You want to be the best? Well then, you need to learn from the best. Imagine that you could get personalized instruction from the GOAT himself, Ricky Carmichael
. Now imagine he invited some of his champion buddies like Jeff Emig and Jeff Stanton to help out. Let’s get really crazy and say that this all would happen on the Daytona Supercross
track that would be groomed constantly as the day wore on. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? It’s not. This past Monday 100 lucky riders attended the first ever Ricky Carmichael University (RCU) at the Daytona International Speedway.
Learning from the best in the business was a priceless experience for 100 lucky people.
For just $444, any skill level of rider was able to learn speed secrets from the “Greatest Of All Time” for one day. The location for RCU was a mellowed-out version of the Daytona Supercross track. The day began with a breakfast and introduction to the instructors, including Emig, Stanton, Clark Stiles, and Jeannie Carmichael. Each instructor has a certain skill set they would be drilling the students on. The 100 eager riders were split up into groups by skill level and age. Each group would work through a drill station for around an hour, and then move to the next. The students put in some serious seat time over the course of the day; several riders actually ran out of gas before the lunch break. How often do you go through a tank before lunch at the local track?
RC worked the students in cornering drills while also checking up on all of the other stations. The 15-time champ was all over the track assisting students and his teaching staff. One minute he was riding with the cornering students and the next he was demonstrating proper body position at the jump station. It was obvious the GOAT cared about every student’s progress at RCU and that he would be exhausted by the end of the day.
Pro-level rider David Lee attended RCU in hopes of improving his chances of making the night program of the AMA East Coast Lites Series.
Jeff Emig schools the students on getting the holeshot.
“It’s been a great experience with Emig and Carmichael. They’re all really nice people,” said Lee. “I picked up a lot of stuff. We were close this weekend and I think now we can make it when we go back to Dallas.”
Emig was always a holeshot master, so naturally he had the start station on lock down. The former Supercross and Motocross champ worked with each group of students on body position, clutch control, gear selection, and gate pick. After each discussion the riders would then practice start after start. During each session, Fro would pull riders aside for personal tips and technique tweaks. RC would check in, do a demonstration and give some personal insight on how to get to the first turn before the competition.
The start station was Pittsburgh racer Mike Kozma’s favorite. “It was one of the areas I needed to work on,” said the +25 class racer. “I’ve watched him (Emig) on TV for years. He was always the guy who got the good starts and to have him give you some of those tips, it’s just unbelievable.”
Clark Stiles is a Dunlop test rider who has trained and worked with Carmichael for years. RC had Stiles instruct the students on the correct way to work through a rhythm jump section. The students were turned loose on the section as Stiles observed their technique. He would then pull the class in close and give direction on how to work through the section better. As the session progressed, you could easily see the elevated confidence and skill in Clark’s students. The Dunlop test rider’s station may not have been a favorite with anyone we spoke to, but that has probably more to do with his lack of star-power more than anything else. His instruction made every rider faster whether they realized it or not.
Is this the next legend in the making? He's got the right number.
Quite a few students were amazed to see Ricky’s mother, Jeannie Carmichael, drilling them on front brake use in turns. RC has always credited his mother as one of the reasons he won so many championships. Jeannie explained to her classes how important front brake control is to getting around a turn properly and quickly. Standing right at the entrance to the turn, Mrs. Carmichael would make sure every rider used the front brake properly. Students that went through that class now has an idea how hard Ricky’s mother worked to help her son achieve his goals. Her station was a favorite with the younger riders.
“She told us to pull out the front brake going into the corner,” said 85cc racer Anthony Giglio. “I started going faster even though I was using my brakes.”
Six-year-old Deegan Harper also was a fan of Jeannie’s instruction. “My favorite was the front brake one. Front brakes can make you go way faster.”
Deegan’s father Jason thought the class was time and money well spent.“It’s been great. Just anybody new to tell him, he listens. He’s probably sick of listening to me telling him constantly what to do. He did great with the front brake thing and Ricky’s mom really helped him a lot. It’s also great for him to see and talk to the idol he has up on his wall at home.”
The Ricky Carmichael University is open to any age or skill level.
Six-time AMA Supercross and Motocross champion Jeff Stanton worked with the riders on turns as well. Stanton drilled his students on line selection and body position. He carried around a stick to point where he wanted the students on the track. A couple of younger students said he looked scary with the big stick, but after the session was over, he was one of their favorite instructors.
Bob Burns, a 40+ rider, thoroughly enjoyed Stanton’s section. “Stanton’s was big for me. Turns kill everybody. That section killed me yesterday during the amateur supercross. I knew I could do it better, and now I can,” said the California racer. “It’s having the repetition and being able to get in there and really think about it. Having someone come up and tell you ‘don’t do that.’ This is just awesome. I would like to see this on the West Coast.”
NASCAR star Kyle Petty was at the RCU to work on his dirt skills. Petty is known to be a motorcycle enthusiast on the street, but his dirt skills are a little rusty. When asked how often he rides dirtbikes, the Number 45 cup car driver said, “I’m 49 and this is the first time since I was 15, so pretty often, about once every 34 years. I’m going to ride a lot more now though. No joke, it has been a lot of fun.”
Even with Petty’s limited dirt experience he progressed and actually got some air in the rhythm section. He was on the gas through the infield start straight thanks to Emig’s tutelage.
“I have spun out through that grass about a hundred times in my career, but it wasn’t as rough as what today was. Man, this is fun!” Petty said.
He may be retired, but Ricky Carmichael still dispays the skills to win the championship.
After the lunch break the students were gathered inside Daytona’s Gatorade Victory Lane for a sit down talk about racing and training. Carmichael, Emig and Stanton candidly spoke about what makes a racer successful and how to achieve racing goals. Whether or not the students realized it, they had the rare opportunity to witness a once-in-a-lifetime discussion between three legends of motocross. All three agreed that races are won on the ground, not in the air. Turns and starts are more important than being able to jump the biggest obstacle on the track. Repetitive practice on the ground is going to get you onto the top step of the podium and that is were the bulk of track time should be spent.
After a full day of learning from the best, the track was opened up for free practice. It was easy to see how much every rider had improved in comparison to the morning’s practice. I expect in the future you will see the words “Ricky Carmichael University” on the resumes of a few future champions.