THE FIRST-TURN STORY
One of my biggest dilemmas with designing the
Glen Helen track from the very beginning was that the
position of the concrete starting gate required a right-hand first turn. Right-hand first turns can be dangerous
because every rider is leaning to the right, with his legs
out, thus nobody has brakes. The pileups looked like
interstate truck accidents, only without the hogs and
chickens. I had no intention of inheriting Glen Helen’s
bottleneck first turn.
Roger DeCoster, who had promoted the 1993 AMA
National and early 1990s FIM 500 GPs at Glen Helen,
suggested that I go as far as I could go before I turned
right. Most people said that this would be more
dangerous, because the bikes would be going faster, but
Roger said that the farther the 40-man field went, the
more they would spread out. I experimented with
different ideas for two years before I built the
“Talladega” first turn. Talladega is a 45-degree banked
first turn that wraps 180 degrees and is 55 feet tall.
The riders hit it at 60 plus and never shut off. It is
wide enough for the riders to be seven wide. It is high
enough that no one has ever gone over the top. And it
is, in my opinion, the safest first turn in motocross
history (but the scariest looking too). The riders don’t
crash because they have no reason to change their lines,
slow down or chop the guy behind them.
THE NO-WIN SITUATION
There is a paradox in building a racetrack. It is a
no-win situation. If the track is too easy, you don’t
challenge the riders, reward their skills or test their
physical fitness. If it’s too hard, people come out of the
woodwork to say that it is dangerous. A good track has
to be physically demanding, scary fast and technically
tricky. That is all I ever want to give the riders—whether
they want it or not.
THE TIME LIMIT
It’s no secret that I have designed the longest
racetracks on the AMA National circuit. I always
aimed for three-minute lap times, even though Ricky
Carmichael often chopped my best efforts down to 2: 45.
And for this year’s Nationals, I would have easily gotten
back to the magic three-minute mark again, except that
I’m not allowed to. Under the terms of the National
contract, the track cannot exceed 2: 10 per lap. I’m
opposed to this time limit, but it is supposedly because
of TV coverage. To meet the time limit, I took the
Triple Step-Up out because it required going over the
ridge and onto the REM racetrack above Glen Helen’s
National track. Without a stopwatch, I designed a 2: 10
track in my head.
Guess what? When I tested the track two weeks
before the big day, I missed by ten seconds. Rather than
alter my design, I called MX Sports head honcho Davey
Coombs and told him that I thought the track would
get faster on race day, but that it now stood at 2: 20. He
said, “Go with it.”
DOUBLES AND TRIPLES
I don’t care much about doubles—even though I’m
the guy who built the Triple Step-Up jump. Doubles
and triples force the rider, fast or slow, to land on the
landing ramp. It is an easily mastered skill, and one that
has turned Supercross into little more than a freestyle
conga line. I’m not anti-jump—just opposed to jumps
that don’t do anything to reward talent. Yes, I know that
many people define motocross by its jumps, but they
are morons. You know how many jumps there were on
the famous Carlsbad GP track? Five. Saddleback? Four.
Jumps don’t mean much if they don’t do much.
CONCRETE VERSUS DIRT
It wasn’t that many years ago that the AMA wanted
all the National tracks to put in concrete starting lines.
Glen Helen acquiesced to the AMA request (as did four
other tracks). Then, the AMA came back a few years
later and insisted that all National starts be on dirt, not
concrete. This is typical AMA stupidity. They don’t care
because they aren’t paying the bills. In a four-stroke
world, with virtually no two-strokes, starting on concrete
is as fair as humanly possible. It would have made more
This is the old concrete starting pad.