Anonymous Racer's Account | San Diego SX Lime
By Michael Antonovich
In the moments after the 2019 San Diego Supercross, word began to spread through the industry that nearly every rider and motorcycle that lined up for the night's muddy racing were not right. Riders all complained of burning skin and sudden rashes everywhere on their bodies, while the components of the motorcycles like metal and plastic were severely damaged. It didn't take long for people to link the two symptoms to the lime added by the track crew to the dirt, an attempt to dry the racing surface. Although powdered lime is commonly used by the track builders when the dirt is soggy from moisture, as it's been for years, the San Diego incidents were the first time that racers and team had been noticeably impacted. On Sunday, social media from riders and mechanics showed the true scope of the damage, with racers raw and bloody and motorcycles tarnished, discolored, or pitted. Along with the images were frustrated comments that described the symptoms, like constant irritation, inability to sit down, and painful burns to the privates. The feelings were suffered by everyone, from unknown privateer to podium finisher.
For those that are unaware, powdered lime is commonly used as a drying agent in brick laying and concrete work, but it is a known skin irritant and contact with water causes extreme skin irritation. At the San Diego Supercross, heaping tractor buckets of lime were added to the dirt between the lone practice session and the night show in an attempt to dry out extremely wet areas of the track, particularly the start area. The track crew's effort was well-intentioned, as the expected end-result was to dry the racing surface for the riders, but the deluge of rain in the afternoon was too much to overcome. Standing water in sections of the track was common and the night's racing was much like Seattle last year.
We rang up a rider to discuss what the lime did to his body and bike. The rider, a privateer that is a staple to the series, said he would talk for an interview as long as his identity was left anonymous. By his account, the damage will take days to weeks to heal from, while the monetary damage will be in the thousands of dollars.
Feld Entertainment, the promoters of the Monster Energy Supercross Series, have been reached out to for comment and have told us that a full statement will come on Tuesday.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The images of the rider’s body shown above and below are not of the rider profiled.
“I felt it as soon as I got back to the truck from practice. I got to the truck and was trying to take my gear off, but I was itchy. I figured it was because we were in the water and were muddy and dirty, so I didn't think too much about it. But when I got my jersey off, I was red on my chest and everything. I was like, ‘Something is really getting after me.’ I had monkey butt super bad from practice and when I got my pants off, I got into a towel and tried to get all of the dirt off of me that I could because I figured it was irritating my skin, but I wasn't sure how. I got the dirt off, but it kept burning. I was rinsing off with water but still burning and I wasn't exactly sure why. I put a fan on underneath my towel to air out my nether regions, thinking it was just too wet or something. That didn't help much.
“I got on new gear and went to race still burning. In my heat race, it was the same issue. Some rashes started to set in on my elbow creases and the monkey butt got ten times worse. At that point I was like, ‘Well, we are muddy and in it.’ I went through the night with it being that bad, but I didn't know at that point it was the lime, but I had an idea because I have been around this before and know they used lime in the dirt. I got an idea what was happening when other riders on the starting line told me that they were burning too and that they thought it was from the lime in the dirt. Some of the guys said that they couldn't sit down, other guys were showing me their faces, and it was bad. I felt it right away after practice but through the night I started to realize that it was a bigger issue.
“The start straightaway is where they went over the top. I fortunately never crashed in it, but I talked to riders that have and they said they immediately felt burning on their arms and the lower part of their body. They didn't know what was going on until they talked to other people that felt the same things. We can pinpoint it to the puddle on the start straightaway that was full of lime that was never going to make a difference.
