By Brendan Lutes
You probably already know by now, but for the seventh consecutive year, Team USA has won the Chamberlain Cup at the Monster Energy Motocross of Nations. This year’s Saint Jean d’Angely event was one to remember, but the action that went down on the track wasn’t everything that happened in France. Before we get into this rather large Monday Kickstart, though, we have some unfortunate news regarding Suzuki.
While American motocross fans everywhere were celebrating Team USA’s seventh-consecutive win at the Motocross of Nations, it wasn’t necessarily a great weekend for all Americans in motocross. Late last week, US Suzuki reportedly laid off 39 employees, among them several key players in the MX racing team. Included in the cuts were racing boss Aki Goto, MX Team Manager Mike Webb, and lead engine tech Ray Tetherton. This news lends credibility to the rumors that all of Suzuki’s racing efforts will be outsourced. Though Joe Gibbs Racing has been heavily tied to this new venture, word we hear is that Yoshimura will handle 100% of Suzuki’s racing efforts, and that many of the race team staff may end up there. That, of course, excludes renowned mechanic Mike Gosselaar, who is reported to be joining TwoTwo Motorsports as crew chief.
This is what the weather looked like early Sunday morning. Rain was forecasted to hit later in the afternoon, and it sure did. Rain on Saturday night also left the track wet, slippery, and muddy.
Here's a look at what the track surface looked like before the main riders hit the track for their warm-up sessions. It was soupy to say the least.
When the skies cleared in the morning, we spotted this rainbow breaking through. Unfortunately the glimmer of hope for no rain that the beautifully colorful arch brought was quickly washed away when showers began to fall just before the first MX1/MX2 moto.
According to FIM rules, washing bikes in the pits is prohibited, leaving everyone to use the wash bay. Usually it's just a row of pressure washers, but the Saint Jean d'Angely facility has these very nice concrete partitions for the riders and mechanics to use.
The weekend at Motocross of Nations always begins with the drawing for qualifying start position by FIM President Wolfgang Srb. With the sponsorship of Monster this year, the drawing was made a little more interesting with two blind folded Monster girls drawing the country and numbers.
Many of the teams were spread all throughout the pits in various pit areas. South Africa's Tyla Rattray was under the same tent as the other two Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki riders, Dean Wilson and Blake Baggett. Unlike Wilson and Baggett, though, Rattray was aboard a 2012 Kawasaki KX450F, riding in the MX1 class.
Here's a shot of Rattray's very trick Pro Circuit KX450F machine.
Pro Circuit is introducing a new muffler for 2012 and we spotted it on all three of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki's. In the US, however, it will be drastically shorter than the one in this photo. Due to the strict FIM sound regulations, many of the riders had mufflers that resembled a cannon more than an exhaust system.
In AMA racing, carbon fiber subframes are illegal, however, under FIM rules they are not. Because of this, both Wilson and Baggett's bikes had these very cool handmade carbon fiber subframes on them. Where they gained weight in the longer muffler, they definitely made up for it in the carbon subframes.
Due to the muddy conditions on Sunday, many teams were electing to prepare the bikes for the sloppy track. These screens help to keep mud from accumulating on the radiators. Villopoto's bike was also seen with foam under the fenders and skidplate.
Both Baggett and Wilson had these cool custom clutch covers on their PC machines.
Ryan Villopoto was elected to be the MX3 rider for the team, and after both Ryan Dungey and Blake Baggett won their respective qualifiers on Saturday, solidifying the team's top qualifying position, Villopoto's MX3 qualifier was pretty much just for him to get more track time than anything.
The Saint Jean d'Angely track was littered with rocks worse than almost any track on the National circuit, forcing many riders to run handguards and chest protectors. These Acerbis ones could be found on Villopoto's bike.
The track is built right into the side of a hill, making walking around it a difficult proposition. Thankfully for spectators, there were steps, but for us photographers, we were forced to hoof it up and down unaided by nice white steps like the ones pictured here.
