An all-access view of Australian MX and SX, presented by Alpinestars.
Sunday’s eighth round of the Monster Energy MX Nationals was a cracker, filled with fast-paced racing in the three-moto format and it was all highly unpredictable at that. For the championship leaders in MX1 and MX2 – Matt Moss and Luke Clout – MX Central was an instrumental round.
Moss was the strongest we’ve seen him since round two at Appin and, incidentally, we saw him win his first overall since then. The key? Brand new 2015 Showa SFF-AIR TAC forks that will come out on next year’s RM-Z450 (and the KX450F for that matter).
The Jay Foreman-managed Team Motul Suzuki effort ordered the production forks early and fitted them to Moss’ current model 2014 RM-Z, then worked with American suspension company RG3 (who are involved in James Stewart’s program) to source a base setting.
It’s proven a genius move too, because as anybody who saw him on Sunday can attest, Mossy was glowing about his bike’s set-up with the air fork. Mentally, he’s in the strongest place he’s been all year long and right when it counts.
KTM’s Kirk Gibbs was visibly tense on Sunday, supremely focused on tracking down Moss in the series, but that just didn’t eventuate due to a variety of reasons and he now finds himself 40 points outside the lead with two rounds to go. Never say never, but he will need a world of luck on his side to overcome that lead from here.
Throwing the cat amongst the pigeons was CDR Yamaha recruit Jacob Wright, who stunned with his Super Pole win firstly, then with his second place in moto one. It was his assertive final moto victory that was the real shock though, getting out front early and looking very, very comfortable in that position.
You would have to think that a ride like that has almost cemented Wright’s fate as CDR Yamaha number two rider for 2015, but then again, stranger things have happened. Not that he’s expected to win consistently right now, but it will be up to him to keep up that type of quality form in the coming rounds.
Teammate Billy Mackenzie was also strong on Sunday with yet another podium after leading a heap of laps, but seeing guest rider Wright ride past him in moto one, losing moto two in the final moments and making a costly mistake of stalling in moto three has to be frustrating.
From what I hear, Mackenzie is pissed about some things I had wrote following Conondale regarding the helmet he wore and possibly CDR’s future, but when all’s said and done, it’s part of the job and if there’s a story to be told, it’s up to us to do that.
Ideally we’d like to post nothing but the positives (and nobody can argue that our positives far outweigh any negatives on here), however this is a professional sport and like it or not, fans are engaged by the controversial aspects moreso than the usual PR machine.
If we do our roles well as media, the sport will be the major beneficiary. And if riders, teams and the industry accepts that – which the majority do – then we will all advance and hopefully increase the sport’s following and value. We’re not here to cause trouble; we’re here to cover the sport and all associated topics as well as resources allow.
Speaking of controversial topics, we spoke to Craig Anderson about Brock Winston quitting his Husqvarna race team late last night and man, did that story blow up. Good news is we spoke to Brock this afternoon as well and a follow-up story is in the works as we speak! In fact, it’s just been published.
Did anybody notice the tit-for-tat battle between MXD series leader Jed Beaton and Nathan Crawford in on Sunday? This emerging rivalry will be interesting to watch unfold between the rookies, especially when you keep in mind that long-time Yamaha junior development rider Crawford switched to Husqvarna right before stepping up to the Under 19s.
It started via what was a common misunderstanding in qualifying when Crawford seemingly baulked Beaton on his hot lap, and continued on during the motos to the point of Beaton brake-checking his way past in moto three.
I spoke to them both today, they’re not overly concerned by it, and as kids do, they’re just looking forward to the upcoming races. The reality is, there’s an extremely tight race for the title on the line and they can’t afford to get too caught up in eachother’s tactics at this point – especially when Egan Mastin swept all three motos on Sunday. More on this later in news.
Here’s Simon Makker with his take from what’s been a hugely interesting week in the sport…
In the 18 years or so that I’ve been doing motorsport journalism, I’ve never heard or read anything like what went down in the pits at Raymond Terrace on Sunday. Much has been said and written already about how Sunshine Coast’s Brock Winston suddenly and sensationally split from Craig Anderson’s Berry Sweet Husqvarna Racing team midway through the day.
Although I didn’t or hear see what happened first-hand, having seen both sides of the story, it’s probably fair to say the relationship between Ando and Winston this year hadn’t been a happy one.
Ando’s blithe, tongue-in-cheek comment – something I bet he wished he’d now never said – seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for Winston and he left the team between the second and third motos of the day.
I’m not going to take sides or point fingers here, but Ando’s outfit certainly does seem to go through a lot of riders. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any racer who has spent more than 12 months under the tent, and several (Winston, Daniel McCoy and Tye Simmonds) haven’t lasted out a year.
Running a team is equal parts tough, all-consuming, stressful and expensive (any team manager in the pits can testify to that!) but a positive relationship with flowing communication between managers and riders plays a vital role in gaining good results and lifting the team’s mood.
Every rider has good and bad days, and part of the process of gelling and building a positive atmosphere in the team is for the riders, mechanics and the team manager to sit down at the end of the day and openly debrief, celebrate the positives, while using and learning from the negatives to move forward together.
On a lighter note, the MX2 class at Raymond Terrace was nothing short of crazy, with three different race winners – Hamish Dobbyn, Luke Arbon and Luke Clout – from three races.
It just goes to show just how unpredictable and deep the talent runs in the field, although injuries have certainly thinned out the ranks lately, with Kayne Lamont joining Geran Stapleton, Wade Hunter and Jake Emanuelli, on the sidelines for the rest of the series.
However, I think MX Central proved to be the pivotal round for Serco Yamaha’s Luke Clout. If you win your championships on your bad days, then Clouty all but wrapped up the 2014 MX2 title on Sunday.
Clout turned around two mystery mechanicals in the opening motos to win the final race, but thanks to a shocker of a round by second-placed Hamish Harwood, he still managed to extend his championship lead to 28 points.
With only five motos left to run this year (two at Gladstone and three at Coolum), Clout can’t really afford to relax yet, but as long as he remains consistently in the top four in each race, he should be able to clinch the 2014 championship.
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