The book has finally closed for the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship season which is a welcomed phrase for so many. It’s not just about the relief that the off-season is here, and riders can finally wind down from the long grind of racing throughout the season, it’s the exhale that comes with being able to race this year at all.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March, there were so many questions of how a series could be ran and when it would be able to even happen. Well, everyone came together, and nine races have now come and gone with champions officially being crowned. Fox Raceway was the stage today for that final round that put the season to bed, and a lot still needed to be decided.
Zach Osborne entered as the 450 Class championship leader, but Adam Cianciarulo, Marvin Musquin, and Eli Tomac were all still mathematically alive. Though a 24-point lead with just 50 points on the table at the finale may sound comfortable, but the pressure that Osborne would have to bear as he look at the end of a very long road to the top was immense once the gates finally dropped in Pala, California.
Osborne spent much of the day in a noticeable management mode. Having the lead that he did, there wasn’t much need to overdo it and potentially make matters worse with an untimely crash. The first moto saw the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider momentarily battling for the lead before slipping down to fifth and staying there. With Cianciarulo ultimately getting passed by Tomac for the first moto victory, Osborne just needed a 14th place finish in the second moto to claim the title.
Cianciarulo was determined to end the season on top and led for much of the second moto. Osborne started inside of the top five and would only watch Eli Tomac and eventually Max Anstie slip by him. The seventh in the second moto for Osborne was plenty to clinch the 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and was even more than enough after Cianciarulo crashed the lead away and fell to third. Either way you slice it at the end of the day, 31-year-old Zach Osborne is now the oldest premier class champion in the history of the sport.
“It’s been the longest nine weeks of my life honestly, and this last one’s been really tough,” said Osborne. “You know, you think of a million ways to win and a million and one ways to lose. It’s a battle of good and bad. I just have to give it up to the Lord, I wouldn’t be here without his grace and mercy.
“I considered retiring in March after I broke my back and my wife kind of gave me a pep talk and we decided against it,” continued Osborne. “We went to Salt Lake, against our better judgement, that went well. It just kind of carried into this outdoor season and I came out swinging and was able to take home a National championship which is something I never ever dreamed of doing honestly. I felt it was way out of my league. Dream big is the moral of the story and don’t ever give up. Find people who believe in you, even when you don’t, and just keep pressing on.”
Osborne’s road to the top was unorthodox. A child prodigy left without a ride in America after two seasons, Osborne spent 2008 through 2012 in Europe chasing the MX2 World Motocross Championship crown. In a moment he describes as his future deciding move, Osborne was able to race select supercross races in 2012 that ultimately brought him back to the USA. Even still, he wasn’t able to taste glory in the 250 Class until 2017. And now in just his second full 450 Class season, he is at the very top of the sport.
In a display of two different worlds, the day belonged to Honda HRC rookie Chase Sexton. The Illinois native, who is a decade younger than Osborne, capitalized on Cianciarulo’s mistake to take the lead and win the second moto. Aside from it being his first career 450 Class moto win, his 3-1 scores were also enough for his first career overall win as well.
“It’s unreal,” said Sexton. “It feels a little bit like a dream. Since I was little, I always wanted to be a 450 race winner and a 450 champion. So, hopefully the first of many. That was a really good race. Christian [Craig] and I were going pretty good and Adam was up front. He ended up making a mistake, so it gave me the lead, and from there on I just rode it in. The team and I put so much work into it this year and I saved the best for last. So, this is going to be good going into the offseason. It was definitely the Michael Jordan gear that got me here today so I’m so happy and definitely going to celebrate tonight.”
It was a tough end to the year for Cianciarulo who still managed to go 2-3 for third overall but let his third overall win of the year slip away. Despite that, Cianciarulo remained positive on his outlook for the year as a whole. He leaves his rookie campaign behind with a second-place finish in points and four moto wins from 18 chances. That is not a typical rookie year we see often in the 450 Class.
“Yeah, a lot of good things to take from [the season],” said Cianciarulo. “My starts this whole year were crazy good. It’s super fun being out front like that and challenging having these guys on me and pushing me every weekend. Zach was the man this year. Flawless championship for him. A well deserving champion. He’s been at it a long time and he certainly deserves it. Really happy for him, happy for my friend Chase to get his first win today. He’s going to be really good for a really long time and I’m looking forward to battling with him. For myself, a lot of encouraging signs. Speed is good, a couple things to work on for sure in the offseason which I’m really excited to get at it and start prepping for next year.”
The ET3-peat was where the road ended for three-time Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 450 Class Champion, Eli Tomac. After finally claiming the elusive Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship that had long been a sticking point for Tomac, the similar fire we’ve seen from the Colorado native was not there as much this time around. Tomac lamented that this 2020 Pro Motocross season just wasn’t his year.
“It was a good finish for what it was,” said Tomac. “I just want to congratulate Zach on the championship, very well earned this year. Going back to the race, I just didn’t quite have that end finish that I had in the first moto. I gave them too much time in the beginning of the race. It was a good fight though today.”
Outside of Osborne, the feel-good story of the day might fall in the hands of Honda HRC’s Christian Craig. On what was his son Jagger’s sixth birthday, Craig put together his best ride of the season for fourth overall. For a while in the second moto, there was a glimmer that Craig might even have a shot at winning the moto before his teammate Sexton was able to sneak around him. All in all, a pretty good day at the races for the veteran.
“I would say confidence is number one,” said Craig on building up to these end of season results. “After I finally broke through that top five, that helped me mentally. Just that I could do it. Coming to my home track, I knew that I had a good pace. I’m really happy but I’m bummed at the same time. I went 4-2 for fourth overall, on any other day I feel like that would have been a third overall.”
