The SuperMotocross Championship continued with the second race of the combined mega series, the 2023 Joliet SuperMotocross. A massive track was laid out on the flat infield and banked first turn of Chicagoland Speedway, which encouraged riders to hold the throttle on a little long than usual during the two 20-minutes plus one lap motos. Can this be the future of SMX, or will it be a one and done in a low-rent venue?
Props to Ty Masterpool and Nehemiah Hill for their summer efforts. Backed by HBI Racing but still very independent compared to the competition, the duo has shown how competitive a modestly modified production bike can be against the factory-backed field, even with some mid-day repairs necessitated by the occasional mechanical issue. Masterpool is tied with Colt Nichols for eleventh in the SMX standings; the better finishing rider will take home 50,000 dollars (twelfth overall will get 35K) and top privateer honors.
Is having the hub stickers lined up to face forward and the Dunlop branding at the top of the tire a coincidence or part of the start strategy? Christien Ducharme made sure the rear end of Jett Lawrence's bike was straight on the grate.
The Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing bikes had one of the TLD's cartoons, the Angry Carb, added to the underside of their rear fenders at Joliet. The flaming intake was done by Guillaume Tanghe, a French artist responsible for dozens of popular pieces used by MX and MTB brands, but he takes pride in not signing his name to the works. Troy mentioned Guillaume to us in a 2020 feature on Justin Barcia's Arai helmets, saying, "Guillaume Tanghe, our French artist, drew the frog cartoon (used on Barcia's helmet). I drew what I wanted and then he kicked my butt [Laughs]," joked Lee. "All of my artists I feel are better than me and it's nice to have a company where I can hire amazing people. I truly have some gifted artists working with me." Copy-paste this link for a 2015 interview with Tanghe conducted by Pink Bike. pinkbike.com/news/guillaume-tanghe-interview-2015.html
Another weekend, another set of close practice laps between Cooper Webb and Jett Lawrence. Like we said in the Kickstart Podcast, it will be exciting to see how everyone gets along in 2024 because a half dozen guys think they're worthy of the top spot, but there's only room for one.
This right-hand turn looked like a blast, as riders hit top speed across the infield, locked up the brakes as they approached the curve, and ripped around the lone rut with their feet on the pegs.
Star Racing is known for its willingness to try different parts and pieces with riders, and in the case of Dylan Ferrandis and the new YZ450F, this summer was all about suspension experimentation. For Joliet, the team used production KYB pieces tuned by Factory Connection.
Romain Pape got tagged in for round two of SMX after sitting out the SX-ish opening round at Charlotte. The French rider lined up for all 22 motos in the summer's Pro Motocross Championship, scored points in 14 of the gate drops, and had two tenth-place results, which put him 29th overall in the SMX standings ahead of the reset. Unfortunately, a fifth-place finish in the LCQ kept Pape from advancing to the evening's action.
A disengaged holeshot device and both feet of the pegs. What would Phil say about this technique?
The final layout at Joliet was much different than the original renderings, as multiple lanes were rerouted and complex obstacles were eliminated after rain on Monday soaked the infield and made it impossible for Dirt Wurx to drive the heavy equipment over. It might not have been what we expected, but in a lot of ways, it was better.
Be ready for the 2024 Supercross, Pro Motocross, and SuperMotocross schedules to drop Friday afternoon. The announcement will be part of the pre-race press conference in LA and, from what we know, will include a handful of new locations for Supercross, all of the outdoor tracks from this year, and different venues for SMX.
Mid-turn tear-off with Garrett Marchbanks.
Aaron Plessinger is another guy who's bounced between SX and MX setups for SMX. At Charlotte, the Red Bull KTM rider used spring forks, but for Joliet, he started with his outdoor spec on WP air forks and then went even softer to handle the bumps and ruts.
According to Illinoissoils.org, "Drummer Silty Clay Loam the official state soil of Illinois. It is the most common of the rich, black soils that cover Illinois and provide some of the highest yielding corn and soybean acres in the country. Drummer soils cover more than 1.5 million acres in Illinois." Also, "The Drummer soils formed under a luxuriant growth of marsh grasses and sedges, that was typical of much of the native prairie at the time of settlement. Soils formed under prairie vegetation are normally dark colored and high in organic matter content. Illinois is known for its 'black dirt' with Drummer silty clay loam being the most common." The more you know.
