Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1990's

Cycle News 1997 06 25

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 82 of 83

AVIEW FROM THE FENCE BY ERIC JOHNSON et's cut right to the chase here: The Motocross des Nations means a lot to me. From that memorable fall ay in 1981 'when the issue of Cycle ews arrived in the mail announcing eam USA's stunning win at the Trohee des Nations in Lommel, Belgium, he event - now approaching its 51st onsecutive running - has been an elible part of the sport's history and key chapter in my lifelong love of the port. Before the quintet of riders Johny O'Mara, Danny LaPorte, Chuck Sun, onnie Hansen and Team Manager oger DeCoster took the measure of the orld's best at the mind-bogglingly ough and whooped-out Lommel sand . cuit (of which the Belgians were true sters), America was considered a secnd-rate motocross power and - by me - a bit of a joke. As a testament to my shared passion or the MX des Nations with fellow fan avey Coombs, over this past winter we ured through some old magazines, ore out some pictures, and pitched the MA on doing a T-shirt symbolizing th the old and new school of U.S. otocross des Nations heroes. U you aven't seen it yet, the 1997 version of e U.S. des Nations fund-raising shirt eatures a classic shot of Johnny 0'Mara dblasting at Lommel back in '81. At is flank is an image of the '96 team SA hero Jeremy McGrath, who domited.last year's version of the MX des ations. While we're not trying to hawk -shirt sales here (however, the proeeds do go to support the team), we 'rant to make it clear that the idea was othing more than a labor of love that ymbolizes the excitement we feel each r when the international team chalge of motocross rolls around. The 1997 version of the MX des ations will take place on the sweepin& d-pack, and at times technical Grand rix circuit of Nismes, Belgium. (The 19ians should have held it at the noto'ously sandy Lommel course, or at least the classic Namur circuit, but, according to Roger DeCoster himself, the sanctioning body over there put a promoter's L agenda ahead of the' rest of the country's). No matter which track they chose, Team USA will be returning to .the country that was the site of the first strike in what has become America's totalitarian rule of the sport, which is why we chose the shot of O'Mara from that first win back in '81. Interestingly, with the 1997 version now less than three months away, the selection process for the American squad must be in a bit of a quandary, which is the real point of this column. The 12Sec class is Ii ttered with injured riders and new challengers to the throne, while the 250cc class appears to have shaken itself into a new order. So who should Team USA send to Belgium to capture another set of flags? After America's stunning return to form at the supercross-oriented jerez, Spain, venue in 1996, most insiders assumed that Team USA would return to Belgium this year with the same team: Jeff Emig, Jeremy McGrath and Steve Lamson. However, the soap opera-like atmosphere that has shrouded the American circuit in '97 has shaken the sport to such a degree that the team that did the deed in '96 is not the same outfit that it was last September, and the rules of the race have changed: We can send two 250cc riders instead of a 250 and a 500 rider. As a result, Kawasaki has already mothballed the KX500 they kept in the back garage bay just for this race. First and foremost, Jeremy McGrath now rides for another motorcycle manufacturer (Suzuki) which has not sent a rider to the Motocross des Nations with Team USA since Mark Barnett back in 1983. Furthermore, while McGrath is no douj:lt as capable as he's ever been, it cannot be denied that he has experienced a number of problems in getting the '96 RM250 sorted out. His erratic supercross results will attest to that, and so does his lack of even a moto win outdoors. 1£ he does get it together, look out! But what if he doesn't? . Team Kawasaki's Jeff Emig is stronger, faster and more confident than ever.and is, as always, willing to go'over there and represent his country for the sixth straight year. All told, El)'tig has won all three divisions at one time or another, has never finished worse than second in his class, and has never refused this duty. The third member of the '96 team, two-time AMA 125cc ational Champ Steve Lamson, has had a horrific year to date. He's injured and out, and will no doubt lose his 125cc crown due to some first-time titleist. As for the race itself, Lamson is 1-1 in· two years in the 125cc slOl Will he be ready by September? Will he be the fastest 125cc rider when he comes back? The trio of McGrath, Emig and lamson is still not a bad idea. When a race of this importance is on the line, who's going to bet against McGrath? Better yet, who's going to bet against jeff Emig? With his MX des Nations track record, we could practically.send jeffro over there alone. Doug Henry might have made an attractive candidate on the YZM400F Towncar, but his horrific crash on Sunday at Budds Creek has already turned his now-impossible appearance on the '97 team into an all-time bench-racing question. The only other 250cc guys to Consider are Henry's Yamaha teammates Ezra Lusk and John Dowd, neither of whom have been to this race, Suzuki's Mike laRocco, who has not won a race this year, Kawasaki's snake-bit-but-never-surrender Ryan Hughes, and indie Honda riders Damon Bradshaw and Larry Ward. Every one of those guys is fast enough to be on any other team in the world, except the one tha t already boasts Emig and McGrath - the current 250cc National Series points leaders. There's the answer to those