Bench Racing Ammo:  We Were Young

Bench Racing Ammo: We Were Young

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Last week we touched on how demanding the transition can be for former Lites champions into the premiere class. Past Lites/125 SX champions such as Ivan Tedesco, Travis Pastrana, Tim Ferry, Grant Langston, along with a host of others—for a variety of reasons—never found the success on big bikes indoors that they enjoyed during their Lites careers. With Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen and Wil Hahn—all former Lites (250SX) champions—set to embark on their first full 450 seasons come January, we’ve decided to take a look back and see how past Lites champions performed in their first season on big bikes. The comprehensive list dates back ten years—when 2002 125 East Champion Chad Reed made his debut—and covers the year each rider made his full-time 450/250 debut, their finishing position in the final point standings, number of wins, number of podiums, best finish, and how many starts they made.

Rider First Season Rank in Final Points Wins Podiums Best Finish Starts
Chad Reed 2003 2nd 8 14 1st 16 of 16
Travis Preston 2005 9th 0 0 6th 12 of 16
James Stewart 2005 10th 3 4 1st 6 of 16
Ivan Tedesco 2006 4th 0 2 2nd 16 of 16
Grant Langston 2007 18th 0 0 4th 7 of 16
Davi Millsaps 2007 15th 0 1 2nd 9 of 16
Ryan Villopoto 2009 6th 2 5 1st 13 of 17
Ryan Dungey 2010 1st 6 11 1st 17 of 17
Jason Lawrence 2010 19th 0 0 8th 8 of 17
Trey Canard 2011 5th 3 5 1st 14 of 17
Jake Weimer 2011 26th 0 0 6th 2 of 17
Broc Tickle 2012 9th 0 0 6th 16 of 17
Justin Barcia 2013 4th 2 5 1st 17 of 17

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Ryan Dungey is the only rider in the last decade to win a title his rookie season.
Andrew Fredrickson photo

Notes:

Jake Weimer broke his forearm testing prior to his 450SX debut in 2011 and was only able to compete in two of seventeen rounds.

James Stewart broke his arm in practice at round two of the 2005 season, then returned at the midway point.

Davi Millsaps broke his femur in pre-season testing for 2007. He returned about halfway through the season.

The same year, Grant Langston broke his collarbone and missed most of his first 450 season. He would return to win the AMA Motocross Championship that summer.

Once again, J-Law makes it into one of these articles. We just can't help ourselves!

You won’t find 2003 East Region Champion Branden Jesseman, or 2007 East Region Champion Ben Townley or 2009 and 2010 East Region Champion Christophe Pourcel on this list. Why? Well, because all three never competed in a full-time 450 season.

Pourcel was unable to come to an agreement with a 450 team in supercross for 2011, but he did sign with MotoConcepts for the Nationals. That didn’t exactly work out, either, so Pourcel headed back to Europe to race the GPs. Pourcel only lasted a year before a big injury at Bercy cost him the 2013 season. The book is not yet closed on his career, though, as a comeback to the 250 Class in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross is rumored. 450 supercross? May never happen.

Injuries cost Townley a chance at the big bike class—although he did compete outdoors with Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs in 2010 before injuries, a return trip to the GPs and Australia, and another big injury (just before a return to the U.S. in the Nationals with TwoTwo Motorsports) cost him his career. Townley has since retired.

Branden Jesseman hung around the Lites class for a number of years after winning his championship, but injuries derailed his chances at the premiere class. In fact, injuries derailed him in the small bores, too, as he was never healthy enough to defend his title, and went through several more injury riddled seasons before notching a lone additional Lites win in 2007 in Orlando. He never had a full season on a 450.

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Justin Barcia's rookie season ranks right alongside some of the greats.
Simon Cudby photo

Full list of Lites champions since 2002:

2002
Chad Reed East
Travis Preston West

2003
Branden Jesseman East
James Stewart West

2004
James Stewart East
Ivan Tedesco West

2005
Grant Langston East
Ivan Tedesco West

2006
Davi Millsaps East
Grant Langston West

2007
Ben Townley East
Ryan Villopoto West

2008
Trey Canard East
Jason Lawrence West

2009
Christophe Pourcel East
Ryan Dungey West

2010
Christophe Pourcel East
Jake Weimer West

2011
Justin Barcia East
Broc Tickle West

2012
Justin Barcia East
Eli Tomac West

2013
Wil Hahn East
Ken Roczen West

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