We sat next to Joshua Varize on the Delta flight from CLT to DTW last week and talked the entire hour-and-a-half flight about the racer's past (amateur rider literally raised at Milestone), present (currently with the AEO team), and future (will be a privateer in 2024). It was good to see Jammin' get the LCQ win and advance to the night's motos, where he finished 20-20 for 20th.
A wall was added in the rollers on Saturday morning to slow down the speeds and let riders properly set up for the double at the end of the straightaway. We sort of expected guys to send it off the lip and to the flat, but everyone opted for the mellow, easy over.
It's always interesting to see how teams take their pit setups and repurpose them for the garages at speedways. Red Bull KTM wheeled its big toolbox carts from the rig to the empty room while Monster Energy Kawasaki took the workbench and toolbox usually mounted to the side of the rig and pieced them together over a table.
Interested in buying a rig? AEO Powersports' setup, which includes a Sportchassis-Freightliner hauler and fully built-out trailer, will go on the market as soon as the season wraps. Contact [email protected] for more information.
We dug the grass start at the speedway. Sure, it wasn't all the way old school, as the metal grates were still installed and a backward falling gate replaced the rubber band or green flag, but it was a very cool element after years of only using dirt. Dylan Ferrandis told us on Friday that the grass made no difference to his gate-drop routine, as the ruts were ripped into the dirt and provided the usual amount of traction.
Alpinestars is one of many companies celebrating a landmark anniversary at the LA SMX. The Italian brand has been around for 60 years, is active in almost every category of motorsports, and remains in the Mazzarolo family. If you've bought every Astars product possible for your gearbag, think of your significant other and browse www.asbydf.com, the women's fashion line by Denise Focil that produces "the perfect leather jacket." Read more about Mr. Mazzarolo at www.swapmotolive.com/gabriele-mazzarolo-the-visionary/features/
As you can see, there were some favored lines on this jump face…
But it was still wide enough for guys to go bar-to-bar in position battles, as shown here by RJ Hampshire and Jo Shimoda in 250 Moto One….
And a little tighter move between Max Vohland and Pierce Brown. We always like when sequential numbers link up on the track, like the 33 and 34 were doing here.
Hunter Lawrence took a tight, low line over the hump, which left only a few inches between the Tuff Block and his front brake lever. Fortunately, Lawrence prefers to have his controls moved "in" and only engages the levers with his closest fingers.
Musco Lighting is considered the world's leader in lighting, and rightly so. The Iowa company has designed setups for stadiums, fields, airports, and race tracks, with a very big tie to NASCAR. Thirty years ago, Musco was hired by Humpy Wheeler to come up with a way to illuminate Bristol Motor Speedway for its first-ever night race, a project that included a 50:1 scale model of the "The Last Great Colosseum" for engineers to analyze the angles and prompted company chairman Myron Gordin to enroll in a Richard Petty Driving Experience so he could understand how the speed would impact everything. The Mirtran System, which uses mirrors to reflect light onto the track, is now in use at circuits around the world, including Joliet.
Troy Lee is a true VIP.
Like we've said quite a few times recently, it's going to get good between Haiden Deegan, Jo Shimoda, and Tom Vialle in 2024.
Jo was on a roll in 250 Moto One. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider went from fifth on Lap One to fourth on Lap Four, got to third on Lap Nine, and then into the runner-up spot in the last two. His 1:53.823 was the fastest single run of the race, and it happened on Lap Eleven.
There was a big shift in the weather from Charlotte to Joliet, as afternoon showers and temps in the 60/70s made it feel like early autumn in northern Illinois.
Pit stop. Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha pulled Dylan Ferrandis and Cooper Webb into the work area after their sighting laps to swap out the rear tires on the YZ450Fs. It was a bold strategy, as the "used rubbers" didn't look too dirty, but the importance of starts means teams will do whatever to get an edge.
Lap One of 450 Moto One. Jett has led 350 combined laps this season in the 450 Class.
We haven't forgotten about the Brand Breakdown post from the SMX races; we're going to wait until the last race is over to tally up the bikes/parts/gear used by the racers in both divisions. Kawasaki should be will represented, as there were five green bikes in the 450 Class, with two being fielded by the factory team and three by privateers.
