Mud-day Kickstart

Well, the first round of the THQ World Supercross GP went down in Seville, Spain, last weekend, and thanks to an overabundance of rain, and an open top stadium, it became an epic mud-fest. Well, epic for the riders and teams, but maybe not-so-epic if you caught the same-day coverage on ESPN2 (where even the audio sounded like it was underwater).

Regardless of how it looked, if you knew how Daryl Hurley had just come back from injuries suffered last summer (there’s more on that below), you couldn’t help but be excited for him. We got an e-mail from MotoworldRacing.com’s Team Boss, Paul Lindsey, who was extremely excited by the win. “It would be an understatement to say we’re all on cloud nine right now! It would be easy to say, ‘That’s the worst mud race I’ve ever seen in my life…’ But that’s just because it is fresh in our minds and we were there. But in reality, I’d still say it would rank top two or three at (at least) with maybe only Hangtown and that old Atlanta (1979?) SX beating it out for worst ever. I mean geez… you saw how slow those guys were going on TV, it was pretty ugly! I was jealous as hell! I love a good mud race and always did well in it!”

Congratulations to Daryl, Paul, and the whole MotoworldRacing.com crew.

In the days since the race, message board pundits have been quick to bash Clear Channel for having the race in anything less than a fully enclosed stadium. But apparently the region got far more than their normal allotment of precipitation, and when combined with the clay used to build the track, you ended up with riders adopting a two-legged paddle style, and slow-motion racing. We can only imagine what they all would have been saying if the race had actually been cancelled, which was apparently a very real possibility. Of course, things will be a lot closer to normal when the series travels to the enclosed stadium in Arnhem, Holland, next week.

Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed that there’s no rain during five of the first six weeks of the U.S. Supercross season, since Phoenix is the only West Coast venue with a roof. CCE has dodged the rain bullet on the West Coast for the last several years. Will the luck hold out for 2004? That remains to be seen.

Swap traveled to Spain for Round 1, and after enjoying his Spanish mud-bath spa treatment, he filed this report:

Rain, rain and more rain turned the track at the Estado Olimpico in Seville, Spain, into a deep quagmire that riders and mechanics alike dreaded. The stadium, which featured a hole in the ceiling much like the Dallas venue, allowed the steady rains in the area to turn round one of the THQ World Supercross Grand Prix series into a muddy mess.

Shooting photos proved to be as challenging as actually racing, as doing so required wading into the knee-deep mud and throwing caution to the wind. TFS was spotted unzipping the bottoms of his newly purchased warm up suit pants (more on that below…) and removing them to expose his new air shock-equipped Nikes before diving into the sludge. I knew going in that I would be kissing my Etnies goodbye at the end of the night, but I don’t know how happy the room service ladies are gonna be with the muddy bag of clothes I plan on leaving in the laundry chute. Heck, it sure would ve been easier if I had brought along Eric “I Put the ASS in Assistant” Sherman to help with my cameras…

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The rain, however, didn’t dampen the spirits of the fans on hand, and though the crowd was small, they were out in force with their air horns and chainsaws a-blaring. We must say that the Spanish fans were either much more patient or more easily entertained than American fans: we spotted no fights in the stands and no one seemed to mind when the announcers killed time by having people in the crowd do their best motorcycle imitations over the sound system. Swap, however, wanted to chuck his Canon at the guy with the microphone. Oh, and did we mention that they played “We Will Rock You” by Queen no less that 28 times throughout the evening?

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So much rain fell from the skies in Spain, that the prospect of actually canceling the race was a real concern for many of the riders. Proving the factory mechanics are always prepared for anything, we spotted this in the Red Bull/KTM pits, next to Grant Langston’s regular race “steed.”

Two Americans were unfortunate enough to land in Spain with no luggage: Motonews.com’s Steve “TFS” Bruhn and Racer X’s Davey Coombs. While DC begged, borrowed and stole (well, not literally stole…) clothes from friends, TFS was forced to venture into town to secure some new duds. “I’m wearing Spanish clothes that were made in Vietnam,” said Bruhn, disgusted with the lack of “manly” sizes offered in the local clothing establishments. “These Spanish guys are all midgets! I could only find one thing in my size!” Fortunately for the full-sized Internet Emperor, his bags showed up on the third day.

