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Cambodia's first motorcross thrills 25,000 crowd

Cambodia's first motorcross thrills 25,000 crowd

IN an electric finish to the first supercross challenge ever staged in Indochina,

Paul Lindsey of the United States narrowly defeated the hot favorite, Kohji Tsujimoto

of Japan, by a wheel-length in the decisive race.

"The key to winning against Tsujimoto was getting a good start and then holding

him off for twelve laps," said Lindsey, after clinching the championship at

Olympic Stadium on Apr 7. "It took a lot of practice and concentration for me

to win here today."

Although the American went into the 125CC class final trailing the Japanese by three

points, Race Director Teik Lee Ooi declared Lindsey the champion after both riders

ended the tournament deadlocked at 37 points apiece.

The twelfth and final race also marked the first time the two faced one another in

direct competition.

"Tsujimoto was the best driver in the field," added Lindsey. "I just

got lucky."

Throughout the Shell-Mild Seven Cambodia Supercross '96, Lindsey was a picture of

quiet and steady professionalism - quite a contrast from the rawness and brash confidence

exuded by his younger and lesser experienced rival.

Lindsey, 27, from Colorado Springs - a motorcrosser since the age of seven - often

paced the sidelines during the two-day contest, studying the stratagems and tactics

of his opponents in the field.

A solitary figure donning only the bottom-half of his racing leathers in between

races, Lindsey resembled a post-atomic gladiator from a Mad Max film set.

"When I'm racing, I definitely feel fear all the time," he said. "What's

most important is how I control it."

However, Tsujimoto, 23, who has been motorcrossing for ten years, said: "I never

think about being afraid, but I do recognize the dangers."

Whereas Lindsey executed his aerial maneuvers with deft efficiency and brilliant

precision - consistently covering a distance of ten meters in flight - Tsujimoto's

fearlessness seemed to know no bounds.

The enfant terrible tore around the 500 meter track at an average time of 32 seconds

per lap, it was officially reported. At times, the Japanese launched into the perilous

"Table-Top" and "Double" jumps with the insouciance of a reckless

and arrogant genius.

As he came hurtling over the top, for a split-second Tsujimoto appeared to be suspended

in mid-air. To the delight of the estimated 25,000 spectators, he would either wave

to the crowd or feign that he was going to crash nose first. He would even shake

the tail end of his 90 kilo motorcycle like a temptress swiveling her hips.

Despite the tournament getting off to a bumpy start - a no-show by First Prime Minister

Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Apr 6, for instance, delayed the start of the tourney

by two hours - its organizers deemed it a major success.

"Considering we brought over 20 drivers from so many countries, it is no mean

feat," said James Ong, retail manager for Shell Cambodia. "This tournament

was six or seven months in the making."

Plans were also underway to promote motorcross clinics in order to encourage young

Cambodians to stay off the streets, he added.

Supercrossing is the next step up from motorcrossing, but requires a lot more skill,

said Ong, because it is so physically demanding.

"This challenge represents an endorsement from the sponsors that Cambodia is

a safe place in which to invest," he added, "In the drivers, we have 20

goodwill ambassadors, who will go back to their respective countries saying that

Cambodia is not as bad as people have made it out to be."

One such person was Sandy Orsmond of South Africa, who demonstrated that supercross

racing is not necessarily a preserve of macho men. "I may not have the physical

stamina of some of the male drivers," she said, "but at least I've got

the brains."

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