Every year the Motocross of Nations attracts thousands of fans from all over the world and this year was no different. How many were there exactly? This photo was taken during Saturday practice should give you a slight indication as to huge amount of people in attendance.
With Christophe Pourcel (pictured), Gautier Paulin, and Marvin Musquin, France had one of the strongest teams in years. Throughout the weekend the trio of riders we always among the fastest in practice, and heading into Sunday's main event, they qualified third behind Team USA and Italy.
While walking through the pits this weekend, we spotted this cool new neck brace. We haven't seen it in the States yet, but when we do, rest assured we'll deliver a full review.
The fans are always some of the most vocal and patriotic at the MXoN.
Not sure what is in his bottle, but it's probably a good time followed by a big headache.
After having won the MX2 World Championship only a few weeks prior to this event, Germany's Ken Roczen was a fan favorite in spite of the race being held outside of his home country. Bad luck struck the teenager on Saturday, however, he came out swinging in both MX2 motos on Sunday finishing second behind Chad Reed in the first MX2/MX1 combined race then he followed it up with another strong performance in the MX2/MX3 moto where he finished fourth against the bigger 450cc machines.
It's also worth mentioning that Roczen was sporting perhaps the coolest helmet in the pits, this gold metallic Red Bull helmet.
Some of the jumps found on the Saint Jean d'Angely track were huge. This ski jump was one of the biggest, as riders easily flew over 100 feet down the hill to the landing below.
One cool thing about the Motocross of Nations every year is the very cool one-off gear made for the riders. Here's a look at Chad Reed's Australia Shift gear.
Reed wasn't the only Shift rider to have custom gear for the event. Here's a look at the Shift gear made for Marcus Schiffer of Germany.
South Africa's Gareth Swanepoel also had some cool custom Scott gear for the event. Swanepoel was riding aboard a YZ450F in the MX3 class.
Monster girls were everywhere.
The next few photos are some close up shots of a few of the rider's custom painted helmets for this race.
ter dominating the MX2 qualifying race on Saturday, Baggett admittedly struggled on Sunday, going 17-17 in both his combined MX2 motos. Fortunately, it was still good enough for fourth overall on the day. While we're on the subject of custom gear, you can see Baggett's cool Scott Team USA goggles.
The media attention surrounding the US riders was intense at times, to say the least. It's the case every year, but everywhere the three riders went, media were close behind. Here, Dungey makes his way back to his bike following a post-race interview.
One of the aspects that makes the MXoN so cool is the fact that the three riders work together as a team. Following his MX1 Qualifier win on Saturday, Dungey quickly made his way back to the start line where Baggett was prepping a gate for his qualifier. Dungey then proceeded to give some advice on line selection, how the dirt and track were breaking in, and what to expect in his first-ever MXoN qualifier.
Jimmy Albertson also joined Weeck on Team Puerto Rico, and just like Tommy, Albertson had some bad luck in his qualifying race; he came together with another rider off the start. The crash was witnessed first-hand by some photographers in the first turn, as the two riders plowed through the green fence that lines the track and into the photographers. The incident prompted Youthstream to no longer allow photographers to be on the outside of the first turn once the racing got underway.
We were trying to get creative with a tilt-shift lens for this photo, but you can see Albertson coming together with the other rider and shooting away from the pack and into the fence.
We're not sure exactly how this happened to the wheel, but it couldn't have been pretty, or fun.
Being that the total travel time to get to this race was roughly 24 hours, we didn't see too many American fans in the crowd. If you look closely in the crowd, however, you'll notice one single American flag. Glad you guys made the trip whoever you are!
France's Marvin Musquin was the powerful team's MX2 rider. After the team qualified third on Sunday, many were speculating that they would give Team USA a run for the overall win. As it would turn out, the French trio of Musquin, Poucel, and Paulin came very close to winning the country's second-ever MXoN with Paulin taking a moto victory and Musquin finishing second overall in the highly competitive MX2 class. In the end, France finished second overall in the team standings.
There are always some different things at European races, and since Mules and teams carts aren't allowed at FIM races, each team must use a cart to carry spare parts, wheels, and tools down to the mechanic's area. This one was obviously for Villopoto.