two questions.' That brings us to the third and final question I'm asking. What do we do about 17-year-old Ricky Carmichael, the runawa y poin ts leader in the 125cc National Championship Series after five rounds? Is he too young to represent the USA? Is he too wild? Does he have more dues to pay? Is he a more attractive candidate than the veteran Lamson, or the slightly older Kevin Windham and Damon Huffman? Or what about dropping Ezra Lusk down to a 125, now that he's established himself as one of the premier riders on the planet? Here's the early argument for Ricky Carmichael: Right now, he's the fastest 125cc rider in this country, which makes him the fastest 125cc rider in the world. He's won four of five ationals to date and has only been stopped by an alltime rain storm. He's smart, aggressive, strong and comes equipped with a very, very fast bike. He also has friend and mentor Johnny O'Mara in his corner someone who can give him first-hand knowledge of what it's like to represent the United States of America. Here's the rub on Ricky Carmichael: Right J:lOW he's t~e luckiest 125cc rider in the world; Lamson and Windham have been plagued by bad luck and injuries. He's never raced at this level in Europe; he's never competed in any kind of world championship motocross (or supercross) event, and if it rains, he might be sunk. There is a precedent here. In 1989, Team USA 'sent over newly crowned, near-rookie Mike Kiedrowski to represent the United States in the 125cc class. Kiedrowski had never done all of the things that Carmichael has never done at that point of his career, but he put the big red- white- and blue-hurting on those Euros. But then again, it didn't rain that day in Germany. The 1997 Motocross des Nations is three months away. The track is hardpacked and fast. The pressure is on Team USA to add another trophy to the already cluttered shelves up at AMP;: Headquarters in Westerville, Ohio. Sometimes it rains in Belgium. Carmichael might be a champion by then, or he might be picking up the pieces from some unforeseen disaster that has yet to rear its head. And lamson might be back, healthy as can be and faster than ever. Has the team already been chosen? Who chooses the team, anyway? And in which smoky,. dimly lit room? Those are just my thoughts - what are yours? tN ""'e"p'~' .," ~'. , s.~;.;.~"\,;. ~, ., ,I:: ~ . ...~1!f~~~ 1t ~. 1":- 30 YEARS AGO... JULY 6, 1967· SA-mounted Chuck Jones won the Half Mile Dirt Track at Ascot Park in California. BSA's Dan Haaby finished second and HarleyDavidson's Mel Lacher took third. Jim Odom won the Amateur main on a Triumph ... Gary Nixon won the AMA l00-Mile ational Road Race in Loudon, ew Hampshire. Chris Draayer and Dick Hammer finished second and third, respectively... Honda-mounted Dick Kilgore won the 500cc Grand Prix class at. the AFM National Road Race in Walnut Creek, California. jim Deehan won the Open GP class, Art Baumann won the 350cc GP class, Ron Pierce won the 250cc GP class and Steve McLaughlin won the 125cc GP class ... Harley-Davi.dsonmounted Fred Nix won the AMA half mile Dirt Track in Columbus, Ohio, over Gary Nixon and George Roeder in second and third, re pectively... Husky's J.N. Roberts won the Open Expert class at the Dirt Diggers Pacific Southwest B Championship European Scrambles near Adelanto, California. Howard Jackson won the 250cc Expert class on a Bultaco. 20 YEARS AGO... JUNE 29, 1m duction American Machine and Foundry /Harley-Davidson MX250 and came away very impressed, especially with the motor...Yamaha's Bob Hannah ran away with both motos to take the win at the Sandy Oaks AMA 125cc National Motocross in Keithsburg, Illinois. Suzuki's Danny LaPorte n~'iiT\:It"'l":~...,_ finished second and Yamaha's Broc Glover finished third. uzuki's Genit Wolsink won his fourth straight 500cc U.S. Motocross Grand Prix at Carlsbad Raceway in California, besting Yamaha's Heikki Mikkola on elapsed time to take the win. Honda's Brad Lackey finished third. Mikkola stretched his World Championship points lead over defending champ Roger DeCoster, who beat Mikkola in the first moto but tangled with Lackey and retired in the second. Yamaha's Mike Bell dominated the 250cc Support class...Team Yamaha's Kenny Roberts overcame a suspected broken left pinky finger to win the '77 Laconia Oassic Road Race at Bryar Motorsport Park in Loudon, New Hampshire, over Gary Nixon and Skip Aksland. Nixon also won the 250cc class...Cyc1e News took a look at the pro- S .. . .. ~". ~~_~.-.... __ k_ 10 YEARS AGO... JULY 1, 1987 am Honda's Rick Johnson won the 500cc class at the AMA 125/500cc ational Championship Motocro Series in San Antonio, Texas. Kawasaki's jeff Ward finished second with a 1-2 and Kawasaki's Mike Fisher got third with a 3-5. Team Honda's Mickey Dymond won the 125cc class, followed by teammate Guy Cooper and Yamaha's Jeff Leisk... Texan Kevin Schwantz won his first-ever AMA/Camel Pro Series National Road Race in Laconia, New Hampshire, topping Team Honda's Wayne Rainey in second by 10 seconds. Third place went to Team Honda's Bubba Shobert. Team Nordica Roberts' john Kocinski extended his points lead in the 250cc class with a win, and Honda-mounted Doug Polen won the 600cc Supersport class...Team Rothman Honda's Wayne Rainey won his third successive 500cc Grand Prix and fourth of the season at the Rijeka Circuit in Yugoslavia. Lucky Strike Yamaha's Randy Mamola and Marlboro Yamaha's Eddie Lawson finished second and third, respectively...Team Husqvarna's Dave Bertram won the AMA National Championship Enduro held in Tra~erse City, Michigan. tN l1 83

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1990's - Cycle News 1997 06 25