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More local racers are switching, how about you?

by JohnNicholas on 09/24/2009

In our local area the resurgence of two-strokes continues to grow. Sure there has been great debate about which is better… two or four. The truth is that without the displacement advantage the four-stroke would never have made the advances into motocross racing.

Just the fact that the manufacturers are concerned that a rogue privateer on a two-stroke just might be able to beat their factory backed racers should tell the complete tale.

The manufacturers have positioned themselves in a bad way. They are alienating many working class weekend racers and their families that have shown an interest in racing professionally. It’s just too expensive to compete with the 250F four-strokes that require cubic dollars to go fast.

Many of these racers are starting to either practice on or race two-strokes just for cost factors. What some of them are finding is that the two-stroke is more fun and it helps them to be a better racer.

Over the past two years there has been a shift in the type of racers using two-strokes. At first it was the vintage guys and some of the guys the either liked two-strokes or could not afford to buy a new bike. The expert/Local Pro racers were virtually all on four-strokes.

Something has changed!

Eyes looking ahead, finger on the clutch. time for Brappp! Photo by Vintage54

Mike Leavitt has grown up racing two-strokes in the mini class and through the 125cc class. Then in the early 2000?s he switched over to the four-stroke like so many others. He was ultra-competitive on the four-strokes, but like many other fast expert/pro racers he rode his modified machines hard and has faced the inevitable expenses of rebuilding his machines.

This past year he bought a 250F, a 450F to compete with and a YZ250 two-stroke to practice on. He preferred the two-stroke but felt that he would be at a disadvantage racing it against the larger four-strokes, so for most of the year he raced his 250F and 450F. Our district has not yet adopted the AMA Amateur rules pertaining to displacement. So a 250 two-stroke competes with a 450 four stroke.

Mike was invited to race the FMF 2 Stroke Invitational at Unadilla in August. In preparation he decided to add a Pro Circuit pipe to his bike, but they were out of stock, but kindly built one for his 2009 YZ250. After racing at Unadilla and finishing an unbelievable 4th (coming from last)after a first lap pile-up , he felt that he would prefer to race the two-stroke even if he was at a disadvantage.

Mike flat out flys through the corners. Photo by Vintage54

The following event at Ace Motocross he signed up for the 250 Expert class and the Plus 25 Expert class on his YZ250 two-stroke. The result? He won all 4 motos!

I’m sure that some of his competitors thought it was a fluke, that he just liked that track and that day the two stroke had the advantage.

The following weekend at Claverack, a natural terrain course with an uphill start off of concrete his results were similar.

Coming off the starts Mike pulled top three starts in all of his motos on the two-stroke. The track is a deep loam, mixed with grass (which grows on the track between events) and even though Mike was at a disadvantage against the 450 four-strokes he managed excellent starts, sometimes even pulling the holeshot.

Battling a 450F on his YZ250. Photo by Vintage54

What was thrilling, was watching him battle with Josh Clark (New Warthog Racing sponsored Pro) on his 450F in the 250 Expert class. Mike would go deep into the corners on the brakes hard, pivot the bike while clutching it out of the corner, the bike would snap forward almost a bike length ahead of the four-stroke. But as they raced down the straight the 450F would gain the advantage back. Mike had to do this in every corner and dial in his aggressive attack! 

The fun part was that a great deal of the crowd was jazzed by the battle. There is nothing that sounds like a powerful 250 two-stroke ridden hard on the pipe. Mike gained quite a few new fans that day.

Mike finished 1st in both motos of the Plus 25 Expert class by a big margin, but finished second to Josh Clark in the 250 Expert Class, with some awesome battles at the beginning of each moto. The big 450F did gain a short distance from the 250 two-stroke at the motos end..

The sound of the two stroke draws lots of fans to the fences. Photo by Vintage54

The odd thing is that a few folks were overheard talking about Mike’s rides and they voiced that they thought he was using a “cheater” bike. “It has to be a 285, 300 or punched out in some way.”  This makes no sense!! How can racing a 250 two-stroke against a 450 four-stroke be considered cheating? Even if it was bored (which it was not) it was still smaller than the 450. Goes to show you how people are brainwashed by marketing.

For 2010 Mike is planning on buying two-strokes. He says, “I’ve had enough of the four-strokes, it feels like the rear brake is dragging in comparison,  my two-stroke is really fast and light.”

Mike grabs a tearoff in mid-flight. Photo by Vintage54

Mike’s races on his YZ250 two-stroke have inspired many other racers to take up the two-stroke torch. The following weekend at South Woods brought out some additional two-stroke machines in the Expert classes.

Carlo Coen is an MSC legend with too many #1 plates to count. He has been racing the local area since the late 1970?s and has remained competitive throughout all these years. He too is a former National Pro racer.

Unfortunately late last year he suffered a painful injury, he broke his ankle. The strange part is that he did not crash. It happened while he was going through the whoops on his big 450F. So this year he only raced a few select events.

For many years Carlo held motocross schools, teaching young racers how to compete and think on the race track. One of his finest students has been his son James. Young James has worked his way through the mini classes and during this time he has grown too big to race the 85cc and 100cc minis. So after competing at Loretta Lynns during the summer, they both thought it was time to try some of the larger machines.

Carlo thought about this for a while. His son was on track to doing very well at racing and wanted to ensure that he would have competitive machinery. He was thinking they needed a 250F. But that was a huge jump from the small two-strokes that James had grown up with, so Carlo and James decided to buy a slightly used 2005 KX125. It’s been a great transition for James, he’s adopted to the bike easily and is able to transfer his aggressive skills learned over the years.

At South Woods MX in NY everyone was in for a treat. Carlo purchased a second 2005 KX125 as back-up bike for James on a Friday night before Sundays race. Then, he thought it would be fun to race against his son in the newly the formed 125cc Two-Stroke Class.

The battle that ensued was a once in a lifetime knock-down drag out duel. The wily +40 master against the brash young gun,..his son!.

At the drop of the gate, they both shot to the front, James with a clean holeshot and Carlo second. Carlo realized he was in for a  race!  Trying to pass James on numerous points of the sandy track failed…  The young gun, riding fast and smooth, pulled a lead over his dad to win moto one. It was great race to watch with line changes and smart aggressive racing! 

Two different ways to attack the same corner. James #4 and Carlo #1. Photo by Vintage54

The second moto was almost a carbon copy of the first with a different outcome… After another clean holeshot from James, a slight slip-up allowed Carlo to sneak past in the first turn. This moto Carlo won by a very short distance. He later said, “It’s a good thing we didn’t go one more lap or James would have passed me, I was running out of steam!

In addition Carlo also entered the stock 4 year old KX125 in the Plus 30 and Plus 40 Expert classes. Winning both motos of the Plus 30 Class against all the four-strokes and finishing second overall in the Plus 40 Expert..even coming from almost last to finish 2nd after a slight crash in the second moto!

Carlo hadn’t ridden in a while but looked awesome on that older model Kawasaki 125 against 250 and 450F’s…Was this fair Carlo?  Was that a cheater bike?

The buzz around the pits was centered around many talking about the amazing battle they had just seen and that many racers are planning on buying two-strokes for the 2010 racing season.

What about you? What’s going on in your local area? Do you or one of your friends compete on a two-stroke?We want to hear your stories!

You don’t have to be an expert racer to inspire or encourage others, each story is different and unique. Let’s hear them!