What’s this “Thursday Throwdown”? It’s a digital home for rumour, fact and innuendo, delivered on a weekly basis. Covering a broad spectrum of the off-road world’s news, Thursday Throwdown will touch on everything from racing to trailriding; from industry tidbits to issues facing the sport. It’s about delivering you timely information that can’t wait til the next issue of Transmoto magazine, and stuff we’d like to hear your immediate feedback on.
- Things got heated at last weekend’s Wedderburn round of the AORC, when Ballard’s Yamaha rider Stefan Merriman was found to be running goggle tear-offs during Saturday’s appallingly wet cross-country race. According to the Manual of Motorcycle Sport (under the Enduro and Reliability Trials section, on p216: 220.127.116.11) “tear-offs on goggles are not permitted for Enduro events”. It’s a clear rule, well understood in off-road circles for several years now. Fuelling the discontent from rival teams was the fact MA officials intended to ping Merriman a mere 30 seconds for his indiscretion – arguing that the penalty was arbitrary and so minimal that it’d create an incentive for others to also break the rules in such atrocious conditions (especially when Dale Blackwell was hit with a five-minute penalty at the Mogo 2-Day Enduro round when his old man was seen untangling bunting from his rear wheel). The irony (or karma, according to Merriman’s opponents) was that the four-time world champ never made it back to the pits on the following lap – his YZ450F ran out of fuel and he DNFed Saturday’s cross-country. Merriman turned things around during Sunday’s Sprint format, taking his first Outright round win of the year, ahead of series leader, KTM’s Toby Price.
- A disappointing aspect from the weekend’s AORC round is its dwindling competitor numbers. Since the Championship’s emergence in 2005, numbers grew to more than 200 competitors per round by 2008, but they’ve been declining over the past two years. Last weekend, there were just 110 riders, with 30 of those being Juniors. While the AORC is more accustomed to facing the issue of dust and the dangers of running cross-country rounds in dry conditions, the complete opposite has been true this season. Three of the AORC’s eight rounds so far have been cancelled due to wet conditions, with the other five all being staged in very muddy and challenging terrain.
- As the AORC has been run by a caretaker organising committee this season, Motorcycling Australia has finally called for expressions of interest to promote the series from 2011 and beyond. Why this has taken some eight or nine months since the withdrawal last year’s AORC promoters (Dirt Bike Promotions) is anyone’s guess. Because MA officials certainly can’t offer up any compelling explanation. Let’s hope the recovering economy and support for new promoters who put up their hand to run the AORC will get the AORC back on track for 2011 and beyond.
- It’s no secret that GHR Honda’s Glenn Hoffmann loves the Safari and has always had desires to run a Dakar team. But it appears the vet of a dozen Australasian Safari’s is getting serious about putting together a fully-blown Aussie team effort for the upcoming Dakar Rally that’s set to kick off in South America in January, 2011. As the world’s most successful 450cc Honda team when it comes to desert racing, the GHR outfit is said to be developing radical, purpose-built CRF450X machines with the airbox relocated under the massive forward fuel tank, and rear fuel tanks fitted into the space left by the airbox to avoid stacking all that weight too far back in saddle-bag style tanks. Tumbleweed talk has it that reigning Safari winner, Jacob Smith, will be the GHR team’s lead strike rider with another three bikes being built for Dakar clients who’ve got a lazy 120 grand to throw at the three-week race. Chances are the GHR team will be using the Australasian Safari in mid-September to give the bikes a pre-Dakar shakedown.
- Desert-racing aficionado, Don McGrath and his CPW Safari KTM team, are getting really serious about claiming the Australasian Safari trophy this year. With CPW KTM’s Todd Smith running second to his brother, Jake, in last year’s Safari, word has it that three-time Safari winner, Ben Grabham, will be joining the CPW Safari KTM outfit for this year’s Safari, overturning his previous decision not to ride the event. No, Grabbo has not changed teams. This’d be a one-off ride, as Grabham’s KTM Motorex Off-Road team made the decision not to contest this year’s Safari because of budgetary constraints.