Taking the track over the high banks of the first turn meant that some of the catch fences had to come down. See the metal wires bound together in the foreground? Those keep the mesh fence in place when a stock car goes barreling toward the wall. Taking this down had to be a bit of a challenge, but it shows how accommodating the Chicagoland Speedway staff was to the SMX race.
Ben Townley's son, Levi, was one of the youngsters invited to take part in the SuperMini World All Stars moto. The 2004 MX2/2007 250 SX East champion helped his boy get ready for the gate drop by saying "go" and timing the clutch release reaction with the stopwatch on his telephone.
How popular is KTM in the SuperMini class? Fifteen of the 22 bikes were orange, while three red GASGAS machines and one Husqvarna made the European group the overwhelming majority.
Much deserved shoutout to the tireless track crew, who built the podium structure in one place on pit road early in the week, only to be told to take it down and re-erect it a few hundred feet away. Most of the guys have been on the road all year, as they started in Anaheim, followed both full tours, and are hustling across the country for the three finals.
Jo Shimoda had a mechanical issue in the final laps of 250 Moto Two, a tense few moments that prompted the Pro Circuit rider to check up, let Hunter Lawrence by for the win, and nurse the ailing bike to the finish line for a second-place finish and second overall. Shimoda said as much as he could in HWYW without exactly stating what went wrong, but expressed the importance of finishing and that no one on the team, nor he, was upset by the outcome and instead was happy to finish safely and with ample points.
Four motos to go in Hunter's small-bore career. Will he cap off a monumental year with the SMX title? The Team Honda HRC rider has three points on Shimoda and seven on Deegan going into LA, which makes the 250 Class a "winner take all" scenario.
Depending on where you are, hunting season is either here or weeks away. Team Honda HRC got into the spirit by doing a collaborative graphic kit with TrueTimber using a modified version of the "Viper Urban Cam" print. Replica sets are now available through Throttle Jockey.
One day, they'll add sound to photos, but until then, just imagine 22 bikes on the rev limiter behind a gate that didn't fall as planned.
Look at the four lead bikes going into the first turn…
Would you think Phil Nicoletti could emerge from that stacked lineup, grab the holeshot, and run up front for the opening lap? It must be the green lights.
That's another 2800 for Grant Harlan's bank account. The Yamaha-mounted privateer had a close call in practice when his engine let go on the approach to the big doubles, but he somehow avoided disaster from the resulting case, got the bike repaired for the night show, and rolled to 20-17 finishes for 18th overall.
We've rewatched 450 Moto Two a few times since Saturday. Our takeaway? These two were on another level, with Lawrence doing a 1:52.399 on Lap Six and Roczen a 1:52.918 on Lap Seven.
A Scot and a Swede.
Or throw it sideways?
Jett's early lead gave him the advantage on what riders said was a difficult-to-pass track, and although Roczen pressured him from the moment the gate dropped…
A number of near-passes by Roczen were brushed off by Lawrence's ability to pick the preferred line, block, and even force a mistake. Now, whatever happened in the final laps is another story....
Silencing the critics? Roczen's finish line celebration was very clear and added another layer to the situation, as the multi-time champion took no solace in the "gifted win."
Jett Lawrence has added another new sponsor to his personal portfolio with MVMT, a watchmaker started in 2013 by two college dropouts that sold to Movado for 100 million dollars and is marketed towards "millennials." According to a 2018 declaration by the company, 88% of its users were under 34 years old, and 45% were under 24.
The AMA issued a written warning to Lawrence for waving Roczen by, which is outlined in section 1.5.9 "PERFORMANCE OBLIGATIONS" of the new SMX rule book and states, "A. AMAP requires that all Competitors give their utmost effort and compete to the best of their capability, striving to secure the highest achievable finishing position in the Event.
b. Should any Credentialed Participant deliberately manipulate, or attempt to influence, the final outcomes of the competition, or incite, convince, or motivate others to do so, they will be subject to disciplinary measures as outlined in Section
3.1: Violations and Disciplinary Action.
C. The term "deliberately manipulate" pertains to any demonstrable behavior or strategy from a Participant which indicates they did not compete with full effort or intent, with the objective of altering the end results of the competition, as determined exclusively by AMAP."
Michael Antonovich has a wealth of experience with over 10 years of moto-journalism under his belt. A lifelong racing enthusiast and rider, Anton is the Editor of Swapmoto Live and lives to be at the race track.