The List: Lites SX Champs Without 450 Wins

The List Lites SX Champs Without 450 Wins

November 13, 2013 3:45pm
Three riders packing Lites SX titles—Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac and Wil Hahn—will head to the 450 class in 2014. Will they sink or swim? Here's a look at some top-flight Lites/125 SX competitors that never found victory lane in the big class:

Seemingly all of late 1980s Team Suzuki:
When the 125 SX class kicked off, Suzuki soon loaded it up. But while the likes of Keith Turpin, Ron Tichenor, Willy Surratt, Todd DeHoop, Donny Schmidt and Denny Stephenson won 125 titles, they experienced very little success in 250 Supercross.

Brian Swink: With prodigious talent, Michigan’s Swinkster was on a parallel track with Jeremy McGrath for 1990s superstardom. The 1991 and 1992 125 East Supercross titles proved it. But like his Suzuki predecessors, Swink never found his groove in the 250 class, and never won a race. In the fourth race of his rookie year, in Seattle, he challenged McGrath for most of the way before finishing second. But he only grabbed two other podiums in 250 SX.

Brian Swink won two SX Lites titles, but never was able to lock down a big bike win.
Moto Verte photo

Jimmy Gaddis: A victim of pointing out, Gaddis (who we talked to a few weeks back in a Where Are They Now) never got to defend his 1993 125 West SX title, and also never found a team that would give him a real shot on 250s. He ended up finding his greatest success in arenacross.

Tim Ferry: Ferry famously won the 1997 125 East Championship without winning a race, but Timmy did take some 125 race wins in 1995. Like Gaddis, he pointed out the year he won the title, and the factories didn't give him a 250 ride. He worked back up the ranks as a privateer before getting factory Yamaha and Kawasaki rides. He won some outdoors, but Red Dog never sealed the deal on a big bike supercross win. (Note from Matthes: This story sucks, Ferry beat McGrath at Summercross that counts for something!)

Mickael Pichon:
The Frenchman helped carry Mitch Payton's team in the early days of their switch to Kawasaki, winning the 1995 and 1996 125 East SX titles. Kawasaki didn't bring him over to the factory 250 team, though, so he went to Suzuki and sadly broke his femur in the first race of his 250 rookie season. He'd later race for Team Honda, but never really threatened for a win on big bikes indoors (Pichon did win the 1998 Glen Helen 250 National for Suzuki, though).

Another two-time Lites Champion, Christophe Pourcel, has yet to line up for a 450 Supercross.
Simon Cudby photo

Christophe Pourcel: We could still hold out hope that he'll come back and make it happen, but it's looking very unlikely these days. Pourcel won the East Lites Championship in 2009 and 2010 but couldn't come to terms with a team for a 450 ride. He's still yet to even line up for a 450 Supercross.

Travis Pastrana: At this stage, we're not sure what's more shocking: Travis never won a 250 Supercross, or, Travis was once such a consistent presence on the pro racing scene that he won the 2001 125 East Championship.

J Law: Oh yeah he makes The List again!

Like his fellow Frenchman, Pourcel, Mickael Pichon never won a big bike SX.
Moto Verte photo

Shea Bentley: His stretch to the 2000 125 West Championship was about the only time he ever could put a few healthy months together.

Grant Langston: GL won both an East and West Lites Championship racing for Pro Circuit Kawasaki, but had the strangest run of bad luck in the big class. From being body-slammed by an early KTM 250SX to a broken collarbone in 2007 and an eye problem in 2008 that essentially ended his years up front far too early, GL never had time to make it work.

Ernesto Fonseca: Ernie enjoyed the best-ever start to a 125 supercross career by winning the first four races he ever entered. Read that again to let the craziness soak in. He’d take the 1999 125 East SX title and then score the first-ever title for a 250F out West in 2001. On big bikes he rode for Team Honda and generated a whole punch of podiums, but never a win.

Ernesto Fonseca won in bunches in the Lites class, but never the big bikes.
Moto Verte photo

Travis Preston: GEICO Honda is a powerhouse today, but Preston’s 2002 125 West title was a shocker in the pits, as the (then called) Factory Connection Honda team was still pretty new, and James Stewart had all of the attention. TP was always pretty big for the small bores but made it work. On a 450, he never seemed to gel with the pressure of riding for team Honda, but did log a few solid runs when Factory Connection took him back in 2007. Never got that win, though.

Ben Townley:
BT101 never even got a shot on a 450 in supercross, as sadly his 2007 Lites East Supercross Championship came during one of the few injury-free runs he had in the U.S.

Injuries cost Branden Jessemen a chance to win on the big bike.
Moto Verte photo

Branden Jesseman: Another oft-injured one, Jesseman stayed healthy enough to claim the 2003 125 East Championship, then was immediately injured again (he only got to wear a number-one plate on his jersey while standing in opening ceremonies for the 2003 East-West Shootout).

Ivan Tedesco: After ripping through the Western Regional 125SX class in 2004 by winning seven of eight races, Hot Sauce backed it up in 2005 by taking yet another Western Regional 125SX Championship  and the 125MX National Championship. His heroics on the small bike earned him a factory ride with Suzuki in 2006, but thanks in part to injuries, he was never able to get that big-bike win on the yellow machine. In 2008 Tedesco joined the Factory Honda squad, and although he won the Thunder Valley National in 2009, a premier class win in supercross still managed to elude him. Injuries would prevent Hot Sauce from showing his true winning potential.