Photo by: Octopi
“Cooksey’s Hard Truth” presented by Scott Sports is a weekly editorial written by Chris Cooksey. Chris will be diving in and out of controversial subjects and bringing you his hard truth about the racing and the riders from around the world of Supercross and Motocross.
Watching Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin carve through lapped riders last week was something that must give team managers and mechanics blood pressure issues. Eli and Marvin were deep into a grudge match of epic proportions; both guys were taking huge risks while pushing their bike and body to their limit. Meanwhile, on the same track and at the same time, lapped riders were also racing. When I started racing in the mid 1980’s I was taught that lapped riders were another obstacle. Lapped riders had a right to stay in their line and allow the faster rider to pass, but with increased speeds and bigger jumps, is it time for a change?
The most common argument I hear in defense of lapped riders is that they qualified for the event, therefore they have just as much a right to the track as the leaders. My experience as a lapped rider comes from Arenacross events in the late 90s. In my first riders’ meeting, I distinctly remember race director Mike Kidd reminding everyone that unlike Supercross or Motocross, lapped riders needed to move off the race line. The reason was partially due to the size of the track in comparison to Supercross and Motocross. A smaller track amplified the closing speeds which directly impacted the race. A blue flag meant get off the race line, as opposed to what I was taught my entire life: hold your line and let the faster rider pass. As a lapped rider, I was not happy to be told to move out of the way. At events where I qualified, I was usually battling to get inside the top 10, and depending on where the leaders caught me, it could cost me an opportunity to accomplish that.
I have given endless amount of thought to Mike Kidd’s recommendation to move out of the way. I have grown to understand why he asked us to move, not only to preserve the integrity of the race, but to ensure rider safety. Watching Supercross and Motocross evolve with faster bikes and bigger jumps, it appears that the tracks are shrinking. While most lapped riders already move off the race line, I wonder if an additional step is needed. Like NASCAR and other forms of road racing, competitors are required to maintain a minimum speed or they are black flagged. My recommendation is that a rider lapping at more than 115% of the leader’s lap time needs to be black flagged. For example, in the second moto at High Point, Eli Tomac’s lap times averaged about 1:57 at the halfway point. From that point any rider who does two consecutive laps slower than 2:14 ought to be black flagged. This would have removed 12 riders from the second moto at High Point.
Enforcing a rule like this would be incredibly simple. Have lap times higher than the minimum speed pop up on live timing in red. Have a board located near the start/finish line showing the rider’s number along with a specific flag, like road racing. This type of system would not eliminate lapped riders, but it will eliminate riders getting lapped multiple times. I would not want to flag off a rider racing at his highest potential. The riders I am interested in eliminating are the guys that tend to putt around, the riders who look like they are trying to get TV time when the leaders lap them. These guys are very capable of maintaining 115% of the leader’s pace, during qualifying they are almost always within this threshold.
This format has potential to change the mindset of riders outside of the points paying positions. They will have incentive to keep up a decent pace. Finishing full moto’s would give a rider bragging rights knowing they kept a solid pace for 30 minutes plus 2 laps. I am not set in stone on the solution, but sooner than later something must be done. I don’t want to see a catastrophic injury to either the lapped rider or the rider doing the lapping. I know the readers of MotoXAddicts are some of the most educated and die-hard fans in the sport. Go to the MotoXAddicts Facebook page and let us know your solution or simply tell me I am wrong.