The 63rd running of the Red Bull Motocross of Nations kicked off today with a long press conference and some fun with high-tech karts, which just happened to be downstairs from the press room at the Franciacorta circuit in northern Italy.
The MXoN hasn’t been held in Italy since 1986, when Team USA (Ricky Johnson, David Bailey, and Johnny O’Mara) won with a performance that is still one of the greatest in the event’s long history. Ricky Johnson was at the press conference to talk about that day and give props to the event’s young rookie promoter, Giuseppe Luongo, who happens to now be the president of Youthstream, the organizer of this weekend’s race.
This year’s Team USA is Ivan Tedesco (his third MXoN), Ryan Dungey and Jake Wiemer. Tedesco is in the MX3 class, Dungey MX1, and Wiemer MX2. Tedesco said this race is more pressure than even Anaheim 1, and he never realized what it would be like until he did one, his first was in 2005 at Ernee, France.
The buzz in the pits is this can be any team’s race. The US team doesn’t include Ricky Carmichael, who is retired, and James Stewart reportedly declined, and he doesn’t do the US motocross nationals anyway and said those guys should get the chance. Strong teams besides the US include Australia, Italy and France. One thing about the Motocross of Nations is the unexpected: the pressure is high, the scoring is combined and there are a lot of surprises.
Team Australia’s Chad Reed is all about confidence this weekend. His was throwing down in Friday’s press conference when he called out James Stewart for not representing Team USA.
The Franciacorta track is built just for this race at a major race facility. This reflects Youthstream’s goal to run more events where there is structure and facilities. The track is huge, wide, and the jumps are large scale. Youthstream’s word for it is “modern motocross.”
Hopefully the karting is not a good predictor of the weekend for Team USA. One rider and one journalist per nation ran qualifiers and the top six ran a combined main. USA (Tedesco and Transworld’s Brendan Lutes) didn’t make the main. (Hey, Australia didn’t either!) Team Germany won the best combined score, but the star was Italy’s Tony Cairoli, who just checked out.
Mike Alessi will be on hand this weekend. He’s racing for KTM next year on their new 350. He is skipping US supercross and is rumored to be doing Chad Reed’s Australian supercross series, and possibly all the GPs in 2010.