PRO TAPER PRESENTS MXA’S MID-WEEK REPORT BY JOHN BASHER
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
TWO-STROKE FEVER: 2015 YAMAHA YZ125
MINI-VIEW: GAUTIER PAULIN
By Jim Kimball
Photos by Massimo Zanzani
Gautier, let’s begin with your move from Kawasaki to Honda.What prompted that? The main motivation was that I could see how much HRC Japan was investing in the team. Honda had always been a leader in motocross, and it seemed like they were coming back stronger than ever. This was the main reason. Also, I had been at Kawasaki for a long time, but would no longer be the leader, because Ryan Villopoto was coming. That also helped me to change my mind and leave Kawasaki. There was some chance to come over to America, but the timing was so tight with Ryan’s contract and mine, and I just chose to leave.
I was talking with Dan Bentley, the American Honda Team manager, and he said that the intention is to have a stronger global effort in all motocross racing. Yes, that’s true. I want to thank Dan, who has helped so much this past year. He helped me with trying some new parts, and I know that he is working harder than ever to bring us together. This synergy works well both ways, and I am hoping that they can learn from us, too. I’m definitely looking forward to working together more. I have tried their bike, and it’s very good. Of course, there are different regulations with Europe, but I think that it’s good to share so that we can be stronger.
You finished second in the 2015 World 450 Championship, but you’re probably not too happy about it. Every athlete wants to win, and my goal is to win–that is clear. It was a bad start to the season, very bad actually. The bike was great on sand tracks, but on the hard pack it was not so good. The goal was to improve race after race, because the series was going on and it was difficult to test. Valkenswaard was very good for me, and from there I kept pushing and pushing. But then I hurt my knee and the meniscus, and I had pain for a month or two. I also needed to go to Japan and test, so it was very busy and difficult to recover. This was a tough season, and not the season that I wanted. I wanted to take more wins, but I believe next year will be much better. I know the team better, and they know me, and what I need to improve for 2016.
Your Honda teammate, Evgeny Bobryshev, had one of his best seasons, and finished right behind you in the championship. How is your relationship? It’s good. For a while I was basically racing with only one leg, so we had a close battle in the points, but the relationship is good. We have no rules within the team, and we have lots of respect for each other. There is nothing special. We are not best friends, but we are good teammates.
Jean-Michel Bayle is a member of the team. What does he bring? Yes, Jean-Michel is involved with the team. Most of the time he is filming us, and then giving us feedback on where to improve.
You have always had interest in Supercross, and raced some 250 West Supercross a couple years ago. Will you be back again? Yes. I have lots of interest in Supercross. I’m already contracted to race the MXGP in 2016, but maybe I could move over to the U.S. in 2017. I’ve always loved Supercross and feel really good in America. There is some chance that I may do a little Supercross sooner, but I may also need to have surgery on my knee. If I can ride, I want to do everything that I can to do a couple Supercross races.
What do you think was the reason there were so many injuries this year? It was tough because the level of all the competitors was pretty high, and at times the tracks were not that good. The track preparation was poor at times because of too much watering, and creating only one good line. Plus, in Europe we have two days of racing. Sometimes on Saturday the track can be very good, but then on Sunday it’s not good. Also, at times there are the other European classes, and the tracks get rough. It is motocross, but I think that it can be improved so there are a lot fewer injuries than this year. The organizers are pretty open about this, so that is a good thing. We are told that they are doing the best job that they can with the conditions, and promise us that things will change for next year. There have been a few bad things and a few good things this year, and we will see what they have done for 2016.
Speaking of 2016, how can you win the championship? Like this year, I think that the championship will be very open to every top rider. There will be many situations where the track can change over the course of the weekend. Maybe being very dry on Saturday, and raining overnight to make a muddy track on Sunday. I am going to only concentrate on my own riding and try to improve any weak points that I can. There will be many fast riders, and you never know in motocross. The level is high, and often the top five are all on the same second. The tracks have been smaller and not as good as in the past, so it is difficult to find lines. The racing was exciting for the spectators because they saw several different winners. However, if we cannot pass then it makes the racing slow and boring. Many were not expecting some of the new guys to win as they did, but everyone was pushing to the highest level in the sport. All the riders are training hard, and all the bikes are good. The big thing is to be good on all tracks.
WHAT THE MXA WRECKING CREW IS UP TO
It’s another busy week for the MXA gang. Last Tuesday we traveled to Milestone and tested the 2016 Kawasaki KX250F (seen above). We’ve been inundated with 2016 bikes, which isn’t a bad thing. On Thursday we loaded up all of the 250 four-strokes and set off for Glen Helen to begin bike comparison testing. That testing continued through the weekend. The bikes were stowed away in Jody’s barn, where he weighed each bike (you’ll see those numbers in a future issue of MXA).
Our fearless leader, Jody, takes pride in weighing all of the new bikes. If you look closely, you can see umbrellas, track markers, MXA helmets, and a few older lids hanging in the rafters of his barn.
