The nature of Supercross today is such that the riders, and sometimes the tracks, will often break down before the motorcycles. So even though each racer has a dedicated mechanic, the bulk of that role is to prep the bike, make sure their athlete has his mental focus and emotional level set, and to signal the rider during the race through a hand-held pit board. Radio communication was recently experimented with in the pre-season Monster Energy Cup All-Star event, but current rules don't allow it during the Monster Energy Supercross season.
Sometimes, however, the Supercross mechanic's job resembles a mad-dash NASCAR emergency repair pit stop. Such was the case for two top riders at two rounds so far this season, with each requiring a full engine change on their bike in the 450SX Class. These engine swaps were not performed mid-race, but under the pressure of the race schedule. In both cases it was a well-coordinated team effort to change out complete engines in time to have the riders' bikes on the line for their 450SX Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ).
In Oakland last weekend, Yamaha’s Justin Barcia, the winner of the opening round, had an engine failure in his Heat Race. He pushed his bike, at a run, around the track that took up most of the floorspace inside Oakland Coliseum to get the bike to his mechanic. The team had him back on the line for the LCQ, re-checking engine mount bolts up until the last minute. Barcia won that LCQ then posted a respectable sixth place in the Main Event.
At round two, Honda’s Justin Brayton shared a similar Heat Race bike issue. And like Barcia, his team's crew pitched in and got the engine swapped and put Brayton on the line where he also won his LCQ. Brayton pulled an eighth-place finish in the Main Event that night.
Life for Supercross mechanics is tough. The job is a labor of love to be around racing and working at the tip of the spear of off-road motorcycle technology. It's not supposed to be an athletic endeavor – but every once in a while, it is. The fan-inclusive aspect of Monster Energy Supercross allows fans to see the riders, machines, and un-sung team heroes up close and personal during each event's Supercross FanFest, located in the paddock at each round. The series takes over PETCO Park this Saturday, February 8. Be sure to get your tickets, then get to the stadium early to see the teams' rigs, race bikes, riders and crews before the stadium lights go on and all the action is out on the track – as long as all goes well with the machines.
450SX Class Championship Standings
1. Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Honda (113)
2. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki (110)
3. Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., Yamaha (98)
4. Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna (96)
5. Cooper Webb, Clermont, Fla., KTM (95)
6. Adam Cianciarulo, New Smyrna Beach, Fla., Kawasaki (90)
7. Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Honda (75)
8. Justin Brayton, Charlotte, N.C., Honda (73)
9. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM (69)
10. Zach Osborne, Abingdon, Va., Husqvarna (63)