Round two of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship takes place at Fox Raceway at Pala, California. This Southern California round has been previously been held at both Glen Helen and Lake Elsinore, but we now return to Pala for the first time since 2011. Similarly to the other SoCal rounds, the pros have all done countless motos on this track. It’s truly the hometown round for the series, even if California is your second home. The sheer amount of time that pro riders spend in the area for testing and supercross riding makes it feel all too familiar. Riders will sleep in their own beds, go through their normal routine, and best of all, stay out of airports for a weekend.
Where Glen Helen is a never-ending climb or descent, this track only has a few hills and they are much more manageable. The keys to doing well at this track are basic but can’t be overstated. First things first, a good start is mandatory. Many of the corners funnel back to one line with the flat layout, making it tough to pass. Second, corner speed is paramount. Without Glen Helen’s uphills and downhills, corner technique is critical to lowering lap times. Lastly, there are always lots of rolling jump sections. Even going back to 2011, the track layout has several straightaways with fast rollers. Some are able to be jumped but most require leaning back and dropping the proverbial hammer. Going back to watch the video from that year, the leaders were absolutely flying through those sections near the finish line. That same style was evident on the pro day from a couple of weeks ago; riders lifting the front end and trusting their bike will absorb rolling jumps at crazy speed.
Overall, I think the biggest factor for this race will be the start and first couple of laps. I think this track will be incredibly difficult to move forward, especially if you bury yourself early. The temps will be in the high 60s, meaning everyone will stay fresh for most of the moto. Riders won’t be able to wait anyone out, they will have to get creative and/or aggressive. I expect riders to put every ounce of emphasis they can on the start, knowing how important it will be.
Questions I Want Answered
How much change will we see after the opening round?
Can Blake Baggett shake off the Hangtown struggles?
Will the track being so familiar to everyone affect the results?
Do we see first moto Eli Tomac or second moto Eli Tomac?
Can AC92 back up that first-round fire?
Ken Roczen’s first moto was unbelievable.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s 450 team was in the mix all day after a tough SX season.
Cianciarulo went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. It’s hard to not cheer for the 92.
Alex Martin put a Suzuki on the podium (at least for a moto) for the first time since 2013.
Justin Cooper won the first moto and proved he will be a title threat in only his second year.
Colt Nichols was better than many expected, starting well and riding well.
Justin Hill’s 16-21 scores were probably not what he had in mind.
Thomas Covington did not have a good day at all. This week is surely a mad scramble to figure out what’s missing.
Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM had a rough start to an already tough year. The best overall finish for a team rider was Shane McElrath’s 9th place while title hopeful Jordon Smith left with an 18th.
Marvin Musquin didn’t have a horrible day but a huge crash in practice derailed his momentum. He should bounce back this weekend, though.
Kris Keefer and Steve Matthes, knowing there’s nothing to lose, decide to race a sidecar at Pala. Steve screams “we need more PPM!!” at Kris incessantly during both qualifying sessions.
I conveniently forget this track’s new name hundreds of times over the next few days.
Justin Cooper sets the fastest time in qualifying and holeshots the first moto.
Cooper Webb has finally decided to “give a sh@t about outdoors,” landing on the podium at Pala.
Ken Roczen leads the first lap of the first moto.