A freak rainstorm blew in and hampered testing, but that didn’t stop the MXA wrecking crew from heading back to Glen Helen on Tuesday to start our 450 Four-Stroke Shootout. The 450 shootout video will be forthcoming, although don’t expect us to hand you the results on a golden platter. After all, magazine sales are important for the bottom line. However, the video will give a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each bike. You can draw your own conclusions from there.
An up-close look at the 2016 Husqvarna FC250. Notice the Motool Slacker digital sag scale. It’s a valuable tool for easily measuring race sag.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: BLAKE BAGGETT
“If you’re going to gamble on something, then you might as well gamble on yourself. That’s the goal behind buying property in Florida and investing in all that I have. I’ve been using it to my advantage. Fast guys come to ride, and it is becoming the ultimate training place. Sure, I put a lot of money into my ranch, but if it gets me the results then it will all be worth it. That’s the plan, anyway.”–Blake Baggett.
Click here to read the interview.
PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: DECAL WORKS CRF SIDE PLATES
2015 RED BULL STRAIGHT RHYTHM: STRAIGHT FACTS
The second annual Red Bull Straight Rhythm is blasting off this Saturday at the Pomona Fairplex in sweltering SoCal. Find out the skinny from the first off-season race by reading below. By the way, if you’re not heading out to the Straight Rhythm you’re in luck, because Red Bull is live streaming it on their website (click here).
The inaugural Red Bull Straight Rhythm was held at the Pomona Fairplex, the same location as the L.A. County Fair. Last year the 1/2-mile-long “unwound” track ran along the drag strip, but Red Bull wisely moved over to the horse track. The grandstands should offer better shade and more visibility. The festivities begin at 12:30 p.m. this Saturday, October 10th.
The Pomona Fairplex address:
1101 West McKinley Ave
Pomona, CA 91768
There will be an elevated start, which adds a twist to a already unique concept. A total of 74 features will be littered on the 2500-foot-long track, which obviously doesn’t have any turns. Last year the start went straight into a set of whoops, but for 2015 the course designers put in three consecutive doubles with steep faces to encourage riders to scrub low and keep momentum up. There are also several speed checks, five tabletops, a bunch of varying-sized whoops, and the finish line is after a double (last year the finish line was on the face of the double).
Bring the sunscreen. The high will reach around 100 degrees, right about the time the quarterfinals are set to take off.
Just like last year, the racers will have qualifying sessions to determine their running order. Once complete, two racers will match up in a head-to-head format. It’s a best of three contest, where a racer will advance after beating the other rider twice. As the field gets whittled down the competition becomes more challenging.
Justin Brayton (left), James Stewart (center) and Malcolm Stewart (right) were the top three finishers in the Open class last year. They’ll be back at it this weekend, only Malcolm will be racing in the 250 class. Photo by Garth Milan / Red Bull Content Pool.
* This race marks the return of James Stewart since he raced the Red Bull Straight Rhythm last year. The Straight Rhythm isn’t AMA-sanctioned, which is why Stewart was able to compete at Pomona in 2014. However, it has been a year since Bubba lined up to the gate.
* Last year’s Open class results had James Stewart winning, followed by Justin Brayton and Malcolm Stewart. Dean Wilson finished fourth. In the 250 class, Marvin Musquin took the win, edging out Justin Hill.
* Not to take away from the racing last year, but both fields have considerably deeper talent in 2015. The Open class features Stewart, Ryan Dungey (absent last year), Ken Roczen (also absent), Marvin Musquin, Dean Wilson and Justin Brayton. Any of these guys could end up in the final. In the 250 class, it looks to be a Troy Lee Designs KTM versus Geico Honda affair.
* Remember when Travis Pastrana raced a Suzuki RM500 two-stroke, dubbed the “RM-Zilla,” last year? He won’t be back, as he has scheduling conflicts with his Nitro Circus Live tour. He provided lasting entertainment when he edged out Josh Hansen in the second race and pulled a backflip over the finish line double.
* The class will be narrowed down from 10 to eight riders following timed qualifying on Friday.
WHO WILL WIN?
Gazing into my crystal ball, I foresee a shootout between James Stewart, Ryan Dungey, Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin. All have something to prove, and as Red Bull-sponsored athletes, each will be thirsty (no pun intended) to reign supreme for their big sponsor. By the way, isn’t it interesting how there’s lack of participation from Monster-sponsored athletes, yet Red Bull’s fleet of talent will be contesting the Monster Energy Cup a week later? For more on the MEC, check back next week.
Who will win the second annual Red Bull Straight Rhythm? I’ll go with James Stewart. This course is tailor-made for the scrub master. Bubba is no doubt energized to smoke the field after the long layoff. It’ll be a Stewart versus Musquin final. Stamp it. In the 250 class, I’ll go with Jessy Nelson. He’s coming off a remarkable USGP win, and I like his odds for the 250 West title in 2016. Straight Rhythm will be a prelude to what he’ll do in the coming months. Nelson will edge out Malcolm Stewart in the final.
