Unadilla celebrated its 40th anniversary by going back in time. Retro was everywhere, including the riders and their bikes.
Cruising up scenic Highway 8 in New York, the scenery of rolling green hills was getting familiar. The New Berlin Fire Department was also doing its annual boot drive fundraiser, right on cue. Then as traffic slowed and the big white barn appeared, along with cars parked on both sides, and the 18-wheelers of all the teams adding a blast of color to the view, you knew you’d arrived at Unadilla.
Being the 40th anniversary event at Unadilla (and the same for Woodstock, which was about 40 miles away), the entire weekend had a retro theme. There were displays of old race posters in the pits, autograph sessions with legends from the past, and a huge vintage bike display in the vendor’s area. As far as gear went, Fox Racing killed it with sets of repro gear that mimicked their late 70s style when Pat Richter, Steve Wise and others rode for them. This time around it was Ryan Dungey, Ivan Tedesco, Justin Barcia, Brett Metcalfe and Blake Wharton in the gear, but with nods to the past Fox heroes, as their butt patches featured nicknames like Showtime, Fro, Bomber, and The Beast.
A special nod goes to privateer Ryan Newton, who not only had the look of retro gear, he was actually riding in vintage Mike Kiedrowski gear that he’d dug up from the depths of the Answer Racing archives.
Chad Reed wore current Thor gear, but had done up a retro-themed helmet to pay tribute to his friend and fellow Suzuki legend, Mark Barnett.
Honda Red Bull Racing got best in show for their retro effort on the bikes, which included bikes that showed off the styles of the past. Tedesco’s bike looked like a ‘70s Honda Elsinore, with silver plastic (and the classic green stripe down the tank) as well as a numbers style from the era. Andrew Short’s bike was set as a replica of the ‘80s era (including the old skinny numbers), and Davi Millsaps’ CRF450R looked a lot like one of Jeremy McGrath’s old 1-800-Collect Hondas, except that it had been changed to 1-800-THROTTLE.
GP competitor Gareth Swanepoel made a guest appearance at Unadilla, helping fill out the rotating lineup of riders who have filled in for Monster Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto and Timmy Ferry this season. Fortunately, Timmy was back in action at the ‘Dilla. This wasn’t Swanepoel’s first trip to the U.S. for a National, but the South African did seem particularly keen to hear about any opportunities to race here full-time. He put in a good showing with a 7-6 day. Now we just wish that the economy was booming, and there were plenty of opportunities for a ride here, rather than rumors of team sizes contracting.
When you start to think of the U.S.A. riders who are sidelined this season, either by their own choice, or by injury, it makes you realize what a daunting task it was selecting a 2009 Motocross of Nations team to send to Italy this October. Kevin Windham and Ferry both had MXoN experience, but K-Dub had taken most of the summer off, and Ferry had been injured since Daytona. Sure, Timmy had ridden a couple races, but he’d mentioned that he was still favoring the injured foot, and that was throwing his balance off. Ryan Villopoto had been a hero during the previous couple MXoNs, but he was down with a knee injury (though he’ll be getting back on the bike soon, it’s not nearly enough time to recuperate and prep for a race like the MXoN). Mike Alessi? He’s actively pitched to go in the past, but his broken kneecap will keep him out of action. Trey Canard? Nope, no dice there, either. Heck, even Austin Stroupe was just returning to action after being out since Hangtown with a hip injury. Ryan Sipes was also just returning to action.
Maybe the fastest U.S. rider of all, James Stewart, sat out the ’09 outdoor season in favor of a limited schedule (X Games and a schedule of Fall European and Australian Supercross events). His PR crew put out a press release offering his support for the team selection, but you have to wonder if his team was all that interested in going in the first place.
So who made the cut? Well, you’ve probably heard by now that it’s Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey in MX1, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer in MX2, and Ivan Tedesco who’ll represent us in Italy as our Open class rider (MX3).
It will be interesting to see how Team USA works out, with Dungey stepping up to premier class on a big-bore bike (he says he’ll be fine with a month to prepare), and with another first-time participant in Jake Weimer. Ivan Tedesco has prior experience, as a part of the winning team in England in ’06. You have to wonder if the playing field is just a little more level this year than in the past…
One of the teams to watch when we get to the MXoN? Australia, which features the same lineup of riders as last season, but Chad Reed is much better prepared this time around than last year’s effort at Donington Park.