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Strolling through the pits, you could make a fortune by sending mud prep tips into Dirt Rider Trail Tips. Hell, at $20 a pop, maybe we could even earn enough to upgrade our coach tickets home… Check out these homemade handguards that Team ECC’s Tyler Evans fashioned out of duct tape and some cardboard! Like the rest of the Americans on hand, Evans had no idea that the stadium was open-roofed and did not bring emergency rain gear. “Hey, they may look stupid, but they worked,” said Evans, shortly after winning the second heat race.

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And speaking of Tyler Evans, it appears as if he will indeed contest the 2004 Supercross series as a member of Team ECC. “Actually, I will have support from ECC, but it will be my own deal and I will have my own sponsors,” said Evans. “I will have my own transporter — we just picked up Heath Voss’ old motorcoach and it’s sick.” Evans is waiting for a major title sponsor to sign on the dotted line before he announces his whole deal, but this far his effort is backed by Escondido Cycle Center, No Fear, Monster Energy Drink, Metal Mulisha and Spy.

Having seen the www.onepunch.com web site ad in the latest issue of RacerX, we asked Tyler what the deal was. “Well, I was going to have this clothes company that I was gonna call One Punch, but if this title sponsor for my team ends up coming through, I will have to shelve it,” he said. “I was supposed to have T-shirts for sale and an e-commerce web site up by November, but getting this sponsor is much more important.”

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Shortly after he crossed the finish line victorious in his heat race, Evans’ Suzuki RM250 locked up solid and his bike had to be towed off the track. “We thought it was the tranny, but it ended up having so much mud caked in the chain and sprocket, that the bike wouldn’t move,” he said. “After the heat race my mechanic put in a new clutch. We brought four new clutches for this European trip, because I am pretty hard on clutches.”

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Speaking of smoked-out clutches it seemed like everyone was cooking theirs in the sloppy conditions. Perhaps the biggest clutch fatality of all was suffered by Team Honda’s Ernesto Fonseca. The heavy favorite entering the event, Ernie did not even qualify for the main event because he burnt out his clutch in the heat race and in the last chance qualifier. The Fonz looked heartbroken as he watched from the stands, as he and his mechanic Kenny Germain traveled to Europe on their own to contest the series as an unofficial entry from American Honda.

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Back at home on the SoCal Honda test track, word on the streets is that Ernesto Fonseca has really been stepping up the pace, battling back-and-forth with Kevin Windham for fast lap time honors. A former two-time 125cc SX Champion, Ernesto is definitely a dark horse going into the 2004 series. (As long as there are no muddy races for him to smoke his clutch at…)

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Check out the trick duct tape job on Damon Huffman’s Team Moto XXX Honda CRF450R. “The idea was to keep water and mud from splashing up under the shrouds and onto the air filter,” said Alan Brown. “The duct tape on the rear fender is to direct water entering through the sidepanel vents away from the airbox, too.” Cha-ching…another $20.

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Before the race, Huff Daddy’s bike looked as juiced out as Michael Jackson’s jerry-curl, thanks to liberal doses of Motul Silicone spray. “Hey, it will help the mud keep from sticking,” said Alan. “This stuff rules!” In the pits, we saw a fly land on Huffman’s Honda. It slipped, and broke its leg…

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Speaking of our pal Damon Huffman he was stoked to show us his new O’Neal 904 helmet, the newest addition to O’Neal Racing’s line of MX lids. “Have you seen this thing yet?” asked Huff Daddy. “It looks like one of the helmets straight out of ATV Fury!”

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Last year, Beeker and the rest of the Thor guys had fabricated several different roost guards on the front of Chad Reed’s Thor SVR helmet. Because of its extra-open eye port, some riders like to enclose their goggles and face a little more. In Seville, Mike Brown took it to the next level in preparation for the wet conditions. Check the spare goggle lens taped on the front of his visor for added roost protection.

