Features 3 Dec 2015

Top 10: AUS-X Open moments

Memorable talking points from Allphones Arena last weekend.

MotoOnline.com.au looks back on a brilliant weekend of racing at the AUS-X Open at Sydney’s Allphones Arena and recounts our Top 10 favourite moments that stuck with us long after the final fireworks fizzled out.

Image: Jeff Crow.

Image: Jeff Crow.

1. Opening ceremonies:
From the moment the lights dimmed and the laser show started, we knew we were going to witness the next level of entertainment. The rider intros, music and fireworks show were reminiscent of what the American public gets to see every weekend and it put a smile on our face to see ceremonies done right and the racers showcased as sporting personalities and role models for people to aspire to. The opening ceremonies certainly set the tone for what was to come for the rest of the night.

2. RC vs. CR:
Seeing the Greatest Of All Time, Ricky Carmichael, go head-to-head with Australia’s GOAT, Chad Reed, is something that will be etched in the memories of Aussie supercross fans for life. Although the match-up was purely an exhibition race, the opportunity to see these two arch-rivals battle in the flesh was a spellbinding affair. Reed won the first night reasonably comfortably then came from behind to pass RC on the last lap during Sunday’s race. On a side note, RC’s qualifying pace on Sunday was downright impressive as he chalked up a fourth-place result – faster than eventual SX1 main winner Cooper Webb! The old guy’s still got the pace and skill to keep the young bucks honest.

3. Sunday’s main event:
While the rider depth during Sunday’s heats and semis were paper-thin and threatened to cause something of an anti-climax to the weekend (and on live TV to boot), the SX1 main more than made up for it. There were no less than three different leaders – Lawson Bopping, Dan Reardon and Cooper Webb and the pace was stupidly frantic for the entire 20 laps. At the chequers less than half a second separated the victor, Webb from a hard-charging Chad Reed who recovered remarkably from a crash with Reardon mid-way through the race.

4. Reed’s speed:
For a guy who’s been called a ‘has-been’ and ‘out of shape’ the past few months, Chad Reed looked every bit the champion of old out on the track. His whoop speed had everyone rubbing their eyes in disbelief and his Saturday night win proved he’s still got plenty of fight left in him. On top of that, Reedy set the fastest lap of the entire weekend on Sunday as he tore the house apart trying to reel in eventual winner Webb. His astounding 28.842 second lap was a full 1.5 seconds faster than Saturday’s quickest lap, which, incidentally, he also set.

5. Jacko Strong’s $40,000 payday:
NSW madman Jacko Strong had plenty of reasons to smile at the after party on Sunday night. Not only did he successfully land two out of two front-flip attempts during the Best Trick competitions, but he won both nights and pocketed a cool $40,000 in prize money ($20,000 each night) as a result. Jacko beat out some of the world’s best in the process, including the visionary Tom Pages who stomped the first ally-oop flair on Australian soil and Taka Higashino (rock solid flip) in the process. Not a bad weekend’s work!

Image: Jeff Crow.

Image: Jeff Crow.

6. Saturday’s full house:
The atmosphere on the AUS-X Open’s sold out opening night was heavy with excitement and anticipation of what promised to be an incredible event. With the exception of a handful of vacant seats scattered about (probably a consequence of the James Stewart saga) the Allphones Arena was packed to the rafters. The day’s pit party before the evening show was a heaving sea of humanity as die-hard moto fans mixed with Taylor Swift tweenagers and pumped-up Stereosonic goers, as all huge events were held within a stone’s throw of each other. With pit access being a free-for-all for the public, the exposure the sport received as a result was invaluable.

7. Jimmy Decotis’s pace:
The speed of Jimmy Decotis has been a talking point all season, but even he stepped up to a whole new level over the weekend. Not only did he win every race he entered, he set a lap time on Saturday that would’ve put him within the top five of the premier SX1 class. The pint-sized Penrite Honda Racing rider can certainly hold the thing open, evidenced by his recent signing with the high-profile GEICO Honda race team in the US for next year. Entering the final round this weekend he holds a comfortable 31-point lead in the SX2 championship hunt.

8. The fly-by lane:
The introduction of a unique one-time shortcut lane around the finish-line jump in the main proved to be a real hit with both the riders and spectators and resulted in some amazing battles and passing opportunities. With it being shorter rather than a detour like the joker lane at Monster Energy Cup, no-one forgot to take it and riders made on-the-fly decisions about when to capitalise on the shortcut, depending on whether they could use it to make up a position or two or open up a gap on a racer behind them. Seeing new additions like this to the sport shows that supercross is only limited by the imagination of the promoters.

9. The live broadcast:
While there were a few disgruntled fans whose noses were out of joint at not being able to view livestreaming or live footage of Saturday’s intense racing, Sunday afternoon’s live broadcast on 7mate more than made up for it. The mainstream interest in the event was at an all-time high as a result and the coverage was a classy, polished act. We have yet to hear a report on how many viewers tuned into 7Mate to watch the broadcast, but we’ve only heard great things about it.

10. The unsung podium placers:
While everyone’s focus was on Cooper Webb, Chad Reed, Dan Reardon and Jimmy Decotis, there were some exceptional performances from our domestic racers. DPH Peter Stevens Yamaha’s new recruit Wade Hunter scored a career-high second place in Saturday’s SX2 main event, despite riding through the pain of a screwed foot from earlier in the night. In SX1, Hunter’s teammate Lawson Bopping holeshot Sunday’s main and somehow managed to avoid most of the carnage that took place to finish a very impressive third overall. Penrite Honda Wilson MX’s Geran Stapleton replicated that podium result on Sunday in the SX2 class, backing up his solid fourth overall on the opening night.