few differences between a race
weekend in Valkenswaard and the
happenings at an AMA National.
For starters, there’s an inordinate
amount of racing that spans the
two days of a Grand Prix program. Need proof? On Saturday
in Valkenswaard, the 450 riders
had a 20-minute free practice
session, 20-minute timed practice
and a 20-minutes-plus-two-laps
qualifying race. On Sunday, there
was a 20-minute warm-up practice
followed by two 30-minute-plus-
two-lap motos. Every rider on the
starting gate was guaranteed a
spot—there was no real qualifying, apart from getting gate picks.
In an AMA National, 80 riders
are winnowed down to 40 riders
through a series of timed practices
and four-lap Last Chance Qualifier
races. In total, an MXGP racer
spends roughly 150 minutes, or
2-1/2 hours, on the track throughout the weekend. As for the
Nationals, a rider who qualifies for
the afternoon motos spins laps for
around 90 minutes, or 1-1/2 hours.
It is possible to travel across the
country, ride for an hour, not make
the main event and go home.
European rounds of the MXGP
series, such as Valkenswaard,
also host the EMX125, EMX150,
EMX250 and EMX300 classes.
That equates to a lot of wear and
tear on a track that isn’t smooth
to begin with. Volkswagen-sized
holes developed in Valkenswaard.
Not a square inch of track was flat
by the time the second 450 moto
blasted off. Less-than-desirable
conditions meant that bike setup
and the riders’ strength were put
to the test. At times, the track
crews graded the start straight
and finish-line tabletop, but everything else remained untouched
from the time it was first massaged on Saturday morning. Not a
single track on the AMA National
circuit gets as rough or challenging as Valkenswaard.
MEETING THE PRINCE
OF DARKNESS: Driving to
Valkenswaard on Saturday morning, I had time to think about
the events that might transpire
throughout the course of the
weekend. I figured there were
three possible outcomes. (1) A
Luongo henchman would grab me
by the collar and throw me out.
( 2) I would be granted a media
credential and keep a low profile in hopes of dodging Luongo.
( 3) I would be cornered by Evil