A day at the track: SUPERCROSS - Marines off to races as popular extreme sport buzzes through San Diego
| | January 30, 2004
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
Supercross is in the air.The temperature dropped when the sun set, but thousands still gathered in the parking lot to barbeque and party down supercross style. Not even the threat of rain kept these extreme sports fans from getting their fill of excitement Saturday night. Recreational vehicles and roped-off caravans blasting punk rock filled the lot as the aroma of hot dogs and chicken filled the air. Men in racing jerseys staggered around spilling their beverages, and girls in mesh trucker hats giggled as they huddled around the barbeque pits to keep warm. The noise of motorcycles vibrated Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego for the THQ World Supercross GP and THQ American Motorcyclist Association Supercross Series. Truckloads of dirt to fashion an off-road racing track replaced the usual baseball diamond with ramps, moguls and sharp turns.Spectators gathered in the parking lot as early as 9 a.m. to kick off the pre-race festivities though riding didn't commence until after noon.Sponsors and vendors set up booths in the pits exhibiting static motorcycle and truck displays. Racing jerseys were a big selling items and nearly half the spectators wore them.Marine Recruiting Station San Diego set up a booth in the pits with a pull-up bar set for a Chin-Up Challenge. The recruiters challenged males to do pull-ups and women to do the flex arm hang. The 12th Marine Corps Recruiting District's red Humvee was also there roaring hard-rock tunes as people accepted the challenges.Also on hand was the Depot Single Marine Program, which set up shop in the parking lot and spent the majority of the day tailgating before filing into the stadium for the evening's events.During the early racing, there was a lull in the action as officials noticed some problems with the track. After nearly an hour, they made necessary modifications.The fans waited patiently, and when the bikes fired back up, the stadium filled with cheers as the races continued. The riders whipped around turns and some reached jumps almost 30 feet high. It rained briefly, causing the track to get a little muddy, but no one seemed to mind as the spectators donned plastic ponchos and continued watching."We had a blast," said Sgt. Jarrod Holmes, programmer chief, Communications and Information Systems Division. "My favorite part of the day was the crossover challenge because it gave us a chance to put into perspective how the pro riders really look out there."The crossover challenge takes racers who ride motocross, which is outdoors, and places them in indoor supercross races.All who attended had a good time, according to Holmes, and the Marines look forward to future extreme sporting events.Though the event was a success overall, the motorcyclist community suffered a great tragedy when one of the riders, 19-year-old Jason Ciarletta of Riverside, Calif., died from injuries he received during a race. Ciarletta is the first rider to die in a race since the AMA formed 31 years ago, according to Steve Whitelock, manager, AMA Pro Racing Motocross/Supercross Series.