We’re once again firing off questions at long-time pro Jason Thomas for some opinions on the third round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
Let’s start this off with the most controversial moment of the weekend. Should AC have been penalized for his off-track excursion?
I have analyzed, pondered, and talked myself through every angle of this. In the end, no, I don’t think it warranted a penalty.
There are a few different talking points on this, starting with Adam’s side. He made a big mistake as he and Justin Cooper were jumping through the uphill rollers. He cross-rutted and went to the right, straight toward the repeater banners. He is very lucky he didn’t crash or get banners wrapped all in his rear wheel at minimum. Once he saved it, his first instinct is to get back onto the track immediately. With the repeater banners lining the entire uphill and subsequent corner, he didn’t have an easy entrance to choose. I think he was searching as he was climbing the hill, seeing no opportunity to re-enter the track. Once he finally got around the corner and to the next jump, he decided to wheelie the banners and get back onto the track.
In hindsight, sure, he could have wheelied the banners sooner and maybe entered at the top of the hill. I think he was hoping there would be some sort of opening that he could shoot through instead of having to go over the banners again. If he could have pressed pause and taken a look around, maybe he would have done something differently. In the heat of the moment, though, I think he found the last resort to reenter.
As he came back onto the track, he realized that he had cut a big portion of the track and knew he needed to nullify any advantage. He deliberately slowed down and looked around as if to say, “sorry guys, I didn’t mean to do anything wrong here.” He allowed Cooper to regain his gap and off they went. That’s one side to this story.
For anyone in the Justin Cooper camp, I am sure they can understand that argument, but they have a point to make, too. For Adam to jump off the track and nearly crash, surely that would cost a rider a lot of valuable time. In this scenario, Adam really didn’t pay a big penalty time wise because he cut so much of the track off. In other words, he made a huge mistake, went off the track, and even though he tried to give back any advantage he gained, it didn’t really cost him any track position. Adam made a mistake and the gap remained where it was before that. That’s tough to swallow if you’re Justin Cooper. From his perspective, he doesn’t realize that Adam has jumped off the track, all he sees is Adam cutting across banners and pulling onto the track right behind him. I would think that was on his mind the rest of that lap and played a factor in his crash. It’s definitely reasonable to say that Cooper has to keep his composure in that spot but that’s where each perspective will differ. Also, if you’re Cooper, you could be asking for some sort of time penalty to be handed out to justify the mistake. A five second penalty would have surely been brought up in the hours post-race, especially with Cooper closing the gap in the final laps.
The final decision was the right one in my opinion. Adam wasn’t trying to gain anything. Yes, he could have maybe slowed more to ensure Cooper’s lead. That’s a lot to process in the moment when he was in a panic about being off the racetrack. It’s a bit unfortunate for Adam that he closed the gap so quickly in that same lap, too, as the optics weren’t ideal for him. He goes off the track, then a few corners later is on Cooper’s rear wheel and oops, Cooper goes down. Had he been a few seconds down and then slowly closed the gap, I think it would have been much less controversial. Moving forward, though, it will definitely ratchet up the intensity between these two.
How much does the altitude factor in for the bikes and bodies?
I really never noticed the altitude on my physical performance once the racing got started. I noticed it walking the track on Friday every year but with the adrenalin of racing, it wasn’t something I thought about.
The engine performance was a different story, though. It was literally the first thing that came to mind when practice started. I have heard the bikes are up to 30 percent slower and it’s a huge drop-off. A modified 450 is a handful, even for elite level pro riders. At 6,000 feet, though, every rider is wishing for more power. Exiting the corners, I felt like a horse jockey wanting to bullwhip the rear end of my 450. Teams will exercise every option for more power but it’s still never enough. Higher compression pistons, different fuel maps, and bigger sprockets are all typical adjustments.
The best example I can give is 450 riders are starting in first gear at this race. For those of you with a 450 at home, go out to your local track, put your bike into first gear, hold it wide open and dump the clutch. Once you pick yourself up off the ground and regain your composure, think about how much power the altitude is robbing for that to become the ideal starting method.
*Do not attempt the above suggestion. This was satirical and no one needs to get libelous.
Michael Mosiman is improving quickly. What should we expect now?
Yes, he is! Entering the season, I really felt that both he and Jordan Bailey needed to perform to stay on that team for 2020. Well, he is getting it done. He improved steadily during the supercross season, breaking out at Denver. Two months later and again in Denver, he served notice that he is a player in this 250 Class. I don’t know if he has the puzzle pieces aligned to challenge for a win just yet, but he is certainly on the right track. With the rest of the Rockstar Energy Husky 250 team struggling, he is the bright spot.
Who will benefit the most from the off week?
I think Cooper Webb will have a great chance to hit the reset button. Coming off of his supercross championship, he didn’t have a lot of time to regroup before starting another series. Every ounce of focus was put onto those final SX rounds while others were already transitioning to the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. That put him behind both mentally and physically. We have seen it many times before with Ryan Dungey and Ryan Villopoto, both struggling until the first break. A chance to take a deep breath, get some testing in and work on weaknesses might be just what he needs. He is better than his results lately, that’s for sure. I think it’s a matter of time before he is standing on the podium.
Who will benefit most from the move East?
I like Dylan Ferrandis to take a step forward. His opening laps have really hurt his chances, allowing the leaders to disappear before he gets up to speed. He has the pace both in qualifying and the racing but spotting riders like Cooper and Cianciarulo ten seconds is too much to ask. French riders typically do well at High Point with its never ending off-camber layout. The two rounds after that are sand tracks (Florida and Southwick) which he rides very well and after that is RedBud which he was incredibly good on last October. He has a lot of work to do being down 20-plus points but I do think he rejoins the fight soon.
Is this 450 series a two man race now between Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac?
I really don’t want to say yes but it’s difficult to argue that sentiment. They have been able to ride away from the field more times than not, putting big time gaps into the field along the way.
The lingering question is how will Roczen’s possible ailment affect him when conditions deteriorate? Florida is experiencing record setting heat so far this summer. That round will be pivotal in my opinion. Tomac won a moto at the USGP there in 2017, proving he will be a force to deal with. If Roczen can stand up to the heat and even win a moto there, I think he will send a powerful message to the rest of the field. The Florida National will not even be halfway through the series but I think it might be the most important round in terms of confidence. Summer is coming and brutal days with it. Florida will be the first indicator of who’s ready to suffer.