The entire calendar year of 2020 has been challenging for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Professional motocross racing is no different. For everyone from the series promotors, to the teams, to the riders, to the fans watching at home—the entire Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship is overcoming obstacles each and every day. The latest challenge? Pulling off a doubleheader in Buchanan, Michigan, at RedBud MX in a matter of only four days.
Following last week’s Ironman National in Crawfordsville, Indiana, once the focus shifted to the fourth (and fifth) round of the championship, Zach Osborne made a point to emphasize making the best out of the situation at hand.
“I think it’s kind of going to be the tale of the tape for the rest of the season. …I think they’re going to be really pivotal rounds for me where I need to show up guns blazing and go out there and do the job,” the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider said only hours after the finish of the final moto in Indiana.
And boy did he come out guns blazing. Osborne led from start to finish in both motos, grabbing two holeshots before earning his first moto sweep in the premier class for a maximum 50 points on the day.
“I have to say, this is a special day for me, I’ve never done that wire-to-wire in both motos for a 1-1,” Osborne said. “It’s pretty special at what is probably the best track in the world, one of the most iconic tracks. So I have to give it up for the good Lord for an unreal day. It’s great to be racing and out here doing what we love, it’s a huge blessing.”
With a 26-point lead over Musquin in the standings (and a 43-point lead over defending champion and preseason title favorite Eli Tomac), Osborne said his goal has not changed: focus on each weekend one at a time, race by race, with the goal of stacking points sooner than later.
“I had a quick transition from wanting to win races, to winning races, to winning multiple races,” he said. “It’s keeping myself in check and focused on what is going on. Still sticking to the goal.”
Although he did not blow the doors off as he blasted out to a gap of 20 seconds or more, the 30-year-old put in a great ride. His effort today was quite the statement ride.
“It was pretty much a perfect day for me,” Osborne said. “Two holeshots and wire-to-wire race wins for the overall. I’m really happy with my riding and my fitness, and my bike is working perfectly so I’m looking forward to Monday and the rest of the series.”
Behind Osborne in the first moto was Marvin Musquin. The 30-year-old Red Bull KTM rider looked better again today in the first moto but did not seem to be 100 percent ready for battle in the second moto. He was passed by Chase Sexton in a crafty move on the outside of the final turn and then later was passed by Tomac in another, downhill section. This was the second consecutive week where Musquin put in a great first moto but was not a factor in the second moto with a sixth place yet again.
“It’s always great to be here at RedBud,” said Musquin after the race. “Going into the first moto, I felt really good and I was enjoying it. I wasn’t too far off Zach but we were both riding well at pretty much the same speed and I couldn’t come back on him. It was a tough second moto, I felt like I was riding good and aggressive but I was never able to get around those guys. I am bummed because I did the first one really well and the second one I’m not able to do the same, so I’ll try to work on that.”
Honda HRC new man Chase Sexton finished third in the first moto, for another solid ride in his debut season in the premier class. Once Sexton made it into third, he was too far behind Musquin to make a push but he was far enough ahead of eventual fourth-place finisher Tomac to where he was riding alone for the end of the moto. Then, the Illinois native backed up his ride with a fourth in the second moto, good enough for second overall on the day.
“I think I’m getting better every weekend… I just want to keep getting better overall. …I got shuffled back a little bit but I was able to climb myself back up to fourth,” said Sexton. “Last couple laps were pretty gnarly having Eli behind me but overall, I’m really happy with how I rode and I just want to keep chipping away until I get to that top spot.”
He continued in the post-race press conference saying that he wants to work on his starts and early race positioning so he can be in the mix more consistently.
“I want to keep building and be where I want to be, that’s winning,” he said.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo finished 5-3 for fifth overall. In the second moto, AC and Barcia had more run ins together than the local 7-Eleven gas station. Barcia had an aggressive move on AC then a few laps later the favor was returned. Then again and again, seemingly all moto long.
