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Understanding What David Vuillemin Has Done

It’s easy to chalk up this AMA Supercross season as just another Jeremy McGrath runaway. After all, after fourteen rounds, Jeremy has won eight and has his usual, insurmountable lead going into the last two races of the season. Something special has happened this year, however.

Young David Vuillemin has made it a Yamaha duet at the front of the pack several times this year. This is Vuillemin’s first year full-time in AMA 250 Supercross. Although he is the reigning World 250 Supercross champion, at this time last year, Vuillemin was racing the outdoor tracks of the World 250 motocross championship. Essentially, Vuillemin is an AMA 250 Supercross rookie.

I was at the Phoenix supercross race earlier this year where Vuillemin caught McGrath from behind and pulled away for the victory. McGrath was literally speechless on the podium. That race started to look like a fluke when McGrath went on a winning tear, but Vuillemin has proven he can run with McGrath with four victories this year.

The most important of Vuillemin’s victories came last week at New Orleans. McGrath and Vuillemin got out front together on the first lap, and the race was a classic battle to the flag, with Vuillemin winning. Have you ever seen those tapes of Ricky Johnson and David Bailey racing at Anaheim in the early 1980s? That was probably a better race, but this one wasn’t far off.

So you have McGrath at the top of his game (yes, he is probably riding as fast as ever this year), and a rookie named David Vuillemin racing him straight-up, and occasionally beating him. Sure, Vuillemin’s speed is remarkable (but so is Kevin Windham’s). What makes Vuillemin so special, however, is his head. Vuillemin isn’t intimidated by McGrath, or anyone else. He just goes out each night and races his own race. If you don’t know how important this mental attitude is to winning at the highest level in motorcycle racing, you haven’t been paying close attention.

As all of the other factory team managers know by now (they’ve checked), Vuillemin is already signed for next year by Yamaha. With McGrath coming back next year, as well, expect to see a lot of blue bikes reach the top of the podium again next year in the AMA 250 Supercross series.