Casey Casper was the only rider in the Pro class on a CR500. He got the holeshot, but endo'ed before the first lap was over. Michael Leib (170) is barely visible in the back (on the left). Mike Sleeter (111), Billy Musgrave (42), Austin Howell (1), Doug Dubach (15), Austin Squires (192) and Vince Friese (59) are all on the move.
Separate from his issues with the law, Moto Concepts rider Vince Friese (59) also cut the first turn by going through the infield in the first moto. This move was most likely going to subject him to a penalty by the race officials upon review of the tapes. How smart is it to cut the first turn with tons of cameramen standing there?
It what should have been Michael Leib’s happiest day, the former 250 Grand Prix and Factory Husqvarna rider had his day spoiled by an ugly incident on the starting line between racer Vince Friese and a member of the Leib family.
But, more on that later.
How close was the racing? Here Friese, Sutherlin, Musgrave and Squires argue over a small piece of SoCal property.
Let’s not get melancholy about the ancient days when two-strokes roamed the earth–because they still do. The simple-to-build, cheap-to-maintain and high-horsepower two-strokes have never really left the scene, but they have been thwarted by race organizations like the AMA and MX Sports that would rather stick with the four-stroke status quo...even if it means that the manufacturers don’t sell any motorcycles. The sport needs to bring in new blood and step one is to produce simple machines that don't cost an arm and leg to buy...and more importantly to maintain.
But two-strokes are selling...in fact, KTM plans to sell more two-strokes in 2012 than most of the Big Four Japanese brands sell offroad bikes. Let that soak in for a second. There must be a market for two-strokes if KTM can sell so many of them. Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki say “No!” Yamaha says, "Well, maybe there is a market for 2007 model year two-strokes."
THE 2012 MTA WORLD TWO-STROKE CHAMPIONSHIP AT GLEN HELEN
Michael Leib ate a lot of roost on his way from the back to the front in moto one.
Yeah, yeah, yeah..we know, it’s not held in Europe and Giuseppe Luongo doesn’t have his hand in your pocket–but those are pluses to the American-based "World Two-Stroke Championship." Americans buy more dirt bikes than any other country (and not by a small amount) and since no other country, alphabet organization or greedy promoter has tried this hard to enhance the image of two-strokes–this race is the World Championships... just as the World Vet Championship is the first, longest running and most important Vet race in the world (don’t mention Luongo’s FIM World Cup...it was just a clone and it has been excised from the World Championship for 2012...making a lone appearance in England). Americans embrace ideas and run with them and we don't wait for Srb and Luongo to give their stamp of approval.
The World Two-Stroke Championship is only in its third year, built from the ashes of the once popular World Four-Stroke Championship (which ran from 1976 until 2010 and included victories by riders as diverse as Pierre Karsmakers, Goat Breker, Brian Myerscough, Donny Schmit, Doug Dubach, Ryan Hughes, Josh Grant and Weston Peick). The "World" nomenclature came to that race because it was the first, longest running and most important four-stroke race in the world. If the Euros don't recognize movements until 20 years after the Americans do–they can't really complain. Can they? But the homegrown, eclectic nature of one-off four-strokes was ruined by the popularity of the breed. Now, the World Two-Stroke Championship picks up the gauntlet from the old race...and makes sense in modern times.
WHO WON AND WHO DIDN’T?
MXA's Billy Musgrave was fourth overall. You can see all the details on Billy's 2012 KTM 250SX in the current issue of MXA.
Michael Leib has never been an American pro racer. When he moved out of the Loretta Lynn ranks he got a deal to race for Bud Racing in Europe...and without ever racing an AMA Supercross or National he moved to France. The Bud deal was a disaster. Luckily, he had turned enough heads to get a Husky GP deal. It too was a disaster. So, Michael came home to start his AMA Pro career this year. In the 2012 AMA 250 West Supercross series Michael has made the top ten twice in his four main event appearances with a best of fifth in Oakland (and with three rounds to go in the 250 West he sits 15th in points, just six points behind 14th place Vince Friese).
This hill climbs 20 stories and then plunges right back down in half the distance. It may look super fast, but because of its steepness the speeds don't reach critical mass on the way up. The 125 riders had to downshift near the top. However, on the way down it is "shift up and three Hail Marys."
In the first moto Michael Leib was buried in the pack. Because of overnight showers the first moto was muddy and slippery, even though the sun was shining by race time. Leib was forced to use all the tricks he learned in liquid European sunshine to work his way past a host of good riders, including Austin Squires, Doug Dubach, Dennis Stapleton, Billy Musgrave, Gary Sutherlin, Mike Sleeter and, the aforementioned, Vince Friese.
The first moto results were:
1. Michael Leib
2. Mike Sleeter
3. Vince Friese
4. Mitch Van Mortel
5. Gary Sutherlin
6. Billy Musgrave
7. Doug Dubach
8. Dennis Stapleton
9. Austin Squires
10. Dillon Alexander
THE SECOND MOTO
Doug Dubach (15) had a few run-ins on his way to seventh overall.
