Flushed with the success of record attendance at nearly every Supercross this season, Pace Motorsports, the series promoter, will offer the sports' first live pay-per-view television coverage Saturday night when the series concludes at Las Vegas' Sam Boyd Stadium.
Jeremy McGrath, Supercross' nonpareil rider from Encinitas, took some of the edge off the race when he clinched his seventh championship with a win Saturday night in Joliet, Ill. It was the Mazda Chaparral Yamaha rider's ninth victory in 15 events.
There is one gem left for Pace to offer pay-per-view enthusiasts (at $14.95), however. If David Vuillemin, a Frenchman who lives in Corona, can win, he will collect a $500,000 bonus for sweeping the Vans Triple Crown--a three-race series involving Phoenix, Minneapolis and Las Vegas events.
Pace officials said it would be the largest payout for any motorcycle competition.
Vuillemin, who won four of the six motos McGrath failed to win, finished second to McGrath in the season standings and also last week at Joliet. Both ride Yamahas, but McGrath rides independently for Mazda Chaparral, while Vuillemin is a factory rider.
Although only 22, Vuillemin has championship credentials. He won the three-moto World Supercross championship last year and before leaving France the 1995 and 1996 French 125cc Supercross titles and the 1996 European 125cc crown.
Nicknamed "the Cobra" for his knack of making quick passes while charging toward the lead after bad starts, Vuillemin won at Phoenix that way. He was seventh out of the starting gate and caught McGrath on the last lap to win the first leg of the Vans Triple Crown. At Minneapolis, he passed Ricky Carmichael's Kawasaki on the first lap and led the remainder of the way.
"I have to get a good start in Las Vegas, ride smooth, not make any mistakes and if I do that, I'll be OK," Vuillemin said after a training ride on the Yamaha team track between Corona and Lake Elsinore. "It might be very hot and because the track is outside, the track will get dry pretty fast, so it should be an interesting race.
"I have to beat Jeremy, but I have to beat everybody else too. The [starting] gate will be full of good riders."
Vuillemin rode the first five AMA Supercross events last year, then headed home to contest the FIM world 250cc championship, in which he finished third.
"I decided I wanted to ride a full season in the United States because for me, this is the best championship in the world. I left my home in Marseille to live in Corona because it is where everybody trains."
Honda and Suzuki have tracks nearby, as well as Yamaha.
He won the third event, at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium, beating McGrath on his home track before a record 61,244 spectators. His other win came at New Orleans.
The World Supercross series in which the Frenchman won $100,000 consisted of only three events after the Brazilian round was canceled. Vuillemin won the opener in Paris, then finished fourth in the Rose Bowl and fourth in Leipzig, Germany. He beat another French rider, Sebastien Tortelli, with McGrath finishing third.
After Saturday night's Supercross finale, Vuillemin and most of the other riders will turn their attention to the Chevy Trucks U.S. Motocross outdoor championships, which will open Sunday, May 14, at Glen Helen Raceway Park in San Bernardino.
RIM OF THE WORLD RALLY
The third round of the SCCA Pro Rally championship will take place today and Saturday in the Angeles National Forest. The event will start tonight at 7 from the Palmdale Holiday Inn with cars leaving at one-minute intervals. It will be the 17th annual Rim of the World competition.
Most of the six stages tonight and seven Saturday will be on twisting, rough fire roads in the foothills near Lake Hughes. Teams do not know the makeup of stages until the navigator is handed route instructions with exact mileages just before the start.
Seven-time SCCA champion Paul Choiniere and navigator Jeff Becker have driven Hyundai factory Tiburons to victory in the first two rounds in Michigan and Oregon. They are hoping to regain the title after losing last year to fellow Hyundai driver Noel Lawler in the open class.
The entry also includes a number of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions and Subaru Imprezas. Rally cars are all street-legal, usually sports cars or pickups.
OFFSHORE GRAND PRIX
One of the major difficulties for offshore racing enthusiasts has been the near-impossibility of seeing much of the spectacular ocean racing because courses often extend far off shore.
The San Diego Bayfair Group, organizer of the San Diego Offshore Gran Prix, have solved that problem by bringing this weekend's opening event of the American Power Boat Assn. national championship season into San Diego Bay. The 7 1/2-mile course extends from the Embarcadero Marina Park South to Harbor Island with excellent viewing areas along the shore.