This Year in  Photos: Yamaha MX

This Year in Photos: Yamaha MX

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We're just weeks away from flipping the calendar to a new year, but before we officially stash all of our great photos from 2011 into the archives, we're busting them out here for our Year in Photos countdown. Today, we look back at Yamaha riders in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Don't forget to check out our report on Honda riders here, and KTM riders here. And more to come from Suzuki and Kawasaki over the next two weeks!

Authors: Jason Weigandt and Chase Stallo

Photos: Simon Cudby and Andrew Fredrickson

Gone in a Flash

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Following months of speculation, two-time AMA Supercross Lites Champion and MX2 GP Champion Christophe Pourcel finally found a landing spot for the 2011 season. Although he signed just weeks before the opening round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship with MotoConcepts Yamaha, Pourcel was still considered a favorite in the 450 Class. With little testing time and an overall lack of racing endurance—having missed all of the SX season—Pourcel performed well in his first ride with his new team finishing eighth overall at Hangtown. But things would quickly go downhill from there. Pourcel would struggle in the heat at Freestone—pulling off in both motos—and was noticeably unhappy with his setup. In the weeks that followed, Pourcel and the team continued to butt heads, eventually leading to Pourcel packing his bags and heading back to Europe.

Millsaps' Hot Start Derailed by Injury
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Off to one of the best outdoor starts of his career, Davi Millsaps finally looked to be regaining his form after a horrific crash at Budds Creek in 2010. With four top 10’s in the first five races—including a second at Freestone—JGR  looked to have a real threat to title favorites Dungey, Villopoto, and Reed. But Millsaps’ season came crashing down at RedBud. A third in moto one left Millsaps with an outside chance at his first career 450 overall. But a bad start in the second moto had Millsaps scrambling, then moments later limping off the track. First thought to be a sprained knee, Millsaps was only expected to miss a couple of weeks. But further tests would reveal significant damage to the knee keeping Millsaps on the sideline for the remainder of the season.

Chisholm Comeback Cut Short
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Doesn't it always seem to work like this? Kyle Chisholm had just found another level of speed, before going down in a nasty crash. And that pretty much ended his year. After his big tumble at the Houston Supercross, he was not fully recovered when he returned to race some early rounds of AMA Pro Motocross. His results suffered, and so he took some more time off to go back under the knife again. Chisholm can definitely ride the outdoors, but he didn't get a chance to show it with MotoConcepts Yamaha in 2011.

HahnUnted By Injuries
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Another MotoConcepts Yamaha rider, Hahn, came into the outdoor tour ready after missing some early supercross rounds with injury. He focused his training and practice on motocross, but never seemed to gel with his bike the way he had hoped. We saw a few flashes of speed, but they were counterbalanced by crashes and injuries. The Budds Creek round summed up Tommy's season, as he charged into the top five after a bad start only to fall in a corner and tweak a rib. A shoulder injury before Unadilla ended his season early.

Cunningham Provides Spark
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Kyle Cunningham has always had the speed to contend. But the question always remained: could he harness that speed and stay consistent? In 2011 Cunningham proved he could do that. Cunningham would follow up a podium performance at Freestone with a string of fourth place finishes, showing he could be a real contender in 2011. Although he would cool off down the stretch, 2011 proved to be a breakout year for the Texas native.

Wey Consistent
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Nick Wey has rounded into that blue collar style of rider who always gives it his all, and worries more about earning his paycheck and grinding out results than following the drama. Thus, he's super consistent. Each week, Wey hovered around the top ten, and his Michigan Mafia fans were pumped about it.

Audette Challanges Pro Circuit
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A solid rookie supercross campaign led to lofty expectations for Star Racing Yamaha and Gannon Audette as the outdoor season approached. But a promising season on paper never materialized for Audette. Yet on a sweltering day at Budds Creek the Minnesota native showed why so many were expecting great things from the talented rookie. Audette would rocket off the gate, grabbing the holeshot over PC juggernauts Rattray, Wilson and Baggett. Audette would succumb to heavy fire from the PC boys and finish the moto eleventh, but it was a shining moment for the youngster in a season marred by inconsistency.

