The fact that Honda will be supporting extreme athlete Shaun Palmer with a factory CR250 at the opening round of the AMA Outdoor Motocross Nationals this weekend has been widely publicized (including in a Honda press release). The number of races Palmer will participate in isn’t clear, but it appears he will race at least the first two rounds.
Palmer, for those of you who do not know (see our article dated February 19, 2001), is quite probably the world’s greatest “extreme athlete”, having mastered such diverse sports as snow boarding, mountain biking and skiing. Palmer seems to take on a new sport and fairly quickly rise to the top. Now, of course, Palmer is trying to take on the elite motocross athletes who race as professionals in the AMA Outdoor Nationals.
So, can we expect to see Palmer at the front dicing for dominance with Ricky Carmichael, Sebastien Tortelli and the other top factory riders? No. Palmer is a great athlete. There is no question about this. Nevertheless, he will not dominate this sport, nor will he rise to the top levels of it. With all due respect to snow boarding and mountain biking, the top motocrossers in the world (who do campaign the AMA series) are just too good, and have honed their skills over a lifetime of racing. Palmer has been riding and racing motocross for a long time, but he won’t rise to the level of Carmichael and company. Trust me.
He will provide some added entertainment, and he may surprise people with how well he does finish. Having trained with Ricky Carmichael for the past several months, Palmer might have made a tactical error, however. It is smart to train with the best, but Carmichael is so fast that he may have crushed Palmer’s confidence before he ever got started. Recent quotes from Palmer indicate he’s not all that confident that he will run with the best in motocross.