Normally at this time of year, we’re as hyped (or should that be Amp’d?) as anyone about the start of the new Supercross season. After the holidays hit in the rear-view mirror, it can’t be long before the race that everyone’s been waiting and prepping for…Anaheim 1.

Unfortunately, around the TWMX offices, the mood is somewhat less festive than normal. After a crash on Christmas Eve, our good friend Darin Motoda passed away last Thursday due to the injuries he incurred.

While Darin wasn’t a part of the TWMX staff, he was as likely to be there as any full-time staffer when we’d go riding, and much to his (and other’s) amusement, people often mistook him for Swap. He was also a fixture at the Nationals and on the Supercross scene, handling the pro rider duties for Bell Helmets. During the week, he was an independent rep with Bell Helmets, White Brothers, Alloy, and O’gio.

Of course, we all know that there are risks every time we climb on a bike…and we accept them. But Darin was one of the safer riders we knew. From all descriptions, the jump where he crashed wasn’t particularly large, and as far as we know, no one has come forward with a good description of what happened, which makes it all the more confusing…and troubling.

We’ll miss you Darin.

On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, things were not exactly quiet at the Kawasaki track. Former Arenacross champ, Team Green’s Darcy Lange, was getting ready for the upcoming season. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Grant Langston and Ryan Villopoto were also there doing sprints, as well as working on their starts. Each rider was equipped with two KX250Fs apiece…their regular practice bikes, and their race bikes, which were there for break-in.

For Ryan, it had been a mere three weeks since he’d fallen and cracked his left collarbone. After finishing up his timed laps, it was apparent that it hadn’t been long, because after he removed his jersey, he was showing off a fresh (and pretty rough-looking) pink scar where the incision had been made to plate the errant bone.

At this point, no one seems to know (or at least they’re not saying) whether he’ll be in for next weekend. But the good news is, since he got back on the track last Wednesday, he’s trimmed four seconds per lap according to Randy Lawrence’s stopwatch. Maybe best of all, he’s riding like he’d never crashed…smoothly, confidently, and charging all the way around the track. Langston also looks solid, showing no ill affects from off-season surgery to clean up a bone chip from his ankle.

The weird part about this year’s Lites series is how closely people seem to have held the info about which coast they’re racing. Tony Alessi’s most recent newsletter explained that his two sons would be racing opposite coasts, but didn’t specify who was racing where.

The general consensus among riders, though, is that there probably won’t be much difference in speed between the two coasts, but there will probably be a bit more depth in the west.

In the meantime, Mike LaRocco was the lone rider at the Honda track. He was riding a bit 450, and using a unique variation of the track (mostly backwards). Manning the stopwatch and pit board was his dad, Big Mike.

Yamaha’s track was similarly busy, with Chad Reed and Brett Metcalfe, and the Suzuki track featured Ivan Tedesco. Then, around 2:00 PM, is when it started raining, which kept things quiet at the tracks on Sunday. Today, Monday, it’s raining even harder. Call that part the imperfect storm.

It’s interesting that with the need for track time (and to try and prevent boredom), several new tracks have sprung up over the last couple years. The MotoSport Outlet squad has their track, the WBR guys spend much of their time at Michael LaPaglia’s SSX track, there’s a private track at Glen Helen, one at Elsinore, and the SX facility at Competitive Edge MX. Watching riders jockeying to figure out which tracks are available to ride is always interesting. The Rockstar track (which was featured in last week’s Thursday Theater), features a softer surface than many of the other tracks we’ve seen, and requires daily maintenance. Sean Hamblin told us about a day last week where he and several of the Rockstar Suzuki riders spent the day riding, Sean then jumped in a Bobcat to do the daily maintenance on the track. As he was finishing up for the day…that’s when Mike Brown pulled in the gate, ready for his time on the track.

For the most part, the factory tracks feature a much harder surface. The factory tracks also often develop a groove that resembles the track used for a ride at an amusement park. The pros are precise enough in their lines that they can hit the same spot over and over…through the turns, on the faces of most of the jumps, and through the whoops…though as they wear down, the line gets adjusted.

So with weather being the only thing to slow down the riders this week, it’s only four days until the “Sorta-Perfect Storm” or “Just-Slightly-Flawed Storm.” (Having last year’s Anaheim 1 winner, Kevin Windham on the line would have made it perfect.) While much of the attention will be focused on Ricky, James and Chad, we’re equally interested to see who’ll take charge of the next group of riders. This year starts with a bumper crop of talent, including Ivan Tedesco, Michael Byrne, Mike LaRocco, Heath Voss, Jeremy McGrath, Nick Wey, Ernesto Fonseca, David Vuillemin, Tim Ferry, and Travis Preston, and whoever else wants to step up. We got to see a preview of what Byrne, Tedesco and Wey are riding like in Toronto and Vancouver, but it’ll be interesting to see how the pack shakes out.

You may have also caught the video of Mike Brown in last week’s Thursday Theater. With Brownie in the mix on an RM250, there will be at least three 250 two-strokes (MC, Vuillemin and Brown) for fans of the pre-mix set.

We’re not making any weather predictions, suggestions, or forecasts for next weekend, though we’d guess there won’t be a whole lot of riding being done on any of the factory tracks this week. Any riding that does happen will be in the hills, to stay loose, have a little fun, and burn off some excess adrenalin. Their preparations are pretty much done, and now it’s just about time to go racing.

Look for comprehensive post-race reports the following morning for each round of the 2006 Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross season on, and as much info as we can pack into each Monday on for Kickstart throughout 2006. It’s going to be a great (and we hope safe) season.