An indoctrination to motocross racing, part 2

Patrick Newell

While I was a neophyte to American motocross racing, my photographer, Frank, had zero pre-race knowledge. Normally confident at just about any sporting event, Frank expressed a number of concerns. For one, he had no idea who to focus on. My answer, take pictures of the leader. Two, he didn’t know where to stand. Frank figured that answer out on his own: He followed around the rest of the seasoned photographers. And three, he wondered how we would identify the riders. I told him, “no problem, the numbers are on the motorcycles, and I had a printed roster of all the competitors. He followed up, “what if the number isn’t showing?” To satisfy this query, I told him I would make up a generic photo caption or simply not use the picture. After allaying Frank’s concerns – and he proved quite tenacious with his grievances – we began to focus on the task at hand. Moving through the crowd to find a nice vantage point was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, especially since attendance was probably around 10,000 people. Shortly after the start of the first moto in the 125cc motocross lites, I began to open my eyes. The speed of the bikes was impressive, and I soon noticed how grueling and punishing it is for riders. Taking large jumps – particularly “gravity cavity ” – and also using their legs to steady themselves through hairpin turns, it became easy to understand why the career span of a top-level motocross rider is so short. The most interesting aspect of the day was my visit to the pits among the mechanics and various crew members during the first 250cc moto. James Stewart blew away everyone; however, the competition behind him was fierce. I watched as pit row members gave their riders brief messages on erasable-marker clipboards. Sometimes it was conveying lap times, perhaps it gave quick advice as to the best places to make a pass, and there were also notes offering suggestions or adjustments. I held my spot in mechanics’ row until the third moto of the day when I was told to leave by a track official. Seems my sandals were not appropriate footwear. One thing is for sure, motocross has found a new fan, and next year I will not forget my shoes.