There were some good, some bad and some ugly in American motocross this summer. Here’s a recap.
There were some good, some bad and some ugly in American motocross this summer. Here’s a recap.
This was a strange, yet entirely predictable year in American motocross. The riders that we thought we be up front were indeed the front-runners in the class but in one case we didn’t know how much he would be up front (Ryan Dungey) and in the other, we thought he would be up front much more (Christophe Pourcel).
When the racers packed up the ultra-stiff suspension and the tall rear sprockets that they used during supercross and pulled out the steering dampeners and mud tires, we had already lost a couple of the riders that we thought we would see up front when Ryan Villopoto and Ivan Tedesco hurt themselves at the St Louis Supercross. What was strange to many was that your eventual champions Dungey and Trey Canard came out at the opening round in Northern California and really didn’t show us all that much. Hangtown was a day for Eli Tomac (who won the overall), Pourcel (who rode great), Chad Reed (who won the overall in the 450’s) and Mike Alessi (who won the second moto in the 450’s on his debut ride on the KTM 350). It was almost like Hangtown was a different series than what we would see from here on out. That four months later we would see Reed gone from injury, Alessi struggling, Tomac riding decent but nothing like his first round form and Pourcel, the man who would be king, suffering another crushing defeat just twelve months from the last crushing defeat.
Let’s take a look at the series and all that was good and bad about it. I’ll provide you guys with the average finish of each rider as well as a stat from the series that I think encapsulates their season.
Ryan Dungey/Rockstar Makita Suzuki-Average finish-3.3- Key Stat- 10 overall wins : Obviously everyone knew that the supercross champion would be a factor outside but did anyone really predict his nineteen moto wins? What about his ten overall wins? Yeah, that’s my point exactly and just like supercross, the native of Minnesota who now calls Florida home simply dominated the series. He was on another level from Texas on as his fitness level was, to put it simply, on another level. So with all this in mind and having just completed the most successful premier class rookie season the sport has ever known, the question I have is: What the hell happened at Hangtown when he went 10-6?
Brett Metcalfe/GEICO Honda- Average finish- 5.3- Key Stat- 39 laps led: This Australian ended the year in second place and it was a highly unlikely second place at that. Brett has always been a strong outdoor rider but this year, making the jump up to the big boys class and with such a stacked field, he was definitely in for a shock right? Well, no not really. Brett was very fast in the beginning of the year, fell off a little bit in the middle and then ended the year as the clear cut second best guy in the class. Brett’s in shape, works hard, is great to deal with in the pits and by all accounts looks to have ridden himself onto a spot on one of the top 450 factory teams.
Andrew Short/Honda Red Bull Racing-Average finish- 6.7- Key stat- 11 holeshots: Shorty ended the season third in the points which makes it eight out of nine 450 series (indoor and out) that Andrew has finished in the top three in points. Certainly solid numbers and this year, if you take his mechanical problems out, he’d have finished in second easily enough. So why isn’t this friendly guy a lock to return to Honda next year? Because this season followed a familiar pattern more than a few times. Short grabs the holeshot, gets into the lead and then slowly gets eaten up by Dungey and sometimes, the other guys. It’s the old story, if a rider came from the back to get Short’s finishes, he’s a hero but because Andrew grabs the holeshot and works backwards, some people want to see more from the guy. If I were Honda, I’d be careful of trying to get someone better than Andrew because be careful what you wish for, sometimes you don’t realize what you have until its gone.
Ben Townley/TLD Honda-Average finish- 11-Key Stat-4 DNF’s: BT101 ended the year fourth in the series points and that in itself is a good finish. The fact that Ben was completely out of racing for pretty much two years makes his fourth even more impressive. Notoriously hard on himself, many times Ben would be seen acting frustrated by what he thought was his poor performances. He was a half-lap away from winning a moto at RedBud and his speed was pretty good. The one thing about Ben is his propensities to have little things happen to him here and there. A tip-over, a stall, a crash or whatever, it seemed that BT just had the worst luck but eventually you have to wonder if some of his wounds were self-inflicted. Still a strong comeback season for him and the question in the air is, does Ben take the money and go back to the GP’s or solider on another season stateside?
