The Matthes Report: 36
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Pulpmx's Steve Matthes checks in from the US every single Thursday, presented by Fox.
And it’s a wrap, the 2012 American Motocross season is over and now, finally, some rest for the teams, riders and yes, even the media guys.
Although for myself, it’s a couple weeks off and then the Motocross des Nations, then a couple weeks off and it’s Monster Energy Cup, couple more off and it’s Bercy SX in Paris and then if I’m lucky, it’s Geneva, Switzerland and a couple more weeks and Anaheim 1 2013 will be here.
It’s a grind, but I’m fortunate to do these things for a living. I could be digging ditches or perhaps a welders assistant which is what I did before I decided to become a mechanic.
It was so bad, I had to get out and try my luck wrenching. Anyways, there really isn’t that much rest as before we know, we’ll be getting ready for A1.
But just to recap, here are some thoughts on the just-completed motocross season:
A brand new track and facility hosted the final round in Lake Elsinore, California and really, the reviews were mixed.
The facility itself was pretty good, the entrances, the pits, the vendor rows, spectator viewing was all pretty good but the track left something to be desired in the minds of many riders.
But here’s the thing, it’s Southern California and no matter where the series went in SoCal, the tracks are the same. They’re hard packed and blue-groove by the end of the day no matter what.
The guys at Elsinore tried their hardest but it is what it is. If you were an east coast rider, you didn’t like it and struggled a bit. If you were a California guy, you liked it and understood what it was like.
The teams and sponsors want a Southern Californian race to end the series and that’s exactly what they got. Myself, I’d go with the opener as it’s a little cooler but hey, no one’s listening to me.
In my mind, the final round’s national gets a B in that it’s not the best conditions, track, etc, of the series but it’s not the worst either.
I would’ve liked to have seen the lap times brought down a bit as the track was getting up near the three-minute mark and was divided by a hill in the middle.
So as a fan, you saw the bikes on your side for a minute or so and then nothing until they came around again. Having a shorter track to keep the fans more interested would be better in my opinion.
Obviously Ryan Dungey dominated again going 1-1 and we’ve written in this space time and time again about what an awesome job the team and rider have done. Dungey brought it this year, no doubt about it.
I was talking to some of the Kawasaki guys and they mentioned that in talking to the KTM guys, they’re more excited to see the injured Ryan Villopoto out on the track than anyone.
Why would they say that? Because the orange crew feels like they reached a bit of a plateau with their bike. Dungey was going as fast as he needed to go to win and to truly see how the bike works, Ryan needs to be pushed by another great rider like Villopoto.
So the KTM guys were remarking that they had a handle on the machine at a, let’s say, an ‘eight’ level of speed and now with Dungey getting pushed, they want to see how it is on a ’10′ scale of speed once the class fills back up with the injured riders.
Blake Baggett put the stamp on his first ever title with some great racing in going 1-2 at LE national. Eli Tomac had been a great run but on his home turf (Baggett’s born and raised not far from the track) Blake made all the talk of backing into the title moot.
He was far and away the best rider this past Saturday and even after crashing, he kept charging hard in laying down a time that was three seconds faster than the next guy. And this was on the last lap! Amazing.
All in all the stats for the top four guys in the 250’s look like this:
1. Blake Baggett 519 points, 5 Overall Wins, 10 Moto Wins, 60 Laps Led, 1 Holeshot
2. Justin Barcia 499 Points, 2 Overall Wins, 5 Moto Wins, 138 Laps Led, 5 Holeshots
3. Eli Tomac 487 Points, 4 Overall Wins, 8 Moto Wins, 79 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots
4. Ken Roczen 456 Points, 0 Overall Wins, 1 Moto Win, 79 Laps Led, 1 Holeshot
So with one measly holeshot, the least amount of laps led out of the big four but the most overall and moto wins, it’s pretty obvious that Blake Baggett was the best rider in the series start to finish.
Basically it means he was able to move through the pack (passing the other three guys) and grab more wins and overalls. And he didn’t get holeshots and run off with things.
All that adds up, in my opinion, as stats that back up his worthiness (not to mention he led the points from the first race to the last).
And on the flip side, although he ended up second in the points Barica had almost double the laps led of the next two guys, more holeshots than anyone else and only won five motos.
The stats say he should have more than what he does have but having said that both him and Tomac has about 165 percent better outdoors than any other time in their career so that’s nothing to be ashamed about.
I do know that with an eye to the 2013 250 class you’re going to have Baggett, Roczen, Marvin Musquin, Wil Hahn and the sleeper in Zach Osborne coming back from Europe to race for the GEICO Honda team.
I’m looking forward to that class and looking forward to seeing how Barcia and Dean Wilson (remember him?) racing the 450 Class fulltime.
In the end, despite both riders feigning indifference, Jake Weimer ended up third in the 450 Class over Andrew Short. And Weimer did with some come from behind rides at Lake Elsinore passing Short both times and holding onto third by one point the difference in bonus money was probably 50K to, well, 0K.
Had to feel bad for the #29 Short though as he spent three days in the hospital prior to LE with an infection. In fact, Andrew has been dealing with health issues about half the outdoors all told.
He invited his buddy Ken Roczen out to train and hang with him and it turned out that the hyper-active 18-year old German rides and trains a lot. The veteran Short did everything that Roczen did and in the end, it may have been too much.
The 10-year difference between the two made a difference in the recovery times needed and soon Short wasn’t feeling very well. Never one to make excuses though, he soldiered on the best he could and made the podium a few times as well for the McGrath/Brooks Honda team.
It’s this type of stuff that doesn’t always get out there but to watch Andrew at Lake Elsinore was to watch a wounded seal flop around on the ice (a little graphic okay, but still) as he just went backwards.
But no matter what, Short will always have Seattle SX to look back on when he won his first career indoor race.
One manufacturer that is really making a push forward is KTM for many of the obvious reasons. They introduced an all-new bike, won supercrosses and 450 nationals for the first time ever, re-signed Roczen and Musquin and the future looks bright indeed for the Austrian guys.
But what about the fall of Yamaha? The OEM that for years produced the best two-strokes year in and year out and then led the four-stroke revolution with some ground breaking machines have fell on hard times.
There’s no more factory Yamaha team-instead they’ve aligned themselves with JGR and the 250 program spearheaded by Star Racing had a terrible season.
When they reinvented themselves with an all-new 450 and I applaud them for that. That was some forward thinking going on there (no really, they used that phrase in their ad campaigns and everything!) but unfortunately, the finished product just isn’t that good for the pro racer.
In fact the JGR team has had trouble signing riders because of that machine. And that’s it, there are no top level teams fielding Yamaha 450Fs.
The 250F is beyond tired. They put a new frame on it, some new plastic but the engine is a 2003-spec with minor changes and the bike still has an external oil tank and a carburetor.
I’m sure there are people out there saying that the oil tank helps reliability and the carb puts out more power than EFI but perception is everything.
And the perception is that Yamaha is waving the white flag with the 250F right now. The top placing 250 rider was 15th and no one is comparing the Star Racing program with GEICO and Pro Circuit, let’s just say that.
There is some hope with amateur riders Jeremy Martin (raced three races this year as a pro) and Cooper Webb coming but man, things are bleak right now for the once-mighty Yamaha.