Chad did turn a few heads in the post-race press conference when he mentioned that this might be his last year racing on two wheels. He’s still waiting to see what happens with the Suzuki team (we hear some rumors that it may be going away, or shifting to a different effort), and Chad mentioned that he has some opportunities to go four-wheel racing instead. From our point of view, it sure would be a bummer to lose him now. He seems to be having more fun than ever, and we sure do need someone who can compete with James Stewart during the Supercross season, or he might go 17-0 there.
As mentioned a bit ago, Kevin Windham made his first outdoor appearance of the ’09 season at Unadilla, and on a Geico Powersports Honda 250F to boot. While it was good seeing him back in action, the fact that he’s checking in at 200 pounds and was racing guys who are 50-60 pounds lighter than he is should give you a hint of how he did. On a 450 he can use the power to full advantage, but the 250F requires maintaining more momentum. He also ran afoul of a new regulation this year as he got to the gate late (as did his teammate Brett Metcalfe), after the entrance had already been closed. That meant they both had to move to the last two gate picks, rather than the spots that they’d qualified in. Combine being underpowered with a poor starting spot, and Windham mentioned after the race that he almost packed up and went back to the truck before the race even started. The good news? He’ll be back on his usual 450 next weekend in Budds Creek, and definitely won’t have to worry about being underpowered again.
As for the racing? Chad Reed and Christophe Pourcel both dominated their classes. Reed has an 82-point lead, and with a bit of luck (or some bad luck for his closest pursuer, Andrew Short), he could wrap up the title next week in Budds Creek. For his part, Christophe Pourcel now has a six-point lead over Ryan Dungey, as the two continue to battle for the 250 title. It’s been an interesting championship so far, and we’d expect that to continue next week in Budds Creek.
Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship
Unadilla – New Berlin, NY
1. Chad Reed (Suzuki) 1-1
2. Andrew Short (Honda) 5-2
3. Michael Byrne (Suzuki) 4-3
4. Justin Brayton (KTM) 8-4
5. Davi Millsaps (Honda) 3-11
6. Gareth Swanepoel (Kawasaki) 7-6
7. Ivan Tedesco (Honda) 6-8
8. Kyle Regal (Yamaha) 10-5
9. Tommy Hahn (Kawasaki) 2-16
10. Timmy Ferry (Kawasaki) 11-7
11. Jarred Browne (Suzuki) 9-9
12. Jimmy Albertson (Yamaha) 14-12
13. Nick Wey (Yamaha) 13-15
14. Weston Peick (Honda) 16-13
15. Adam Chatfield (Kawasaki) 12-17
16. Robby Marshall (Suzuki) 29-10
17. Antonio Balbi (Honda) 38-14
18. Tyler Bowers (Honda) 15-27
19. Cody Cooper (Yamaha) 17-30
20. Jason Thomas (Honda) 25-18
1. Christophe Pourcel (Kawasaki) 1-1
2. Ryan Dungey (Suzuki) 2-2
3. Jake Weimer (Kawasaki) 3-3
4. Brett Metcalfe (Honda) 4-4
5. Broc Tickle (Yamaha) 9-5
6. Kyle Cunningham (Kawasaki) 6-8
7. Tommy Searle (KTM) 10-7
8. Justin Barcia (Honda) 7-10
9. Matt Lemoine (Yamaha) 14-9
10. P. J. Larsen (Kawasaki) 13-11
11. Blake Wharton (Honda) 5-28
12. Austin Stroupe (Kawasaki) 34-6
13. Steven Clarke (Suzuki) 16-12
14. Darryn Durham (Yamaha) 8-38
15. Ben Evans (Honda) 17-14
16. Ryan Sipes (KTM) 11-36
17. Alex Martin (Honda) 20-13
18. Tommy Weeck (KTM) 18-15
19. Justin Weeks (Suzuki) 15-18
20. Kevin Windham (Honda) 12-21