The debate of World MX racers versus the US offerings is decades old. Until this outdoor series US fans have remained, rightfully, pretty smug. The tide may be turning.
Photos by: Simon Cudby
There are a few “go-to” subjects on the Vital message boards that can inexplicably never be treaded over enough times. Just for kicks I’ll hit on a few before getting to my point. There’s the seat bounce topic, RacerX and Davey Coombs aka “The Octopus” controlling(ruining) the sport, anything regarding Tony Alessi (remember that 30+ pager a few years back with AAA the Owl and Matthes’ article?), what makes a true privateer, core fans versus the new schoolers, anything posted by Cox is either bitten upon for the bait it is or turned into a multi-pager based on his uncanny ability to hook the same group over and over.
The topic I want to hone in on here though is one that pits the United States against the World in outdoor motocross. For years and years fans across the Atlantic have argued that the World Grand Prix racers are superior to the US born racers. Logically these arguments have always become most heated when there was a GP racer at the top of his game and absolutely trouncing the field. Stefan Everts was the argument in RC’s day, in more recent years it has been Antonio Cairolli and the younger crowd of recent MX2 GP Champions including Ken Roczen, Marvin Musquin and the latest and most controversial yet, Jeffrey Herlings.
Will Herlings ever venture to the US for a full series? Photo by: THE James Lissimore
We have all been slighted by the absence of Cairolli in American motocross to this point, with the abbreviated exception of the Motocross des Nations each year. It’s hard to fault his decision to continue racing abroad. He’s securing title after title and therefore the money which that procures. An extension to both those points is the pride and universal respect he would achieve, were he to surpass Stefan Everts’ overall title count before he either retires or makes the jump across the pond to taste American racing. I don’t see Antonio coming to the US at any point, full or part time, barring an abbreviated GP season where a title is not possible due to injury or some other unforeseen event. It’s a real tragedy for fans as a whole. To see the best of what the GP’s have to offer against the most impressive outdoor racer since Ricky Carmichael himself, would be truly the most riveting race action ever.
In stark contrast to the situation which Antonio Cairoli has created for himself, the younger crowd of Ben Townley, Christophe Pourcel, Tyla Rattray, Musquin and Roczen all set their sights on the American Motocross circuit for the graduating class after securing their MX2 GP Championships. Granted, in Pourcel’s circumstance it was the US-exclusive offering of Supercross which drew him here and paid dividends (in SX2 anyhow) but their commonality was their desire to compete in the United States. Whether that was due to them believing here is where the competition was at it’s stiffest or their confidence following their secured titles left them feeling indomitable; they felt the US circuit was the next step.
All American's would love to see Cairoli come to the US. Photo by: THE James Lissimore
Over the years, those GP transplants haven’t enjoyed the spoils of race dominance they had likely anticipated at the onset of their voyage west. Ben Townley followed his 2005 MX2 GP title with one year in the MX1 GP class before heading west to the states. In 2007 Ben Townley and Ryan Villopoto put on one of the best MX2 season duels we’ve ever seen in the States. Teammates aboard Monster Energy Pro Circuit, the riders swapped wins and the points lead throughout the series and Villopoto narrowly edged Townley by less than one-moto’s worth of points. Sadly, it was the only year Ben Townley remained healthy throughout an entire season in the US. With them being so evenly matched, it really makes one wonder what Townley may have accomplished in the US on 450’s if he were able to stay healthy.
Tyla Rattray introduced himself to US motocross with a workhorse-like reputation of a very matured rider who was self-motivated and was expected to win races. He signed with Monster Energy Pro Circuit in 2009 and remains there to this day with a handful of MX2 overall victories but has lacked in the outright speed that is necessary to secure titles.
Tyla Rattray is hoping the new settings will bring more podiums when the series resumes.
This brings me to German-born, Ken Roczen and Frenchman, Marvin Musquin. Marvin has been here since 2011 following his back to back MX2 GP titles and Ken made the trek to the US circuit in 2012 following a runner-up finish in the MX2 GP’s in 2010 and then securing the title in 2011. Neither Marvin or Ken set the US scene on fire in their rookie seasons and even year two for Marvin was less spectacular than Ken’s rookie effort. Now though, in year-three for Marvin and year-two for Ken, the European exports are proving that much like the oft-cited GP race craft, they are building the results with a steady endurance, rather than the American-like, burst out of the gate and sprint.
Roczen has the red-plate and held on to it by making passes early and often, despite some crashes.
We are only 4 rounds into the 2013 MX2 series but 3 out of the top 5 in the series points are former GP exports. The third of this trio is Zach Osborne, an American who ventured off to the motherland to mature, make some solid money and garner experience that would ultimately lead to his American rebirth in moto. Today, in other words.
Zach sits 5th in points despite struggles in his first motos.
With Ken wrapping up the Supercross title and leading the most laps of the outdoors thus far, Marvin winning the last two overalls and Zach dealing with lackluster 1st moto’s and impressive enough follow-up moto’s to remain 5th in points, the argument is finally starting to really make all fans of moto stop and ponder the argument. Are the GP riders now setting the bar?
Musquin secured his first moto win enroute to his 3rd OA win.
Being only four races into the series it’s far too early to draw conclusions but one thing which will go very far in the future legitimacy of this question is what will Jeffrey Herlings do following his MX2 GP departure? Will he choose to go after teammate and perennial MX1 Champion Antoni Cairoli, or will he opt to head to the California coast of blondes, flat-bills and black socks? Herlings coming to Cali screams of a Pandora’s box of distraction and could be the biggest career wrecker in the sports history.