Southwick is the only round of the Chevy Trucks MX Nationals that doesn?t run an amateur program the day before the pros. Instead, a New England Sports Committee round is held the Sunday before, which is an off-week for the Pros. So Paul DeLaurier washed Mike?s bike, and I?d be riding it just as LaRocket had left it from the previous mudfest. LaRocket opted for the 21-inch wheel at Highpoint, as the 20 tends to climb ruts more. I really wanted to try the 20, even though Bridgestone hasn?t developed a sand tire yet, so I had Paul fit the factory Honda with the 20-inch hoop. Then I smacked LaRockets skyward clutch lever once, and it rotated on its nylon sleeve to become level with the front brake. Since forward-rotated bars help you stand more, I left them the way Mike had them.
Southwick is also the only track on the circuit where locals rule. Geezers might remember JoJo leading Bob Hannah there in ’78. When the flag dropped for my practice, a full gate of fast 40 year-olds pinned it. I was on LaRocket’s rocket, easily the trickest, quickest and lightest 250 on the track, and I was getting passed like I was in neutral! These guys ride like they were literally born in a 338 berm! I was definately intimidated, and it had nothing to do with the bike (other than not wanting to bend it). As I got more confident, I started grabbing gears.
And the Amsoil/Jack-ln-The-Box responded. Instantly. LaRocco likes a lot of low/mid power and instant throttle response. His bike is jetted perfectly and rips off of every turn. ‘We actually used the same engine setting for supercross and motocross last season,’ reports DeLaurier, ‘But this year we found a setting with more power everywhere. Mike likes it to come on early and hard but to still rev.’
The bike certainly does that. On the last lap of practice, I let it fly off the main-straight, downhill double?and almost looped out!
A SANDY RACE FACE
Ziggy (team owner Rick Zielfelder) had turned in the shock rebound three clicks to help keep the rear from swapping on the sand whoops. We went one out and held the rear up more by going in three clicks on shock LSCD. Then I lined up on the longest concrete start pad in America (outside the NHRA) and did a smokey burnout. The other guys on the gate must’ve been thinking ‘Hey, somebody ate Mike LaRocco!’ Then I got one of the worst starts of my life, and day turned to night in the first turn, as 40 guys (and a girl) roosted me in the face. I picked a few people off in the short moto, as the Factory Connection Honda couldn’t have handled better. It tracked perfectly over the most heinous whoops I’d ever ridden. The medium-terrain front tire worked well in the sugary sand, and the wider profile let it plane better. It never climbed a berm or washed out. Neither end did anything weird, and the bike stayed level over the spectator double. Good stuff!
Between motos, I picked Paul’s brain. ‘For the outdoor series,’ Paul said, ‘We use a different cylinder, head, pipe and ignition map in the engine, but that’s it. Mike uses the same gearing (14/53) for both series. Mike kept the same clamps and off-set, too, but we use a different linkage and suspension settings. HGA also made eight-bolt bar clamps for our oversized (Azonic) bars.’
Mike likes a balanced suspension package, whereas Lamson’s and McGrath’s Hondas we’ve ridden had stiffer fork and a softer shock for max traction. At Southwick, Mike’s bike hooked up well, but I still got a crummy start in the second moto. And it wasn’t the bike, as LaRocco got two good ones in the National.
All too soon, my second moto was over. My arms hadn’t pumped from the skyward handlebars, and I was gaining confidence by the lap. I could’ve used another 40 laps to feel relaxed on the track, hut I was at home with Mike’s bike from the first turn. I finished midpack in the 40 + Bs and had a good time doing it. Afterwards, I noticed a big dent in that cool 20-inch rim. On both sides. ‘Did I do that?’ I asked Paul.
Oh, man! I had dented LaRocco’s works front wheel, without even coming within 1.5 inches of bottoming the fork! And I outweigh Mike by 100 pounds. Ziggy actually lightened fork compression for LaRocket and dialed in even more shock rebound for the 338 National. Mike suffered a broken pipe after colliding with Carmichael in the first moto, but he came back in the second moto to show that it was Lumpy, not his factory Honda, that had stunk up the place so badly on amateur day.
Sorry about the rim, Mike!