From bikes to cars

People who are really good at what they do always attract my attention and I enjoy watching them perform.

  • Cars in a parking lot

People who are really good at what they do always attract my attention and I enjoy watching them perform.

Which brings me to supercross. Supercross is where a rider races a motorcycle around, over and through a closed arena course of high hills, sharp curves and bumpy terrain.

The highlight films always feature guys flying! off the tops of those hills, sailing through the air on their bikes for what seems an eternity, and then landing in the dirt just before a hairpin turn.

Spectacular as it is, it’s not really my cup of tea. In fact, it’s right up there with monster trucks as my least enjoyable form of motorsport. Don’t ask me why.

But it boasts a star — a super nova — who dominates it like no other driver or rider in any other automotive discipline. And as I said, if you’re that good, you’re high up on my list of people to admire.

The guy’s name is Ricky Carmichael. He just turned 27 and he’s won more motorcycle and supercross championships (22!) than anybody else in the world. Starting in 1997, he hasn’t missed in any of the classes he’s entered, except in 2004, when he was injured.

In fact — and this is incredible — Carmichael had a perfect season in 2002. He won 24 races and scored 600 out of a possible 600 points. Not even Michael Schumacher could do anything like that.

The good news today is that tonight at the Rogers Centre, the Amp’d Mobile World Supercross GP series — the premier indoor off-road full-stadium motorcycle racing championship in the world — will kick off its 17-race championship season.

Even better news is that Carmichael will be in action, along with a whole bunch of other expert contenders led by James (Bubba) Stewart, Ivan Tedesco, Nick Wey, Chad Reed and Thornhill native Doug Dehaan.

The bad news is that this will be the last time Toronto supercross fans will be able to see Carmichael in action. He’s racing here tonight, and next week in Vancouver, but after that he’s going to cut back on his schedule and start preparing for a new career as a NASCAR driver employed by Ginn Racing, formerly known as MB2 Motorsports (Mark Martin, Joe Nemechek, Sterling Marlin).

It’s something that he’s wound right up about, too.

“I’m being coached by Mark Martin,” he said during a phone interview last week. “He’s always after me, saying `Hey, you have to get down here and practise.’

“I’m planning to do eight-to-10 motocross events this season and the rest of the time I’ll work on learning to drive the race cars. It’ll be a day here and a day there. The (NASCAR) team is very willing to work with me on this basis.

“The plan is for me to start out testing in late models. As we head into the summer, I’ll start actually racing, first in late models and then, toward the end of the season, in ARCA. The goal is for me to race in the Busch series, starting in ’08. After that, Nextel Cup.

“Of course, if I do really well really quickly, I could go into Busch earlier but I’m not planning on that. I don’t want to move up too fast; to move up before I’m ready.”

Carmichael said he’s been blown away by how welcoming the NASCAR crowd has been.

“You wouldn’t realize how gracious people have been,” he said. “The respect level is very high. I have been made to feel so welcome. I kind of wish it was like that here (in supercross).”

He revealed that he has a contract with Suzuki through the ’09 season, “but it’s mainly to coach and work with the younger guys. I’ll do some testing. There’s an option to race (in the contract) but it’s up to me.”

Carmichael said, however, that come what may, he’s not looking to turn back the clock.

“I’ve loved riding these bikes but I’ve made my decision (to go to race cars) and once you make a decision, you have to stick to it. I’ve loved every minute of my career to date but it’s time to move on and fulfill my dream of becoming a competitive stock car racer.”

Asked if he’d trained as hard as he would have had he been looking for more championships, and if fans could expect him to be going all-out as he winds down, Carmichael was emphatic.

“I’ve prepared 100 per cent like I’m going to race a full season,” he said. “I’ve been going through my `boot camp’ as always because to ride these bikes you have to be in great shape. And even if I’m only doing a partial schedule, I still want to win every time out and I don’t see why I won’t be trying just as hard as I always have.”

Carmichael said he’s looking forward to racing again in Toronto. (He finished second to Stewart in last year’s event after winning it the year before.)

“I enjoy going up there,” he said. “I like the city and I like the venue. I’m looking forward to a great crowd and a great event.”

Racing starts tonight at 7 p.m. But ticket holders will be let into the Rogers Centre as early as 2 watch warm-ups and practice.

So get there early. You watch Ricky Carmichael and you’ll see poetry in motion.

NOTES: Congratulations to Mississauga’s Alison MacLeod for her fifth-place finish in the USAC National Ford Focus championship race at the Turkey Night Grand Prix in Irwindale, Calif., on U.S. Thanksgiving. Twenty-seven of the fastest Focus drivers from all over the U.S. had the hammer down…

Another Canadian “fifth” went to Vancouver’s Sean McIntosh last weekend in Round 4 of the 2006-07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia…

Following up on a column I wrote several weeks ago, it’s my pleasure today to inform you that many-time Ontario Formula Ford champion Shane Jantzi of Ayr, and karting champion Patrick Larmour of Woodbridge both passed their 2007 IRL competition tests “with flying colours,” according to Sutton’s Brian Stewart.

This means both are eligible to drive in Indy Pro series events next season and Jantzi said this week that all systems are go for him to race in the Freedom 100 preliminary to the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in late May.

Anyone wishing to lend Shane a hand (he needs more sponsorship) can contact me and I’ll put you in touch.;

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