The 38th annual Red Bull RedBud National -- Round 6 of the 2012 Lucas Oil National MX Series -- will open Saturday at RedBud MX in Buchanan, Mich., with a tribute to local rider Josh Lichtle, who died after complications of a heat stroke he suffered in the 450 class Moto 1 race at last year's event. Lichtle, who was 23, collapsed on the 10th and final lap, overheating as temperatures climbed into the 90s, and died the next day.
Race promoters are expecting similarly high temperatures for this weekend's races and say they have increased emphasis on advance hydration and heat stress in their riders' meetings, added water depots around the track to help riders cool off, and taken additional steps to prevent heat stress for race participants, staff and spectators.
"We have always been hypersensitive to matters of hydration -- motocross is a sporting activity that comes in the summer and comes when it's hot -- ever since we began in this business 45 years or so ago," says Roy Janson, managing director of MX Sports, promoter of the Lucas Oil National MX Series. "For the past 15 years we've had a doctor at every event. We start every weekend, every riders' meeting, with the doctor talking about hydration and heat stress and those types of issues. This particular week we've also got a new handout prepared by our Asterisk Mobile Medical Center staff with helpful instructions about hydration and the need for advance hydration. Rather than trying to hydrate the day of the sporting contest, you really need to be hydrating a day or two before."
Lichtle won 27 national championship titles as an amateur, representing teams including American Suzuki, CrossX Yamaha, MDK/Warthog Racing and Travis Pastrana's Team 199, but was injured in 2006 and missed several racing seasons as he rehabilitated his ankle. He raced partial East Coast Supercross seasons in 2009 and 2010. After qualifying for the 2011 RedBud National he had hoped to get his pro career back on track, but his family says it has learned he wasn't properly hydrated for race day. Immediately following Lichtle's death his family established the 811 Foundation, taking its name from his race plate and devoting the non-profit organization to education about hyperthermia and proactive injury prevention in the world of motocross racing.
"It's been a crazy year," says Bill Lichtle, Josh's older brother. "This year has been a complete paradigm shift in my life and how I live. We started the foundation off by going to the amateur nationals and setting up a tent, and we did Loretta's [Amateur Motocross Championships at the Loretta Lynn Motocross Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.] and a lot of local races, teaching kids the importance of hydration and getting the message out about being a safe rider, focusing on hydration, and taking caution with overexertion.
"Then we kind of shifted direction coming into 2012 because we wanted to do something bigger, get back into the culture of motocross, and really mentor some kids. Now we're teaching kids how to be good riders, how to be positive on and off the track, take care of their bodies, and focus on nutrition and training to prepare themselves for races so they're as prepared as possible when they do get out on that track and everything that comes with it.
"These kids understand how to fuel and cool their bikes, but there's not as much understanding about how to fuel and cool your body. We've been able to mentor some kids, so my dad's been right back at what he'd always done for Josh and I. We've managed to build something cool and create a platform where we can really help some riders so that, even though he's gone, his legacy is going to live on."
The Lichtle family has also partnered with TechNine International to sell private-label 811 Foundation cooling vests, a version of the company's HyperKewl Ultra Sport Vest, a cooling device that can be worn under a rider's chest protector and can keep a rider cool for up to 30 minutes under intense riding conditions. The 811 Foundation tent will be set up this weekend, distributing information and selling the cooling vests as well as T-shirts and wristbands to help fund its mentoring work, but Bill Lichtle says he and his family will be sitting this one out.
"It was just too difficult for us to go there," he says. "I've been told they're going to be setting up a video tribute on the JumboTron and I'm glad we can have a presence for the foundation at RedBud, but it's too tough to go. It's going to be baking out there again this year, so I hope everybody's learned something."