SPORT JNR MX NATS Racing in the premier U16 250cc 4-Stroke class was tight and competitive all week.
The Lake Macquarie Motorcycle Club did a brilliant job of keeping the hillside track smooth and watered.
FRECKLES An army of angry adolescents battle for pride, bragging rights and sponsorship dollars at the 2010 Honda Australian Junior Motocross Nationals.
In late September, Lake Macquarie Motorcycle Club hosted one of the most successful Australian Junior Motocross Championships in the event’s history. The weather gods came to the party, holding out until the last final had been run and won, before dumping a week’s worth of rain on a relieved bunch of officials’ heads. The stunning hillside track was in a constant state of mouth-watering loam, despite being continually pounded by angry mini-bikes’ tyres. The ambitious race program ran like a Swiss watch, with some days housing 25 motos without a glitch. But most importantly, 455 pimply, fearless kids and adolescents showed up to the startline of the heats in an attempt to do their parents and state proud, and hopefully catch the watchful eye of a potential sponsor that could help make their moto-dreams a reality. Over the course of the week, there were 3617 starts, 21,029 laps completed, and 34,487km raced – that’s pretty close to the Earth’s circumference of 40,000km. The racing was close and intense, and the style and skill of many riders was far better than you’d ever expect for kids so young – somehow, 65cc bikes piloted by 10-yearolds were clearing tabletops designed for full-sized bikes. Most riders were competing with Mum and Dad, an esky, Quikshade, HiAce and two-stroke. But there’s a growing number of riders pitting under race trucks as the scene grows more and more like its US counterpart. So if there’s one thing that can be taken away from the Juniors, it’s this: motocross in this country is alive and well, and the next generation is brimming with talent.
SPORT JNR MX NATS
SPORT JNR MX NATS
JOEY SAVAGTY The American has competed at the Aussie Juniors before, but this year he prepared himself for our conditions by practicing on a purposefully roughed-up track in the States. It paid off, as he won both 15 Yrs classes. He has speed and style, but a number of young Aussies, including Jake Vella and Jackson Richardson, were hot on his tail in both
The two first corners were tight and had only one main line, so getting the holeshot was key to a strong race.
OPENING THE GATES
s the gates to the Lake Macquarie Motorcycle Club complex – partway between Sydney and Newcastle – opened early on Sunday, September 25, the organisers had their hearts in their mouths. A select group of Lakes Club members had poured their time, money and soul into preparing for Australia’s biggest motocross event over the previous six months, but the threat of rain was looming. Bigtime! And Lakes – built on a hillside with a layer of loam over a hardpack base – has a reputation for being difficult to keep in good order at the best of times, and can be perilous after rain. “In fact,” says Kevin Williams, promoter of the MX Nationals, “it’s tough to keep it prepped for one day for the national motocross.” Then there was the issue of space. The restricted Lakes carpark – an area that usually only deals with a quarter as many competitors as was expected at the Juniors – was surely about to struggle to cope with the influx of Quikshades that was set to arrive. But with riders and their families having travelled from interstate, New Zealand and even the States, there was no choice but for racing to get underway. At 9.30am, the sound and smell of burnt pre-mix filled the air, and the first heat races began.
The riders competing at the Juniors do so for plenty of reasons, all with different budgets and approaches to their racing. Some kids do it because their parents never got the chance to race or didn’t do as well as they’d have liked, and want to
“Over the course of the week, there were 3617 starts, 21,029 laps completed, and 34,487km raced.” see their little Johny on the top step of the podium. Others want to be like their hero Reedy – the determination on their faces looks as if they’re riding for cattle stations. There’re also those who do it for the love of motocross, wanting nothing more than to tear up the track with their mates. Although there’s no need to prequalify for the event (unlike most state championships), the Juniors draw all of the country’s best under-16s. Josh Cachia, Ross Beaton and Harley Quinlan – the top-three in this year’s U19s motocross championship – were all frontrunners in the 2008 Juniors. And the younger
Juniors champs from back in ’08 – Jackson Richardson, Joel Dinsdale, Wilson Todd and Jacob Wright – are all still on the top of their game, with solid performances this year as they near the end of their Junior racing career. So the Juniors acts as the launching pad for young and aspiring Aussie motocrossers, but why does it attract overseas interest? In the case of Courtney Duncan and her fellow Kiwi competitors, Australia is the logical stepping stone in their careers, and is probably where they’ll spend a number of years racing. But for the four American riders, it’s simply a case of stepping out of their comfort zone, riding different tracks against different competitors on the other side of the world. They didn’t take the trip lightly – a section of the Glen Helen track in California was roughened up for them to practice on in an attempt to prepare for Australia’s notoriously rough and rutted tracks. “You never know,” says 150cc 2-stroke and 250cc 4-stroke champ Joey Savagty. “If I can’t pick up a ride in the States when I turn Senior, by doing well in Australia I might have doors open up for me to race here.” Despite the Yank’s fears of the track being rough, Lakes was perfectly watered and prepared every day. In fact, plenty of riders complained that the track was too smooth, but the officials argued that choosing
JAKE VELLA In the past 12 months, Vella has arguably gone from being the most immature to the most professional rider in the pits, and played a very significant part of this year’s championships by taking it to Savagty, finishing runner-up in the premier class. He was probably the least surprised about his performance this year, despite riding borrowed bike.
