Welcome to Racerhead, on the eve of the last day of the 2021 season, at least here in the United States. The Hangtown Classic will mark the 12e and final round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross. Last weekend we crowned the 450 champion as Dylan Ferrandis of Monster Energy / Star / Yamaha Racing became the first Frenchman in 30 years – since Jean-Michel Bayle – to win the 450 title, as well as the only Frenchman. to win AMA Pro Motocross titles in consecutive seasons. Dylan and his team both won the Edison Dye Cup in their very first season in the class. The 250 title (and the Gary Jones Cup that goes with it) is still up for grabs between Team Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence and Star Racing’s Justin Cooper. If Lawrence wins, he will be the first Honda factory team rider since Steve Lamson in 1996 to win this title, as well as the first Australian in the 250 class (Chad Reed won the 450 title in 2009). And if Cooper wins, he will be yet another 250 MX Star Yamaha machine champion, following in the footsteps of Jeremy Martin, Cooper Webb, Aaron Plessinger and, last year, Ferrandis. But Cooper has his work cut out for him as red Lawrence has a 23-point lead after his 1-1 finishes at Ironman and then Fox Raceway in Pala last week.
And for the Hangtown Classic, tomorrow’s race is a welcome return to what is in fact the longest-running event on the national program, and generally the opening of the series. In 2020, the Dirt Diggers North Motorcycle Club, which first hosted this race in the late 1960s, had to cancel due to COVID-19 restrictions. They also wanted to go last in 2021 to give themselves the best chance of being able to go, because last winter it looked like the pandemic would now be over. Sadly, it’s not over yet, but the State of California is still letting the Prairie City OHRV Park host a race and a crowd this weekend. And that means the five tracks that all had to stay in 2020 – Unadilla, Southwick, High Point, Budds Creek and Hangtown – have all been put on the schedule in 2021.
That’s not to say there weren’t any concerns about Hangtown. There were other threats to the event, including drought here in California, which means there is a water shortage, as well as the ensuing wildfires around Lake Tahoe, which did not is not far from this track. In fact, it rained last night here, a blessed and welcome event. It won’t be mud by any means, and the rain certainly helped the track team (and firefighters).
With Dylan Ferrandis clinching the Class 450 title, someone asked whether or not he would be able to step down to the Class 250 for this final race if he wanted to (although he didn’t. don’t want to do it). The answer is yes; there is no rule in Pro Motocross that requires a rider to stay in one class or the other for the entire series, although he can only race one class in any given race. In 2001, Ricky Carmichael did so, having won the 250 (now 450) title earlier. At the time, RC was tied with Mark Barnett for the most 125 domestic wins at 25 apiece, so the factory Kawasaki rider lined up a KX125 for the final round of the series, Steel City in Pennsylvania. Ricky won (with a little help from Mike Brown) and took sole possession of the record in what turned out to be his last race with Kawasaki. In three years, James Stewart erased this record and brought it to 28 victories.
And speaking of 2001, the Steel City National took place on Sunday, September 2nd. After the race, Carmichael stayed around Steel City, as did the Honda team. Carmichael had already signed a deal for 2002 and beyond and immediately wanted to get a feel for the bike as he would be riding his new Honda CR250 at the 2001 FIM Motocross of Nations, to be held in Namur, Belgium, in two weeks. time.
Of course, that all changed on September 11, 2001. Terrorists hijacked four commercial flights filled with unconscious passengers and crashed the planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and in a field. in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The world as we know it would never be the same, we know it now, but on that terrible day it was hard to tell what was going on. The very idea of an American contingent of three runners — Carmichael, Kevin Windham and Mike Brown – and their respective teams, family and officials heading to Europe just a week later was suddenly absurd.
Two decades later, we are on the eve of the 20e anniversary of that terrible day, and commemorations are held across the country as people remember and relate where they were that day, watching it all unfold and what it all meant in hindsight. But one story from that day has been largely unrecognized – until now. What happened to Team USA 2001 and the three motorcycles that were to head to Namur, Belgium? Our colleague and special contributor Brett Smith from WeWentFast has just published his latest article “No Planes in the Sky: The Grounding of Team USA 2001”. And you can read it here, for free: https://www.wewentfast.com/2021/09/10/no-planes-in-the-sky-the-grounding-of-team-usa-2001/
And speaking of September 11, take a moment tomorrow to think about how much we lost in this terrible attack, not just the people, but the freedoms we all seemed to take for granted until that fateful day. September 11, 2001 changed the world, and it still hasn’t changed back. What a different world we lived in on September 10, 2001 …