FRIDAY WRAP-UP: TEAM HONDA REVEALED

TEAM HONDA 2018

Team Honda presented its bikes and riders for the 2018 racing season at its Corona Supercross practice track Thursday. It was the first time that Ken Roczen took to the track in front of the press for almost a year. Even in his frequent social media posts there have been no riding shots, but he says he can now start the season with no disadvantage. “Obviously, my arm is never going to be the same,” he said. The range of motion in his wrist and elbow is still limited, but he’s now riding with a wrist brace and feels he’s up to speed.

 

The biggest change for the structure of the team is the return of Erik Kehoe as team manager. Kehoe previously managed Honda’s in-house AMA Supercross/Motocross team between 2002 and 2012. Current Team Honda HRC manager Dan Betley will move to the Factory Connection-run GEICO Honda squad, where he will serve as Team Manager. Betley replaces two-time AMA Motocross National Champion Mike LaRocco, who has spent nearly two decades with the GEICO Honda squad, first as a rider and then as a manager.

The 450 has evolved during the off season. One of the most interesting changes is the use of Showa suspension on Roczen’s bike, but not Seely’s. Last year, both used KYB, but this year, each rider was given the option to choose which suspension supplier he preferred. Kenny went to Showa.

The Geico Honda 250 team will consist of Jeremy Martin, Cameron Mcadoo, RJ Hampshire, Chase Sexton and Cristian Craig. Martin will ride the 250 in the east coast SX rounds but start off riding a 450 out west. “I got a chance to ride the 450 at Daytona with the new chassis and it was amazing,” he said. “It was hard to go back to the old bike.”

 

Ken Roczen looked smooth and comfortable despite having almost a year away from racing. “I’ve been riding a lot, but I haven’t posted many photos or videos until now. I’m ready.”
Cole Seely

Jeremy Martin

RJ Hampshire
Cameron Mcadoo
Chase Sexton
Christian Craig

THE NEXT SHOOTOUT

The next big project in-house at Dirt Bike is a 450 trail-bike shootout. There are three EPA certified 450s that are considered off-road bikes: The Honda CRF450X, Suzuki RMX450Z and Yamaha WR450F. The other “off-road” 450s on the market are either dual-sport bikes (like the Husky FE450) or closed-course competition bikes (like the Honda CRF450RX).

The Honda CRF450X hasn’t changed in years, and in fact, it can’t. It passed EPA’s testing when the standards weren’t as strict, and is grandfathered in. That status won’t last forever, but for now, you can get the Honda with a Keihin Carburetor and no throttle stop. The others are fuel-injected and are restricted to half throttle in stock form.

Suzuki had famous trouble with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board back in 2010 when the RMX450Z was first introduced. It was taken off the market, and finally reintroduced last year with very few changes. One of those is a “tamper-proof” EFI system.

Yamaha is the only O.E. to offer its own hp-up kit for its 450. The GYTR competition kit has a progarmable black box for the igntion and a YZ thorttle stop. We will be testing these bikes in stock and modified form. The Honda’s modifications will include a JD Jetting kit. The Suzuki will have a JD EFI Tuner and the Yamaha will have the GYTR kit.

KAILUB RUSSELL ON RACING OUT WEST

Kailub Russell came out west for the Team KTM photo shoot and to get a taste of AMA District 37 Big 6 racing last week. Next year, he will be dividing his efforts between two coasts, defending his GNCC XC1 title and racing Big 6. Apparently, KTM off-road Racing Manager Antti Kallonen is asking all his riders to compete in two different championships in 2018, and this was Kailub’s choice. I talked to him right after his debut race at Lake Havasu, where he was second to Thad Duvall.

 

SUPERENDURO WITH CODY WEBB

Cody Webb didn’t get to ride the SuperEnduro championship last year and it never sat well with him. This year, he was able to get KTM’s support to compete, and he was the fastest man at the opening round in Poland, scoring 1-5-1 in the three heats. The crowd favorite was, of course, Taddy Blazusiak, who came out of retirement and went 2-2-2 for the overall win. The series will resume on January 6, 2018.

THE BUILDING OF THE CORNFIELD TRACK

Red Bull’s “Homegrown” video with Ryan Dungey was a huge hit last month. Here’s a look at how it came about, as well as the first in Fox’s new series on Dungey.