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While Mike Brown seemed most concerned with mud hitting him in the face, Tyler Evans was more concerned with it sticking to the top of his helmet and weighing his neck down. Evans taped a chunk of skid plate foam to the top of his head, which makes it impossible for mud to cling to…. Cha-ching!

One last Tyler Evans note… Back home, the bad boy of moto has been training his ass off with a Navy Seal. Though unorthodox, Evans claims the training sessions have paid off in a big way. “I am more serious this year than I have ever been,” he said. “I know that this is a big chance for me, with all of these sponsors, and I will never have this good a chance again. I will not blow it this season. Everytime I was out there thinking how bad the mud sucked, I would hear my trainers voice in my head, saying, ‘C’mon sir, you can do it!’ I knew that if I gave up he would kick my ass when I got home.”

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When the Yamaha of Troy contingent saw how muddy the track was going to be, they decided to send Mike Brown out to do battle on a Yamaha YZ450F four-stroke, instead of his YZ250 two-stroke. “Basically, I wanted to save my good race bike for next week in Holland,” said Brownie. “The four-stroke is along as a back up, and I think it will do better in the mud, anyway.”

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Turns out that choosing to race the four-stroke was a good and bad decision for Mike Brown. Here, his mechanic Frenchie installs a new clutch in the YZ450F after his heat race. Like most of the other riders, Brown smoked his cluking theirs in the sloppy conditions. Perhaps the biggest clutch fatality of all was suffered by Team Honda’s Ernesto Fonseca. The heavy favorite entering the event, Ernie did not even qualify for the main event because he burnt out his clutch in the heat race and in the last chance qualifier. The Fonz looked heartbroken as he watched from the stands, as he and his mechanic Kenny Germain traveled to Europe on their own to contest the series as an unofficial entry from American Honda.

[IMAGE 7]

Back at home on the SoCal Honda test track, word on the streets is that Ernesto Fonseca has really been stepping up the pace, battling back-and-forth with Kevin Windham for fast lap time honors. A former two-time 125cc SX Champion, Ernesto is definitely a dark horse going into the 2004 series. (As long as there are no muddy races for him to smoke his clutch at…)

[IMAGE 8]

Check out the trick duct tape job on Damon Huffman’s Team Moto XXX Honda CRF450R. “The idea was to keep water and mud from splashing up under the shrouds and onto the air filter,” said Alan Brown. “The duct tape on the rear fender is to direct water entering through the sidepanel vents away from the airbox, too.” Cha-ching…another $20.

[IMAGE 9]

Before the race, Huff Daddy’s bike looked as juiced out as Michael Jackson’s jerry-curl, thanks to liberal doses of Motul Silicone spray. “Hey, it will help the mud keep from sticking,” said Alan. “This stuff rules!” In the pits, we saw a fly land on Huffman’s Honda. It slipped, and broke its leg…

[IMAGE 10]

Speaking of our pal Damon Huffman he was stoked to show us his new O’Neal 904 helmet, the newest addition to O’Neal Racing’s line of MX lids. “Have you seen this thing yet?” asked Huff Daddy. “It looks like one of the helmets straight out of ATV Fury!”

[IMAGE 11]

Last year, Beeker and the rest of the Thor guys had fabricated several different roost guards on the front of Chad Reed’s Thor SVR helmet. Because of its extra-open eye port, some riders like to enclose their goggles and face a little more. In Seville, Mike Brown took it to the next level in preparation for the wet conditions. Check the spare goggle lens taped on the front of his visor for added roost protection.

[IMAGE 12]

While Mike Brown seemed most concerned with mud hitting him in the face, Tyler Evans was more concerned with it sticking to the top of his helmet and weighing his neck down. Evans taped a chunk of skid plate foam to the top of his head, which makes it impossible for mud to cling to…. Cha-ching!

One last Tyler Evans note… Back home, the bad boy of moto has been training his ass off with a Navy Seal. Though unorthodox, Evans claims the training sessions have paid off in a big way. “I am more serious this year than I have ever been,” he said. “I know that this is a big chance for me, with all of these sponsors, and I will never have this good a chance again. I will not blow it this season. Everytime I was out there thinking how bad the mud sucked, I would hear my trainers voice in my head, saying, ‘C’mon sir, you can do it!’ I knew that if I gave up he would kick my ass when I got home.”

