This past weekend in far-off Turkey, the Spanish teenager Jorge Prado moved a step closer to having one of the best seasons in the sport’s history. Prado has won 15 of the 16 rounds that he’s entered, and in the process clinched a second straight MX2 FIM Motocross World Championship. It’s the first masterpiece of his career, a masterpiece in the sense that the Red Bull KTM rider dominated an extended championship (and he can earn a 16th win at the finale in China this weekend).
So how does Prado’s 2019 season compare to other previous masterpieces we have seen in FIM and AMA racing? We decided to take a look back at the record books, perusing the Racer X Vault as well as our friend Gilou’s GP database to see how the prodigy Prado stacks up to other epic runs in major series.
First, some shorter seasons. In 1975, in the nascent four-round AMA Supercross Series, Can-Am’s Jimmy Ellis won all four rounds. A few years later, in 1978, Bob “Hurricane” Hannah won the first eight 250 Nationals in a row, clinching the title in the process. But then he injured himself and missed the last two rounds. A similar fate awaited Mark Barnett in 1981 when he won the first seven 125 nationals and the title, only to hurt himself and miss the last round. Honda’s David Bailey won the first eight 500 nationals of 1984 and clinched the title, but then Yamaha’s Broc Glover beat him the last two times out. And in 1987 Rick Johnson won all but one round of both the 250 and 500 nationals, each of which were six rounds. He claimed the titles, but his old nemesis and El Cajon neighbor Ron Lechien ruined both perfect seasons by winning the High Point 250 National and the Broome-Tioga 500 National. RJ won the other 10 Nationals that season.
And we must give a nod to all of the early series from the ‘80s back that either weren’t long enough for the 12-race bar, and great runs by the likes of Roger De Coster, Heikki Mikkola, Gennardy Moisseev, Gaston Rahier, Eric Geboers, and more.
The first truly epic series domination—as in 12 races or more—came in 1996 with none other than Jeremy McGrath. Having already revolutionized supercross with his charisma, technique, and dominance, McGrath rode into ’96 as a three-times-running champion. He then laid down a remarkable 13 straight wins aboard a Honda CR250 to clinch an unprecedented fourth straight title. He was 40 main event laps away from a perfect season when his rival Jeff Emig had a breakthrough night at the St. Louis SX and knocked McGrath off the top spot on the podium. It ended the closest run anyone has ever had to a perfect AMA Supercross season. McGrath came back to dominate at the final round in Denver for 14 out of 15 wins. His winning percentage of 0.933 remains the highest batting average in SX history and makes his ’96 the true masterpiece of the King of Supercross’ epic career.
Seventeen-year-old Sebastien Tortelli burst on the 125 Grand Prix scene in 1996 while racing for Kawasaki. After a lackluster first race in Italy, Tortelli won each of the 11 rounds that followed to win his first of two FIM Motocross World Championships. The 11 wins in a row were a record at first, but then his results of the Grand Prix of Belgium at Nismes would be thrown out, along with the second- and third-place finishers, Paul Malin and Frederic Vialle. The fuel samples from each of the three riders were found to be out of compliance, despite the fact that all of their fuel came from the same supplier at the race. Others used that fuel as well, but only the top three were tested and this deleted from the results. Because the results of that one race did not affect the championship, the three riders apparently did not press the case further.
As the greatest of all time, it’s no surprise that Ricky Carmichael has several masterpiece seasons. The first “real” one came as he ascended in AMA Supercross. In 2001, riding for Kawasaki, Ricky split the first four rounds of the series with reigning champ Jeremy McGrath and his Chaparral Yamaha team. But at the fifth round of the series—the third and final stop at Anaheim—Carmichael came from behind to pass Jeremy for the lead and never looked back, for 13 weeks. Carmichael won the last 13 rounds in a row to take the title from McGrath and tie him for most all-time consecutive wins. It was also his first of five AMA Supercross crowns, though he never dominated any of the next four quite like he did that first time in 2001.
