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Open Mic: Amateur All-Stars Talk MEC

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Sam Boyd Stadium Las Vegas, NV Race Center: Monster Energy Cup Monster Energy Cup

The Amateur All-Stars race lets young riders get experience in supercross-like conditions—and that includes post-race media conferences. Seth Hammaker (Monster Energy/Team Green Kawasaki) won a moto in last year’s Supermini race, but sealed the deal this year with a strong 1-1 to claim Amateur All-Stars honors. Not bad for a rider still in the B class. 

But Pierce Brown (Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM) and Jo Shimoda (GEICO/Amsoil Honda) are even younger, and they rode well, also, en route to second and third overall, respectively. 

The three talked about it post-race, just like the pros. 

Racer X: Joe, I, like many other here tonight, probably go on Instagram a little too much. I’ve been watching your videos now for about the last month, seeing you prepare for this race. Tell us about that preparation and having the team GEICO behind you, and being here tonight and able to represent them and get on this podium.
Jo Shimoda: The GEICO Amsoil [Honda] team has been awesome. I usually only ride at Milestone and stuff. My coach is awesome, so it’s good.

Pierce, I had a chance to talk to you on the podium a little bit and we talked about your age. You’re a little bit young in this class still so you’ll have a chance to come back next year, and maybe even one more. Tell us about the experience and how much you’re looking forward to maybe going from second to winning in future years?
Pierce Brown: Yeah, I’m only 15 right now so I have maybe one or two more Monster Cups in me for the Amateur All-Stars Class. This is a really good start. I was really nervous coming into tonight, but after the night, I felt loose all day long, which is what I needed. Hopefully I can keep the ball rolling next year.

Seth Hammaker went 1-1 to claim the Amateur All-Stars overall.
Seth Hammaker went 1-1 to claim the Amateur All-Stars overall. Rich Shepherd

Seth, last year you had the opportunity to ride the Supermini Class. Got yourself your first main event win and really kind of emerged onto the scene. Unfortunately, you weren’t able to finish it off in that second moto. Tell me a little bit about tonight in-between those two main events and the feelings you were having after winning the first one and knowing that if you could get to that first corner you could maybe do it again the second. Take me through that feeling that you had in-between main events?
Seth Hammaker: For sure. last year I started off the same way as tonight. I won the first main event, and then last year the second main event threw it away. Had a crash. Tonight I kind of approached it a little differently. Got off to another great start in the second moto and tried to be as patient as I could, but also I had riders behind me charging. I felt great all day. My team was working hard. I really appreciate all the help. It was a great night.

Seth, you looked really great out there tonight. So, you’re 17, right?
Hammaker: Yeah, 17.

Do you have any idea when you’re going to go pro?
Hammaker: Not yet. Hopefully thinking 2019, but it’s still up in the air yet. I don’t have any set plans yet, but hopefully sooner than later. Just keep progressing and getting ready.

At just 15, Brown finished second overall.
At just 15, Brown finished second overall. Rich Shepherd

This is going to be for all three of you. This is a pretty unique race compared to all the other amateur races. You only have a couple sessions to learn the track, and then you go straight into racing in one day instead of ride one day, have motos every other day. How easy is it for you to figure out the program, learn a track that’s like this, that’s unlike anything else you race, and then come right into it ready to go?
Hammaker: Yeah, it’s kind of cool because for us amateurs, we don’t get to do the pro schedule that often, so it’s pretty cool to get that experience under our belt. For me personally, I kind of like the one-day format. Everybody has to learn the track because they build it differently every weekend, so it’s not the same. I prefer these kind of schedules. For us to get used to it is great.

Brown: I’ve been training for this race for like a month now, so we’ve been riding different tracks every day to prep for the one-day schedule. I think it’s good, like what Seth said, to practice the pro schedule and get used to it. That’s all we’re going to know soon. 

Shimoda: I think it’s pretty cool to have the same schedule like a pro. I think it’s good practice for when I’m turning pro. I’ve been practicing for this schedule and stuff with my trainer. 

Coming into this race, were you guys practicing full supercross tracks? This is supercross-ish, minus the whoops. Were you doing full tracks including whoops or not?
Hammaker: Me personally, we were riding the whoops a little bit just for practice, but they weren’t like full-size supercross whoops. Just kind of get some of that under our belt. We were riding at Kawasaki test tracks a little bit. I felt really good. I felt confident coming in, so it was good. 

Jo Shimoda (third overall) and GEICO Honda team manager Dan Betley.
Jo Shimoda (third overall) and GEICO Honda team manager Dan Betley. Rich Shepherd

Since you guys almost always ride straight up motocross, Loretta’s and whatever, how different are your bikes set up now, chassis-wise and whatnot after going to test tracks and working with your teams on fork settings and shock settings?
Hammaker: They’re definitely different than motocross, just for the style of track setup and steeper jumps. The whoops section, we don’t have it here, but we’ve been practicing those for the different settings on your suspension. So, it’s a little bit different and a little bit of time to get used to. If you practice a lot and know your bike as well as just being confident with it. 

Brown: My bike setup is really the same in motocross but different suspension. We worked on the suspension for a while and got it really close to where it needed to be. It was perfect tonight for the conditions.

Shimoda: I’ve been testing different suspensions. It’s way harder than the motocross suspension, like in the corner and stuff. It’s easier to slide, but when you case a jump it’s safer. I think the suspension’s good.