Sipes Struggles Outdoors
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Ryan Sipes entered the outdoor tour fresh off of a first-place finish at the final Lites SX race of the season, the Dave Coombs East/West Shootout in Las Vegas. He had another first at the outdoor opener at Hangtown: first 250 contender to hit the ground. A first-turn crash in the first moto of the year set Sipes' season back, and he endured quite a few more bumps and bruises before the season was over. Best finish of the year? A lone podium in the first moto at RedBud.

Dietrich Cools Off After Fast Start
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The bottom fell out. The train came off the tracks. Use any cliche you want, but there's no denying that Ricky Dietrich started the year shockingly well, and then ended it shockingly poorly. RD took a major risk by walking away from a factory Monster Energy Kawasaki deal in the WORCS and EnduroCross to give motocross a shot, and it looked good early when he nearly podiumed at Freestone. Then the results waned. Then rumors of legal trouble (later dismissed) swirled. Dietrich scored points in just four of the last 14 motos of the season.

Consistency Hurts Patterson
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When JP$ dominated both motos at the Hangtown WMX opener, it looked like she had the right stuff for a championship repeat. And she did. At times. At other moments, she was throwing big points away, such as with a crash at the second round at Freestone, and a crash at Southwick that led to a DNF. Patterson won the most motos for the season, but inconsistency led her to hand her number-one plate back over to Ashley Fiolek.

The Ultimate Filler
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Les Smith was the ultimate fill-in rider during the 2011 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championships. He filled in for Justin Brayton at JGR Yamaha early in the season, and then made the switch to Rockstar Energy Suzuki to fill-in for Jason Anderson, only to turn around and take over at JGR once again—this time for a banged up Davi Millsaps. Needless to say, Smith was all over the map for 2011. Making the most out of every opportunity Smith really began to show promise down the stretch for JGR, placing inside the top ten in two of the last three races; a nice ending to a bizarre year for the South Carolina native.

Brayton Returns
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Justin Brayton tweaked an ankle at the Las Vegas Supercross finale, causing him to miss the first few outdoor rounds. When he returned at Thunder Valley, he seemed a notch better than the previous year, grabbing top-ten moto finishes in 14 of his 16 motos. But he didn't finish any of the races in the top three. Maybe in 2012?

Swanepoel Shocks the Industry
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Seriously, who really thought Gareth Swanpoel would be the rider to break the Pro Circuit winning streak? Don’t get us wrong, the South African is talented and had a great season going when the series hit Southwick. But we don’t think anybody saw what was about to happen at Southwick coming. In the eye of Hurricane Irene Swanpoel jumped out to the early lead in moto one. But it wouldn’t last, would it? Certainly fellow South African Tyla Rattray would show his brute force down the stretch. But while Rattray was able to make a pass stick, he ran into trouble moments later stalling his bike. Swanepoel would use that to his advantage and retake the lead with little time left. Rattray would make one last push, but Swanepoel would hold on for the win. An unbelievable moment for Star Racing—its first career moto win—and Swanepoel—also his first career moto win—in the heart of a storm.

Peters Debuts
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After getting rave reviews following his 250A upset of Justin Bogle at Loretta Lynn’s Kyle Peters made the transition to the pro ranks under Star Racing Yamaha tent. Plauged by a  injury to his T-10 vertebra, the North Carolina native struggled in his debut at Steel City, and at the season finale at Pala. But don't be so quick to judge a book by its cover, as big things are expected out of the talented young gun in 2012.

Filling In Ain't Izzi
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Ravished by injuries the last couple of years, Nico Izzi has yet to fulfill the expectations that were bestowed upon him after winning 2009 Rookie of the Year honors. Izzi began the 2011 season in the 250 Class with Kilbarger Racing, with expectations of returning to past glory. After spending the first half of the year in the 250 Class, Izzi made the move to the 450 Class for the last two rounds with Valli Yamaha. Izzi shined at the final round at Pala, putting in a solid ride for seventh.
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