Let’s ignore the drama for a second and talk about the second moto. Michael Leib on a 2002 Honda CR250 was untouchable, he was chased by Friese, Sleeter and Sutherlin (Sutherlin bought a used 2003 KX250 for $1300 for the race). Behind Sutherlin was a dog fight as MXA’s Billy Musgrave held fifth with fellow MXA test rider Dennis Stapleton in sixth. The two orange helmeted MXA riders were charging, but behind them Doug Dubach and Mitch Van Mortel were having an all-out war for seventh place...with the hope of jumping up to the MXA gang.
Dennis Stapleton and Austin Squires (192) were racing MXA test bikes and both made the top ten. Squires was on MXA's project YZ250 that is featured in the current issue, while Stapleton was racing a Service Honda CR250 (in a CRF250 frame) that will appear in an upcoming issue.
Dillon Alexander was ninth, Keith Knight tenth and New England rider Austin Squires in 11th (on MXA’s YZ250)...well, actually Austin Squires was running ninth with one lap to go, but got sketchy on the face of the infield double and backed it down...losing two places to Alexander and Knight.
2011 World Two-Stroke Champion Austin Howell crashed early in the first moto and bent a shift fork. His day was done.
The second moto results were:
1. Michael Leib
2. Vince Friese
3. Mike Sleeter
4. Gary Sutherlin
5. Billy Musgrave
6. Dennis Stapleton
7. Doug Dubach
8. Mitch Van Mortel
9. Dillon Alexander
10. Keith Knight
AND NOW FOR THE DRAMA MAMA
Mitch Van Mortel (112) was a revelation in his first-ever Pro race. He led the first moto to the halfway point before succumbing the attacks of Leib, Sleeter and Friese. Ricky Yorks (703) and Mike Sleeter (11) are also in the photo.
Before the results were posted and the $4500 in L.A. Sleeve purse money paid to the top ten, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department rolled three squad cars into Glen Helen...looking for Vince Friese. Without any assumptions of guilt, the story goes that Friese was involved in an altercation with a spectator (who was related through marriage to the Leib family) on the starting line. In the course of the altercation, the spectator was knocked out by Friese and ended up in the hospital.
Because the victim was in the hospital, the Sheriffs on the scene chose not to detain Vince Friese at the track, but instead were going to interview the person who was sent to the hospital...and then decide whether to file criminal charges.
Because Friese laid hands on another person while on the starting line, and was by his own admission involved in a fight, he was disqualified by the track management...who were already upset with Vince for failing to report to sign-up for a reprimand about an unrelated incident in the first moto.
Friese’s disqualification cost him $1000 in purse money. The track has a "no fighting rule" that DQ’s riders involved in fights (of course, spectators who fight are ejected from the park). Most eyewitness statements, which the police took from other riders who were on the starting line at the time, said that the verbal dispute between the two combatants was aggravated by Friese’s action...not by the person who was sent to the hospital...although he was not without some responsibility for things getting out of hand.
Eyewitness Mike Sleeter said, “From what I saw on the starting line, Friese was third gate pick behind me and Michael Lieb and he lined up next to Michael Leib. Michael Leib moved gate picks and Friese followed him. Some words were exchanged and I could tell there was some obvious tension between the two riders. Somebody from Leib's posse said something to Friese and then Friese threw a head butt with his visor and followed it up with three right hooks. I could not believe this. From what I have heard and seen Friese doesn't have the best track record, so my suggestion is let the speed and finish do the talking.”
The Sheriff’s Department will iron out the details and determine whether to charge Vince Friese. This is a serious offense (remember Jason Lawrence spent time in a SoCal prison for assaulting someone...although no one had an ear bitten off in this encounter). Most in-the-know motocross fans will not be surprised that Vince Friese was involved. Cutting the course and getting in fight on the starting line are not the best way to represent your sponsors.
AFTER THE DRAMA THE RESULTS
Vince Friese would have finished second overall, but he was stripped of his finish and his money...moving the riders behind him up one place at the pay window.
For Michael Leib it is an important win, in part because he earned it with hard riding and also because he needs a victory to prove to the naysayers that he can win.
RESULTS: 2012 WORLD TWO-STROKE CHAMPIONSHIP
San Bernardino, California
1. Michael Leib (Hon)...1-1
2. Mike Sleeter (KTM)...2-2
3. Gary Sutherlin (Kaw)...4-3
4. Billy Musgrave (KTM)...5-4
5. Mitch Van Mortel (Yam)...3-7
6. Dennis Stapleton Hon)...7-5
7. Doug Dubach (Yam)...6-6
8. Dillon Alexander (Yam)...9-8
9. Austin Squires (Yam)...8-10
10. Keith Knight (Suz)...10-9
11. Tim Beatty (Yam)...13-12
12. Kris Keefer (Yam)...12-13
13. Ricky Yorks (Yam)...15-11
14. Mark Tilley (Yam)...14-14
15. Brett Hottel (Hon)...16-16
16. Chris Gosselaar (Yam)...11-21
17. Zac Wray (Yam)...21-15
18. Jacob Lee Buelna (Yam)...20-17
19. Ed Foedish (Yam)...18-19
20. Shan Smith (Hon)...19-20
Photos by Dan Alamangos