We usually put together a Racer X Online Bench Race Ammo on notable debuts following the first AMA Pro Motocross race that follows the Air Natiques AMA Amateur Nationals at Loretta Lynn’s. After all, that’s the weekend that most top amateurs make their debuts in the pro class.
But we’re inspired to do things a little early this year, because the rider considered to be the top amateur of all got started early—GEICO Powersports Honda’s Justin Barcia jumped into the pro ranks at Glen Helen last weekend and wowed the fans by leading a combined 49 minutes of racing in his two motos—20 minutes in moto one and nearly 30 in moto two.
Barcia ended up going 9-3 for sixth overall, and obviously those results don’t indicate how well he rode. Once the bottom fell out in moto one, big hitters like Christophe Pourcel, Ryan Dungey and Trey Canard charged through, then Barcia slowed quite and bit and even washed out and fell in a corner. He was much stronger in moto two, yielding only to the relentless Dungey and MX2 World Champion Tyla Rattray in the latter laps. The fact that Barcia’s lead held up to just about everyone except the crop of supercross and GP champions in the field speaks volumes about his riding.
On paper, though, it doesn’t quite match the best recent debut. Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Stroupe logged his first national at Steel City in Delmont, Pennsylvania at the end of the 2007 season. Stroupe grabbed the holeshot in the first moto (clipping a teammate in the first turn while following team instructions to “not let off no matter what”), had a brief fall, and ultimately finished second behind Broc Hepler. Second in his first moto ever is amazing, but Stroupe could only follow that with a 12th in moto two. That was enough for fourth overall at Steel City, matching what was once considered the gold standard of debut rides, Damon Bradshaw’s 1988 debut in the 125 class at Millville.
Recently a few of Barcia’s teammates have put in great rides for their debut. In ’07, Trey Canard crashed out of the first moto at Millville, but came back to get a great start and finish fourth in the second moto. Last year Blake Wharton came from a first-lap crash back to 10th in moto one, and then matched Canard with a fourth in moto two to claim fifth overall.
A year before that, Ryan Dungey made his debut at Millville and went 8-8 for seventh overall, and Josh Hill was also there but struggled to 19-18 scores and 22nd overall.
Of course, one rookie was able to win his first AMA Pro Motocross, James Stewart, who went 2-1 at Glen Helen in 2002. However, Stewart had already logged an entire supercross campaign before racing at Glen Helen, so it wasn’t a true pro debut.
In the 450 class at Glen Helen, a group of talented riders have bumped up from the 250 class and logged solid results. Ryan Villopoto won the race with 1-1 scores, Josh Grant took third and Tommy Hahn finished sixth. And California-based Weston Peick, who won a title in the B class at Loretta Lynn Ranch last year, went 13-11 for 9th overall.
Villopoto’s 1-1 is impressive, and it even matches Ricky Carmichael’s debut in the big class, as RC went 1-1 at Glen Helen on a 250 in 2000. Carmichael also won the third moto of the year by winning Hangtown’s first moto, but he struggled in moto two. Can Villopoto do RC one better and go 1-1 this weekend?