MINI-VIEW: FILIP BENGTSSON
Interview courtesy of 24MX Honda Racing
The 2015 season was not only Filip Bengtsson’s first full-time stint on the MXGP World tour, it was his first complete GP season altogether. Looking back he collected some good memories and some moments he’d rather forgot about. However the 24MX Honda rider ended the year with a little bonus, claiming two holeshots in his three MXoN races in front of a massive crowd. We sat down with “Fillibang” about the MX of Nations and 2015 as a whole.
You’re known as a great starter and finally at the MX of Nations you grabbed some outstanding getaways. That must have been a big thrill?
It was amazing to get a great reaction, pin it and take the holeshot in the biggest race of the season! With so many people cheering on and watching all over the world it’s a terrific buzz to cross that line first. I was careful to enter the corner not too enthusiastic but after pulling it off in the qualifying race I knew I could do it again on race day. In the final combined MXGP / Open race it was a close call between me and Ben Townley again, although I took the Fox Holeshot award in the end. It was a shame that in the commotion after the moto I forgot to pick up the holeshot cheque but I heard that they will send so that’s cool!
With Team Sweden you guys were on the way to a top-10 place going into the final moto. Even with Fredrik Noren not being there, that would have been sweet?
Absolutely, top-10 was our goal and we all rode pretty well. After taking the holeshot I didn’t want to let Townley by like on Saturday so I passed him again led for about half a lap. Unfortunately I made an off-track excursion early on and that broke my rhythm. By then the track was super gnarly with all the braking bumps and ruts. I felt really tired in my arms, the monkey-arms syndrome you know! For most of the race I was holding on to 15th with Dennis Ullrich pushing behind me. With a couple of laps I made another mistake and that’s how we lost the top-10 in the Nations classification.
Your riding, on a very technical hard pack track, was good last weekend.
The speed was indeed positive. Both on Saturday and in the first race on Sunday I felt good. After a bad start in moto 1 I felt this was one of my best ever races on hard-pack. I finished 8th out of the MXGP riders so for me that’s a solid result. On Saturday I was 8th in the MXGP qualifying race. It’s confirmation that I’m getting stronger in this kind of conditions.
How do you look back on the season?
It’s been a season with ups and downs. I was a bit slow to get going, although I felt pretty strong physically going into the season. The first overseas race were a disaster. The first European GP in Arco di Trento had gone quite well for me but when I had this big crash in Valkenswaard it set me back a lot and that took the wind out of my sails. I suffered a serious concussion which took me a long time to recover. You see how injuries during the season can effect even the fastest guys. For example, when Max Nagl came back he found it hard to reach the level he had earlier in the season.
For this season you stepped up from the 350 bike to the 450. Wow was that?
It’s been a really interesting experience and I learned a lot. In practice it was never so hard to ride with the bigger bike because it handles so well. When there’s more pressure and you’re in a race situation it was a bit different. You actually need to adapt your riding style, you have to be smoother on the gas and really respect the bike. Especially on hard pack! In the end you have quite a lot more power so you can’t just pin it everywhere.
In MXGP you got some top-10 results but you were the dominant rider when you raced in Sweden, you were on the podium in international races in Holland and Belgium. The speed was there so what do you need to work on?
It’s nice to get good results in international race but in MXGP the field is of course a lot more stacked. Translating that speed into results at the highest level is a lot about experience. How to deal with the pressure, how to deal with set up and preparation but also I struggled quite a lot with the overseas traveling which was new to me. I don’t want to use it as an excuse but I never did a full GP season before, not in MX2 either. So while I went into the season with the experience of 9 GP’s another MXGP rookie like Glenn Coldenhoff had 50 GP’s, that’s five times as much. Most other guys at this level have racked up more than 100 GP’s.
So where does that leave you for next season?
I would definitely like to stay in MXGP but I know this might be difficult. Budgets are tight everywhere, you even see factory teams cutting back from three-rider teams to two guys. That makes things even harder for riders like me. I have some meetings this week and next week so hopefully I will soon know more about my future.
2016 AMA NATIONAL SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED: SOUTHWICK’S BACK!
IS THE 2016 SCHEDULE BETTER THAN ’15? Absolutely. With Southwick replacing the Utah round, how couldn’t the schedule be better? It’s not fair that Utah lost another professional race (Salt Lake City Supercross, anyone?), but Miller Motorsports wasn’t the proper venue for a National-caliber race. There must be better tracks in Utah than a manmade dust bowl. Also, the 2016 schedule includes a two-week reprieve at the end of July/beginning of August. That will be a welcome break for the racers and teams. There’s still a weekend break between the end of the Supercross series and the start of the Nationals.
WHAT ARE THE BIG CHANGES FOR 2016? Aside from Southwick coming back, High Point and Muddy Creek have flip-flopped. High Point is now round four–interestingly it’s still later in the year than the 2015 race. Also, Budds Creek is now the penultimate round, rather than preceding Red Bud.
2016 AMA NATIONAL SCHEDULE
May 28…Glen Helen
June 4…Thunder Valley
June 18…High Point
June 25…Muddy Creek
July 2…Red Bud
July 16…Spring Creek
August 20…Budds Creek