Kyle Chisholm/Motoconcepts Yamaha-Average Finish-11.3-Key Stat- 6th in the points: Nice guys do finish first or at least, sixth as it appears in the case of Chisholm. Kyle was a revelation this year in American motocross as he struggled last year with injuries in his debut 450 season. Unable to get a ride in America, Chsiholm needed Matt Georke to get hurt to even get a ride on the team and then needed Dan Reardon and Motoconcepts to part ways to stay on for the outdoors. In the end, he rewarded the team with its best finishes ever finishing inside the top ten in both sx and mx. This Florida native rode strong all year and although you wouldn’t always notice him out there, by the end he would be on the move to the front. Him and teammate Ryan Sipes both served notice that they were for real in the class.
MX Sports/Series Promoters- Taking control of American motocross last year, the crew at MX Sports definitely had its struggles last year with the long race day programs, the confusion over who was calling the shots and the struggles of some fans/teams adjusting to all the changes i.e- races being held all on one day and on Saturdays at that. This year the crew smoothed some things out (but not the tracks), streamlined some things and generally speaking put on a better show than they did last year. The huge success of the last round at Pala showed what they can do if the track owners just work with them and trust their judgment. Things can always be better (better enforcement of the rules, clear cut penalties for example) but for those of us that followed the stagnant series for years, MX Sports commitment to getting races on TV and making it better for the teams/riders/media and yes, the fans bodes well for the future.
Chad Reed/Monster Energy Kawasaki-Average finish-10.6-Key Stat- 1 win: Defending motocross champion Chad Reed came into the outdoor season looking for redemption after his miserable supercross season and for one race anyways, it looked like he was making a statement. Reed won the first round, rode really great at the second race and then the wheels fell off. Increasingly mediocre finishes followed before Reed pulled out of the series at Millville with a virus. It wasn’t what him or Kawasaki was looking for. Reed and the Kawi never seemed to gel and things just didn’t work out as Kawasaki and Reed mutually agreed to part ways shortly after the motocross season ended.
Mike Alessi/KTM-Average finish-8.4-Key Stat-1 holeshot: Reading that one holeshot stat under Mike Alessi’s name should be all you need to know about his season. Riding a brand new machine that is 100cc down on the competition and skipping supercross was not a formula for success for this hard worker. Mike ate rocks and dirt like he never had before in his life as he gave it his all but in reality, the machine’s horsepower disadvantage cost him starts and with those gone, so was his confidence. While supporters pointed over the pond to Antonio Carioli’s GP dominance as proof the bike can work, I know from going to every race and watching the video, the bike’s nimbleness and light weight wasn’t enough to overcome the cc’s. Mike’s at a crossroads here, he’s got a new team manager in Roger DeCoster and RD has seen the dominant Mike Alessi under the yellow tent. You have to give Mike credit though, he was out there every single moto trying his hardest and giving it all he can do, some of his fellow competitors might have taken the easy way out but not Mike, he just continued to get roosted all summer.
Other riders looking for do-overs next year are Tommy Hahn (last year he won a race, this year he battled injuries and ineffectiveness), Davi Millsaps (fast at the opener but then struggled until a serious crash knocked him out of the series), Jason Lawrence (has to rediscover his love of just riding, never mind racing) and Michael Byrne (who tied for an overall win last year and finished third in the series points but was on the outside looking in for rides this year. Consequently he struggled with the bikes he eventually got on).