Marvin Musquin would round out the top five for the day but fell to fourth in the championship behind Eli Tomac when the dust settled. In the end, Zach Osborne shocked a lot of people to outduel a 450 Class contingent full of race winners and long-time championship contenders in order to take home the 2020 title.
|1||Chase Sexton||La Moille, IL||3 - 1||Honda CRF450R|
|2||Eli Tomac||Cortez, CO||1 - 4||Kawasaki KX450|
|3||Adam Cianciarulo||Port Orange, FL||2 - 3||Kawasaki KX450|
|4||Christian Craig||Hemet, CA||4 - 2||Honda CRF450R|
|5||Marvin Musquin||La Reole||6 - 5||KTM 450 SX-F|
In the 250 Class, a similar narrative was being built as Dylan Ferrandis was looking to beat veteran Jeremy Martin and become the first ever French rider to win the 250 Pro Motocross Championship. Many riders have tried, but all fell just short of the mark that Ferrandis was looking to claim on Saturday as he entered the finale with an 18-point lead on J-Mart.
The points gap meant that Ferrandis could theoretically wrap up the championship in the first moto if he were able to outscore Martin by seven points. A win coupled with a Martin fourth would be just enough to squeak home the title early.
The first moto saw four riders pull out to a large lead on the field while they each battled for the win. Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha’s Justin Cooper led for the first half of the race before GEICO Honda’s Jett Lawrence was able to skirt around him. The duo led from title rivals Ferrandis and Martin behind them. Not long after Lawrence went to the lead, Ferrandis was putting pressure on Cooper for second and moved around. Ferrandis tried for the last five laps to pass the 17-year-old rookie for the lead, which would clinch the championship early, but just couldn’t quite make it happen.
Martin responded in the second moto with a fairly dominant victory, but it was too little too late. Dylan Ferrandis cruised home to a fifth-place finish and clinched the 2020 250 Class Pro Motocross Championship. In what was his last race in the 250 Class, Ferrandis leaves with three championships in the 250 Class combining his supercross and motocross titles.
“I think as an athlete in any sport, when you show up behind the gate to race, everyone wants to win,” said Ferrandis. “We all put the hard work behind. We all work, some more than others, but when you are behind a gate, you just want to win. Last year my dream was to win supercross, and it took me some time to have this anger to win. This year I definitely have it. And when you win one championship, you want to win another one, and then you want to win the next one, and again and again.”
“Until you retire, you cannot dream about anything else than winning so I just worked really hard on that,” continued Ferrandis. “It’s difficult for me as a French, as a foreign here in America, to not do something else than working. So, I do that. I work everyday and when I don’t work, I rest. It paid off. To all the kids watching this championship, just put in the hard work on the bike and maybe one day you are going to finish here.”
As Lawrence was able to hold off Ferrandis to win the second moto, he also put together a solid second moto to capture his first ever overall win. The win was extra special as the rumors loom of the GEICO Honda team ceasing operations after losing their title sponsor earlier this year.
“I’ve worked my butt off to get here where I am today,” said Lawrence. “I’m just excited to finally be up here and do it with a classic GEICO Honda sweep. Congrats to Jo [Shimoda] for his first third in outdoors, I think. Congrats to J-Mart for second in the championship. Congrats to Dylan, he did awesome. I wasn’t going to let him by in that moto, so I had to get him before he goes to 450. I’m just really happy to be up here. I can finish it out with a bang.”
The second moto win was little consolation for Martin who ultimately fell short of his third championship in the class. But the season as a whole for Martin was still a huge step coming off his major back injury in 2018, and he was plenty upbeat about it all.
“Today was good,” said Martin. “I wish I had made a couple clicker adjustments like I did for that second moto in the first moto. It made my life so much easier… I want to congratulate Dylan; he rode phenomenal all year. I wanted to make a run at him so hopefully in the future in the 450 Class I might be able to get him.”
With the GEICO Honda team dissolving, a lot of questions remain about where all the riders will land from the team. Martin wasted all but 10 minutes after the last moto to at least hint at his potential landing spot.
“Really looking forward to next year,” continued Martin. “I’ll be on a different manufacturer and I’m really looking forward to getting something going here in the next couple weeks so I can get on the new bike and move forward.”
GEICO Honda truly did go out on top though as the final moto featured a podium sweep for the team. Rookie Jo Shimoda finally broke through for a start he had been looking for all year to get up front early and quickly pass into third. At one point, he was even pressuring Lawrence for second before slipping into a comfortable third for his career best.
“First of all, I’d like to thank my family,” said Shimoda following his career best finish. “They came from Japan and sacrificed everything for me, and I was finally able to do it at the last round here at Pala. I ride here every day, but the race is always different… It’s a little bittersweet, but I’m pretty happy.”
So, there you have it for 2020. Zach Osborne and Dylan Ferrandis leave as champions into the relatively unknown. With nothing announced for a schedule in 2021 just yet, the off-season is sure to be frantic. But for Osborne and Ferrandis, they surely won’t mind in the slightest to have a bit of free time on their hands to celebrate these monumental championships in their careers.
|1||Jett Lawrence||Landsborough||1 - 2||Honda CRF250R|
|2||Jeremy Martin||Millville, MN||4 - 1||Honda CRF250R|
|3||Dylan Ferrandis||Avignon||2 - 5||Yamaha YZ250F|
|Canton, NC||5 - 4||Yamaha YZ250F|
|5||Jo Shimoda||Suzuka||9 - 3||Honda CRF250R|