Paul Quesnel's lastest deals with an old fable and how it applies to this summer.
The Tortoise and The Hare
By Paul Quesnel
Photos by James Lissimore & Suzuki
One of the things that people all around the world have in common is the fact that we, from an early age, are all taught various life lessons through storytelling. Because of this reality, every able minded person should know the plot behind, “The Tortoise and The Hare.” The story begins with the Hare mocking the slow-moving Tortoise for being, well, a slow-moving Tortoise. This then leads to the Tortoise making an announcement about how he would be able to beat the Hare in a race because of his determination. The Hare laughs and accepts the challenge. When the actual race begins, the Hare unsurprisingly bolts out to an early lead while the Tortoise trots along doggedly. After a while, the Hare realizes that he is so far ahead that he has time to stop and take a nap, which he does. Suddenly the Hare is awaken from his slumber by the cheers from the crowd and he quickly recognizes that the Tortoise has won the race. The moral of the story (the one we’ve all heard hundreds of times) is, “slow and steady wins the race.”
When we were younger, the common practice was to just accept this saying as fact because it was our parents and teachers that were telling us the story, but when you think about it now, the moral just doesn’t sound correct. Going slow is a good way to be careful, but that’s not what racing is all about. Yeah sure over a long and dangerous course it might be good to go slow and steady, but in a flat-out dash, quickness is going to win every time. The truth is, “slow and steady,” didn’t win the race in the story, over-confidence lost it. Now whoever came up with the story could have used a different moral (don’t be a braggart, you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it, hard work can take you as far as raw skill, etc) but the fact is, he didn’t. And as a result every child across the United States gets the old saying, “slow and steady wins the race,” pounded into their little brains at the age of five even though it is completely vague. A universal statement like that just doesn’t work because every circumstance and every type of racing is different. In some applications it could be correct and in others it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Saying that though, how does this statement hold up when it comes to a motocross race? How about an entire motocross series? Well, it looks like we are about to find out this summer.
JS7 going to Suzuki for the nationals makes things pretty exciting for this summer. Photo courtesy of Suzuki
In the premier class, Villopoto, Reed, Stewart, Dungey, and Canard, are no doubt still considered the cream of the crop even though they have all missed races this year due to injuries. Out of these five men, we have some who are the consistent, steady eddy, type of riders while others are the flat-out, prone to crashing types. Now in your head, just quickly make a list of these five men starting with one being the most consistent, constant, undeviating (Tortoise) and five being the most inconsistent, wide-open, reckless (Hare). On my list, the number one spot goes to Dungey, two goes to Reed, three to Villopoto, four to Canard, and five to Stewart. While I’m sure a lot of us will have differing opinions on the middle three, I’m pretty much certain that we will all agree on the two men on each end. Dungey and Stewart are the extremes. In the past, we have seen these two title contenders battle here and there, but never really for a long stretch of time or for a championship. We have seen seasons where Stewart has gone head-to-head with Reed as well as Dungey with Villopoto, but for the most part, the number 5 and the number 7 have never really been in a direct battle with each other for a long span of time. For the past couple years, it has been more like a free-for-all with the five different title contenders all just racing each other. But this summer these two opposites are going to be forced to face each other. It’s about as close as we will ever get to the perfect motocross version of, “the Tortoise vs. the Hare,” and a very interesting scenario indeed. With the other three now out of the equation for the rest of the year, the age old saying, “slow and steady wins the race,” is going to be put to the test out on the track and in the championship. Will the theory hold true at the end of the year?
Now, we have seen this situation between Bubba and Ryan a handful of times before. Namely the first three races of the 2010 supercross season and then at Unadilla later that year. Still though, even in those instances there were other riders capable of getting in there and getting in between them. There focus was not completely zoned in on each other like it will be this summer. At Unadilla, it was actually Clemente Desalle who jumped in the middle of a heated battle going on between the two in the first moto and he would actually end up being a much bigger threat than anyone expected. Coming into this upcoming series, both Stewart and Dungey will know that in order to win the championship, all they really have to do is worry about beating each other. I’m not saying that others will not be able to get up there and mix it up with them (Rattray), but in reality, you know that right now James is thinking about Ryan and Ryan is thinking about James. It’s going to be a great comparison between two vastly different methods towards racing, and we can only hope that it goes all the way to the final moto.
Ryan's ready for this summer. Photo by James Lissimore
With their roles as the tortoise and hare of the class already so firmly established, not even Dungey coming out at Hangtown and beating James straight up in a show of pure speed would be able to reverse their personae’s in the series. While the results might change, the personifications of them will remain the same. For instance, let’s say that Dungey comes out of the gate swinging and just starts winning moto after moto, he will not automatically become the hare. The reason for his wins will be because he’s a hard-worker, his fitness is impeccable, and he’s mentally strong. If Stewart loses multiple races despite the fact that he has more raw speed, he will not automatically become the tortoise. He will lose because he’s inconsistent, he’s fitness is a question mark, and because being faster doesn’t always guarantee a win. The point I’m trying to make here is that the portrayals of these two guys have already been so deeply cemented from past circumstances that no matter what happens during the series, at the end everyone will still view Ryan as the tortoise, and James as the hare. The difference between them and the reason one is viewed differently from the other goes beyond how fast they go on a dirt bike. The characterizations come more from who they are as individuals and what approach they take towards racing.
So in the end, will the story of the, “Tortoise and the Hare,” and the old cliché of, “slow and steady wins the race,” hold true with Ryan Dungey hoisting the number 1 plate at the end of the season, or will James Stewart finally prove that when it comes to motocross, it’s all about raw speed? Consistency vs. Pace? Steadiness vs. Haste? Hard-work vs. Talent? These are some of the greatest questions in regard to motocross and they are all questions that will probably be revisited again and again, despite whatever happens this summer.