This Year in Photos: Yamaha MXWednesday, December 14, 2011 | 1:10 PM
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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