Carmichael’s other masterpieces all came in motocross, between the years 2002 and the first day of the 2006 season (We aren’t counting 125SX in this list or his perfect ’98 season would be included.) Ricky had already won five-straight outdoor titles (three on 125s, two on 250s) while he was with Kawasaki, but he took it up a notch in 2002 when he moved over to Team Honda. First, riding on a CR250, Carmichael notched the first undefeated and perfect season in AMA Motocross history, going 24-0 in motos en route to winning all 12 rounds. The next year he repeated as champion, but he dropped two rounds to CRF450-mounted Kevin Windham. In 2004 RC got his own CRF450 and once again notched a perfect undefeated season: all 24 moto wins, all 12 overalls. In 2005, Carmichael switched teams again, this time to Suzuki, and he once again won all 12 rounds, but not every moto. But what happened in 2005 that is yet another epic milestone in the career of the GOAT: He won the AMA Supercross Championship on an RM250 two-stroke, and then won the AMA Pro Motocross title aboard an RM-Z450 four-stroke. That means he’s the only rider in SX/MX history to win titles on both a two-stroke and a four-stroke in the same year.
In 2003, Stefan Everts dropped the first three rounds of the MX1 FIM World Championship Series to Suzuki’s Mickael Pichon. This was when Dorna was running Grand Prix motocross and using a one-moto format for the three classes, which had been consolidated to run all three classes on the same day, at the same track. Everts, riding a Yamaha, then turned his season around completely and won the last nine rounds in dominant fashion to clinch the title. But it wasn’t just that. Everts, who was in the prime of his career and, as always, in superb shape, decided to take advantage of the one-moto format and also entered the 125 class on a YZ250F. He started doing it at the fourth round, which is the round that he finally got past Pichon. From there he would win eight of the last nine 125 GPs, including the last seven in a row. And if that weren’t enough, he would ride all three classes at the last round in France and become the one and only rider in motocross history to win three Grand Prix events on the same day. All told, Everts won 18 Grand Prix events that year, and he would have won two world titles had he only started one round sooner, as Everts was just 15 points behind Steve Ramon in the 125 class when the series ended.
Everts would have an even more dominant year in 2006. By this point Dorna was out and Youthstream was running the series again. Grand Prix events were back to being two motos, with MX1 (450) and MX2 (250) running together at each round. They also added rounds, so now the FIM World Championship was 15 rounds. Everts, who had announced that 2006 would be his last year, ended up winning the first 12 rounds in a row, and 14 of the 15 total, dropping only the Irish GP to New Zealand’s Josh Coppins (who missed the first seven rounds with an injury). He also won 27 of the 30 motos aboard his Yamaha. And because he won the last two rounds of the ’05 season, Everts would record 14 straight GP wins, which is now tied as the all-time record. More on that below.
Then to add a cherry on top of not only this masterpiece of a season, but also of his epic career, Everts went to the Motocross of Nations at Matterley Basin in England and swept both motos, passing Team USA’s James Stewart and then pulling away for the ultimate walk-off career ending in motocross history.
James Stewart was so dominant in the 125 class between 2002 and ’04 that he won a remarkable 28 out of 31 AMA 125 Nationals and two of three titles. He wasn’t perfect, but that run of wins-versus-losses comes into more clarity when you look at the three he lost. At High Point in ’02 he twisted his knee and DNF’d a moto. At Southwick in ’02 he seized his engine and DNF’d. And at RedBud in ’04, he got caught up in a massive first-turn pile-up and DNF’d. If not for those three mishaps, he might have been undefeated. James only lost three 125 nationals in his entire career!
So fast forward to 2008 when Stewart was undefeated. James was riding a Kawasaki KX450F that summer and absolutely destroyed the field in Ricky Carmichael-like fashion, winning all 24 motos and 12 overalls on his way to the title. But that would be the end of James’ tenure with Kawasaki, as the team had signed with Monster Energy as a title sponsor, and he was a Red Bull athlete. He ended up taking over Chad Reed’s ride with San Manuel Yamaha and brought his Red Bull sponsorship with him. He won an AMA Supercross title the next year, but that would be the last best season for the Fastest Man on the Planet. Taking his place at Monster Energy Kawasaki? Ryan Villopoto.