- Last weekend’s Swan Insurance 24-Hour Reliability Trial has been run, but who won the thing? Yep, 96 hours after the 24-Hour, results are not yet available! The event’s official website (http://24hrtrial.com/2010/) states: “At this stage, you shouldn’t expect to see provisional results on this site until late Thursday night at the earliest. We will try to have them available at soon as possible – but please understand we don’t wish to release provisional results until we are reasonably confident they are accurate.” According to competitors, the win went to either Chris Power (DirtRider Downunder magazine Editor) or The White Piston himself, Jehi Willis. Must have been some confused looks on the podium, huh?! Hopefully we’ll know the full results soon.
- The hottest rumour in Australian motocross at the moment is the talk surrounding the JDR Motorex KTM Team and their plans to expand into America’s AMA series for 2011. Apparently the deal has been done, and all that is left are the positions within the team and to finalise their rider line-up. During Stefan Everts’ recent trip to Australia, the 10-time world champ made no secret of the fact that KTM wanted to expand its operation in the USA and build the brand to the same level that it has achieved in both Europe and Australia. Let’s hope that there’s more than one Aussie rider in the team, and from what we’re hearing it’s all positive.
- On the subject of Aussies racing in the US for 2011, we’re hearing young Aussie charger, KTM’s Tye Simmonds, has been contacted by both the Red Bull Honda team and Larry Brooks from L&M San Manuel Yamaha – yep, James Stewart’s team. And with rumours that the L&M outfit has been in talks with Honda for 2011, the teams may be one in the same. If Tye can find a pen with ink in it, it looks like he may be one of the best-placed Aussie riders in the USA next year. After all, both Tye and his would-be future teammate slurp the same energy drink … and that’s gotta count for something, right?! The planets still need to align for Simmonds’ deal to be set in stone, but let’s hope the boy from Bourke pulls it off.
- Speaking of riders who want to race in America, CDR Rockstar Yamaha’s Jay Marmont has been putting in some massive training sessions both on and off the bike over the last few weeks. A new shock in the rear of the #1 Yamaha has really boosted his confidence and he is feeling very positive about this weekend’s Moree round of the MX Nationals, and the five-moto finale at Coolum the following week – the venue where Marmont clinched both the 2008 and 2009 Pro Open titles.
- Yamaha Development Team’s Pro Lites rider Luke Styke is set to run Fox Racing’s Podium RC3 suspension this weekend at the Moree round of the MX Nats. From all reports, the suspension is great and the team is looking forward to some good results from the reigning Under 19 class champ.
- It sounds like a certain Pro Open rider that uses factory blue bikes may be set to change his preferred bike colour to yellow for 2011. Yep, long-time CDR Yamaha rider, Rose Bud’s favourite son, Cheyne Boyd, has been linked to the Rockstar Motul Suzuki outfit for 2011.
- KTM Motorex Off-road team boss (and part-time rider), Brad Williscroft is set to race the Over 40 Years Vets class on Saturday’s race program at the MX Nationals finale at Coolum. Transmoto test rider, Cameron Taylor is also set to race the Coolum MX Nats. The recently retired Pro is looking to pilfer the Over 35 Vets trophy on Saturday, and then back it up in the Pro Lites class on Sunday. After running a very respectable sixth Outright at last weekend’s Hattah Desert Race, Camo should have his eye in for the sand, and give the boys a shake at Coolum.
- Yamaha Australia’s press bike manager and general go-to guy, Darren “The Enthusiast” Thompson is heading off to Mexico for the early November ISDE. He is set to spanner for a WA-based Wellard Yamaha rider and a couple of riders from Team New Zealand. Hopefully he and his buddies will come back with lots of good stories … and no bullet wounds!
- The 2011 Thor MX dealer launch is set to go live in Brisbane tonight. The real positive is the gear will be a global launch with Aussies viewing the gear first. Can’t wait for that one. We will try and get some pics and footage through tomorrow morning.
- On the same night, the Monza Imports guys are releasing the 2011 Fox/Shift/PodMX ranges in Melbourne. We’ll bring you a sneak peek when the boys come to Sydney early next week. Can’t wait to see some of those sponsored Pro riders strut their awkward stuff on the catwalk again!
Well that’s it for this week. Be sure to come back for some more Thursday Throwdown fodder next week (yep, you guessed it, on Thursday). If you’re racing or riding this weekend, have a great time on the trail or at the track, and be safe!