PHOTOS | Rohr & Octopi Media
That was a night we’re probably going to be talking about for a long time. Neither the results or the points were severely affected by the chaos that was Seattle, but there were more than a few moments in the mud that’ll be remembered well. With that said, we’re nearing the end of this championship and things are starting to look pretty good for Aaron Plessinger and Jason Anderson as the lead the points in their respective classes. Luckily for us, there’s still lots of life left in this series and Seattle added a little fuel to that fire. Here’s everything that went down from in the Emerald City.
We saw it coming as soon as a forecast was available and everyone headed to Seattle knew what they were in for the week leading up to the race. That said, we were surprised at the general lack of preparedness for the night. We’ll be diving into this plenty more in the photos below. What nobody predicted was that the dirt from last year had been completely replaced. In dry conditions, this would have been great, but with all of the moisture from the storm that bombarded the Pacific Northwest, the clay track became incredibly slick. Storms of that strength are unusual for the region during this season and perhaps there was some bad luck to blame for it, after all, this was the thirteenth round. Whatever the case was, it was the perfect recipe for disastrous conditions.
Things couldn’t have been much worse in terms of mechanical failures. From heavy mud to deep ruts to dirty water, the bikes were pushed to their absolute limits. We saw lots of smoke, blown bikes, and destroyed parts. Many teams opted to swap motors out between races along with many other parts on their machines. Mechanics were also fighting an uphill battle as the wash area became a mud pit itself. This made it hard to get things completely clean and we saw some riders head to main event still caked in mud.
Before track walk, many of the riders were expecting to still be able to hit the triples and double through the rhythm sections. That quickly changed after track walk, however. One practice got underway, it became apparent that getting off the ground at all was going to be a challenge. Throughout the night we saw many attempt doubles, but it was never a consistent option and wasn’t necessarily the fastest way around the track either. After talking to Eli Tomac after the race, he noted that it was a challenge to get the bike straight enough to safely jump.
Seattle is a town known for its enthusiastic crowds and this was on full display Saturday night. They were loud and excited for Plessinger’s belly flop and Reed pushing his bike across the finish, but nothing drew more attention than the hometown riders who made the main event. There was an eruption of celebration as Josh Hill crossed the finish line in his heat race and qualified for the main event in his first race since retirement. In the 250 SX LCQ, a similar celebration was had when local racer Kele Russell made the pass for the final transfer spot and qualified for his first main event of the year. Similarly, in the 450 SX LCQ, Collin Jurin snagged the final transfer spot and made the main event. As expected, the crowd once again erupted in cheers.
Nobody was surprised to see Aaron Plessinger rise to the top with such gnarly conditions. That said, he may have been the only rider who was genuinely excited about the mud. He managed to get good starts, stay clean, avoid disaster, and race at a higher pace than the rest of the field, all while smiling ear to ear about it. It’s also worth noting that his equipment was never in jeopardy at any point. If you’re looking to improve your skills in the slick stuff, you might want to keep this race on your DVR and study it for a bit.
SHORT MAIN EVENTS
The last-minute decision to shorten the main events to eight minutes plus a lap for the 250s and 12 minutes plus a lap for the 450s wasn’t received well by all, but it had to be done. We spoke with mechanics and teams after the race who were more than relieved, as there was simply no way the bikes could have lasted in those conditions. We’ll touch on this more, but the mud was so bad that nearly every component was being destroyed by mud, from forks and shock valves clogging with dirt particles to bearings seizing up. Had the races gone any longer, we’re not sure how many riders would have been able to complete their main events.