By John Basher
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Austin Politelli gets buck-wild on the 2013 Honda CRF250 at Lake Elsinore. No, he didn’t crash.
MXA’S AGENDA THIS WEEK
Hi, Blake. We’re stealing your bike. Thanks!
And your bike, too, Ricky!
The Nationals are winding down, but that really doesn’t have any effect on the MXA wrecking crew. Many of us will attend the Lake Elsinore National finale (that’s because there isn’t a race at REM that day), but then what? More testing, that’s what! We have the 250 four-stroke shootout coming up, not to mention tests of the 2013 Honda CRF250, Suzuki RM-Z250, Yamaha YZ450F and KTM 450SXF. If that’s not enough, we’re also getting our hands on Blake Baggett’s Pro Circuit KX250F and Ricky Carmichael’s Loretta Lynn’s Suzuki RM-Z450. It’s a good time to be an MXA test rider, because we foresee even more bike tests in the not-too-distant future. Dennis Stapleton, Austin Politelli, Daryl Ecklund and the rest of the crew will be spinning laps at many of the SoCal tracks. We hope to see you there.
A LOOK INSIDE THE GEICO/HONDA RACE SHOP
This is just one room of the Factory Connection race shop. This is where Kristian Kibby, bike extraordinaire, has a desk. He guards all of the spare parts with his life.
That's Bill Savino (left) and Kevin Aschenbach (right) introducing the 2013 Honda CRF250 at Factory Connection's race shop. Behind them are work bays for the team mechanics.
Need Matrix gas cans? Cardboard boxes? A work station?
What we would give to have one of these trick shock bell cranks.
The Geico/Honda team relies on Yoshimura. Here are a few of the team's race mufflers.
Behold the dyno room, where people go deaf in the name of finding hidden horsepower. All of the race engines go on the dyno before they're ever put into the bikes of Barcia, Bogle, Hahn, Bell, and Tomac.
There are quite a few old race bikes taking up space in the shop. Here are the sweet rides of Josh Grant (24), Billy Laninovich (132) and Travis Preston (1).
Got tires? These are mostly new tires taken off production bikes. The team uses works rubber, meaning that these tires are more or less useless. Doesn't that bring a tear to your eye? I'm crying even typing this caption.
MINI-VIEW: JUSTIN BRAYTON
Muscle Milk/Honda’s Justin Brayton has had an injury-filled year, which has left the Iowa native struggling to be a consistent top five rider outdoors. With two races remaining Justin sits seventh in the points standings. I caught up with Brayton to learn more about his season, his thoughts on the upcoming Lake Elsinore National, and his newfound hobby of racing mountain bikes.
MXA: Justin, you’ve become actively involved in mountain bike racing. From what I hear you’re quite good.
Justin: There is a Wednesday night series in Charlotte, North Carolina, that I really like to race. And if there is a weekend off from racing motocross I’ll go to the larger regional races. I’ve also done a four-hour and six-hour endurance race. I really like mountain bike racing. It’s very similar to motocross, and it fits in perfectly with my weekly training schedule. Usually if you’re just going to go out for a bicycle ride the intensity will be considerably lower than what you exert in racing. I like the high intensity of racing. I’m fortunate that Specialized helps me out with bicycles. It’s awesome to be pedaling on the best bicycles made.
What kind of mountain bike set up do you have?
The east coast trails have a lot of roots, so I like to run the Epic 29er. It has full suspension, and I love it. The bike is really light and fast. I have the S Works 29er hard tail in California. I’ve done a few U.S. Cup races out west, but because I’m in North Carolina so much I race out here.
Is mountain biking a sport that you might pursue once your motocross career is over?
It’s so hard to say. Mountain bike racing is so competitive, and I’m just getting started in it. I do believe that I’ll need to do something active once I’m done racing motocross. I’m competitive, and mountain bike racing would satisfy that craving. However, to be competitive at the top level of mountain biking is so hard. Just like any sport, if you want to be at the top level then you have to do it for a very long time.
