ASK THE MXPERTS: WAS THERE CHEATING IN TIMED QUALIFYING AT FREESTONE?


Turning under the yellow track markers, cutting corners or sneaking through the mechanic’s area to set a fast time is not necessary for riders fast enough to qualify, like Ryan Villopoto, but is often used as a last ditch effort by slow riders.

Dear MXA,
Every one has heard about the controversy regarding timed qualifying at Freestone. It is rumored that riders were able to enter the mechanic’s area and, then, reenter the track, knocking several seconds off of their lap times during timed qualifying. If this is true, what should be done about it? Has cheating gotten out of hand?

   It is possible to knock off a significant section of race track at Freestone by entering the mechanic’s area and then immediately reentering the race track (on the other side of a corner). Nothing can be done about it after the fact…and the subject of riders cheating in timed practice is as old as timed practice itself. So, apart from a return to heat races to determine the fast 40, cheating will always be an issue. It is the responsibility of the sanctioning body to make sure that riders don’t cut corners or run inside the yellow markers (although we would be remiss if we didn’t say “Stupid” yellow markers).


The “stupid” yellow marker.

There is no doubt that the promoters and sanctioning body don’t want people cheating, but they also don’t have the manpower to stop them…and can’t do anything four days after the fact. MX Sports says that it will hold a meeting with privateers before the Mt. Morris National to discuss their issues.

The “number one” issue isn’t that there is individual cheating in timed qualifying by some privateers, but that there is institutional cheating by the sanctioning body to favor factory riders in timed qualifying. How does MX Sports’ system cheat the privateers?

Timed qualifying is rigged against the privateers from the outset. The first timed practice of the day is the 450 B Group (made up of riders outside of the top 40). They go out and slop around on a deeply prepped and over-watered racetrack. The second timed practice group on the track is the 450 A Group. They get to ride on a track that the 450 B Group privateers have made lines on and groomed for them. As you would imagine, the 450 A Group goes faster than the 450 B group?not just because they are faster, but because they get to ride on a better racetrack.

Here is the kicker. Since the 450 “B” riders went out first and were followed by the 450 “A” riders, you would expect the 250 “B” Group riders to be next (that would be the logical order of B-A-B-A). You would be wrong. The third timed practice group to go out on the track is the 250 “A” Group (made up of the faster 250 riders). They get to run their timed session on the track immediately after the 450 “A” riders (when the track is probably at its best in terms of lines and dryness). The last timed qualifying session, when the track is considerably rougher and beat up, is the 250 “B” Group.

It is obvious that the way the timed practice sessions are scheduled is designed to favor the A Groups over the B Groups. The B Groups are used as cannon fodder. It is built into the system to stick it to the privateers?they get to soak up the slop in the first timed session and take in beating in the last timed session.

If the privateers want something practical to discuss in their meeting with MX Sports before Mt. Morris, they should request that timed practice sessions be rotated from week to week…with the A Groups trading places with the B Groups at every other race. Or, if you really wanted to believe that every rider with an AMA license is treated equally, how about eliminating “fast” and “slow” groupings and putting the riders into their timed practice session randomly…without any concern for whether the rider is well connected or not. Now that would be fair. However, the odds of MX Sports doing anything against the wishes of the factory teams is almost nil?so don’t expect anything to change…instead, expect the classic, “we’ll look into it” response.

As for cheating by cutting through the pits…put an AMA guy at the exit of the mechanics area and have him hold every rider for whatever time it takes to eliminate the advantage of short cutting the track or put a timing loop in front of the mechanic’s area so that skipping the section of track in front of the mechanics would result in the rider not being timed on that lap.

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