[IMAGE 13]

When the Yamaha of Troy contingent saw how muddy the track was going to be, they decided to send Mike Brown out to do battle on a Yamaha YZ450F four-stroke, instead of his YZ250 two-stroke. “Basically, I wanted to save my good race bike for next week in Holland,” said Brownie. “The four-stroke is along as a back up, and I think it will do better in the mud, anyway.”

[IMAGE 14]

Turns out that choosing to race the four-stroke was a good and bad decision for Mike Brown. Here, his mechanic Frenchie installs a new clutch in the YZ450F after his heat race. Like most of the other riders, Brown smoked his clutch in the slippery conditions. In the main, it would be a second burnt-out clutch that would end his charge while he was leading. “It got so bad that it wouldn’t even go forward anymore,” said a heartbroken Brown. “I tried as best I could to conserve it, but I guess that wasn’t good enough.”

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Like the rest of the American contingent, Mike Brown is glad to be headed for an enclosed stadium next weekend in Arnhem. “I can’t believe they would hold a Supercross race in an open stadium,” he said. “I raced in Europe several seasons, and everyone knows that it always rains in Europe.”

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Team MotoworldRacing.com’s Andrew Short had hoped to do a little better in his two pre-American season 250cc showings, but seventh aboard his Suzuki is nothing to sneeze at. In Seville, Shorty rode a Bill’s Pipes-tuned RM250, which was waterproofed with plenty of duct tape in the seat and side panel area. Cha-ching!

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On the track, Andrew Short looked steady and fast, and we must comment on how well he rides a 250. Once can’t help but wonder what he would do in the 250cc class full-time. Even though he enters this season as a favorite in the 125cc West Coast SX Championship, he could prove to be an even greater threat in the premier class.

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Who is this kid? Cheyne Boyd was pitted in the Red Bull/KTM pits alongside Grant Langston, and the Australian was amazing in the first heat race of the evening. Jumping many of the muddy obstacles as if they were dry, the kid proceeded to lap the entire field, including runner-up Langston! “I don’t know what happened out there,” he said. “I just really like riding in the mud!”

Cheyne Boyd, it turns out, is a good friend of Chad Reed, and has been staying with Skippy these past few weeks to test and train in America. “The kid is unreal,” said Red Bull/KTM team manager Larry Brooks. “The other day, we let him test a bike on the Supercross track with some good suspension and he blew us all away with his speed.” Boyd will contest the first Anaheim round in the 250cc class before returning to Australia to fulfill his home country contract obligations. “Expect to see more of him here next year,” said Brooks.

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And speaking of our boy Larry Brooks, the Red Bull/KTM Team Manager busted his ass all night long to make sure his riders were dialed. We spotted LB digging up dry soil out of the side of a muddy berm, in order to pack down the launch areas of Langston and Boyd in the main. As evidenced by this photo, Larry isn’t afraid to get dirty.

As muddy as the Seville event was, it was not as muddy as it could have been. As I type this, it is 4:00 a.m. and the rain is absolutely pouring. Harder than it was before. Whew!

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More trail tips, you say? Well, ask and ye shall receive! Check out the strategically placed duct tape on the throttle of Grant Langston’s KTM 250SX. “You don’t want water and sludge getting in there,” said GL’s new mechanic Oscar. “In a race as wet as this, watery mud could get in there and cause the throttle to stick.”

Grant Langston reports that the new KTM 250SX race bike is much, much better than the machine he tried to contest in last year’s Supercross Championship. “Casey Lytle has been helping with the testing of our race bikes, and he has done a tremendous job,” said Cool G. “Last year, the bike got a bad rap. Some of it was well deserved, but some of it was over the top. But in all honesty, this year’s race bike is excellent. I hope to be a contender this season.”

“The biggest difference for me entering the 2004 season,” continued Langston, “Is that I am healthy this season and not coming off some injury. At this time last year, I had been in the hospital four times and had all these nagging little injuries. Entering a series fit