Super Moto Multiplied by "X"

Home Depot Center, Carson, CA - The end of X Games 11 culminated with the second consecutive year of SuperMotoX ravaging the grounds of the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. This year saw a new format with a total of 40 laps (as opposed to the AMA series which typically has somewhere between 15 to 18 laps per race) and a mandatory pit stop.

Once again, a mixed international field consisting of supermoto veterans and a smattering of riders from other racing disciplines lined up motocross style inside the venue's soccer field. When the green flag fell, Chad Reed (AMA Supercross / Motocross star) claimed the hole shot. But the cagey veteran Doug Henry was only inches behind Reed, while Jeff Ward tangled with the KTMs of Eric Bostrom and Jurgen Kunzel in turn one, relegating Ward to mid-field for the remainder of the race.

By lap three, one of the most popular names in two-wheeled sports, Jeremy McGrath, was wrapped up in another turn one mess that left him picking up the pieces. Kurt Nicol stabilized third place while Reed and Henry continued to inch away from the main field. As is typical of supermoto racing, the field stretched out like a used Slinky, leaving the handful of leaders to concentrate on their own race. This made it easier for Eric Bostrom to harass Nicol for third by the fifth lap. It was also at this point in the race, that Doug Henry put a seasoned maneuver on Reed mid-turn in the paved section to take the lead and Doug never really looked back. Of the pass by Henry, Reed said, "I knew Doug was close so I moved over and let him go by and just followed him. I knew a podium place was possible." Reed had also indicated (the sentiment was echoed by Henry) that maintaining the hole shot or overall lead in such a long race with a mandatory pit stop wasn't absolutely necessary.

When asked if he had a strategy after he snatched the lead and continued to gap     Reed, or if he was just trying to win, Doug commented: "I was thinking of the pit stop. I wanted to have a little bit of a gap because I knew anything could've gone wrong in there." By lap 15, Henry opened the gap to over six seconds, eventually opening it all the way up to eleven and change at the end.

On the same lap that Doug passed Chad, Kurt Nicol found himself floundering in about sixth place, after being in third in the early laps. Eric Bostrom capitalized on Nicol's misfortune and scraped for third.

Even though he fell early on, McGrath called upon his nearly countless motocross victories to work his way up through the field and pass Nicoll around lap 17.

Bostrom eventually caught Reed and they battled back and forth for     second and third, while Doug was only a few turns from lapping Micky Dymond who fell earlier.

By lap 20, Reed was one of the first riders to pit and even though his crew made the rear wheel change without incident, Chad said he knew which lap he would pit but apparently his crew didn't as he commented that: "When I pulled in my crew was kind of looking at me like something was wrong." Nevertheless, twenty-three seconds was all the time needed to get Chad back on course.

By lap 23, Henry was comfortably ahead of Bostrom, who inherited second after Reed pitted. This was also the lap that Nicol took his pit stop.

Doug finally decided to pit on or around the 25th lap, where his crew took a little over twenty-seven seconds to get him fighting for first again. Meanwhile, Travis Pastrana found himself in third, while Henry clawed his way back to the top eventually taking first again on lap 29. Not much changed for the next half dozen or so laps, as the racers to pit first continued to work     their way back up to the positions they held before pitting.

The race had one of its biggest moments on lap 35. McGrath, after dicing up the field, made a mid-air pass on Reed while coming down the long-steep ramp leading into the main stadium, taking over second place in dramatic fashion. Bostrom was now stuck in fourth for the rest of the race.

The remaining few laps saw nothing more than McGrath put a lapped rider between himself and Reed to cushion his second place finish, while Henry was seemingly light years ahead to take gold at the eleventh annual X Games.

Of Note:
"I really liked the pit stops," McGrath said. "I think it was great for TV     and the race because you still have that element of surprise. People love to watch NASCAR pit stops, why not SuperMoto?"

The swingarm of the bikes couldn't be modified, but there was nothing in the rules about the rear brake calipers. In stock form, the calipers of motocross bikes are mounted on top of the swingarm. Team Yamaha had a special mount and put the calipers on the bottom of the swingarm, which allowed them to drop the wheel into the swingarm and calipers during a pit stop rather than mount it up into them. The only downside is that, because they are closer to the ground, the calipers are more prone to damage from debris or bumping from another rider.

As mentioned earlier, McGrath was the only rider to triple up the re-entry into the stadium. Last year's silver medalist, Eddy Seel did an award-winning "flying W" in practice when his rear wheel clipped the top of the backside. Seel cart-wheeled all the way down the landing but was OK by race time. Then,     during the race, he did it again and finished 14th.

The doubled laps from 2004 and pit stop added new elements to this year's SuperMoto. The pit stop was mandatory any time after the fifth lap. Being that SuperMoto bikes in a basic form are nothing more than motocross bikes with 17" rims and slick tires, the teams were practicing pit stops all weekend during the practice sessions. Since the teams can't modify the swingarm for an easier tire change and no power tools are allowed, the challenge was to come up with the best formula for a fast pit stop.

Henry led for 33 laps

-- Courtesy

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