It was cool to see a pair of red #1 plates on the track at the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross opener at Hangtown, because making it through supercross and showing up healthy for the opener is not a given—heck, Kenny Roczen raced but was still far from 100 percent.
We had two riders wearing #1 on the gate in 2013, as Blake Baggett and Ryan Dungey came in as defending champions from 2012. But Baggett was nursing a bad wrist injury from supercross and failed to defend, and Dungey ran into the buzz saw of Ryan Villopoto. Both failed to defend their titles. This year, Jeremy Martin started his 250MX defense in the best way possible, with the overall win, but Roczen already has his back against the wall, no pun intended.
You’ll hear the riders say, “Winning a title is one thing but defending it is another.” It’s cliché but apparently darned accurate. We started digging through the data and realized it’s basically been a decade since anyone has successfully defended a title in either class—and the only riders who’ve done it were Villopoto in the 250s and Carmichael in the 450s. Those are all-timers.
For everyone else? Hasn’t happened. Here’s the data over the last decade.
2006—Ricky Carmichael's last full season, repeats as champion for seventh time.
2007—Carmichael races part-time; Grant Langston wins title.
2008—Langston unable to race due to eye cancer. James Stewart, who hurt his knee during the 2007 season, returns to action with a perfect season and the title.
2009—Stewart races SX only. Chad Reed wins title.
2010—Reed gets an illness and leaves series. Ryan Dungey wins the title.
2011—Ryan Villopoto outduels Dungey and Reed for the championship.
2012—Villopoto is out with ACL injury; Dungey again.
2013—Villopoto is back, edges Dungey again.
2014—Villopoto out again with knee injury, Roczen edges Dungey.
2015—Roczen dealing with ankle and back problems before season begins.
A note: Dungey was the 2009 250MX Champion and won the 2010 450MX title, so he did at least win back-to-back crowns, but in different classes. He’s yet to win a title while wearing the #1 plate.
2006—Ryan Villopoto wins first Lites title in his rookie pro season.
2009—Villopoto graduates to 450s, injures knee before second race. Dungey wins 250MX title.
2010—Dungey graduates to 450s. Trey Canard wins 250MX.
2011—Canard graduates to 450s. Dean Wilson wins 250MX.
2012—Dean Wilson injures shoulder, only attempts one moto. Blake Baggett wins title.
2013—Baggett has wrist problems; Eli Tomac wins title.
2014—Tomac graduates to 450s. Jeremy Martin wins title.
2015—Martin begins title defense with overall win at the opener.
Overall, it’s been a rough road for the #1 plate holder as of late, with Villopoto’s 2008 250MX triumph standing as the last successful title defense in either class. Martin and Roczen are already up against some serious competition this year—and they’re also up against recent history.