motos over 30 seconds back. After the race at the AMA press conference, Timmy noted that it just didn’t feel like the typical Steel City, and with no practice on Saturday, bike set-up was more difficult to get dialed in.

Our pal Nick Wey was aboard his Mach 1 Yamaha YZ250 at Steel City, for what will probably have been one of the last couple of rides under the blue canopy. It’s rumored, but still not 100% confirmed, that Nick would be riding a Sobe Suzuki in 2004. In fact, there may have been a new contract floating around at Steel City. With a solid fourth overall in the 2003 Supercross series, and some strong finishes this summer in the outdoors, Wey is certainly deserving of a e extremely quick lap times, almost two seconds faster than RC, while in pursuit of the reigning national champ and eventually caught him. The two battled side-by-side for about two laps before RC was able to slowly inch away. By the end of the moto, RC crossed the finish line over 15 seconds ahead of Windham, with Ferry about 16 seconds behind him.

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When the gate dropped for moto two, the big thumper of Windham grabbed the holeshot with RC right behind him. A bobble by Ricky allowed Kevin to stretch out a near seven-second lead by about the fourth lap, leaving Ricky to play catch-up this time. Catch-up he did, and on lap 10 RC was able to get by K-Dub relatively easily. Windham appeared to have nothing left to fire back, and RC began to walk away. Ricky stretched out a nine-second lead in the remaining five laps, and threw down the quickest laps of the day on his way to his fourth consecutive, and 10th career AMA National Championships.

When asked at the AMA press conference if he would be riding the CRF450R four-stroke at the last round as rumored, Ricky confirmed that he would without a doubt be on his trusty CR250 to finish up the season. He did, however, proceed to say that he has been riding his four-stroke at home quite a bit while training. With the new race-fuel regulations going into effect for next season, many feel that the four-strokes will have a distinct advantage over the two-strokes. Ricky went on to say that at this point in his career, the four-stroke might be a nice change. Could we see RC on a CRF450R full-time next season? Sounds like a very real possibility!

RC also commented that with the title wrapped up, he planned to stay off the bike completely this week to rest and also to enjoy some of his other pastime hobbies like wakeboarding. He’s stoked to have a short break now, because after the Troy national, it’s straight into Supercross testing.

The threesome that makes up Team Yamaha; Tim Ferry, David Vuillemin, and Chad Reed, are all once again riding the potent YZ450F. You may remember that Reed made the switch over from the YZ250 at Millville. Vuillemin and Reed’s machines are equipped with a super-trick-looking header pipe with a gnarly down bend similar to that seen on Honda’s CRF450R race bikes. The idea behind the design is actually two-fold. Not only does it change the powerband characteristics, but it also changes the center of gravity of the bike. The extra length of the header pipe actually shortens the muffler length, therefore pulling the entire unit in closer to the motor. Our guess is that the new design tends to favor the riding style of the two-stroke pilots as longtime four-stroke rider Ferry has opted to stick with his O.G. header.

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In addition to the trick header pipe, Vuillemin is also sporting a brand new mustache¿

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Tim Ferry rode a consistent race with 3-3 moto scores for third overall for the day. Tim’s strong rides weren’t enough to match the pace of the Honda’s of Carmichael and Windham up front, however, finishing both motos over 30 seconds back. After the race at the AMA press conference, Timmy noted that it just didn’t feel like the typical Steel City, and with no practice on Saturday, bike set-up was more difficult to get dialed in.

Our pal Nick Wey was aboard his Mach 1 Yamaha YZ250 at Steel City, for what will probably have been one of the last couple of rides under the blue canopy. It’s rumored, but still not 100% confirmed, that Nick would be riding a Sobe Suzuki in 2004. In fact, there may have been a new contract floating around at Steel City. With a solid fourth overall in the 2003 Supercross series, and some strong finishes this summer in the outdoors, Wey is certainly deserving of a shot at full factory glory. After a crash in moto 1 at Steel City, Nick came back to finish a strong ninth place in moto two.

Sobe Suzuki’s Stephane Roncada injured his ankle on the third lap of moto one while running a solid fourth behind Windham. The extent of the injury is still unknown, but there’s no doubt that it put an end to Roncada’s day.

Professional skateboard legend Steve Caballero was on hand in Steel City to watch the national. An avid motocross enthusiast himself, Caballero is currently spending time skating at the Woodward camp, which is just a couple hours drive from Delmont.

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If you’re making plans to hit the U.S. Open at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, you can pencil in one addition activity for your schedule. The Engine Ice Year-End Party is happening immediately following the action at the second night at the Open (October 11th). Held at ESPN Zone of New York New York Hotel and Casino from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM. From 11:00 PM to Midnight, the bar will be open for free drinks featuring top-level products and beers. Miscellaneous finger foods, appetizers and snacks will be available to sample throughout the evening, and the night will be capped off with a coffee and sweets bar. All the famous interactive sports-themed games of the ESPN Zone will be available at no additional charge, and there will be rebroadcasts of the year’s Supercross and Outdoor Nationals as originally seen on ESPN throughout the party. There will be plenty to see, do, drink, eat and just a great time, all for a nominal $15 cover charge. Visit the Engine Ice Party web site at www.LasVegasMxParty.com for more information, and R.S.V.P. can be made via e-mail at mxparty@engineice.cc.

This event is a “Moto-Only” event; reserved the entire room for motorcycling and race fans. No more competing with the general public to get into an “after-party,” but because you love motocross, you’re invited to this exclusive event. Space is limited for this party, so get there early.

Pit Pass Radio, which airs live on several major radio markets, will be doing a live radio show from the event, interviewing the movers, shakers and racers from the motorcycling and racing world.

Last week was a busy one for the TWMX test staff, with no less than three ’04 model bike intros. On Tuesday, Donn and Ryan Cooley rode the Honda CRF250R. On Wednesday it was the Yamaha YZ450F, and on Friday the Suzuki RM-Z250 got the nod. You can check out the First Impression articles for each of the models by clicking their respective links.

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Now that the new bike intros are nearly done, with only the YZ250F left to ride among the quarter-liter four-strokes, attention is already turning to shootout time, and the aftermarket manufacturers are eager to get their hands on the new models so that they can get started on seeing how much power they can extract from each of the new bikes.

Yoshimura had this bike on display at the RM-Z250 intro, though we never did get to hear it fired up. Yosh will definitely have some involvement on the Suzuki factory four-stroke bikes.

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After all on-track action got canceled on Saturday, the WML ran their races during breaks in the action on Sunday. Sa