Monday Kickstart: A Day in the Dirt, 2006

Despite the cold and sometimes windy weather, most of the Southern California motocross community spent Thanksgiving weekend at Competitive Edge Motocross Park for the Ninth Annual A Day in the Dirt Motocross Grand Prix presented by Troy Lee Designs. The annual race draws hundreds of riders and thousands of fans, partly because of the friendly, party-like atmosphere, but also because of the big names that show up to compete. It is not uncommon to see the names of past AMA champions, young up-and-coming pros, motocross industry reps, and Hollywood big-wigs signed up for races that include the Pro/AM GP, Moto-a-GoGo team race, and the Coup-de-Grace survival race.

Kenny Alexander and Jimmy Roberts co-founded this unique Grand Prix back in 1998 as a way to rekindle some memories of some of the first Southern California GP races that helped put motocross on the map in the U.S. Here’s a quick excerpt from that best describes how Kenny and Jimmy started the tradition:

“Kenny and Jimmy are stuntmen. In early 1998 they were reminiscing about the old days and came up with an idea to hold a Film Industry-hosted Grand Prix. They went around town and found support from Stunts Unlimited and United Stuntwomen’s Association, who came on board as presenters. The first “A Day in the Dirt was scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 27th 1998. Flyers were sent out with the hopes that at least a couple hundred would show up, but they were shocked when over a thousand came through the gates that day, including some of the biggest legends in motocross.”

“From day one, ‘A Day in the Dirt’ has not been your average Grand Prix. The unique slate of events is like no other. For dirt bike lovers young and old it is more that just a race; it’s a reunion, a party, a get-together, a chance to rekindle old friendships or make new ones, a time to ride and reminisce with legends and heroes. In the media it has been called the Great Escape and the MX Woodstock. We like to think of it as just a great weekend spent with a bunch of buddies, a bunch of bikes, and some really good dirt. That’s something that hasn’t changed in 40 years.”

Here at TWMX, we wouldn’t want to miss out on the fun and festivities, so a few TransWorld staffers—including Swap and Lutes—signed up to compete, and the rest of us were there to bring back photos and highlights from the weekend.

The race format is GP-style, which meant that rather than the usual MX motos that most of us are used to seeing, the races were timed at 30 minutes (Vintage, Women’s, Mini, Novice GP), 45 minutes (Pro/AM, Film Industry GP, Vet Classic, Senior Vet, Open GP), or 75 minutes (Stunt and Moto-A-GoGo).

The scoring system was also a bit different than we’re used to seeing, although apparently it is often used in GP racing. With several classes running together in each race, this meant lots of riders were on the track at the same time, making the traditional hand scoring method challenging. At past A Day in the Dirt (ADID) races, there has been some confusion surrounding race results, so to try and smooth things out and get results out faster, the ADID crew implemented an electronic bar-code scoring system. Riders put a barcode sticker on the side of their helmet that was scanned each time they came across the finish line during a race.

The race schedule started on Saturday morning with the Vintage and Women’s GP. In the Vintage classes, riders lined up on everything from Bultacos, to Maicos, to late-’80s two-strokes. Heck, we even saw what could only be described as a scooter out on the track. In the first leg of the Ironman competition, MX legend Rick Johnson took the top spot in the Vintage Revolution (1984-1990 bikes) Expert/Pro class, but the Vintage rider that stood out the crowd and immediately caught the attention of our Canon lenses was Mic Rodgers, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth a la Steve McQueen.

Speaking of the Ironman, it is worth mentioning this feat that is only completed by a handful of riders each year. To become an Ironman, a rider must compete in and finish the Vintage GP, Stunt Team GP, Film Industry GP, Moto-A-GoGo Team GP, as well as the Coup de Grace. At a minimum of 30 minutes per GP, that is a lot of racing for one weekend, and the guys that complete the challenge have definitely earned the “Ironman” title.

As we said, the rider lineups at A Day in the Dirt are impressive. Here are a few of the big names that made their way to the starting gate, and across the finish line:

Among the many industry folks that participate each year, Troy Lee definitely stands out in the crowd. Troy has been a big part of ADID since 1999, when Troy Lee Designs became the presenting sponsor.

The Johnson family was well represented this year. RJ was one of the riders to complete the Ironman challenge, and his sons Jake and Luke Johnson competed in several classes as well. Jake and his father teamed up in the two team races, while Luke Johnson competed in the same races with Brandon Ward, the son of racing legend Jeff Ward.

Speaking of Jeff Ward, he and Jeff Emig have become regulars at the annual ADID races, and in true tradition, both former AMA champions showed up this weekend with the speed they are famous for. Wardy in particular was blazing fast around the GP-style course, and in the popular Pro/Am race took second place in the 250cc pro class behind young up-and-comer Michael Lapaglia.

Lapaglia, who celebrated his 18th birthday over the weekend, was definitely one of the fastest pros on-hand, winning the 250cc classes in the Pro/AM and Open GP races.

Another young pro that displayed some serious speed was Honda of Houston’s Trent Pugmire. Trent—who was riding a CR250R—led the first half of the weekend’s grand finale race, the Coup-de-Grace, and looked to be on pace to win the grueling one-man endurance race when he ran out of gas. Trent had just gotten the sign from his dad to pit on the next lap when his two-stroke sputtered to a stop. Fortunately for Pugmire, he wasn’t far from the pit and was able to push the bike back, refuel, and get back on the track, ultimately finishing in third place.

Freestyle motocross was once again well represented at ADID, as the Mulisha’s Brian Deegan and Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg joined Ronnie Renner—an ADID regular. In fact, Deegan and Twitch won the “Film Industry” class of the Stunt GP team race.

The Gosselaar name is a very familiar one in motocross. The team of brothers Drew and Caleb Gosselaar finished in first place in the Moto/Pro class of the Moto-A-GoGo GP, just ahead of the formidable duo of Eric Kehoe and Lars Lindstrom.

The mini classes at ADID are filled with local racers, as well as the sons and daughters of racing legends and Hollywood pros. Names like Ward, Johnson, and Keefe are seen on the rider lists of the 50cc, 65cc, and 85cc classes. However, one of the standouts in the mini classes this weekend was top amateur Chris Plouffe. Chris was absolutely screaming around the modified Comp Edge track, earning top spot in the 85cc expert class on Saturday and Sunday.

As is tradition, the final event of A Day in the Dirt was the Coup de Grace, which is defined on the race entry form as “a death blow administered to end the suffering of one mortally wounded.” The Coup de Grace is a one-man survival race in which the exact running time is kept a secret. Typically running in the two to two-and-a-half hour range, it is definitely a test of endurance, and as the brochure says, “victory is crossing the finish line.” This year the Coup de Grace ran shorter than usual, at just 1:41, but still claimed its share of victims. Once the dust settled at the end of the race, WORCS-series championship runner-up Bobby Garrison was in first place. For his efforts, Garrison took home what has to be one of the strangest trophies we’ve even seen; a Troy Lee custom-painted dart board.

re says, “victory is crossing the finish line.” This year the Coup de Grace ran shorter than usual, at just 1:41, but still claimed its share of victims. Once the dust settled at the end of the race, WORCS-series championship runner-up Bobby Garrison was in first place. For his efforts, Garrison took home what has to be one of the strangest trophies we’ve even seen; a Troy Lee custom-painted dart board.