2011 United States Motocross Grand Prix

“Us Vs. Them” Ain’t What It Used To Be

By Karel Kramer, Photography by Scott Hoffman

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … no, wait, it was here. Back in the 1970s, it happened at motocross tracks all over the USA: international meets where European riders faced off against their American counterparts, and a Belgian on a Suzuki—first Joel Robert, then Roger DeCoster—kicked butt big-time. But that was then—when the Americans fought over a chance to measure their skills against the Europeans, and fans flocked to the races to watch the best racers in the world in action.

And this is now, when unlike those long-forgotten Trans-Am and Inter-Am races that paid no FIM points, Southern California’s Glen Helen Raceway hosted full-on rounds of the MX1 and MX2 World Championships for the second year in a row. The best European riders had to be there, and Belgian Suzuki rider Clément Desalle submitted a powerful 1-1 performance that returned him to the MX1 series points lead.

The track was amazing for those watching, and the racing was some of the best witnessed in America so far this year. Gooey mud courtesy of an unseasonal rain shower that preceded the first motos, plus deep ruts, big bumps and sick jumps separated by near-vertical uphills and downhills, kept the competition on their toes. Spectators, on the other hand, didn’t have to be on their toes, as there were ample viewing spots along the fences. Why? Because two kinds of Americans stayed away: the riders and the spectators. And that’s a real shame.

What have we become, groupies? Hero-worshippers not interested if the famous don’t deign to attend? Have the top American riders become such prima donnas that they can’t represent the Stars-and-Stripes at this once-a-year event? Only the top three get to compete in the Motocross of Nations, after all. Is it all about the Benjamins?

The top Europeans have certainly proven capable of running with the top Americans. Remember Desalle challenging Ryan Dungey last year at Unadilla? Antonio Carioli toying with Mike Alessi at the 2010 USGP? And how about Ken Roczen winning the final AMA Supercross Lites race of the year in Las Vegas? They and their classmates are racers of the first order, and we should be interested in seeing how the other side roosts.

Yanks filled a few starting gates, but they were mostly riders far enough down the sponsorship scale that they could overlook the fact that the AMA outdoor nationals started the following weekend. The exception was Christian Craig, who returned from injury to finish 10th overall in the MX1 class. Kudos to the Troy Lee Honda Team for allowing him and teammate Travis Baker to compete! Virginian Zach Osborne is the sole American contesting the GPs, and he nailed down fifth overall in the MX2 class to clinch the Marty Moates Cup awarded to the top-finishing American for the second sucessive year.

Now the Europeans have returned home, and while Desalle has won more motos than anyone else, he still only has a 12-point lead over Carioli. In other words, this is great racing! The MXGP series isn’t perfect, Glen Helen didn’t do much advertising for the event and tickets prices were high, but if the USGP is held again in 2012, don’t miss it.

Even if the American riders do…

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