Dungey's entire family was on hand to witness his third consecutive MXoN victory. Here, he chats with his dad Troy before heading out for the Sunday morning warm-up session.
Sunday morning was a cold one. Wilson mentioned that he fell asleep in his car after getting to the track early and nearly froze. Before gearing up for his warm-up session, he warmed up on the bike's exhaust while his mechanic let it idle on the stand.
For most American's in attendance at the race, it was difficult to become acquainted with the French cuisine, and equally difficult in the small country town of Saint Jean d'Angely to find food worth eating. We spotted this written on the toolbox of Wilson's mechanic, Paul Perebijnos.
Pirelli introduced a new mid-hard terrain tire recently and we got to take a look at it for the first time at the race. The 554 tire, as it's designated, was developed in conjunction with the Muscle Milk/Toyota/JGR team and features a new tread layout and new tire compound for both the front and rear tire.
The tire trucks at European races are much more involved than the ones at American Nationals and Supercross races. Here, a Pirelli tire tech changes one of many tires with the help of a tire-changing machine.
This blow up Kangaroo was also at the Motocross of Nations last year in Colorado, and we again spotted it in the Team Australia pits this year.
With both Team Australia members Brett Metcalfe and Chad Reed racing full time in the US, most of the mechanics and technicians on the team were American's.
For the past few years, Team Australia has always had a very strong team at the Motocross of Nations. This year, though, things finally came together for the team with Chad Reed winning a moto and Brett Metcalfe turning in some excellent rides in both his motos. In the final MX2 moto of the day, however, MX2 rider Matt Moss suffered bike problems and was unable to start the race. Needless to say, the team used his score as the throwaway to land themselves on the podium for the first time ever.
If there is one thing that the MXoN does, it always brings rivals together and everything that they battled over during the regular AMA series is left at home. Following their dominating 1-2 performance in the final race of the day, Villopoto and Dungey hugged it out after crossing the finish line. On the last lap, Villopoto had a huge lead, but slowed down dramatically to let Dungey catch up so the two could cross the line together and take the overall win for Team USA.
Reed's first every MXoN experience came 11 years ago at the Saint Jean d'Angely facility, making it fitting that he won the first moto of the day in the first MXoN at the track since 2000.
For the seventh year in a row, Team USA has come out on top. For the past three years, though, it hasn't been easy, and just like it did at Saint Jean d'Angely, the overall team win has been decided in the final moto of the day. Heading into the last race, Team USA had to go 1-2 in order to take the win away from Team France.
The podium celebration is always a lot of fun for the riders. Here's Reed blasts Villopoto in the face with the champagne.
More Monster girls.
Like we mentioned earlier, the Motocross of Nations is a team event and the riders help each other out when every possible, and with three MXoN races under his belt, Dungey had a lot of advice to offer Baggett. It's also worth noting that in the MX2/MX3 moto, Villopoto gave up the inside gate pick so Baggett could get a better start against the more powerful 450cc MX3 machines. As it turned out, RV still got a decent start, but was forced to battle through the pack to the front; he eventually finished third.
Team USA's MX3 rider, RV, had a very good weekend in Saint Jean d'Angely. After dominating his MX3 qualifying race on Saturday, Villopoto finished third in the first MX3/MX2 moto and ran away with the second MX3/MX1 moto. His performances helped to clinched the title for the team.
Before the racing got underway on Sunday, an acrobatic plane performed for the thousands of fans in attendance.
Recently crowned MX1 World Champion Antonio Cairoli had a weekend that he would probably rather forget, or at the very least not talk about. It all began at the start of the first MX1/MX2 moto where this crash—which actually broke his scaphiod and ulna bone in his wrist—forced him to start at the back of the pack. The Italian rider then crashed later, breaking the triple clamps on his KTM 350SX-F.
Following his second crash, Cairoli's bike sat in the middle of the racetrack with the broken clamps until the track crew was able to move it.
Once off the track, KTM was quick to cover up the broken clamps with a jacket.