Ricky Carmichael. Travis Pastrana. Jeremy McGrath. Ernesto Fonseca. When it comes to Supercross and motocross, the best riders in the world are clearly defined. The same, though, cannot be said when it comes to off-road racing. There are so many different circuits and riders crossing over into different racing arenas that it is nearly impossible to find out who the very best off road racer is. Some riders compete in desert, some in GNCC, still others enduros, and now a new WORCS circuit that?s trying in some ways to put them all together. Just thinking about it makes our brains loop out.
To try and get to the bottom of it, we went directly to the source?the guys out there racing each and every weekend. We dug up some of their highlights, and asked them who they thought was the man; here?s what we found.
4Supercross title, 4Enduro title,
4Hare & Hounds title: Ty Davis has done it all, and he?s still going strong. It would be easy to argue that there is no better all-around rider than Zip-Ty; he?s logged more titles, in more varied racing “disciplines,” than any other rider, not to mention carried the enviable moniker of Top American at the ISDE.
As time has passed, though, Davis has had to narrow his two-wheeled pursuits to Hare & Hounds, and the new WORCS. “I hope the WORCS continues to grow because it?s a great series and Jeff Phillips really knows what he?s doing,” remarked Ty. “As for the Hare & Hounds it would be nice if the different clubs that sponsored the races agreed on some kind of format for marking courses and course set-up. One race will have blue ribbon marking danger and another race will have fluorescent?it can get confusing.”
When we cornered him for his opinion on the best overall rider, he could only narrow it down to two: Shane Watts and Destry Abbott. “If you?re talking about desert I would have to say Destry, but overall Watts looks really good right now.”
Fast Eddy has been in the racing game for more than a decade now, winning his first world title in 1990, logging four World Enduro Championships, and continuing his successful career with a Hare Scrambles championship last year. He is Team Green Off-Road?s newest addition and looks to retain his Hare Scrambles championship for the year 2001.
When Paul?s not out promoting races in his native England, he?s pinning the throttle here in the States. We asked him what he thought about the current state of American off-road racing, and he had much to say. “I?m actually a little down on racing in America because there?s no clear champion in the sport,” remarked Edmondson. “I really hope the AMA and the promoters of the various circuits put their heads together, because if changes aren?t made, off-road racing?s future in America is in jeopardy.”
We had to track Fast Eddy down on the other side of the Atlantic for his choice on America?s fastest off-roader; his choice?Rodney Smith. “He?s winning GNCCs, near the top of the WORCS, and if he raced Hare Scrambles and other series he?d probably win those too.”
No name is more synonymous with Baja and desert racing in general than Johnny Campbell. With four Baja wins under his belt, multiple SCORE and Best In The Desert championships, a silver in the ISDE, and recently an 8th overall at the Paris-Dakar rally (which just happened to be the best finish ever for a first-time entrant), Campbell is one of off road?s brightest stars.
Racking up wins in the desert isn?t an individual effort, nor is it one that comes without tremendous adversity. “In the Nevada 2000 my partner, Tim Staab, broke his foot at the end of day four, leaving me to ride solo for the last two days,” said Campbell. “I thought it wouldn?t be a problem but became very ill with the flu and battled dehydration for those two days. It was a tough victory.”
When it comes to the attributes necessary to be a dominant force in off-road racing, Johnny echoed many other riders? sentiments regarding the importance of versatility. “The ability to conquer a variety of terrain at vastly different speeds and conditions is imperative to off road racing success,” he said. “My vote for best all-around rider would have to be Ty Davis because he possesses the most universal talent.”
For the year 2001, Campbell plans to continue his pursuit of domination in the desert, focusing on SCORE?s Baja series and Best In The Desert.
Idaho native Brian Brown is one of the youngest members of Team Green?s off-road program and has already made a splash on the national stage by earning the #1 plate in the 1999 Hare & Hounds, and is leading (with teammate Destry Abbott) the series for 2001.
The 23-year-old has been dominating the Southern Idaho Desert Racing Association since 1996, and hopes to continue his domination in the Hare & Hounds and Best In The Desert circuits. Unfortunately, though, he?ll have to wait until next season to pursue those titles as a result of a broken nose that required mid-season surgery. “This season?s been a disappointment, but I?ll be back next year to compete in the WORCS, Best In The Desert, and Hare & Hounds,” said Brain (his nickname, not a typo).
As for whom Brown thinks is the best in off-road: “I think it would have to be Rodney Smith right now. His consistency is just amazing,” Brian said.