Jumping through a cloud of exhaust and dust past the checkered flag, Hiroshi Nakayama became the first Japanese rider to win the annual Mild Seven supercross Sunday, finishing with a comfortable lead over 1997’s winner, Jared Carlson.
Nakayama’s fellow Japanese rider, however, was not so lucky. Tomokuni Osada suffered a calamity in his semi-final race. One second he was being sung Happy Birthday by a crowd of 50,000; the next, he found himself on the bottom of a jumble of hot metal and bodies.
He recovered and stood under his own power, and his bike was unharmed, but the wreck put him effectively out of the finals.
“The race track is very easy,” a limping Osada said. “But I’m unlucky.” Osada also crashed last year, but still placed second.
For his part, Nakayama said he was tired.
“It’s not easy to take first place,” he said, adding he would be happy to come back to Cambodia if invited next year.
The odds are he will be invited back, as supercross seems to be gaining in popularity.
The race, now in its fourth year here, delivered the kind of high flying excitement fans have come to expect from the motorcross.
In fact, this year may have been even better.
“This year, the standards are much higher,” said Teik Lee, the local director of the race since its first appearance in 1996. “The competition is very keen.”
Not that there wasn’t competition in previous years. The supercross has traditionally attracted good riders. One reason for that is that the event, which is a form of motorcross racing, demands a stadium-sized track rather than a spanning outdoor track, and is not always allowed in other countries.
“It’s very difficult” to get permission to use stadiums, Lee said. “You have to bring in a ton of dirt.”
The dirt is piled into jumps and bumps. Combined with super-charged dirt bikes, a supercross allows high-sailing jumps for all to see.
This year, event organizers garnered the support of the International Federation of Motorcycles, bringing in even better riders, Lee said.
Some of the old favorites were there as well. Carlson made a good showing, coming in second. His US teammate, Paul Lindsey, who won the race last year, did not advance to the finals.
Carlson, who has been racing for 15 years, does not race in many of the Asian competitions, preferring to come only to Cambodia.
“The money is pretty good,” Carlson said. Riders can earn as much as $1,200 per day from sponsors.
An increase in talented riders also brought an increase in sponsors.
Caltex, for example, was not a sponsor of last year’s race. This year, however, they were.
“Everyone is really hopeful for the year 2000,” said Caltex general manager Kit Heffner. “This gets us off on the right foot for next year.”