Justin Barcia and the US crew qualified second for tomorrow’s MX of Nations in Germany. Photography by Steve Cox
Although it’s not the sand of Lommel, Belgium, which proved to be such an unforgiving element for Team USA in 2012, the track in Teutschenthal, Germany, is still going to require quite a bit of adjustment for Team USA, although at least this year it’s the kind of adjustment Team USA is used to making at this event.
Typically, the European MX tracks are prepared quite a bit differently from the tracks Stateside. In the States, the tracks tend to be disked very deep in order to retain water during the hot summer events. In the GPs, the tracks tend to hold moisture just fine in the milder weather, and there’s no need to disk the tracks so deep. What you end up with in Europe, as opposed to the USA, is normally a track that lacks some of the deep, loamy traction that Team USA is used to racing. And in Teutschenthal – known to be a hard-packed track even by GP standards – the racers are already exposing a lot of rocks, and the course itself is much shorter than what most racers from either side of the pond are used to.
Today was qualifying day for the 2013 Motocross of Nations. The best two out of three finishes for each team are used to determine the qualifying order for Sunday, and every team draws a number from a hat to determine gate pick for the three Saturday qualifying motos: MX1, MX2 and Open. Thailand got the first gate pick, followed by Ireland, Norway, and Australia. The other expected favorites, aside from Australia, drew 15th (Belgium), 18th (USA), 25th (Italy), 28th (defending champions Germany), 38th (France) and 40th (Great Britain).
In the MX1 qualifier, Aussie Brett Metcalfe grabbed the holeshot and was quickly joined out front by Team USA’s Ryan Dungey. However, in the slippery early conditions, Dungey didn’t have much for Metcalfe, who led every lap of the opening qualifier. Dungey finished second, with Great Britain’s Tommy Searle coming through from a good start (given his last gate pick) just at the tail end of the top 10 to snatch third in the moto.
Behind Searle came world champ Antonio Cairoli from Italy, Germany’s Max Nagl, France’s Gautier Paulin, Portugal’s Rui Goncalves, Switzerland’s Valentin Guillod and the Netherlands’ Marc de Reuver.
“The track’s actually pretty fun!” Dungey said at the end of the day. “It’s a little shorter than what we’re used to, but as the day progressed, the track kind of got harder and choppier. Seeing it online and then actually coming here it’s totally different from what it looked like online, that’s for sure. I honestly didn’t expect it to be as good as it was. It was a good moto in qualifying, and it was nice to have a 40-minute practice to get settled in. I ended up second, but the bike feels good and we’re all excited to get this thing going tomorrow.”
In the MX2 qualifier, Germany’s own Ken Roczen snatched the early lead when Team USA’s Eli Tomac looked like he may have the holeshot, but then slid out in the unexpectedly slick conditions. Roczen led the entire moto over Australia’s Dean Ferris, then came Belgium’s Jeremy van Horebeek, who stepped down to the MX2 class after racing MX1 all year and made it look like old hat. Tomac sat 16th in the early going of the moto and eventually fought his way up to fourth place at the finish.
“I felt pretty good going into the race,” Roczen said. “We got 28th gate pick, but I still got a good start around the outside. I’m not too happy about my riding yet, but we have some settings we’re going to change for tomorrow, and I think we’ll be good. Overall, fourth place is a good gate pick [for tomorrow’s racing, as Germany qualified fourth], so it’s going to be fun.”
Tomac was jovial at the end of the day.
“In practice, I was kind of tinkering with the bike the whole time, and I was kind of surprised I got beat, to be honest with you,” Tomac said, smiling. “Dean Ferris beat me with his time by a 10th or two. It was a little bit slick, and Ferris was going fast. In the moto, I got a good start down the straightaway, and I should’ve been top-three, but I slid out in some mud and gooned out. I could have gotten the holeshot, actually, and I was like, ‘What am I doing up here?’ It was too much for me. [Laughs] But I was able to make a lot of passes and get back up in there.”
In Saturday’s final qualifier, Belgium’s Clement Desalle took the early lead and he also led every lap of the moto. The racers were talking about how tough it is to pass out on the track, and if the Saturday qualifiers were any indication, it definitely is, as there was not a single pass for the lead in all three qualifiers.
Team USA’s Justin Barcia held second for the entire moto, while Estonia’s Tanel Leok worked his way from the tail end of the top 10 to snatch third place at the finish, just in front of Australia’s Todd Waters, Great Britain’s Shaun Simpson, Germany’s Dennis Ullrich, France’s Christophe Charlier, and “Russian Bob” Evgeny Bobryshev.
“I felt good on the track since this morning, and I knew I needed a good start to get up to the front of the pack because it’s hard to pass here,” Desalle said. “Our team was good today, and I hope that it’s going to be even better tomorrow.”
Barcia was happy with second place, considering the conditions and the fact that qualifying day isn’t the day you want to win, of the two.
“The track’s different from last year, which is probably good, because we’re a little better prepared for this kind of track than we were for that track last year,” Barcia said. “But it’s all-good. Today went pretty good in my race, and I didn’t want to push too hard today because the bike’s still not quite where we want it. But we’re going to change a few things tonight, and I think we know what we need to do, so tomorrow should be a lot better.”
At the end of the day, for the first time in the history of the Motocross of Nations, Australia topped the qualifying charts with a first place in the MX1 moto and a second in MX2. Australia was so good today that they had to throw away a very solid fourth-place finish from Todd Waters in the Open qualifier.
Team USA gets the second gate pick tomorrow by virtue of two second-place finishes (Dungey and Barcia), also throwing away a fourth place (Tomac).
Then comes Belgium (1-3 scores), Germany (1-6 scores), Great Britain (3-5 scores), Italy (4-8), France (6-7), Russia (8-9), Estonia (3-15), Spain (7-13) and The Netherlands (10-10, without the help of current MX2 World Champ Jeffrey Herlings).
This means that, for the three motos tomorrow, Australia will have first and 21st gate picks, while the USA will have second and 22nd, etc.
“This feels fantastic,” Metcalfe said. “Australia’s never qualified first before, so this is the first time, and it feels amazing. For me to get a moto win, and Dean [Ferris] a second, and Todd [Waters] a fourth, it was really great. But honestly, it means nothing for tomorrow. We need to be humble. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We know we have gate 1 and gate 21, and that’s all we know right now.”