St Jean cranks up the heat on eve of 65th Motocross of Nations

Ray Chuss Ray Chuss

The stars rolled into the St Jean D’Angely circuit on Friday for the Motocross of Nations and the biggest off-road biking race of the year. The event is 65 years old this weekend but the vibe is still young and intense as the world’s fastest gather together over two days to sort out the best from the rest.

Images by Monster Energy/Andrew Ferguson

The race isn’t cooking just for the athletes though. A bumper attendance is expected and the fans started filtering through the gates as early as Friday am. While the main contenders for the prize were facing the world’s media in a series of press conferences, the Monster Energy Pit Bike Championship track was being prepared on the main’ circuit start straight. A selection of racers from the paddock battled it out in country colours for the title in a series of head-to-head knockout heats and – maybe as a preview to the real contest on Sunday – France took the honours ahead of Brazil and the USA in front of a great crowd plus several top riders.

The bona fide Team France includes Monster Army recruits Gautier Paulin (winner of the Italian Grand Prix last week) and late conscription Christophe Pourcel. “I’m really happy to be in the team and I’ve got two good guys next to me,” the former AMA SX Champ said. “They have made a lot of changes since the last time I raced here in ’07. I’ll be happier if it stays dry and hard-pack…I think we can do something good.”

The home crew are gonna face a tough threat from Team USA who have scooped the historic Chamberlain trophy each year since 2005. The Americans boast the talents of AMA MX and SX Champion Ryan Villopoto and AMA 250 hotshot Blake Baggett in the ‘green and black’ colours. “I need to do a few laps and shake off the cobwebs but the track looks amazing with some big jumps…looks a bit rocky too so for sure we’ll need the chest protectors and hand guards,” said Baggett who wears the stars and stripes for the first time at the Nations.

The Brits count on AMA 250 Champion Dean Wilson and FIM Motocross MX2 Tommy Searle who were among a big group grounding out some practice laps at a venue nearby. “I’m gonna get out there and do my best. I’ve got a deal sorted for 2012 but maybe it would be cool to try and win a world championship before I have to leave the Lites class,” said Wilson in some interesting news for fans of GP racing.

Alex Lupino (Italy), Tyla Rattray (South Africa), Carlos Campano (Spain) and even young teenager star Jorge Zaragosa were also seen hanging out around the Monster Energy Rig on Friday as the party started early on what promises to be a ripping couple of days.

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