Features 23 Oct 2014

Q&A: Monster Energy Cup madness

What we learnt at the 2014 edition of Monster Energy Cup.

The third installment of the wildly-popular Monster Energy Cup ‘supercros’ race was held in Las Vegas over the weekend, and as always, it was stuffed full of drama. With the spectacular one-off event being held just 11 weeks before Anaheim 1’s opening round of Monster Energy Supercross, many people use the event as a bit of a crystal ball as to how the 2015 series will play out. But, as is often the case, people had more questions than answers after the final fireworks. Never fear, MotoOnline.com.au is here to answer some of the burning questions that arose after Saturday night.

Image: Simon Cudby.

Image: Simon Cudby.

Q: How much can we read into the 2014 Monster Energy Cup for the 2015 American Supercross Championship?

A: Not as much as you’d think. Sure, the MEC is a good little litmus test to see how the racers are tracking and adapting to new teams, but 11 weeks is a long time in racing and forms can change dramatically between now and 3 January. On top of that, the Vegas race didn’t feature Ken Roczen, James Stewart, Jake Weimer, Wil Hahn, Broc Tickle and more, while usual front-runners Chad Reed, Dean Wilson, Josh Grant and Justin Barcia had uneventful nights that they’d rather forget.

Q: Who was the best-placed Australian on the night?

A: Victoria’s Jarryd McNeil, whose whips defy all logical laws and thought processes. The scrawny Yamaha rider fought off Beau Bamburg and Spanish FMX pioneer Edgar Torronteras for the Best Whip contest win, although the format itself was a bit of an anticlimax. The comp was held on an 86ft triple in the middle of the track, but the whole thing would’ve been a lot better if they’d wheeled out a freestyle ramp or extended the triple another 15-20ft and maintained the jam format. At least the camera angles were a damn sight better than what X Games persists with year after year.

Q: Is the Monster Energy Cup the coolest racing event of the year?

A: Tough one. Until 2014 we would’ve happily given the MEC this award, but now that Red Bull have introduced the unique and highly entertaining Straight Rhythm race, it’s a tough call. This year’s Cup seemed a lot more watered down as far as track layout goes: there were no whoops, only one nine-pack rhythm section that everyone was threeing through, and the track proved to be exceptionally hard to pass on. You know a track’s been over-simplified when there’s only one second time difference between first and 17th place in qualifying! The energy drinks are always battling for supremacy, but I think now that there are two hyped-up one-off events on offer during the off-season, we should see the MEC revolutionised next year in order to stay ahead.

Q: Does the AMA Supercross need to follow the lead of the MEC with some of its formats and features?

A: Yes! Supercross in the US hasn’t changed or evolved at all in the past 20 years. We’re still seeing the same similar formats, the same points structures, the same track layouts, and even the same-sized jumps just shuffled around to make it look different week-in, week-out. Why don’t they overhaul the points system, add some unique racing formats to a few rounds, think up some different obstacles that’ll challenge the higher-horsepowered machines, and add a Joker Lane to a couple of events? What’s there to lose? It can only boost the public’s interest in the sport.

Image: Simon Cudby.

Image: Simon Cudby.

Q: Who looked good form-wise?

A: Trey Canard, Justin Hill and Davi Millsaps were all impressive. Canard in particular looked unstoppable and will take a lot of confidence from the event, knowing that he was the fastest guy all night and was incredibly unlucky to not walk away with either a new truck (he won two of the three needed holeshots) or the $1-million (two of the three needed race wins).
One of the biggest surprises was newly KTM-mounted Justin Hill, who screamed to two second place finishes behind Canard before things unravelled in the final with a crash. But hats off to Millsaps, whose 3-4-1 result was enough to claim the win and walk away with a cool hundred grand. Considering he hasn’t raced in 17 months and is on a new race team at Monster Energy Kawasaki, Millsaps is already looking dangerous next year.

Q: Who was faster – Trey Canard or Davi Millsaps?

A: Trey Canard. Looking at the lap-times across the three races, Trey’s best was 0.6 seconds faster that Davi in race one and 0.2 seconds faster in race three, while Davi posted the fastest lap of race two, at 0.5 seconds quicker than Canard. To make Canard’s pace more impressive, he was sleep-deprived after spending the previous night at a local Vegas hospital when his wife developed stomach pains that they feared was appendicitis. She was discharged on the morning of race day.

Q: What happened to Chad Reed?

A: After next to no seat-time in the lead-up to the Monster Energy Cup (he and the family had been on holiday in Australia), Reed wasn’t even sure if he’d be able to race after sustaining a leg injury at the Motocross of Nations a few weeks prior. Still, Reedy geared up and finished the first moto in 11th, before getting caught in a first turn pile-up in the second race. He circulated for a few laps, then pulled out and didn’t enter the final moto. It obviously wasn’t the result he was chasing, but you can bet your house that Reedy will be fit and firing for Anaheim 1 on 3 January.