HAYDEN MELLROSS The Thor Honda Development rider has been a dominant force for a couple of years, but a few months at the Millsaps Training Facility in the States have really refined his skills. The 13-U15 Yrs 250cc class winner was consistently at the front of the field, with two second place finishes and one win in the finals.
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slightly less exciting racing was a nobrainer over having a hospital-load of kids with broken bones. And the track played home to some seriously nail-biting racing. After all 16 classes had been whittled down to 40 riders each through two days of heats, 65 finals were held across the next four days to determine the 2010 Aussie champs.
COURTNEY DUNCAN Duncan has incredible bike control and would take a completely different line around the track – a line that no-one else had the ability or guts to do. She finished an incredible second against the boys. If there is a way for her to manhandle a full-size bike and ride against the boys when she turns Senior, she will find a way to do it.
FUTURE CHAMPS So who were the riders making waves this year? Who will be standing atop our sport within the next decade? Joey Savagty, who lives and trains at the Millsaps Training Facility in the States, won both premier classes. But it certainly wasn’t without a fight from a select group of Aussies who could be the most talented band of riders in the past 10 years. Jake Vella has long been recognised as having world-beating potential, but this year the Coastal KTM rider’s mentality switched from rockstar to professional, and he went within five points of clinching the 250cc title from the Yank. Hot on his heels was Honda’s Jacob Wright, who’s incredible natural talent saw him clinch a moto win. If it wasn’t for a 12th place in the second final, he would have walked away with the title, and could well be the next Reedy rising through the ranks. Jackson ‘Jatz Crackerz’ Richardson laid low with injuries coming into the Juniors, and wasn’t a prominent figure leading
“A select group Aussies could be our most talented band of riders to come through the ranks in the past 10 years.”
ABOUT THE RIDERS
BEN GEORGE Age: 15 Home Club/Track: Lakes is my home track and club – I live 40 minutes away. Classes & Results: I’m racing in the 15 Years 250Fs, as it’s the only bike I really enjoy riding. I DNFed my first final, then got 11th and 12th, giving me 11th Overall, which I’m a bit disappointed with.
Costs, Set-up & Logistics: I ride for the NSW Yamaha Junior Development Team, so my bike is supplied through Yamaha, and I get everything off them except for tyres, fuel and oil. I pit with them, and they’ve got parts, spares and a mechanic here this weekend. On top of that I’ve also got the cost of entry fees, maintaining the track at home, and usually accommodation. Practice/Training: I probably ride three or four days a week, and I cycle, swim and run. I’ve been riding motocross the whole season, but will start doing supercross training leading into Super X. Ambition: Racing bikes is awesome, and I’d love to be getting paid to do so in the future. I see others like my brother Luke and it really inspires me to get going. Idol: I look up to Chad Reed – like almost everyone in the pits. I’m really good mates with his family.
From left to right, Billie Middleton, Craig Anderson and Scott Middleton.
BILLIE MIDDLETON (& HIS MUM) Age: 10 Home Club/Track: My local club is the Wanneroo Juniors in Perth, WA. Classes & Results: I’m riding the 65cc 9-U11s, and have come 29th Overall. Costs, Set-up & Logistics: A lot of effort goes into getting to the east coast. I’m with
the entire Western Australian team, which includes 14 riders. We’ve got 32 bikes, a heap of spares, tools and a welder that all came over in a shipping container. It costs about $20,000 for the whole team, or $1500 per family. Then there’s flights, food and accommodation for my family of four. Practice/Training: I don’t do much training at home, and go to the local track once every couple of weeks, as well as playing footy at school. I’ve been riding for two years, and have come fourth at the state titles. Ambition: I wanted to come over and give racing at the Juniors a shot. My brother Scott came over last year to train with Craig Anderson and race, so I just wanted to ride today. I came fourth in the state tiles in WA. Idol: I look up to my brother as a rider, as well as Craig Anderson.
