Hello race fans! I’m hoping that all of you are looking forward to the 2011 AMA Supercross Season with the same enthusiasm that I am. With the arrival of the new season, the Thumpa Report will be back in full force. At the risk of sounding like a traitor, I have to confess that I’ve largely ignored the outdoor MX season in favor of watching our American representatives in MotoGP. But once January rolls around, my full attention reverts back to my first love – Supercross. And with the first drop of the gate in Anaheim, once again Thumpa’s creative juices will start flowing (barring a serious case of writer’s block). But while I hope the Thumpa Report provides some light-hearted entertainment for the fans, some others will surely misunderstand my intentions and take offense at some of the things I write. I’d like to take this opportunity to explain the origins of my love for this sport and the deep respect I hold for not only our professional racers, but also anyone brave enough to throw a leg over a dirtbike.
This was my final bloody day of riding. Haven’t thrown a leg over a bike since that day…
My interest in motorcycles began when I was around 5 years old, when my dad bought a Honda Z 50 for my brother and I back in the early 70’s. A couple years later, I graduated to a Honda CT 70. The extent of my MX experience was limited to riding in empty lots. However, a friend of mine started racing his XR 75 a couple years later. I spent many weekends camping out with him and his family at the tracks in Louisiana and Mississippi, watching him race and taking photos. We even got to watch him race in the Superdome back in the 70’s when the amateurs raced on the Sunday after the pro Supercross. A few years later, my friend gave up racing for cars and girls. Also, pro SX stopped coming to New Orleans. Thus, my MX days were over except for the occasional race we were lucky enough to catch on TV. My interest in the sport was rekindled many years later in the era of McGrath, Lusk, Windham, and Emig on the 125’s, when I was able to catch SX on ESPN at 2 a.m.
I once again took interest in riding when I was 34 years old. I bought a used XR200 to ride on the Mississippi River levees and river batture around my house. Every day I’d come home from my dental office, grab a shovel, and head into the woods to build little jumps with a bunch of 12 yr. olds so I could bottom out the suspension on my XR200. Around the same time, my father bought a Z 50 for my 7 yr. old son to ride when we visited him in Mississippi. Soon thereafter, a friend invited us to come watch him race at one of the local tracks, and instantly we were hooked. 6 months after buying my first bike with a clutch at age 34, I sold my XR and bought a new YZ426. I bought my son a KTM Pro Sr. 50 and we began riding at the closest local track. Just a few months later, we were traveling all over Louisiana and Mississippi to race 2 or 3 times a month. We raced for about 5 years, then unfortunately I had to give up MX after I had neck surgery (not bike-related).
This it the biggest air I ever got…
When I first started riding at the track, I set a goal of eventually being able to comfortably jump everything on the track. If I could routinely hit all the jumps without a constant fear of death, I would be satisfied. I came reasonably close to achieving my goals, reaching the level of about a good C/bad B rider. I could hit about 90% of the jumps on all the tracks, or all of the jumps at some tracks IF the conditions were perfect.
The amount of time and effort (and the injuries along the way) that it took me to reach that level more or less established my “hierarchy of respect,” which goes something like this…Knowing what it took just to become a decent beginner class racer, the local A riders seemed like gods to me. Knowing that the average spode like me could ride for several years and never really attain solid B-rider status, watching those A or “money class” riders just fly by us at will seemed surreal – a level of skill reserved for a select group of riders that could not be approached by mere mortals like me (even if I spent another 20 years trying). The next level of respect was realized when there was a big annual race locally, which attracted some top amateur riders and one top female pro. The A class ran 20 minutes plus a lap. The winner, who had recently won a class at Loretta’s, lapped all but one of our top locals (and would have lapped him as well in another lap or less). Likewise, I think the female pro beat all but one of our local male A riders. To see our local “gods” get handled so easily brought my respect to a whole new level. Now a year or two later, the winner of that local race turned pro. He qualified for most mains and earned several top 10 finishes, but to guys like Carmichael and Reed, he was nothing more than a lapper. That kind of speed is just unimaginable to a rider of my caliber. And as I’ve said, my respect starts with anyone who is brave enough to ride at any level due to the obvious physical risks involved.
And this is what old men like me switch to when they don’t have enough balls left to keep riding MX…
Thus, my respect for all riders – especially our professional racers – is incontrovertible. All of my observations in the Thumpa Report are meant as nothing more that satirical comedy. As an example, in recent years I’ve probably been the most harsh on Jason Lawrence. While I hope that he can get on track (both figuratively and literally) so we can appreciate the full extent of his talent, the fact that he’s been the focus of many of my musings does nothing to diminish my respect for his riding skills. I first became a Lawrence fan a few years ago at the Houston SX. I can still picture the aggressive pass he put on Ryan Villopoto in a turn right in view of our seats. At the time, RV was clearly the fastest guy in the class, yet Jason aggressively took the battle straight to him. While RV eventually passed him right back, Jason hung it all out there and even rode a bit over his head, hitting the dirt a couple times while refusing to back down. That kind of heart and determination – coupled with raw speed and skill – is what makes this sport so great to watch. Likewise, in the past Larry Brooks took a little heat in the Thumpa Reports. However, managing his way to back-to-back championships with Reed and Stewart speaks volumes of Mr. Brooks’ abilities. Likewise, some may think I’ve been a bit harsh on Kevin Windham over the years (despite the fact that joking about Kdub is considered outright blasphemy down here in south Louisiana). While I still can’t forgive Kdub for punting my favorite Frenchman David Vuillemin off the track many years ago, I’m still a HUGE Kdub fan. On occasion Kdub will pop in at our local tracks and race with the money riders, and often participates in fund raisers for injured local riders. On one of the days he unexpectedly dropped in to race, my son and I were there to race. In pre-race practice that morning, I crashed and broke my hand. I was more upset about having to leave and miss Kdub than I was about breaking my hand and having to shut down my dental practice for a month!
In this country, not even the President is immune to wisecracks from late-night talk show hosts. On Saturday Night Live, actors will even jump at the chance to parody themselves to get a laugh. I am not a reporter, I am not a professional, and I am never privy to any inside information (although I may sometimes pretend to be). I hope racers and race fans alike will take the Thumpa Report at face value – it is nothing more than satire or parody, in an attempt to bring a light and humorous approach to a very dangerous sport. Please don’t misinterpret any of my jokes as a sign of disrespect. Words can’t describe how much respect I have for all riders and racers, whether it’s on the hobby or professional level. I wish all the riders a safe and healthy new year, and hope you all continue to enjoy the Thumpa Report!