The AMA US motocross championship series is in full swing, and the sixth round of the series would mark the halfway point of the championships. For this momentous occasion the circus would make the trip to Red Bud Raceway at Buchanan, Michigan on Independence Day weekend.
It is very appropriate for the Independence Day races to be held at Red Bud. It’s founders won’t be found on the side of Mount Rushmore, the first riders that raced there did not take part in the Boston tea party or sign the Declaration of Independence, but the Red Bud national has a rich history nonetheless. As much as these signature events form part of American history, so does Red Bud form part of American motocross history. The first nationals championship event at the venue took place when the current crop of riders were not even a twinkling in their fathers’ eyes yet, way back in 1974.
There is more than its rich history that draws the biggest crowds in American motocross to Red Bud, year after year. The track layout promotes good racing, with many lines offering riders several alternatives. The most spectacular jump in all of American motocrossdom is also to be found at the track. Larocco’s Leap, a more than 40 metre uphill triple, is a true test of the best riders’ skills, and only the bravest and most proficient riders clear this fearsome obstacle, especially so on a 250cc machine.
Like the fans, Tyla Rattray loves Red Bud, and arrived at the track brimful of confidence and ready to continue the battle. This much was clear as soon as the proverbial dust settled after the qualifying session. Tyla had secured pole position on his Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki, this first time that anyone had managed to break the hegemony of Christophe Pourcel in this department. This gave the South African an added boost of confidence going into the races, btu he is experienced enough to realize that the real work gets done in the period between the fall of the gate and the waving of the chequered flag.
Tyla has been stressing the importance of good starts in recent interviews, and in race 1 he was as good as his word, streaming into the leading group. Pretty soon an all too familiar picture unfolded, with Pourcel in the lead and Tyla giving chase. The two former world champions matched each other for speed, but Pourcel’s early gap was just too much for Tyla to bridge, and he crossed the line in second position, a few seconds shy of the championship leader.
Tyla wound his throttle elastic up perfectly in race two, and claimed the holeshot. He overcooked matters a bit in the early stages, though, and teammate Dean Wilson got by. He then found himself sandwiched between Wilson and Trey Canard. Whilst he had to try and find a way back past his teammate, he also had to keep Canard at bay. During one of his moves offline, Canard snuck past, but this ironically seemed to calm the South African down, allowing him to concentrate on his own lines. He spent a few laps checking the situation out, and in a beautifully planned move passed Wilson to move into second position.
With the race standings as they were at that stage, Tyla had the overall victory in hand, but as soon as he had made the pass, fate intervened. His bike hit some braking bumps and he was spat over the handlebars. The crash had the commentators delving into their dictionaries to find new superlatives in describing the impact, which looked heavy enough to shake the fruit from all the surrounding trees. Not only were any chances of overall victory up in dust, but the commentators who witnessed the crash were worried that Tyla may have been seriously injured.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Tyla started clicking off laps again, albeit down in 12th position. Before race end, he had found a way to work himself into 11th position again. The American public is always appreciative of heroic tales, especially on this weekend when the heroism of their forefathers is uppermost in their minds, and they cheered the tough-as-nails South African home. Such gritty comebacks are nothing new to Tyla, who once famously won a Grand Prix a few days after dislocating his shoulder. A whole new crowd saw this side of his make-up now, and it’s fair to say that he garnered a good few new fans in the process.
Whereas an overall win was in his grasp, the crash cost Tyla dearly, dropping him to sixth overall for the day. His misfortune allowed Pourcel and Wilson to draw a few points further clear in the championship standings, but he still remains within striking distance in third position.
250 Class (Moto Finish)
1. Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda (4-1)
2. Dean Wilson, Scotland, Kawasaki (3-2)
3. Christophe Pourcel, France, Kawasaki (1-5)
4. Justin Barcia, Ochlocknee, Ga., Honda (5-3)
5. Blake Wharton, Pilot Point, Texas, Honda (6-4)
6. Tyla Rattray, South Africa, Kawasaki (2-11)
7. Broc Tickle, Holly, Mich., Yamaha (7-6)
8. Jake Weimer, Rupert, Idaho, Kawasaki (11-7)
9. Martin Davalos, Ecuador, Yamaha (10-8)
10. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Honda (12-9)
250 Class Championship Standings
1. Christophe Pourcel, France, Kawasaki, 260
2. Dean Wilson, Scotland, Kawasaki, 227
3. Tyla Rattray, South Africa, Kawasaki, 212
4. Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda, 205
5. Broc Tickle, Holly, Mich., Yamaha, 180
6. Justin Barcia, Ochlocknee, Ga., Honda, 176
7. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Honda, 156
8. Blake Wharton, Pilot Point, Texas, Honda, 145
9. Martin Davalos, Ecuador, Yamaha, 132
10. Jake Weimer, Rupert, Idaho, Kawasaki, 129
Courtesy Frank Hoppen