Trey Canard/GEICO Honda- Average finish 3.8-Key stat- 56 points: That’s the number of points that Trey Canard was down to Christophe Pourcel at one point early in the season. It was the second largest points deficit a rider has ever been down and come back to win. Canard simply caught fire the second half of the year and as the good results came, so did the starts and the confidence in knowing that he could straight up beat Pourcel. There were times where Trey did not look to be able to beat Pourcel (Millville first moto and Unadilla second moto, both times Pourcel came from the back to catch and beat Canard) but that never seemed to affect his confidence. He just kept on putting his head down and working hard. And in the end, with a little luck, he is your 250 national champion.
Dean Wilson/Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki-Average finish-4.4-Key stat- 2 overall wins: Wilson’s dominant 1-1, lead every lap day at Pala kind of went unnoticed but really, it just put an exclamation point on his season. Dean, a multi-time amateur motocross champion, got the vacant spot at Mitch Payton’s team and took full advantage of the opportunity. Early in the year, Dean, either affected by the extreme heat or just brain farting, lost a seventeen second lead with two laps left when he got passed by teammate Tyla Rattray and Broc Tickle and with it, lost a national win that was so close. No matter, a few weeks later Wilson won the race for real and kept it up. The only bad motos that he really had was when he crashed. Wilson’s a future star in the sport and an outgoing personality will make him a fan favorite.
Tyla Rattray/Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki- Average finish 4.2-Key stat- 1 one lap led: Amazingly enough, this former World Champion only lead one lap all year but yet won two nationals, ended the season second in points (thanks to Pourcel’s injury) and rebounded nicely from a year when many wondered when we would see that GP winning form. Rattray wasn’t all that impressive last season, his first in America, but he did get hurt and he did win a moto at Southwick. This season he had a terrible opening round where many people wondered if Payton signed the wrong guy but The Styla rebounded nicely with a win at the second round and it only got better from there. A rider that’s in great shape, Rattray charges hard all moto, he has to work on his sprint speed and get some better starts to be a real title contender in 2011.
Wil Hahn/TLD Honda-Average finish-7.9- Key Stat- 13 laps led: Considering that Wil was one of the last riders signed for 2010 and considering that his previous best finish in a national was somewhere around tenth place, the fact that Hahn led 13 laps is a major improvement. Wil, one of the funnier guys in the pits, was a real story this year in the class and despite getting hurt and missing some races, Hahn looks to be a rider on the rise. And powerhouse team GEICO Honda seems to think so also as they have signed him up for the next two years. Look for this kid to be our front more often in 2011.
Christophe Pourcel/Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki-Average finish-6.9-Key stat- 2 overall wins: The fact that Pourcel, the most talented rider in the class only won two nationals this year is his key stat. I know, putting a guy who was 6 minutes away from having a 13 point lead going into the last moto of the year in the “bad” category may be harsh but Pourcel’s season left people wanting more. It seemed that early on in the season, Pourcel could move through the pack at will. He was the fastest rider early on and maybe suffered from a bit of over-confidence going into the year. His main rival last year was Dungey and he was gone, there should’ve been no reason why Pourcel wouldn’t have dominated this season. But that’s why they actually drop the gate. He still suffers from side-effects of his crash a few years ago and definitely wilted in the second motos at times. He struggled in the heat and he didn’t seem to realize he was in a battle for the title until it was much too late.
Jake Weimer/Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki-Average finish-9.3-Key stat- 0 wins: Jake the Snake was a rider on the rise after last season’s nationals ended. He had won two races and earned a spot on the USA MXDN team, then he came out for supercross this year and won the west 250 championship. Everything seemed to be set up nicely for Weimer to just keep riding that wave but it didn’t happen. Jake struggled to recapture his form then sort of did a bit better before getting hurt and missing the rest of the year. Not a good way to go into the 450 class but this kid will find a way to make it work.
Other riders looking for a better 2011 include Blake Wharton (who did decent but was overshadowed by everyone on his team), Tommy Searle (who’s not going to get a chance to be better in America next year as he’s going back home to the CLS team but he’ll race American sx) and Nico Izzi (who was a factory Suzuki rider on the ride until breaking his heel last season and taking all this year to recover. He was a shell of his former self this year).