Motocross

Fighting talk

Fighting talk

It’s kicking off in the US where the 125 SX champs has turned into a battle zone I mean, damn. In the space of just more than a month we’ve had more going on Stateside than happens in most full seasons. A major retirement announcement, unexpected results, continued legal battles and on-track skirmishes everywhere you look… Following the mildly surreal opening rounds of the THQ World SX GP, supercross fans were eagerly awaiting the series’ return to Anaheim, California – the de facto capital of stadium motocross. The first (of three) Anaheim races also marked the beginning of the AMA SX series – essentially the same as WSXGP give or take a round or two. The January 4 event marked the return of Ricky Carmichael, who had opted out of the Euro races which made him ineligible for the newly minted world championship – not that he seemed bothered by this. But something happened on the way to the season, seven-time champ Jeremy McGrath – the all-time King of Supercross – called it a day. The news was broken on Christmas Eve by, in a strange fashion, a website operated by former champ Rick Johnson. Word is that MC didn’t want the news to become public at the time – he’d planned for a press conference in the days leading up to Anaheim 1 – but that’s the Internet for you. MC officially hung up his Alpinestars on January 2. The conference was held at Anaheim’s Edison International Field, the champ’s home track and the home of major league baseball’s Anaheim Angels. As a tribute to his fans, however, MC promised to appear at each round and do something special during the opening ceremonies. For the first four rounds, Jeremy rolled a slow, helmetless lap around the track, stopping to wave on occasion, then made a speech thanking all the little people. But the action-hungry hordes demanded more and MC was back to hot laps and Nac-Nacs at Anaheim 3. MC’s Long Goodbye rolls on until May 3 in Las Vegas so catch it if you can. While MC was contemplating retirement, Clear Channel and AMA Pro Racing continued their little p***ing contest. I would go into detail but will leave it at this. Lawyers were hired (always a bad sign), court cases were heard, decisions were made, more lawyers were hired… It’s all just as petty and silly and childish as it has been from the start and the acronym game has gone on long enough. Time we gave it a rest. On the track, though, there’s been plenty to hold our interest. The 125 class has become host to an undeclared – and unintended, depending on who you ask – war between Team Pro Circuit Kawasaki (namely Eric Sorby and Matt Walker) and Team Amsoil/Chaparral Honda (namely defending 125 West champ Travis Preston). The controversy started at the second Anaheim supercross when Preston passed Sorby in the whoops, then found himself on the receiving end of a nasty block-pass from the French rider. Preston went down and – despite a bent front brake lever and tweaked handlebars – started charging again. He soon caught back up to Sorby, who started brake-checking the champ – at one point almost stopping entirely on the face of the finish-line jump. Preston eventually made the pass and finished sixth. But Sorby’s night didn’t end there as he himself soon became the victim of a takeout by the normally quiet SoBe Suzuki rider Danny Smith. “I cleaned him out on purpose,” said Smith in a refreshing display of honesty, “because all through the heat race he was coming in and I’ve had lots of run-ins with him… If he wants to race like an amateur, I’ll treat him like an amateur.” Oddly enough, Smith was not aware of Preston’s own run-in with Sorby. And although nothing more came of the Smith-Sorby incident, the same can’t be said for Preston and Sorby. Soon after the race, while James Stewart was still celebrating his first-ever Anaheim win, the two battling riders’ mechanics got into an on-track scuffle. The unprofessional display was soon broken up but the hostilities were far from over. At the next round, the first-ever San Francisco Supercross, the two squads tangled again. This time, however, it wasn’t Sorby (who was nonetheless roundly booed by the crowd) but his teammate Walker who took a shot at Preston. Only a few laps in, Walker was running close behind Preston – Stewart had already checked out entirely – when the war again heated up. Making a move on the finish-line take-off, Walker muscled in on Preston, forcing the Honda rider into the air and into the metal girder holding the finish banner. While none of these offences had as yet warranted a fine, Walker’s became the exception. Following the race, when asked about the incident, he stated that his move was justified since Preston had put him into the hay bales earlier in the season. This ‘payback’ statement led the AMA’s Duke Finch to immediately levy a $1000 fine against Walker, more than negating Walker’s earnings for his second-place finish that evening. Walker then accused Finch of breaking his finger with a flag earlier in the season! I’m not sure if any of these conflicts – Preston-Sorby, Sorby-Smith, Preston-Walker, Walker-Finch, Finch-Finger – have been resolved yet but I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of the controversy. Let’s just hope they don’t bring in the lawyers.