Going for the W: GEICO Honda

Going for the W GEICO Honda

May 4, 2011 3:20pm
undefinedYou have to admire a team that sets the bar high, and then figures out a way to get over it. The history of Team Factory Connection Honda (today known as GEICO Powersports Honda) is certainly a success story already—they climbed from a privateer effort built to revitalize Mike LaRocco’s career in 1998, to become the exclusive Honda factory Lites effort. They also have the well-respected race winner and title contender Kevin Windham on board in the big class, and they have won races and championships on the small bikes. But still, this team was not satisfied.

Good is what GEICO Honda has been. But to be great, to be the gold standard of the Lites class, they set their sites on toppling the powerful Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team.

Barcia looks to give GEICO Honda another championship.
Photo: Simon Cudby

As recently as two years ago, the battle of team PC versus Team Anyone Else was still very lopsided. The Factory Connection team helped groom Jake Weimer for a few years, but when he switched to the green machines in 2008, he immediately took his results up a notch. In 2010, he landed West Lites Title for Pro Circuit over, of course, a GEICO Honda rider, Trey Canard.

But the team wasn’t giving up on their quest to defeat the Pro Circuit squad. They had already begun a project to hit the next level by starting on the ground floor. They signed riders in the amateur ranks, grooming them early for the pros. Trey Canard came first (switching from Kawasaki’s amateur program), followed soon by Blake Wharton (from KTM), Justin Barcia and Eli Tomac (from Suzuki). Only Barcia was in the Honda fold before this team came calling, but with these four, they had locked up a whole generation of talent (and when Canard graduated, they signed Wil Hahn, who also came through Honda’s amateur program). Next, they brought the original team member, LaRocco, back to manage the team.

They kept digging. Last summer’s Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship served as a breakthrough, with Canard running down Pro Circuit’s Christophe Pourcel, and then taking advantage of Pourcel’s shocking crash at the series’ finale to claim the AMA 250 Motocross Championship. It was the first AMA National Motocross Title for the team.

Tomac looks to be the next star in line for the GEICO Honda team.
Photo: Simon Cudby

The assault continues now, with the team holding a shot at both Supercross Lites Championships this weekend in Las Vegas. Barcia holds a 20-point edge in the East, and the surging Eli Tomac sits two points behind Pro Circuit’s Broc Tickle for the West lead. Such consistent challenges to Pro Circuit are rare. How rare? Consider that ever since Pro Circuit switched to the KX250F four-stroke for 2003, the team has never gone through a supercross season without winning at least one title. The last time the Pro Circuit team failed to win a single SX title was 2002, when Chad Reed and Factory Connection’s own Travis Preston were East and West Champions.

The last time a team other than Pro Circuit landed both Lites titles in the same season? You have to go all the way back to 1994, when Team Suzuki won East and West with Ezra Lusk and Damon Huffman. So that’s nearly 20 years since we’ve seen someone other than Pro Circuit do the double. Will GEICO Honda’s grassroots program get it done?