“Justin rode great,” Cianciarulo said of Barcia on the podium. “I was able to get a pretty good start and was in second there and he put a really aggressive move, classic Bam Bam style there. So I kinda knew it was him. I settled in. he was riding great but I honestly felt like I had a little bit more pace but it’s kinda like walking a field full of land mines trying to pass the five one. I’ve got a lot of respect for that guy, he’s good but just was trying to find a smart way around and couldn’t find it.”
In the post-race press conference, Barcia commented on his battles with AC as well.
“I don’t think it was anything, it was just racing,” the Monster Energy Yamaha rider said. “I went across a couple ruts…we both said a good race afterwards. That was just good racing. I mean, I barely touched him. Me and AC are cool. It was just hard racing, we were going back and forth. We were both sending it, both going for it. …It was a close pass but not aggressive—well okay, it was aggressive yes—but it was definitely not dirty.”
“Overall, I think I rode great today, so really excited for Monday,” Cianciarulo said.
He did have that costly mistake in the first moto when he washed the front end out of second but otherwise, it was another solid ride for the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider. Similar to Osborne last year as a rookie, Cianciarulo and Sexton are gaining the experience running at the front with the top competitors that will help them several years from now. They might not be able to go all-out for the entirety of both motos each day just yet, but learning the race pace out front will help these two in the future when the strength and fitness is fully there. But that does not mean these guys are not already riding exceptional, they did each hold off Eli Tomac. If you think AC and Sexton are not having great rookie years, reread that sentence and rethink your evaluation.
Which brings me to the last topic in the 450 Class, Tomac. The championship is far from over but things are not looking great for the #1. Tomac knows this do or die time. Can he get it done?
|1||Zach Osborne||Abingdon, VA||1 - 1||Husqvarna FC 450|
|2||Chase Sexton||La Moille, IL||3 - 4||Honda CRF450R|
|3||Justin Barcia||Monroe, NY||6 - 2||Yamaha YZ450F|
|4||Marvin Musquin||La Reole||2 - 6||KTM 450 SX-F|
|5||Adam Cianciarulo||Port Orange, FL||5 - 3||Kawasaki KX450|
In the 250 Class, Dylan Ferrandis was on another level today during qualifying. Without jumping LaRocco’s Leap, he was the overall fastest qualifier in both classes. Pretty scary stuff, right? Well, like last week, things looked great for the class points leader entering the motos and things did not go his way by the end of the day. Just as they have in the past, Ferrandis’ results today were hindered by poor starts. Ferrandis took a quick fall in the first moto but bounced back up, remounted and managed to put in a hard push through the checkered flag. But he hinted towards concussion-type symptoms on the podium.
“To be 100 percent honest, I’m kinda happy to make this result here today…that small crash I had it, it looked like a small crash but I hit my head and I was a bit dizzy, and hit my shoulder, too," Ferrandis said. "Yeah I was in pain between the motos. When I did the sighting lap for moto two, honestly I was not sure if I would be able to [race]…I made that small mistake that just cost me a lot. Ten points behind Jeremy is not the end of the world.”
Re-watching the clip, you can see him fall headfirst and continue to roll over as his forward momentum carries him downhill.
Based on what we saw in the clip and what Ferrandis said he was experiencing after the race, my educated guess would be that he is dealing with a possible concussion and/or a stinger (a common injury in football), where the head/neck area is either compressed or stretchy upon impact and leaves that sort of “dead arm” feeling. Now, with a quick turnaround to Monday and an emphasis on recovery, how Ferrandis manages the next two days will be more important than anyone else in the paddock.
Out front in both motos to take the sweep and the points lead was GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin. Osborne and J-Mart had similar days in terms of solid rides that might have really been statement rides come the end of the championship. And now with a banged-up Ferrandis, the ball could really get going in the #6’s direction. Will Ferrandis be able to rebound and derail the momentum J-Mart has built up? Losing 16 points to the GEICO Honda rider on the day and now sitting 12 points down in the championship, Ferrandis’ performance on Monday could either make or break his title hopes. A rebound and strong effort could steal some points back or another day of losing 15 or more points could open up a gap that Martin could maintain.