During Ryan Villopoto’s reign consistency was the coin of the realm. On his way to nine major titles in AMA Supercross/Pro Motocross the most races he ever won in a row is seven. It was the races in between—a second here, a third there—that allowed him to carve out all of those titles. Even his injuries were timely, like in 2012 when he won the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship so early that it didn’t matter than he tore up his knee at the Seattle round and missed the last couple rounds of the series. But if one were to point at a truly dominant time for RV, it would be at the very end of his career, in 2014, when he clinched his fourth consecutive AMA Supercross title to tie Jeremy McGrath’s record of back-to-back-to-back-to-back SX titles. In closing out that season, as well as his career, Villopoto would win the last four rounds in a row, as well as the last 80 main event laps that he rode. That’s how he ended his SX career: four-for-four, and 80-for-80. He never raced another lap inside a stadium again. All told, RV won the last six AMA titles in a row that he competed for. Only RC’s 11 consecutive SX/MX titles between ’01 and ’06 were more impressive.
Villopoto’s main rival Ryan Dungey was also a champion with unique consistency. He would back up runs of multiple wins with steady-as-she-goes seconds and thirds to minimize the damage of any defeat. The one time that he truly went on a run of epic proportions was the summer of 2012. That’s when he gave Red Bull KTM their first 450 AMA title by going on a ten-race roll. This followed the unfortunate crash at Thunder Valley of James Stewart, winner of the first two rounds, as well a season-ending knee surgery for Villopoto before the series started. Dungey took full advantage, and his ten wins in a row were one of many highlights in a career that saw him win eight major titles himself.
It should be to no one’s surprise that Jeffrey Herlings shows up on this list often. He was almost perfect in 2013 in the MX2 class. The KTM rider won the first 14 rounds in successive order, wrapping up his second straight FIM World Championship. That ties Evert's 14-straight over 2005 and 2006, but Herlings is the only to do it within one year (but Everts did do it in the premier class). Then at the 15th round in Belgium, Herlings suffered a cracked shoulder blade, preventing him from his shot at running the table. He missed two rounds, but then decided to ride the last round at the sandy Lierop track in Holland. He won, giving him 15 wins in the 17-round series. Had he been healthy for Belgium and Great Britain he almost certainly would have had a perfect season.
One year later, Herlings won 12 of the first 13 rounds of the MX2 World Championship, and he missed the third race in Brazil with a shoulder injury. By August he was just a race away from clinching what would have been a third straight title. But then Jeffrey entered a charity minicycle race that his then-team manager Stefan Everts hosted and ended up breaking his femur. He would miss three rounds, allowing Frenchman Jordi Tixier to creep into the title picture. The last round was in Mexico, and Herlings made a desperate bid to hold Tixier off by lining up for the race. He finished both motos, but he was unable to get enough points to hold Tixier off. The Mexico race was the only overall Herlings lost in ’14 that he actually entered.
Fast forward to 2016 and Herlings is once again dominating the MX2 class in the FIM Motocross World Championships, winning the first 12 races in a row. The he broke his collarbone at a Dutch Masters race an off-weekend! Herlings would miss the next three rounds of what was now an 18-race tour, but this time he would come back before it was all over. He would end up winning two of the last three rounds to clinch another title. The only race that he entered in ’16 in which he did not win the overall was the MXGP of the Americas at Charlotte Motor Speedway, to then Star Racing Yamaha rider Cooper Webb.
Finally, there was Jeffrey Herlings in 2018 when he ascended to the top of MXGP. Herlings, who had a tough transition to the big bikes in ’17, was brilliant in his sophomore season. He would miss one race with yet another midseason injury, this one while practicing. He lost in Spain to defending champion Antonio Cairoli, and then he lost in Russia to Belgium’s Clement Desalle. But he won the other 17 rounds, setting a record for MXGP and wins in a single season, in a single class. He was widely expected to repeat this year, but this time he injured himself in preseason training and missed most of the series. But he’s getting back to up speed quickly and won this past weekend in Turkey, his 85th career Grand Prix win.
Inside the November issue of Racer X magazine: See who stood out and what our takeaways are from Loretta Lynn’s and all of its future moto talent. GEICO Honda had a packed house at the last three nationals, but who’s sticking around? Former factory rider Michael Byrne has made a successful jump to team management, and we find out how and why. When the AMA’s 1986 Production Rule went into effect, it ended a glorious run of exotic, hand-built—and wildly expensive—bikes in AMA racing. We dig into the story of those final years. All these features and much more inside the November issue.