by Charles Owens on 08/12/2013
Itís a strange world we live in. When you begin something new, you are never aware of what will happen as time goes by. In my case something to make my friends smile and hopefully laugh turned into a worldwide force of nature.
This report is not from your regularly schedule writer, itís from one of the original founders of the TSM website. John Nicholas.
A few weeks back Charles posted a thread on the forum asking who was in for Unadilla. I replied that I would love to get the chance to meet Charles, Erin and the entire TSM race team. He was kind enough to get a guest pass for the day. How could I turn that down?
Unadilla is located about 3 hours from my house. The alarm went off at 4AM, got dressed, ate some breakfast, then started up the car and pointed it Northwest. When I arrived I called Charles on his cell phone.
Erin answered and made plans to meet, she said sheíd be easy to spot since she was carrying an Orange dog! It was wonderful to meet Erin and humbling to hear that I was held in such high esteem. We waited in line and chatted while we waited, getting to know each other. On the walk back to the pits she was stopped at least three time so people could take photos of Abbie the KTM Orange dog.
The Two Stroke Motocross race trailer was parked right next to the mighty Two-Two of Chad Reed. The TSM set up was quite impressive, right away I meet Charles, he was so very gracious and we talked shop for a while. Then I got to meet the rest of the team. Everyone was wonderful and all were excited for the day ahead.
Jeff Conboy (my TSM founding partner) showed up shortly afterward and we took a photo with the three of us. It was very exciting for us to see how far Charles has taken the site. The fact that he set up a team to compete on the National level is completely amazing!
Something that really touched my heart was watching two other two strokes heading out to the first qualifier.
While Jeff and I talked to Robby Marshall, he explained some of the reasons he loved racing the two stroke. While there are areas you give up points to the double displacement four-strokes, there are quite a few positive traits that counter-balance. Being lighter is really important in such a long race. But more importantly is the fan support. You could hear fans shouting for Robby along different sections of the track.
So one very big reason to race a two-stroke is that the true die-hard fans become instant fans. So even if you are racing further back in the pack you have a built in fan base. This is not something to be overlooked.
Nathan LaPorte and Jerry Lorenz of the TSM team were joined by Travis Marsh on a KTM and Sylvan Legad on a Yamaha in the B qualifier session. A qualifier at a National, especially the B session is a rough and tumble event. Each racer fights tooth and nail to get the best lap time possible. There are a ton of bikes in the B session and there is not really enough room to hold back for a moment to get a clear track and put in a real hot lap.
Additionally the two-strokes seem to have a target painted on them. None of the racers that have invested thousands of dollars in their four-stroker wants to see a half-displacement two stroke in front of them, they try extra hard to beat the two-strokes.
All of the two-stroke racers put in a valiant effort in both qualifying practices, but all four ended up in the LCQ.
Robby prepared to go out for the first A qualifier. To be honest while I was watching Robby circulate the track I was not impressed. Sure he would go through some sections fast, but then he was sort of putting around here and there. Then I watched him pull off into the mechanics area. I was so disappointed. But a few moments later he was back out on the track and he set a blistering pace. Now this was more like it. People along the sides of the track were cheering him on when they heard the KTM two-stroke singing that special song.
On the way back to the TSM pit area I stopped in the timing tent and discovered that Robbie had set a 2:35 lap time which was really good as the top guys were only 10 seconds or so faster. As far as I could tell, Robby was in. Which was confirmed when I got back to the pit area.
In Robbyís second practice he posted a 2:26. Great job!
The other racers headed to the LCQ. Really bad luck for Lorenz as he was T-Boned in the first turn, we think it was by Jake Canada, but didnít see it first hand. The worst part is that Lorenz was up in the front when this happened.(His bike had to be cut out from the chain link fence)
The team did their best. Each one of the deserves huge kudos for even getting out on that track. The finishing order for the two-stroke brigade is as follows, Legad finished in 10th position, LaPorte finished in 17th, March in 25th and Lorenz finished 29th.
Then Robby prepared for the first 450 National moto. I was concerned about the first few laps, because thatís where so much happens very quickly. We listened very carefully but could not hear the two-stroke on the start line. Hopefully Robby was able to over the noise of the thumpers. The gate dropped and it was tough to see exactly where Robbie was in the pack, around the first lap we saw him go by and he was flying. He was in 20 something place.
It was so exciting getting to watch a two-stroke racing in a National. Due to the lopsided rules this does not occur very often.
In fact, we were trying to figure out the last two-stroke to earn points at a National and the closest we could remember was in 2006. Itís been a long time.
Robby finished the first moto in 27th position. The highest finishing two-stroke in many years.
It seems that Robby was dealing with some suspension setting issues during the first moto, which ended up tiring him out prematurely. Brian Stewart worked on his bike to get it ready for the second moto.
During the second moto we watched as Robby got a mid-pack start. Which was great to see as the announcer spoke about a pile-up in the first turn. Although right in front of me James Stewart flipped over the bars. I didnít see what caused the crash, but he lay on the ground for a long time, obviously in a lot of pain.
Robby did an amazing job and finished in 23rd position in the second moto for an overall finish of 28th.
Jeff and I watched the races together and commented on the nature of racing in the four-stroke era. Our conclusion isÖ itís boring. Sure maybe itís because we are old guys, but we remember racers battling from the start to the finish, swapping the lead and really working for a win. This race at Unadilla had all the excitement of watching paint dry, well except for watching our boy Robbie race in the two-stroke.
Itís funny during the second moto, two of our ďlocalĒ boys were running in 2nd and 4th for a while, which made me proud. We watched Justin Barcia and Phil Nicoletti grow up. Guess what they raced as children? Yup. Two-strokes.
In fact the bad luck that seems to be following James Stewart aroundÖ did you notice that before he switched to the four-stroke, he appeared to be one of the fastest men on the planet? Doing things with a dirt bike no one had ever seen before. But now on the four-stroke he looks like every one else.
Racing is just not the same any more. With the two-strokes you could really tell who could really ride well and who could not. It was by the sound of the engine. Now it sounds like a tractor pull or something. Most of the time even the racers in the top ten are not on the gas. During the two-stroke era, even guys in the back of the pack were on the gas. Itís really sad.
This is one of the reasons why we all need to get behind Charles and TSM. They are the only hope of making a change. I know that not everyone can support the team with money donations, but if there is a National near your home, please make an effort to get out and cheer on the TSM team. It makes a difference.
One last gripe before I sign off. Whatís the deal with MX Sports / The AMA always listing the two-stroke bikes as four-strokes? Even after they have been reminded over and over? They keep saying that itís no big deal that the two-strokes are out there, but at every turn it seems that they try to thwart the forward momentum.
The same with the television coverage. In the 1990?s they made a point of announcing that a four-banger was in 20th place. But now when a half-displacement two-stroke is running in twentieth, it doesnít even get a mention?
The only way this will change is if we the fans of motocross support the two-stroke. You have the power to change the world!
Thank you Charles.
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