 

HUSKY GOOD OLD TIMES BLOG: ICE RACING IN THE ’30s

In the 1930s, Husqvarna dominated the Swedish ice-racing scene. Riders such as Ragnar Sunnqvist, Ivar Skeppstedt and Martin Strömberg took to the frozen lakes on Husky 350cc and 500cc machines equipped with lethal-looking spiked tyres. To the cheers of thousands of spectators these men were the gladiators of their time, racing hard in some of the toughest conditions.

Ice racing on studded tyres has always been popular in Sweden. It started in the twenties and there were already many famous events to choose from. In the mid-thirties, Husqvarna played a major role in races on the slippery frozen surface. The leading man in the festivities was Ragnar Sunnqvist, he rode for his private Husqvarna team as the factory had stopped supporting their riders at the time, but races were still won on the successful brand.

Vallentuna, outside Stockholm, was the initial event for a new private team, Scuderia Husqvarna. The factory had withdrawn their official racing support, so Husqvarna’s new fate was established through private interests. It was February, it was cold and the lake had been frozen for quite a while when riders gathered to race in two classes. On February 17th in 1935, the event set off in super-windy conditions at a temperature of minus 15 degrees Celsius.

Despite the temperature some 15,000 spectators came to watch, hardened people who didn’t mind getting cold during the day. The track consisted of many curves with one long straight, this was odd for an ice race. The start time was set at one o’clock, and the first heat was ready to get away with riders at the start line, engines running.

Husqvarna entered with several machines, all on studded tyres with centimetre-long spikes moulded into the rubber. In order to race on the slippery surface, there had to be lots of spikes in each tire. In fact, there were more than six Husky bikes on the starting line which consisted of motorcycles from two separate classes; the 500cc C-class and the 350 cc B-class. Most Huskys were twin-cylinder, but there was also a single-cylinder 350cc ridden by ace Rolf Gülich. The twin-cylinders were a bit rough at the start as they were manufactured to be bump-started – turning the engine to fire up. That meant the first gear was very high, which made the Husqvarnas slow to get away when the flag was dropped.

Dancing on the ice began with riders charging hard from the start. One of the competitors, the legendary Ivar Skeppstedt, missed the second corner and rode straight into the snow-wall. He did recover, but was a bit behind, pushing hard to make up lost time. The race was over 10 laps and the length of the track was four kilometres long. The track was covered in snow, which whirled in the wind, making visibility non-existent. The studded tires bit into the ice, blasting clouds of tiny frozen drops in the air. This was not only a rider problem, as the crowd also had trouble seeing much of the action. However, with 20 riders active on the circuit the battle went on, regardless of each individual’s impression. At least, nobody was in the need of a Sherpa showing the way.

As had happened many times before, Ragnar Sunnqvist took the lead of the field, having no problems whatsoever seeing where he was heading. Husky rider Skeppstedt was soon on Sunnqvist’s heels despite his previous mistake and in third spot lay Arnold Linder, also Husqvarna-mounted. Then Sunnqvist had to make a stop to clean his wires and spark-plugs, due to them being clogged with snow. A new rider by the name of Larsson now took the lead, but he took a shortcut due to bad visibility and was consequently disqualified from the race.

Then something happened, the wind dropped and all the riders suddenly had a clear view of the track. In the big C-class Skeppstedt managed to pass his fellow Husqvarna competitor, Sunnqvist – the latter suffering with a misfiring engine. This made the ace-rider lose more and more ground to the leader which couldn’t be recovered. Instead, Ivar Skeppstedt took his Husqvarna to the overall victory, five seconds ahead of team-mate Arnold Linder. Husqvarna’s third man over the finish line was Ragnar Sunnqvist, almost a minute behind the winner. Husqvarna took all three places on the podium and received all the accolades from a cheering crowd.

In the B-class, Husqvarna also managed a triple podium. First to take the flag was Martin Strömberg, while Arthur Olsson and Carl Bagenholm followed in pursuit, around half a minute behind the first man.

It was a remarkable day, with chilly weather and hot, hot races – perfect for the ultrafast and reliable Husqvarna machines!

That’s all for now!

–Ron Lawson

cody webbCole SeelyHusqvarna ice racingJeremy MartinKen RoczenronswrapTeam Honda