So you’ve probably heard by now that Chase Sexton had a protest lodged against him for allegedly using illegal fuel at Salt Lake City's final round of Monster Energy Supercross, which made his 2020 250SX East championship provisional for more than a week after the event.
Now he was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, but how did another team suspect he was using non-compliant fuel, going as far as lodging a protest against him? Let me explain.
So teams and riders use fuel that is off the shelf and it’s a specification that anyone can purchase, although it certainly doesn’t come cheap!
There are obviously rules and regulations around what the fuel can contain, where the it can’t exceed certain levels of lead and oxygen content.
Now most popular fuel brands such as VP and ETS make fuel specifically for four-stroke dirt bikes that fit within the AMA rules, but they also make fuels that are non compliant with the AMA, although they’re designed for vehicles in different motorsports.
They can still be used in a dirt bike, and there’s also the fact that additives can be mixed with the fuel, so any rider really has access to what is considered an illegal fuel in the AMA that will ultimately offer greater performance.
And that’s kind of why any rider, who’s likely being instructed by their team, can simply protest another rider if they suspect them of using illegal fuel, although it does come with $1800 fee.
So the protest in this case was made on behalf of Shane McElrath and the Star Yamaha team, who was obviously in the frame for the title against Sexton, and there was only nine points separating them after the final round.
It’s quite interesting that the team and McElrath actually did this - they were obviously trying anything and everything in a hope that they could get the title, and while it seems like a long shot, it appears the squad did it off the back of hearing rumours that the Geico Honda team had a fresh shipment of fuel delivered in Salt Lake City.
Now according to the rulebook 'any infringement of the fuel specifications will automatically result in the disqualification of the competitor from the entire meet.'
So if Sexton was using non-compliant fuel, he would’ve been disqualified from the final race, and McElrath would’ve earned enough points to claim the title.
"I didn’t know about it at the time, but our team had heard something about a team getting a shipment of fuel in not long after we got to Utah. I didn’t know that but they came to me after the race and they were like 'hey, there’s not a very good chance, but there is a little chance that they could be running illegal fuel - it’s $1800, we have the money, we can do it right now and you can pay us back'.
"I was like, 'hey, you know what? We’ve done everything else we could today so let’s just do it.' If it’s not illegal, it’s fine - I’m not holding my breath expecting it to be illegal. Again, Chase beat me - chase rode great all year, and yeah, I got second. But if it comes back that they were running illegal fuel and they cheated, then we get a championship and a bigger bonus, but I’m not holding my breath."
Star has copped a lot of heat across social media for their protest, and it’s in their right to do so if they believe or suspect there was something shady going on at Geico, but it’s understandably put them on the wrong side of a lot of Supercross fans, with many suggesting the move as somewhat petty.
I can understand both perspectives on this situation though - Sexton did beat McElrath straight up and was ultimately a better rider, and it comes across that Star Yamaha has been ‘sore loser’ in the situation, but at the same time, if you have just the slightest doubt that the Geico was running illegal fuel and a non-compliant result would put the title and half a million dollars in your favour, then what do you have to lose aside from the $1800 fee?
As you’d expect, Sexton was equally as frustrated as the fans with the protest despite being confident of his compliance with the regulations, and interestingly enough, he told PulpMX that it’s not the first time he and the Geico squad have run into issues with their rivals at Star Racing...
"It doesn’t stress me out because we run fuel off the shelf - we run Pro 6 VP. Everyone runs it - I think Star runs that same gas. So I don’t know, after the whole day, I felt like the main event, I won the race - I pulled away from Shane - I won I felt like fair and square.
"What else can they throw at me? Then I hear they’re protesting me. I was at the AMA trailer just yelling at the Star guys. We run the same gas - I didn’t get it. We’ve had problems with the team before. I just was kind of frustrated, at the end of the day, I was happy I won."
So Geico Honda actually ran an independent test on their own fuel, which came back in the clear just days of the event, although the official result from the AMA took about a week longer, where they finally confirmed Chase Sexton as the 2020 250SX East champion.
What’s your take on the situation? Are you siding with Geico Honda and Sexton, or Star Yamaha and McElrath?