You’ve been back east all summer, haven’t you?
Yeah, I’ve been Charlotte pretty much all summer. I started staying out here when the Supercross series swung east. I’ve gone back to California a little bit in order to do some testing, but I would say that 90 percent of my time has been in Charlotte.
You’re an Iowa native, so where did the love for Charlotte come from? Was it because of your time riding for Joe Gibbs Racing, where it was recommended that you live in Charlotte?
It’s weird, because the first year that I moved to North Carolina for the JGR ride I hated living there. I didn’t know anyone, and the weather wasn’t that great. I came to Charlotte during the winter, and I started living there in November, when the weather was bad. I immediately got a bad taste in my mouth. Then, about eight months into living in North Carolina I met some awesome people, and the weather was really nice. Granted, it’s not like living in Southern California where the weather is pretty much the same every day. Living there makes it easy to plan out a schedule, and I like my schedule to be planned out. When I had a wrench thrown into the program by living in North Carolina it made things difficult to get a schedule going. Now I love living in Charlotte. This is probably where I will live after I’m done racing. You get the best of everything here. I also met my girlfriend, Paige, here.
Has it taken time to get configured and adapt to the Honda CRF450 after riding a Yamaha YZ450F the past two years?
All of the bikes are different. It has been a struggle for me, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the bike. I just haven’t been able to get on a roll. Around Budds Creek I started to click off some good results, and I finished second overall at Red Bud. Then I got fourth at Millville, but I’ve had some crashes that have taken the wind out of my sails. I haven’t had a huge injury, but instead some nagging problems that have been tough to deal with. I’ve shown up to the races every weekend and not had any excuses. I’ve tried my best every moto, and that’s all I can do. I’ll just keep moving forward. I want to give the guys at Honda what they deserve, and that’s great results. I’m still working hard, and I’d like to get back up there in the last two rounds.
How do you rebound from crashes, not just physically, but mentally?
It’s definitely tough. I’ve found that I’ll get some momentum going and I’ll be feeling good, and then all of a sudden I’ll have a big crash. It’s not like starting over, but it’s very similar. You can only take so many crashes in a small amount of time. Mentally I’ve always been able to go to the line and be confident, but in order to be competitive I need to ride the bike a certain way. When I’m dealing with an injury I have to change my riding style, which makes it hard to keep the confidence to run up front. To run up front these days you have to be on it from the drop of the gate. You can’t ease into it and be ready to make a move at the 15-minute mark.
What are your thoughts on the Lake Elsinore National and the track?
I don’t know very much about Lake Elsinore. I rode it once during the open Pro day back in May, but I haven’t ridden it all summer. I think that the guys will do a good job. Of course being a first-time National there could be a few things that might not go as planned. Still, I think it’s awesome that they have a National in that area. The track is close to my house in California, so I’ll be able to sleep in my own bed the night before the race.
Are you looking forward to the offseason?
I always look forward to the break, but as a racer I get bored after about a week away from competing. I’ll probably take a few days off and go back home to Iowa. I have a couple mountain bike races planned, and I’ll remain active. I’m on the type of guy that likes to sit on a beach for a week. I might kick my feet up for a few days, but that’s it. I look forward to not traveling! That will be nice.
LES SMITH RE-SIGNS WITH LANGSTON-WITT RACING
Langston-Witt Racing has re-signed 450 class rider #46 Les Smith for another year.
"I am thrilled to be back with LWR for another year. The whole team puts in so much effort and gets along so well. It really makes me feel like I'm a part of something great. We've recently made some changes to the bike and I'm really looking forward to having a great upcoming year with a great crew," said Smith.
Since turning pro in 2010, Smith has continuously progressed as a rider. At the beginning of this outdoor season, he moved to Tallahassee to train at the Carmichael Ranch. The decision has paid off this season with a career best 7th place finish at Millville.
"Les has been a pleasure to work with and has been vital in the growth of our team. He has a tireless work ethic and has made strides this year both on and off the track. We have had some successes and challenges and Les has handled himself with the utmost of professionalism. I am very proud to have Les continue to be a part of this team and look forward to a successful 2013," said Langston-Witt Racing team owner Scott Witt.
