SECRET’S OF THE NUMBER-ONE PLATES

SECRET’S OF THE NUMBER-ONE PLATES


Beginning on page 55 of our April issue, we dive into the five #1 bikes belonging to Jeremy McGrath, Ernesto Fonseca, Nathan Ramsey, Ricky Carmichael and Greg Albertyn. By examining the bikes with a fine-toothed comb and (in most cases) riding the machines, we can get a handle on what makes these supercross and motocross champions tick. We can also pass along tips on how you can make your bike more like the champs’ machines and unveil the secrets that the top guns don’t want becoming public knowledge, for fear of losing that championship edge. Here are some juicy tidbits that wouldn’t fit into the April issue and some that have occurred since the magazine was sent to the printer.

INSIDE McGRATH’S #1 YZ250
We didn’t get to ride McGrath’s Yamaha this time around, but, if you’ve ridden one of Jeremy’s bikes, you’ve pretty much ridden them all. Did you forget that McGrath rode a ’93 Honda throughout ’94 and ’95? When it’s said that Jeremy doesn’t make many changes to his bike during the season, it’s the understatement of the millennium. Jeremy doesn’t even change his front tire to a sand pattern for Daytona! Changes are made only if Jeremy feels there is some weakness to correct. After 10 of 16 rounds, Jeremy has won seven 250cc mains and has a 30-point lead, so weaknesses are pretty scarce. Secrets, though, abound.

Jeremy’s King of Supercross roots go back to his days of BMX, where he learned to explode from the gate and hide from the pack. Only now the explosions are much bigger and rewards much more lucrative. He has bagged some $700,000 in bonuses thus far.

1. Factory high-low ignition: You’d think Jeremy uses the high-power setting for holeshots, but you’d be wrong. The detuned low setting keeps the front wheel on the ground on the start straight, then Jeremy switches to the gnarly ignition curve over the first jump.
2. Stiffest fork on the track: Jeremy hates it when his fork deflects instead of soaking up the hit, so it’s set up very stiff for jumps and whoops. He forces it to compress for corners with massive braking and momentum.
3. Air brakes: Remember when Jeremy lost his front brake in the San Diego 250 main? He compensated by staying low over the jumps and clipping the landing ramps with his rear wheel, loading it for maximum braking down the entire length of the ramp.
4. Hermetically sealed: Although McGrath’s contract is with Chaparral Yamaha, his equipment is pure Team Yamaha, and mechanic Randy Lawrence rebuilds the bike each week at Yamaha’s race shop.
5. Clutch to win: A Hinson billet clutch basket and Motion Pro cable carry out Jeremy’s commands. He doesn’t use the stock quick-adjust perch because it works backwards from what he’s accustomed to using.
6. Barely-legal weight: Even Jeremy’s pipe hangers are carbon-fiber. Between the carbon and all of the titanium (bolts, pegs, subframe) and magnesium, Jeremy’s bike weighs 218 pounds, just over the AMA 250cc limit.
7. Soft on shocks: Jeremy is most concerned with maximum hook-up and comfort in the race mode, so his shock is much softer than the fork. He likes it to take a set in whoops so he won’t get swatted by the seat.
8. No wheelie wheelbase: Jeremy runs his rear axle all the way to the back of possible adjustments for hook-up without wheelies. This also gives the rear wheel more leverage on the shock, softening it further. Triple clamps tuck the fork in for better turning.
9. Gear for leverage: You know how a one-tooth larger rear sprocket will bring a stock YZ250 to life on most tracks? Jeremy goes six teeth beyond that! A 56-tooth AFAM sprocket gives the motor more leverage (torque) over the rear knobby. He also uses special transmission gears with a higher ratio for first and second.
10. Tuned for top: With all that traction on tap, too much low-rev power would throw off Jeremy’s timing, so Yamaha tunes the motor for more power on top without a gnarly hit.
SHAKE-UPS AND STEP-UPS
While Jeremy is in total control of his title defense, the other champions haven’t been so fortunate. Nathan Ramsey broke his wrist just before Anaheim, so he switched to the East-coast 125s, where many expected a showdown between the SplitFire Kawasaki teamster and East-coast champ Ernesto Fonseca. Both have been thwarted by a field that has stepped up the level of competition a notch. Only Stephane Roncada and rookie sensation Travis Pastrana have been able to win more than one 125 main thus far, with both ’99 champs being winless in ’00. Adding insult to injury, Ramsey injured his thumb practicing for Atlanta.
Don’t blame the bikes, though, as both the SplitFire Kawasaki KX125 and Yamaha of Troy YZ125 have topped the podium, with Tallon Vohland winning a supercross and looking forward to picking up in the 125 nationals where Ricky Carmichael left off when he moved to the 250s full-time.
Least fortunate of all, Greg Albertyn crashed in practice at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome and broke his right femur. If the likable Albee makes the first round of the 250 nationals, he won’t be in any shape to mount a successful title defense, and that’s a huge shame, because Greg’s factory RM250 is certainly up for the task.

While Saturday nights haven’t been all that kind to outdoor champ Greg Albertyn, a Friday supercross practice session eclipsed his chances of repeating his ’99 250MX national championship.

Ernesto Fonseca was the rage in ’99, winning seven of eight mains, but he hasn’t been able to assert his dominance in ’00. Nobody has, but teammate Stephane Roncada was the first to win two 125 mains on the year.

Between Nathan Ramsey moving to the East and Ricky Carmichael moving to the 250s, Pro Circuit’s Mitch Payton won’t see a #1 plate on his Team SplitFire Kawasaki KX125s this season.

 

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