SPORT JNR MX NATS DYLAN LONG Long finished just one point shy of Savagty to take second in the 15Yrs 150cc two-stroke class. Kevin Williams, promoter of the MX Nationals, was overheard to say that you could put him in last place and as long as he had enough time, he is determined enough catch and pass the entire field – which he very nearly did in one moto.
DION PICARD There was some talk about Picard from his performance at the NZ championships, but no-one could believe their eyes when they saw him in practice. He was a rockstar in the pits – not at all scared to say what he was thinking – but he had the skill to back it up, bagging second in the 13-U15 Yrs 150cc two-stroke class.
into this years event. But the Honda rider has possibly got the most overall speed of anyone out there with his Jay Marmont, fast-over-everything style, and finished a solid third in the 150cc 2-stroke class. Ben George had an unlucky weekend in his last year as a Junior, with a flat tyre in one moto and a crash in another, while Jarrod Davis had the pace to run with leaders but could never manage to make his way through the pack after a series of poor starts. And Dylan Long showed incredible determination in the final 250cc moto, as he chased down almost the entire field to finish fourth after an early crash that left him dead-last. He also just missed out on the 150cc 2-stroke title by one point to Savagty. The talented Luke Clout absolutely dominated the 150cc 4-stroke class winning all five finals, but it was at the detriment of his 150cc 2-stroke and 250cc 4-stroke results. The 13-15 Years 250 4-stroke class was just as competitive, with Hayden Mellross and New Zealander Dion Picard banging bars in every final. Mellross’ determination saw him secure the 150cc title by just six points over Suzuki’s Picard, but GMR’s Scott Mann schooled both of them in the 150cc 2-stroke class, as well as winning the 85s class.. There were countless other standout rides, but a few names to watch in the coming years include Jorden Hill, Joel Milesevic, Wayde Carter, Jy Roberts and Hunter Lawrence.
“There’s no doubt that the 1% of those at the Juniors who do make it will push Aussie motocross higher and higher up the world scale.”
ABOUT THE RIDERS
COURTNEY DUNCAN Age: 14 Home Club/Track: South Canterbury Motorcycle Club is my local club, and I have a track at home in New Zealand. Classes & Results: I’ve come second overall in the 12-U15 85cc class with the boys, and won every moto in the 12-U16 girls 85cc class. Costs, Logistics & Set-up: I got to Australia a few days early and got my bike all sorted out,
then did some practice on Craig Anderson’s track. I’ve come over with my dad and the Backflips Clothing crew, who are my sponsors. Yamaha Australia have set me up with a ride, and Scott Bishop, Yamaha’s Peter Payne and my mechanic, Thommo. My family’s paid for some of the expense of getting here ourselves, though. Practice/Training: I ride whenever I can, which’s a few times a week. I’ll start training more when I’m older. Ambition: I’ve got two more years of Juniors where I want to keep doing well. At the moment I’m keeping up with the boys, but when I go Pro I’m not sure if I’ll stay with them. I ride because it’s fun, but I’m getting better and know that I want to be professional when I’m older. I will race in Australia, but want go to Europe or America eventually. Idol: I look up to Craig Anderson and Ryan Dungey.
JOEY SAVATGY Age: 16 Home Track/Club: I live, train and ride at the Millsaps Traning Facility in Georgia USA, run by Davey Millsap’s Mum, Colleen. Classes & Results: I’ve just wrapped up both the 150c 2-stroke and the 250F class, both in the 15 Years. Costs, Logistics & Set-up: I’m sponsored by Suzuki in the States, but Raceline Suzuki have
helped me out a lot in Australia, as has Kevin Williams. It’s not cheap to get over here, as we’ve paid for flights and accommodation for my whole family. My dad is my mechanic. I blew a transmission out of my 150cc and had to jump on a bike I’d never ridden to try and get points in the bag. Practice/Training: I’ve put in a huge amount of training to get here. I ride most days – motocross is my life. Ambition: I take my racing as seriously as anything – if not more so. When I get on the line, I don’t want to lose. I didn’t come this far to get second. I come to Australia to get as much experience as I can. If there’s no doors open in the States, perhaps something could be available here. Eventually I’d like to be winning, just like Ryan Dungey. Idol: I’m inspired by Ryan Dungey. I’d love to be in his shoes one day.