Smith will be riding in the 450 class for Supercross and the Outdoor Nationals during 2013. Smith is currently recovering from surgery and will return to action for the Supercross season opener at Anaheim 1.
"Les was an automatic choice for us at Langston-Witt Racing. We gave have him a chance to prove himself this year and he stepped up. He has a great attitude and work ethic, which I love from a racer, and he never gave up. We as a team wanted to give Les an opportunity to prove himself to everyone in the racing community. I believe that 2013 will be a break-out year for both the Langston-Witt KTM team as well as Les," said team manager Grant Langston.
MXDN LINE-UP: WHO’S GOING TO WIN?
Although the complete entry list for this year’s Motocross des Nations hasn’t been released, it doesn’t take Miss Cleo and her trusty crystal ball to determine the countries most eligible for the Chamberlain trophy. The beauty, as well as sadness, is that in order to win the MXDN (notice I didn’t say Motocross of Nations, which is like calling the Tour de France the Tour of France) a team must rely on its weakest link to pull through in the clutch. Case in point, many European teams have two incredible riders, and usually a third with very little racing experience.
However, this year could be completely different. The deep sands of Lommel will play an equalizer and potentially creates havoc for the strongest group in the field, Team USA. It’s hard to foresee Ryan Dungey, Blake Baggett and Justin Barcia having problems, but their toughest competition won’t be the other riders but instead the track itself. Southwick’s sand pit isn’t comparable to what Team USA will deal with.
What other countries have a shot at winning the MXDN? I’m going to stick with the stalwarts–Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, and the sand masters in the Netherlands. I can assure you that the most exciting race of the weekend will come when Jeffrey Herlings, the king of sand, goes up against Ryan Dungey, Clement Desalle, Antonio Cairoli, Christophe Pourcel, and Blake Baggett. It’ll be an epic moto. Stay tuned...
MXA VIDEO: 2013 HONDA CRF250
MINI-VIEW: JOSH GRANT
MXA: Josh, are you happy with your outdoor results?
Josh: Yes, for the most part. I’ve had some good races here and there. It has been more about trying to figure out the bike. I’m also trying to build myself up a bit and stay healthy.
What exactly do you mean by figuring out the bike?
For me it’s all about comfort. For the outdoors we have been chasing our tails a little bit to find a good setting. The more I ride the stronger I get and the faster that I go, so as a team we’ve needed to make changes to the bike. It has been a little bit of a struggle, because we’ve been trying to catch up the whole series.
You rode really well at Unadilla. The track conditions were incredibly challenging.
That was definitely a gnarly track! There were some deep ruts. I struggled off the gate in both motos, so it was hard to put myself up at the front. I had to come from the back of the pack, but I still rode well. I’m happy about that.
What do you want to accomplish the last two Nationals?
I want to stay where I’m at and be consistent. Top five finishes would be good. I’ll worry about that. I don’t think that I need to go out and light the world on fire just for the last two rounds. It’s one of those things where you kick back and finish the season out. I’m going to go to Steel City and Lake Elsinore with the same game plan.
Are you a fan of Steel City?
Oh yeah. I really like Steel City. Even though I haven’t been there in a couple of years I’ve always liked the track. The dirt is good and the layout is fun.
You can’t forget to mention that you’re a jump guy...
Yeah, that’s me!
How do you think Lake Elsinore will turn out?
I’ve ridden the track. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. We’ll see. They have the track closed down for the next couple of weeks to work on and make something out of it. I don’t think that it’s a National style track. It’s easy to list a bunch of negative things about the track, but it is what it is. That’s where the National is going to be, and we all just have to deal with it. I’m not a fan of the track.
Do you think it’s important to have a National in Southern California?
If it’s a good track, then yes. We should have all 12 rounds out here in California [laughter].
WPS 2012 NATIONAL SALES MEETING VIDEO
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