“I never felt the track was unsafe. Anaheim One was a mud race, but that was different because it wasn't muddy enough that we had to roll everything. This track was super safe because it was slow paced and we had to roll everything. It was muddy like Seattle was last year. The start was weird. I know what we do is dangerous and that will always be there, but at the start, we all went through standing water and were splashed to the point that we couldn't see anything. If you were not the first guy into the first turn, you were blind. I went into the first turn not knowing where I was at, just riding by Braille and bumping off everyone, finding out where the turn is by guys bumping off of me. Guys had their hands off their bars just to pull tear-offs or roll-offs so that they could see going through the first turn, and that was by far the hardest part of it. I don't think that the track was unsafe at all, it was just a muddy Supercross. They knew it was going to rain and there was a way that they could have dumbed it down a little more, but at the same time, the obstacles were there and they did fine on the track build.
“My bike was destroyed. Every time we got off of the track at the race, we knew that the mud was going to be an issue and that they would use some amount of lime, so it was going to pit the metals on the bikes up. Every time we came off of the track we rode right to the wash station and my mechanic washed me off and the bike off, just so we could get off as much mud as we could. My clutch cover had a black anodizing on it, but after practice that went from black to a really bad gray. When I saw that, I knew things wouldn't be good. It looked like it had been hit with acid, but it wasn't like a residue. We tried to wipe it off and it wasn't changing. After every session on the track, we washed the bike immediately to wash away anything that could have eaten away the surface. At that point, it was too late. At the end of the night, we took the plastic off and everything was pitted. My front sprocket and chain were rusted and everything was junk. We washed the bike with no plastic on it and disassembled it, then started on it again first thing Sunday morning. The cases of the engine are destroyed, anywhere on the frame where there is casting is destroyed and blacked. Any picture that you see of a frame from the inside, you can see that it's black and pitted. It looked like we took any piece of aluminum and dipped it in an acid tank. My clamps lost the anodizing and as we scrubbed them, it came off in our hands with the soap. The throttle housing had a coating on it and now that's stripped and flaked off. One team told me that where they mount the transponder to the forks has a noticeable difference in color. The coating used on forks is ruined. The suspension is expensive and you have to send it off to get the right coating. It's nothing you can readily do here. That stuff makes the bike work properly and safely. The shifter on my bike is completely black. It's mind-blowing.
“As a privateer, I usually sell my bikes at the end of the year with some of the parts just to recoup the money. At the end of a season, if I can get $5000 out of a bike, I made out okay. I spend $8000 to $9000 per bike from the dealership, and that's with a good deal. But I won't be able to sell this one now, even though it's a six-hour bike, it looks like it's been outside for years. I will just chalk that one up as a loss, because resale value is $5000 - $7000 and this thing is done. My wheel sets cost me $1000 and this set is done. I have to get a new coating for key areas. Triple clamps are not cheap and I'm out $1000 there. I won't be able to do anything with those at the end of the year, they will be in the trash. I can move a lot of this stuff to a practice bike, but I have to make sure it's okay structurally. If it's eaten up, it might be too compromised to go on. I haven't really assessed everything yet, because the engine is at the builder now. We have to do the usual mud rebuild, but the biggest problem is that the cases are ruined now. I will do everything I can to make them decent and even if I was okay with the bike looking trashed when I practice, I know that it can't look like junk for sale.
I have been doing this for years and I know that there are races that will have lime in the dirt or that is just caustic. The dirt in Las Vegas always corrodes stuff really badly and I really hate that race because of the long straightaways where we get roosted. My lips are chapped badly and anywhere I get hit there with roost burns. I'll have a cough, not like a cold, but a throat-clearing cough. Certain races just have that. But now that we see what happened this weekend, we know what it does and how severely. I was okay with them using lime in the dirt in the past to help dry, but knowing how bad it can affect us, I think it's a horrible idea and we need to find a new way. It was a really good thing at times and it made tracks better, but the mass amount they added mixed with the standing water, it wasn't going to dry up.
I think the track builders do a great job. And last weekend, given the circumstances, they had to rush from Oakland to build it before the rain. This year those guys have been wide-open and they deserve some respect. Unfortunately, they aren't the ones that made the decision. They get to do their job, but they get mismanaged and we need to blame the people that micromanage them. I think they track workers know the right way to do the job and that they knew lime wasn't going to solve the issue, but they were forced to do it.