Features 15 Aug 2013

The US Report: 32

PulpMX's Steve Matthes checks in direct from the US every Thursday, presented by Fox.

We’re well into August and just about everything is heating up except for the title chases in the AMA Pro Motocross Championships. Unless total disaster strikes, both Ryan Villopoto and Eli Tomac look to wrap up the titles and maybe as soon as this weekend.

Here are some other thoughts on some other topics:

This weekend marks the debut of the Miller Motorsports track outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s a purpose-built motocross track inside the oval of a car racing facility. As usual with these types of tracks (I’ve been to a few in Europe) the facilities will be awesome. Concrete pits, close to a major city, great viewing for spectators add up to some great amenities for teams and fans.

But yeah there is the track and there has been some grumbling about it. Located on a completely flat field the promoters have done their best to build up some big jumps and some off camber corners in order to get some elevation into but Millville, it’s not going to be. The dirt will be typical Southwestern in that it will be hard packed and slippery when watered. All in all, there’s no doubt that it’s not going to be the best track on the series but MX Sports is trying to see if the other stuff can make up for what might not be the best track. If prepared right the traction will be ok but there’s a fine line between the window of watered too much/just perfect/way to dusty and the juggling act will keep the track workers busy.

Ryan Villopoto is on form to capture the 450 class number one plate. Image: Simon Cudby.

Ryan Villopoto is on form to capture the 450 class number one plate. Image: Simon Cudby.

So we’ll wait and see before we judge it but our eyebrows are raised and we’re hoping for the best. One thing for sure, it will be hot and there will be some grumbling but in the end, motocross has to evolve and maybe this is the first step in that.

Other news that hit this week was that Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto is going to need some surgery and will miss the Motocross des Nations which takes place a month after the last American national. Of course this set off a lot of belly aching on the internet forums about Villopoto bailing on Team USA in a year where they are trying to avenge their defeat of a year ago. Of course, we know now that Villopoto is hoping to be ready to race the Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas two weeks after the MXDN and I get the complaining about having some elective surgery done that puts you out for a race that pays nothing but national pride but being ready for a race that could pay you one million dollars if you sweep all three mains.

Team USA doesn’t need Ryan Villopoto to win (although it would help) and look for Justin Barcia to fill his spot with the red, white and blue but it’s more the calendar and sponsor obligations that have hurt Team USA than anything else. If he had waited a month for MXDN then of course he would race the event that his main sponsor created just two weeks later. So then he goes in for surgery (to remove some hardware from an old crash) and now we’re looking at a November start date to get ready for the 2014 season. It doesn’t add up for the best scenario for Villopoto and Kawasaki to wait.

The early conclusion of the American series (to avoid the football season) and the date of the MXDN aren’t ideal and in this case, we’re seeing the first victim. It’s not RV’s fault, it’s not the MXDN’s fault- it’s just a perfect storm of needing some time off for a surgery and there not being any of it that works out.

2013 Monster Energy Supercross frontrunner Davi Millsaps will ride KTM in 2014 after the Rockstar Energy team switched brands. Image: Simon Cudby.

2013 Monster Energy Supercross frontrunner Davi Millsaps will ride KTM in 2014 after the Rockstar Energy team switched brands. Image: Simon Cudby.

The Rockstar Racing crew has done good things in 2013. Davi Millsaps, Jason Anderson and Blake Wharton won some races, Ryan Sipes is always fast and the team has really stepped it up from a couple of years ago. The team also had all of this success without much help from Suzuki. Team owner Bobby Hewitt was writing checks for bikes and parts for the team and really, they probably should’ve had more help from the yellow guys. But Suzuki (who has supported the team in the past) just doesn’t have much going on in terms of support (there’s no amateur team, there’s no 250 team and James Stewart is actually supported by Yoshimura more than Suzuki although the bikes and parts do come from Suzuki Japan) and Rockstar Racing was forced to look elsewhere for help.

Enter KTM. Yes, to the surprise of many KTM, despite their alliance with Red Bull, has stepped up and supported the Rockstar Racing team with a full program. The orange guys are apparently just trying to take over supercross/motocross over here as well. The team will run close to works bikes using the KTM Factory Service Program which allows teams and riders to purchase parts that are close to what the factory team runs. Millsaps, Jason Anderson, Joey Savatgy will be on the team next year which means Sipes, Wharton and the perpetually injured Nico Izzi are all looking to go elsewhere in 2014.

Millsaps loved the Suzuki and in fact turned down a little more money from JGR Yamaha to go yellow (well that and a two year deal) and rumors are that he could have gotten out of his deal if he wanted to because the team was not supplying a Suzuki to him as per terms of his contract. So at some point Millsaps must’ve signed off on him being on KTM and therefore thinks he can be the same rider on orange. It’s going to be interesting to see if Millsaps can have the same success on the KTM as he did on his trusty Suzuki- I’m thinking he can. More than anything else, last year’s Davi Millsaps renaissance was due to him being in shape and ready to go at the very first race. Once he’s seen the success he can have (and the money he can make) by being fit, I can’t see him slacking off now.

Anderson rode KTM’s for a spell as an amateur and Savatgy was on KTM this year so I don’t anticipate either rider having an issue with the bike switch. No, with all the momentum that KTM is building and the riders and teams its acquiring, I can’t see this partnership doing anything but thriving.

Watch out America, here comes the Austrians.