Martin said in the post-race press conference that with his injury he does not believe he has the fitness he did when he won his two 250 Class Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross titles, but he is a smarter rider.
“I would say I’m smarter as a rider from a mental standpoint,” Martin said when asked how he compares himself now to the championship-winning level he was at only a few years ago. “Can I say my fitness is as good as it was in 2015? No, I’ll be honest with that. But I’m in good shape right now. …You can only train so hard. I kinda have to build my body back up. I am a little more crafty though.”
He also commented that his intelligence has also improved when it comes to managing both his races and his body in general.
“These guys are good so it’s hard to get a good lead,” Martin said. “I just don’t really care to win by 20 seconds...but I am working hard to maintain the gap I do get. More about being smart and riding hard at the right times.”
He knows—and openly admits—that Ferrandis’ speed and ability is the top of the class. But he also is doing the best he can to take strides in the right direction.
“I acknowledge that, I respect him,” Martin said on Ferrandis’ speed. “My goal is to try and close that gap every race, each day. Just trying to close that gap.”
Martin may not be the fastest all-out like he was the years he won his championships. But he is the one doing the best of managing the championship, even if he says the trophy is not on his mind.
For RJ Hampshire, second place in the first moto of the day was a good start.
“I didn’t have great starts in either moto but I had good speed and the bike was working good,” Hampshire said. “We made the right call first moto with the tire and I had probably one of my better motos I think I’ve ever had. I’m stoked on a 2-5 for second overall. The team and I seem to be doing pretty well together so we’ll keep chipping away and take it race by race.”
“It was awesome,” Hampshire said on his day. "I needed to rebound after last weekend. We don’t work this hard to have that type of performance. …We still have a shot and I just want to take it weekend by weekend and improve on my results.”
He said in the post-race press conference that he did not know the front runners in the 250 Class were jumping LaRocco’s Leap in the second moto until he went into the jump side-by-side with Ferrandis.
“I didn’t know they had jumped the leap until Dylan jumped over my head,” he said.
He commented that he was in a constant battle each lap to makeup time on the riders in front of them only to get to the Leap to lose about two seconds as they jumped it ahead of him. His goal this year was to be a constant podium guy and he said he was embarrassed with his performance at the Ironman National. After a great ride in the first moto and a solid fifth in the second moto, Hampshire will take the second overall.
Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha’s Shane McElrath finished 8-2 for the final spot on the overall podium. McElrath lead several laps at the start of the second moto before being passed by Martin and cruising to second place, surprising himself with a spot on the overall podium.
“Second moto, I holeshot and lead some laps,” McElrath said. “It felt good to be up there with those guys. Frustrating that’s my second moto podium in four rounds but this is one of my favorite tracks so I’m excited to go at it again.”
He said his results have been below his expectations.
“This has been my best start to a championship but I still I expect more of myself, I think we all do,” he said. “I’m still learning a lot this year with switching teams and learning a new bike. It’s going well but I can’t be getting eighth places. I feel like today was better for me in the second moto. First moto was horrible and embarrassing. Good starts I feel like I have the speed or the fitness to run with those guys.”
So now, we are onto two days of rest and recovery before the RedBud 2 National on Monday. All the riders have been preaching low-key days over the weekend but those who take full advantage of the time will take full advantage of the quick turnaround.
|1||Jeremy Martin||Millville, MN||1 - 1||Honda CRF250R|
|2||R.J. Hampshire||Hudson, FL||2 - 5||Husqvarna FC 250|
|3||Shane McElrath||Canton, NC||8 - 2||Yamaha YZ250F|
|4||Dylan Ferrandis||Avignon||7 - 3||Yamaha YZ250F|
|5||Alex Martin||Millville, MN||6 - 4||Suzuki RM-Z250|