The 250 class has provided some incredible racing in 2011 so far. The battles in the west between Hansen, Roczen, Tickle, Tomac and company have been great and the Barcia/Wilson rivalry on the east has been explosive all season long. And the finale in Las Vegas was one of the most dramatic main events in the history of the class. So, what’s going to happen when we take things outside this weekend? There’s only one sure answer… great racing.
Some of the key players in the class will be the same guys making noise all winter long. Justin Barcia is coming off his first title and as long as his wrist isn’t bothering him he will be a threat to win any time the gate drops. His teammate, Eli Tomac, should also be a regular front-runner. Eli came up short in Las Vegas and he’ll be looking to repeat his Hangtown performance from last year and get another national win. The 2010 outdoor season was a big learning year for the Colorado rider and I expect him to use that education to win more races this summer.
Barcia should be a major contender for the 250 class title.
Photo: Simon Cudby
Not surprisingly, the entire Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team looks strong. Dean Wilson ended the 2010 season on a high note by absolutely stomping the competition at the Pala finale. Dean has the speed, equipment and now the experience to start winning races. Look for Wilson at the front. His teammate, Tyla Rattray, will be a title contender. Tyla will be one of the most consistent riders and he will be leading the series or at least right in the hunt as the championship winds down. He is expected to win this series and it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he does. Fellow Pro Circuit riders Blake Baggett and Broc Tickle will be fast as well. Tickle is notoriously good in soft or wet terrain so look for him to shine as the series heads back east. And the word on the mean streets of Corona is that Blake Baggett is on fire right now. His outdoor testing has gone very well and he can lay down the quickest lap time at will during any practice or test session. If Blake “Benjamin Button” Baggett can produce that speed on race day he could see the top of the podium frequently in the next few months.
Ryan Sipes and Kyle Cunningham are the Yamaha standouts that will be competitive. This could be a breakout series for Cunningham who typically shines outdoors. He is on great equipment, he’s healthy and he’s had plenty of time to prepare. I expect Kyle to be a regular podium contender. Sipes is coming off the best supercross season of his career. He is riding great and if he can get to the first turn with the leaders there’s no question that he can run their pace for the entire moto. Watch out for the number 25 bike.
Wilson will be a major factor come Hangtown.
Photo: Simon Cudby
Where will Marvin Musquin fit in? The reigning world champion looked a little off the pace at the USGP at Glen Helen last weekend but it’s tough to count out a rider with a world title to his credit. I’ve seen a lot of French riders lay up at warm-up races like that and then bring their A-game to the races that count. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that happen here. Watch this guy because he has skills.
There are a lot of riders that deserve mention here. Martin Davalos, Malcolm Stewart, Ryan Morias, Jason Anderson, Cole Seely, Travis Baker and others all have the speed to run up front at these races. These are guys that haven’t yet seen a lot of the podium outdoors but could potentially this summer.
The 250 class is going to be great, as usual. The field is deep, the riders are young and hungry and as of right now every single one of them is tied for the points lead. Even if your season has sucked, big time, up to this point, Hangtown means a fresh new start. It won’t be long now and the growl of the world 40 fastest 250F rider will kick off what promises to be an epic summer of racing.
Will Musquin deliver on the hype?