July marks the middle of summer and generally the middle of racing season. Mid-season is a funny time in racing. The newness of has worn off. We’ve seen riders on new bikes, most of the time we pretty much know the direction a series is taking. If we get lucky, as is the case in a few championships this season, things are still very much up in the air and we truly don’t know what’s going to happen.
Take this year for instance. MotoGP is as wide open as it’s been in years. We know Marc Marquez is going always be the tough competitor that he is, but Maverick Viñales has been brilliant at times. Valentino Rossi is still in the wings waiting to perform another miracle and Dovizioso is certainly capable on the Ducati. The series very likely will come down to one of those four, but just who is anyone’s guess.
Jonathan Rea’s stunning seven wins in eight rounds put him so far ahead in World Superbike, it’s hard to imagine anyone catching him, even if he has cooled a tad in recent rounds.
In MotoAmerica it looks like the year of Toni Elias, but you never know – his Suzuki teammate Roger Hayden might get hot, or defending champ Cameron Beaubier might go on a tear on his factory Yamaha. But probably Elias.
In MXGP the season is well past halfway and veteran Italian Tony Cairoli looks well on his way to winning back the world title. It would be his seventh in the premier class if he hangs on, ninth counting his pair of MX2 titles. In MX2 Cairoli’s Red Bull KTM Factory fellow rider Pauls Jonass is leading the way, although Suzuki’s Jeremy Seewer is still hanging tough in second.
Hopefully the World Motocross titles will still be undecided when the championship visits Gatorback on September 3.
In our domestic MX series Eli Tomac has a surprisingly small 13-point lead in the 450 class. Many though the Kawasaki rider would walk away with the 450 title after Ryan Dungey hung up his helmet, but Blake Baggett has had a revival and Jason Anderson shows brilliance from time to time. In the 250 class it’s Zach Obsorne looking pretty solid at this point, with the Martin brothers, Alex and Jeremy, trying to keep him honest.
2007 was the final season of the epic Mat Mladin/Ben Spies AMA Superbike battle. Mladin was mainly in control in the first half of the season, but Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Spies had a four-race winning streak in the middle of the season to take command. It came down to the last race and Spies won the title by a single point. (Henny Ray Abrams photo)
In American Flat Track the story has been factory Indian’s dominance, but even though they’re both on new bikes this year, the battle is again probably going to come down to a last-race showdown between Bryan Smith and Jared Mees. Mees is a stronger overall talent, but Smith just might be the best Miler ever. But most of the Miles have been run, Smith only has a five-point lead and much of the rest of the schedule favors Mees. It promises to be interesting.
And now a look back at some mid-seasons past.
50 Years Ago – 1967
Motorcycle racing in America was a bit easier to keep track of 50 years ago. Motocross didn’t yet have a national championship and road racing was part of the overall AMA Grand National Championship. Professionally the AMA Grand Nationals were the only game in town. At mid-season ’67 Triumph’s Gary Nixon was leading the way holding a solid 66-point lead over Mert Lawwill coming off a victory at the Portland (OR) Mile. Nixon went on to win the title in ’67 over Harley-Davidson riders George Roeder and Fred Nix. It marked Nixon’s first of two consecutive national championships.
Grand Prix racing mid-season ’67 saw the epic battle between Giacomo Agostini and Mike Hailwood – MV Agusta vs Honda. Ago edged ahead ever so slightly with his victory at the Sachsenring. The 500cc world title turned out to be one for the ages with Agostini and Hailwood swapping wins back and forth all season long. The championship came down to the Canadian GP at Mosport. Hailwood and Honda won the season finale to tie Agostini on points. Each had five victories on the season, so the next tiebreaker was second-place finishes. Ago had three to Hailwood’s two, so it was another title for the Italian rider and maker.
History on the 1967 Motocross World Championship is hard to come by. I can’t report on what exactly was going on mid-season back then, but East German Paul Friedrichs was on his way of winning his second of three consecutive 500cc World MX Championships riding for CZ.
25 Years Ago – 1992
In 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix Road Racing it was Mick Doohan winning the German GP at Hockenheim in dominating fashion. Something the Aussie had done all season up to that point of the ’92 campaign on the Rothmans Honda. The championship almost looked in the bag for Doohan at mid-season, but racing anything can happen and at Assen Doohan crashed, broke his leg and was out for five races. That allowed Wayne Rainey, who at mid-season was trying not very successfully to ride injured after breaking his ribs, wrist and injuring his knee in a crash at Hockenheim, came back to win the title by four points over Doohan.
In AMA Superbike Doug Polen took time off the World Superbike Series to race in America and he dominated at Brainerd. Polen rode his Fast by Ferracci Ducati to an mind-boggling 23.183-second margin of victory over Vance & Hines Yamaha’s Jamie James. Polen pulled to within two points of series leader Scott Russell, but Polen was focused on winning the world title. Russell would go on to win the championship with Muzzy Kawasaki.
Red Bud is always the mid-summer MX classic and in ’92 it proved pivotal. Jeff Stanton and Damon Bradshaw were locked in a great battle. Coming into Red Bud, Stanton and Bradshaw had each won two 250 nationals each. Unfortunately for Bradshaw and Yamaha, Bradshaw crashed at Red Bud and tore his ACL clearing the way for Stanton and Honda to wrap up the 1992 AMA 250cc Motocross Championship.
Rusty Rogers took his first national victory in the classic July AMA Grand National at Hagerstown, but the battle was intense between Harley-Davidson teammates Chris Carr and Scott Parker. At the midway point Parker had a 19-point lead, but Carr came charging back to eventually win the title by two points over Parker.
10 Years Ago – 2007
Nothing was predictable in AMA Motocross in 2007. Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart had some epic battles during the 2007 AMA Motocross season. RC was leading the championship at after Red Bud, but he stuck to his promise of only racing a limited MX schedule so he could launch his NASCAR Truck racing career. So, Carmichael wasn’t a factor in the championship second half of the season. Yamaha’s Grant Langston emerged after RC left and Stewart was injured and went on to win the championship in a tight battle over Mike Alessi and Andrew Short.
Grant Langston was barely in the conversation for the AMA Motocross Championship midway through 2007, but the South African came out on top by the end of the season. (Larry Lawrence photo)
Halfway through the 2007 MotoGP season Valentino Rossi took a victory over Casey Stoner at Assen, but Stoner was leading the championship and would build on that, ultimately winning 10 of the 18 races to give Ducati the title.
In Flat Track Kenny Coolbeth went on a mid-season tear on his factory Harley-Davidson. His three wins in July were key to giving him the margin it would take to win the 2007 AMA Grand National title over Jared Mees.
And 2007 saw the final season of the epic Mat Mladin/Ben Spies AMA Superbike battle. Mladin was mainly in control in the first half of the season, but Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Spies had a four-race winning streak in the middle of the season to take command. It came down to the last race and Spies won the title by a single point.