This past weekend marked the start of the annual Monster Energy Mammoth Motocross races. This once-a-year dirt bike racing event takes place high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at an altitude of nearly 8000 feet inside the resort community of Mammoth Lakes, California. The event features racing for all ages and motorcycle classes (with exception of vintage) that span a week and a half. Last weekend was the dedicated to Vets (over 30-years of age). This week the Minis go at it (50cc thru 85cc) followed by the Open/Schoolboy/Women divisions, 250 and 450 classes. Check out the 2011 Mammoth Motocross photo gallery to see what’s happening on and off the track. If you’ve never experienced racing at Mammoth, here are a few reasons why you should put it on your calendar.
Mammoth Motocross is one of the oldest continuously run races in America. It started way back in 1968 and has run every summer since. Over the years dirt bike racing’s elite, including James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath, to name a few, have bashed handlebars around its distinctive course carved from a densely forested mountain. The track’s stomach-jolting layout, majestic panoramas and relaxed mountain atmosphere have made this event a sought after destination for any motorcycle riding enthusiast. At one time the track was open throughout the summer, but the Forest Service has since made it illegal to ride there with exception of the annual Mammoth Motocross races.
The Mammoth Motocross track is unlike any other motocross track I’ve ever seen or ridden. It’s also one of the most treacherous. It’s a relatively long course with two-plus minute lap times. Giant trees and boulders line the circuit which adds to the level of danger (not to mention thrill) during races.
The track offers a wide variety of terrain and obstacles. It is fast and flowing in some spots and rewards riders that carry momentum. Other sections are first-gear tight and very technical. It’s got a fourth- or fifth-gear pinned uphill straightaway, a steep downhill, a number of tight, second-gear off-camber turns, switchbacks and some really technical sections that look like something you‘d experience on a mountain bike trail. Jump-wise there are a few tabletops, the biggest being a 75-footer.
Equally as unique is the composition of the terrain. Considering its volcanic past, the dirt has a dark brown/red hue to it. In a few areas it is loamy, however in others it is the textbook definition of hard pack. So hard in fact that it’s almost impossible for ruts to form because the ground is basically rock-hard. Furthermore, there is also a short sand section. This can make tire selection a tricky process.
While it can’t necessarily be described as a one-lined track, parts of the course are so narrow that it makes it very difficult to pass slower riders. Grabbing the holeshot is the most important factor in determining the outcome of your race. Due to the ground being so hard it is impossible to disc the track, which means the track gets progressively rougher throughout the duration of the 10-day event.
Jeremy McGrath and Ryan Hughes battled hard in all four Vet pro motos, with Hughes winning three and McGrath one.
Although there isn’t a whole lot of prize money to be won racing, Mammoth is considered to be a very prestigious event. The intensity and level of competition is very high and nearly every class has a full 40-rider gate. It’s a crazy race because when the helmets are off everyone is friendly and motorcycling camaraderie is very high. But the second the gate drops the gloves are off and things can get heated and physical immediately.
Consider this: Just before the start of one of my races the guy next to me give me a fist pound and wish me luck. Not even a minute later I get into him on the start and I see him crash out of my peripheral vision which effectively put him out of the race. That in essence is what racing Mammoth is all about. And while everyone wants to win, at the end of the day it’s all about having fun and coming home in one piece.
Considering its proximity to the nearby ski resort and other tourist attractions, the atmosphere is generally very laid back and friendly. Traffic signals are few and far between, and whether you’re at the grocery store or one of the many restaurants you won’t experience the typical levels of SoCal congestion. The folks that live and work up here are helpful and accommodating and seem to genuinely want visitors to have a good time.
Aside from racing there is a whole lot of things to see and do while visiting. From downhill skiing and snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain (the ski lifts are scheduled to run until July 4) to road and mountain biking, Mammoth is an outdoor lover’s dream come true. Don’t have any equipment? Visit Footloose Sports where you can rent or purchase all sorts of sporting goods.
If you’re looking to partake in less strenuous activities there are countless streams, rivers and lakes for fishing, not to mention the miles upon miles of hiking trails that lead to some of Mother Nature’s best kept secrets including geothermal hot springs.
For more information on the Mammoth Motocross races check out www.mammothmotocross.com