By John Basher
The 25th running of the famed Geneva Supercross is taking place this weekend in the second largest city in Switzerland. What makes this race so special is the fact that it’s the second longest running off-season Supercross race in Europe (following Bercy), and that the large floor space allows for longer lap times than most European Supercross tracks. Eric Peronnard, the organizer of the event, flew MXA over to cover the race, and what a trip it has been thus far. We didn’t come just to cover the event?Dennis is racing and I’m shooting photos.
An early winter snowstorm pummeled Geneva and the surrounding areas with over a foot of snow, effectively shutting down the airport and wreaking havoc on incoming travelers. I was one of the few people to mostly bypass the delays, having to deal with a two hour stoppage while in Washington D.C. However, other Geneva-bound travelers, like the Joe Gibbs Racing team of Justin Brayton and Davi Millsaps, were hung up in Frankfort, Germany for six hours. Once on board the plane the pilot discovered that the plane was too heavy for safe travel, so the bird was relegated to the ground for an hour while it burned costly fuel. One weight saving method that the airline opted to do was remove heavy luggage, and the JGR suspension was pulled from the plane. Fortunately Jeremy Albrecht thought ahead and had the race engines shipped across the pond a week ago to make sure that the JGR-tuned engines were ready for this weekend.
Having said that, the opening round of practice this morning went off without many hitches. I say many because Kyle Chisholm had bike issues and missed the first practice. Justin Brayton also missed practice because the team’s suspension was pulled from a plane two hours before and his bike wasn’t quite ready.
The list of major stars racing here in Geneva is short, but it’s a powerful contingent of riders that should make for exciting racing both tonight and tomorrow evening. The two-day affair has attracted a sold out crowd of French, Swiss and German fans. Americans Davi Millsaps, Justin Brayton, Kyle Chisholm, Mike Brown, Vince Friese, and MXA‘s Dennis Stapleton will line up tonight among several top European riders, including Arnaud Tonus (Switzerland) and Cedric Soubeyras (France).
As for the track itself, it is not altogether different from a U.S. Supercross at a glance, but once you stop and take a look it’s easy to see noticeable differences. The triple is probably only 50 feet in length, and the face of the jump is roughly half the height of an American triple. The finish line jump is about 50 feet long. Geneva does have a whoop section, but it is short in length and difficult to time. Why? After the first little set of whoops the track crew put in a short tabletop to break up the rhythm, yet there’s an even longer set of whoops following the tabletop. More than a few times in practice riders bounced off the handlebars and hit the floor. These areas, coupled with a few rhythm sections, equate to lap times in the 40 second range (Justin Brayton, fastest this afternoon, logged a 36.270 time).
Vive la Suisse! Organizer Eric Peronnard invited the MXA crew out for the 25th running of the Geneva Supercross. It has been a great time so far, and the city itself is picturesque (heck, a slum would be pretty if the French Alps were planted in the background). The Supercross has already sold out both nights.
As you can see from the white stuff, it’s cold here in Switzerland. On Thursday the city was busy shoveling itself out of a snow bank. However, the Supercross show must go on. The staff here is exceptional to work with. I can shoot photos anywhere I want on the track and not have to worry about some overlord perched up in the stands watching my every move through binoculars and then having some henchman on the floor yell at me (a la American Supercross). It’s a good feeling to feel welcome here.
Here’s where the magic is going to happen. The consistency of the dirt is soft clay, although there are plenty of small rocks to be found. The track crew sprinkled lime on the jump faces to keep them from rutting up, but it’s still going to get rutted (think East coast Supercross tracks, or worse).
Team JGR made the trip to Switzerland, but it wasn’t easy. The weather socked the guys in at Frankfurt, and then their suspension didn’t come until two hours before practice started. It has been a frantic day for the North Carolina based team.
I call Mike Brown a jack-of-all-trades because, well, he is! The former 125 National Champion races the WORCS series, Endurocross, and several of the Nationals. Mike has been racing the Geneva Supercross for more years than he can even remember. For 2011 he will be racing a few Nationals, the WORCS series, the Endurocross series, at least one GNCC round, and possibly even a Supercross or two. Hence the nickname.
Frenchman Cedric Soubeyras is legit at European Supercross. He was flying at Bercy a few weeks ago, and he’s going just as fast in Geneva. Cedric is about half a second off the pace of Justin Brayton, but he’s logging times faster than nearly all of the 40 riders.
Kyle Chisholm is turning into Mr. European Supercross. The Motoconcepts/Yamaha rider made a smart move by racing overseas, not only because it’s good preparation for the U.S. series, but also because he can bank some dough and spread his popularity.
If there’s one European here that deserves a shot in the U.S., it’s Switzerland’s Arnaud Tonus. The kid has ridiculous style on a bike, but he rides with aggression. It’s fun to watch him ride, and being the hometown hero this weekend, it will be cool to see the Swiss fans back him to a possible win.
MXA‘s Dennis Stapleton is racing this weekend. Say what? Dennis was already over in Europe racing a Supercross event in Holland, so he decided to hop in a van and make his way to Geneva. In the past month Stapleton has raced Endurocross in Las Vegas, podiumed one night in a Holland Supercross, did his regular MXA duties and is now lining up to the gate in Switzerland. What a tough life!
An eleventh hour replacement for Kevin Windham, Davi Millsaps is in Geneva. After making a switch to the JGR team, Davi looks good on the Yamaha. That is, when his back allows him to. Millsaps compressed three vertebrae in his lower back last week while seat bouncing a jump and is dealing with excruciating pain that runs from his lower back down his leg. It looks like Davi will try to soldier through the pain, but it’s obviously affecting him on the bike.
Sporting a permanent number for 2011, Justin Brayton has been running it proudly so far in Switzerland. Brayton looks to be the man to beat this weekend. The start is always crucial, but on a tight track like the one here in Geneva, it’s going to be vital for a successful weekend. There will probably be some rubbing going on in the corners.
At Bercy, freestyle rider Charles Pages crashed while attempting a front flip. He is still in a coma, and our thoughts and prayers go out to him. His brother, Thomas, is here this weekend participating in the freestyle portion. It’s cool to see that Thomas is continuing on and supporting his brother. He even wrote Charles a message on his back that says, “Be strong bro!”
The lap board doesn’t lie, although here it’s only telling half of the story. Justin Brayton was fastest in practice, but Arnaud Tonus and Mike Brown (both from the first practice) were also going fast.