MEGHAN RUTLEDGE: Age: 15 Home Track/Club: I’m from Picton, NSW, and my home club and track is Oakdale. Classes & Results: I’ve won every race in the Female Lites. I also race the 13-U15 250Fs against the boys, where I run mid-pack. Costs, Logistics & Set-up: I’m with the Moss Institute with four other riders. Greg Moss coaches us, and Matt and Jake train with us
to get our lap times down. I’m sponsored by Southern Highlands Motorcycles, and next year Kawasaki Australia will help me out. Dad’s my mechanic. Our costs are parts and tyres, as well as entry, fuel, and accommodation. I have three bikes here – one to race against the boys, one against the girls, and my supercross bike for spare parts. Practice/Training: I go to the gym every morning before school and go for a ride once or twice a week. I also go for pushy rides, run and do boxing with Dad. Ambition: I will be going Senior next year for the NSW state titles. I then want to be the best in the country, and hope to eventually make it to the Womens World MX Championships and be the best in the world. Idol: Matt and Jake Moss are my idols and I really look up to them. I’ve known them for years.
So just how do the various age groups and capacities compare? Keep in mind that motocross lap times are affected by the state of the track and dicing with the competition. But for what it’s worth, here’s the fastest lap times posted by each class: • 65cc 7-U9 Yrs: 2:09.0 • 65cc 9-U11 Yrs: 1:59.7 • 65cc 11-U13 Yrs: 1:58.0 • 85cc 2-Stroke 9-U12 Yrs: 1:57.0 • 85cc 2-Stroke 12-U14 Yrs: 1:55.8 • 85cc 2-Stroke 14-U16 Yrs: 1:52.4 • 85cc/150cc 12-U16 Yrs Female: 1:56.7 • 150cc 4-Stroke 9-U12 Yrs: 2:00.5 • 150cc 4-Stroke 12-U14 Yrs: 1:57.5 • 150cc 4-Stroke 14-U16 Yrs: 1:54.9 • 100-150cc 2-Stroke 13-U15 Yrs: 1:46.5 • 100-150cc 2-Stroke 15 Yrs: 1:47.1 • 100-150/200-250 13-U16 Yrs Female: 1:55.5 • 200-250cc 4-Stroke 13-U15 Yrs: 1:51.0 • 200-250cc 4-Stroke 15 Yrs: 1:45.7
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MEGAN RUTLEDGE Hailing from Picton, the unassuming, likeable Meghan Rutledge absolutely dominated the 13-U16 Female class with controlled aggression. Despite not having the speed to run at the front of the boys class this year, she will surely become a major player in Women’s Motocross in the next few years.
FEMALE DOMINATION One of the sights that really made people sit up and watch was when two seriously quick girls took to the track against the boys. Yamaha’s Courtney Duncan was known to be quick, but her dominance in the third final 12-U14 Years 85cc race had plenty of boys questioning themselves. Duncan swept the floor in the younger female class, and posted an incredible second against the boys. We’ll have to wait to tell whether she remains competitive against the boys in years to come, but her aggression and manhandling of the bike was as good as anyone in her class. Moss Institute rider Meghan Rutledge was the other
standout female, who had the speed to run mid-pack in the premier class.
LAKES CLUB PRESIDENT
THE WASH-UP Junior motocross racing will always remain a family sport. The Australian Junior Motocross Championship is our national-level event so the money that’s poured into it is understandable, but the harsh reality is that only 1% of riders competing over the course of the week will end up making a living out of it down the track. And with the scene fostering almost endless talent, there’s no doubt that the 1% who do make it will push Aussie motocross higher and higher up the world scale.
MUCH, MUCH MORE ONLINE... For all the information you could ever want to know about the Juniors, including complete race results, multiple slideshows, videos, interviews and daily reports, head to www.transmoto.com.au/mxsx/juniors 94
TM: When did the club find out it was hosting the Juniors? RP: We found out just prior to Christmas last year. We didn’t apply for it initially; instead MA asked us if we’d like to do it. We took it to our committee, and we decided it was too good to not do in terms of the exposure it could bring the club. That’s when we put the proposal together and got the go-ahead. What sort of preparation goes into an event like this? In terms of the infrastructure, we’ve made plenty of upgrades over the past 12 months. The club has installed wash bays, added drainage and irrigation, upgraded the canteen facilities, painted
all the tyres on the track, done plenty of earthworks and installed three-phase power. About four people have put in a month’s fulltime work over the past year. What support does the club receive from MA? The support from MA was very disappointing. There was very little advertising prior to the event, and we struggled to get information and assistance from them. Does the club make any money out of the event, or does it end up losing cash? We have made a small amount of money, but most importantly, we’re very happy with what we’ve done with the place. The facilities we now have in place will see the club through for the next two years, and we’ve purchased a Polaris buggy and spine board for use as a medical vehicle. What were the main challenges you faced during the event? Aside from a struggle with the Roads and Traffic Authority, the event ran smoothly, with very few injuries throughout the event.