What from the ashes? SX gets hot in San Diego

Round five of the Monster Energy Supercross series has happened and there’s more to talk about off the track when it comes to this race. Weather leading up to the event and then a good downpour during the day left the track a quagmire. Only one practice session was held, Mains were shortened and by the end of the night, riders were barely able to jump anything. It didn’t make for a fun evening for anyone but hey, it’s motocross and sometimes, s**t happens right?

Monster Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac took his first win of the year and the points lead to go with it and his Kawasaki quasi-teammate Adam Cianciarulo did the same although that was his third win of the season. Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin rode a terrific race to grab second from Honda’s Ken Roczen. Justin Bogle of the RM ATV/MC KTM team ran second for a long time until he had some issues and dropped to fourth but he rode very well also.

As everything dries out we’re seeing more and more riders complaining about the chemical burns they get from the lime that the track crew puts down on the track, which is a common practice and helps the dirt absorb water to make the track more raceable. It’s a very good idea and generally speaking salvages the course. In my time in the sport it’s helped tremendously as back in the day, many a track would be unusable.

But something went wrong in San Diego. Like, really wrong. About 20 minutes after the race I was getting texts about riders having issues with burns from the lime and the day after the race, pictures emerged of motorcycles being completely ruined as lime corrodes the aluminum components on the motorcycle. The teams are very upset with some expensive ignition and suspension parts either being damaged or costing them a lot of money to repair. All of this in the shadow of the series heading east to the cold winter of Minneapolis probably made for a horrible day or work for everyone on Sunday afterwards.

When you work the internet, you can find lots of solutions for drying out soil with Lime and most of these places have warnings like this: “

Because quicklime can cause burns, and hydrated lime can irritate skin and eyes, precautions should be taken when handling these products. Workers who handle, spread, and mix the lime should wear tight fitting goggles, gauntlet gloves, long sleeves, and pants tucked into boots. Wash off all lime dust from skin as soon as practical, but in case of contact with eyes flush out with clean water immediately and see a doctor. Protective cream is suggested for those with sensitive skin. Proper dust inhalation precautions should also be taken.”

From what we understand from sources, the lime was thrown down on the start straight mostly after the rain came which meant it didn’t get a chance to soak into the dirt. It mostly sat on top of water and either didn’t get mixed in good enough or wasn’t at all. It seems that the riders had to sit in their gear or ride both the heat and the LCQ’s were most affected. Any glance at social media in the days following the race showed many of them with skin burns.

I reached out to Chad Reed of the JGR Suzuki team who had suffered some minor burns from his races and his attitude was nothing new for someone like myself that has know him for a long time.

“For me, I’m torn because it’s the first time it’s been this bad. For me it’s the first time I’ve been affected by it. For ten years I’ve heard about how it (lime) destroys the bike and the teams complaining but this is not a new issue. It’s just the worst the issue has been. Although I see everyone and hear them, people seem to be pointing the finger at Feld. In my opinion every OEM and every team should be ashamed that they have no balls and they’ve been complaining about the same shit. Now it affects the riders and it’s a new problem?”

Reed continues now with some emotion: “I’ve gotten numerous texts from riders and from a lawyer from another OEM and I’m not going to be the voice. I’m all-in on a change but for me this is something that will get brushed under the rug. I’m ashamed of the industry… I’m disappointed in the industry because we’ve all complained about it and no ones ever done anything about it and nothing is going to be done about it now.”

“I don’t feel anything’s going to happen and I’m at the point where I love racing my dirt bike and that’s how it is. I have at least one more year left in me and if I felt the industry had the balls to make the difference then maybe I’ll be the voice, I have below zero confidence that anything would make a difference.”

There’s no way that Feld Entertainment, who promotes the races and owns the track crew meant to burn the riders and destroy the equipment but something, somewhere, went wrong. The riders need an explanation from the promoters on what happened, why it happened and how it won’t happen again. As of deadline time I have a request from comment in but I’m not sure I would hold my breath on getting anything from them. To admit they made a mistake is to open themselves up for liability and if the texts, emails and social media comments are to be believed that would be something that any lawyer would not recommend.

Maybe this is something that gets the riders and/or teams together to work on issues that are bigger than just track prep. There’s certainly more than the usual grumbles. Now, just while I’m typing this, I got a call from an OEM source saying their legal department was looking into options on what to do. Privateers are voicing their displeasure on social media but any type of group effort has to start at the highest levels and maybe this will be it, hard to say for sure.

One thing for sure is the damage this misstep by the track crew did seems to be gaining momentum and the voices are getting louder out there. Let’s stay tuned to see if anything is done or like Reed predicts, we move onto Minneapolis and all is forgotten.

By Steve Matthes @pulpmx

Photos by KTM/Simon Cudby & Monster Energy

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