Story and photos by Jeff Kardas
The first day of competition at the 2018 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations was a tough one for U.S. Motocross of Nations team. Many of the other teams struggled too, but the difficult conditions compounded the team's problems.
Justin Barcia (#27) delivered the American team’s only podium finish with a solid second place in the MXOpen Class qualifier
Despite non-stop rain the previous day and a constant threat of rain throughout the day, practice and qualifying races were completed after an hour delay on a remarkably ‘race-able’ track. Red Bud’s racing surface is primarily sand and, thanks to expert track prep (they didn’t rip or disc the surface to minimize the infiltration of rain), lap times were nearly the same as for a dry event.
The U.S. Motocross of Nations team members - Eli Tomac, Aaron Plessinger and Justin Barcia - thankfully are great mud riders, as well as quite accomplished at the Red Bud facility. As far as the team's luck in the opening day, sometimes things don’t go as planned. Tomac opened up the racing with a solid top-five run in the MXGP qualifying race before suffering a mechanical that left him stranded track side and ultimately with a DNF.
Thankfully only the best two of three qualifying scores count at the Motocross of Nations and, with two races to go, Aaron Plessinger took to improving the outlook by working his way to the front of a very competitive MX2 (250cc) class. Unfortunately a slight miscue on the take-off of a huge step-up triple jump in the middle of the track threw the Ohio rider off the side of the landing in a heap.Thankfully, he came out of the incident unscathed.
The final race came down to hoping that Justin Barcia could come through for the team and, riding like a man on a mission, the New York rider came through. Challenging for the win the entire moto, Barcia ended up second at the finish and pulled the American team out of the gutter and into ninth place heading into Sunday.
With more rain over night, the track will certainly be incredibly challenging and will make for one of the greatest FIM Motocross of Nations events in recent history. Let’s hope that the U.S. Motocross of Nations team can rise to the occasion and bring home the Chamberlin Trophy for the first time in the past six attempts.