Nine down, none to go. The 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship came to successful completion of our abbreviated season, and I honestly think the best race was the last. The Fox Raceway National at Pala seemed more packed than it’s ever been, as SoCal fans and industry friends seemed to come out of the very badlands around the Pala Tribal Land to enjoy the most normal-seeming event since the Daytona Supercross back in March, right before, well, you know. Congratulations to the champions, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne and Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha’s Dylan Ferrandis and their entire teams. Congratulations to first-time AMA Pro Motocross winners Chase Sexton and Jett Lawrence. Honda HRC factory team rider Sexton might be the first Honda 450 guy to win a national overall since maybe his teammate, Ken Roczen? And Jett is the fastest 17-year-old we’ve seen in a while. He’s going to be fun to watch in 2021. And congratulations to all of the riders and race teams that just made it through a star-crossed season of health concerns, restrictions, shutdowns, delays and uncertainty. Everyone worked together to get it down, and everyone now deserves a well-earned break. Thanks to the fans, sponsors, race officials, journalists, and especially the promoters—both the ones who could have races and the ones who could not but were there to support the series nevertheless. We will hopefully be back to a more normal existence next year, as a sport and a society. Thank you.
So now begins an off-season of uncertainty, where we all get ready and wait for good news, which is hopefully coming very soon from Feld Motor Sports in regards to the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. We can bide our time for a few more weeks watching our colleagues in Europe as MXGP races to its completion, beginning with a triple-header in Lommel, Belgium that runs this Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday, as Antonio Cairoli, Tim Gajser, Jorge Prado, and the rest of the best over there go battle on the notorious sand track that our friend “MX Geoff” Meyer called “ugly beautiful.” You can watch those races beginning on Sunday morning at www.mxgp-tv.com.
So what are the big off-season questions we now wait to be answered? Well, the elephant in the room is the coronavirus, of course. How long is this stubborn SOB going to be with us? It just caught up this weekend with the best MotoGP rider of all time in Valentino Rossi, who will miss the race this weekend after testing positive for the dreaded COVID-19. Here’s wishing a speedy and complete recovery for The Doctor.
Where and when is Monster Energy AMA Supercross going to start and how is it going to look? Will we be able to spread out in the stadiums and fill them a little more than the NFL is doing now? Will there be any riders in seriously-affected states like California, New York, and Florida? When will we see a #1 on a Kawasaki in 450SX for the first time since 2014 when Ryan Villopoto closed out his SX career with a fourth consecutive title? Can Eli Tomac make it to two in a row? And what will a well-rested Ken Roczen look like back on track? Cooper Webb? Jason Anderson? And is Ryan Dungey really, truly serious about making a comeback?
We got a bunch of other answers already this week as both Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki announced their teams early (or at least early for this year). Where will Shane McElrath end up? Ty Masterpool? And are both Lawrence brothers headed to the Big Red tent now that GEICO Honda has sadly concluded its run? And speaking of Jett Lawrence, is he the first guy to ever win an AMA Supercross or Pro Motocross with #83 on his bike? I asked both Steve Matthes and Jason Thomas and neither could think of anyone wearing that number, going back to the beginning of all this, to have won with #83. And what number will Dylan Ferrandis choose? #5 or #8 or stay with #14?
I could go on and on—will all 12 national tracks be able to run in 2021? Will the FIM Motocross of Nations happen in 2021? Can we get the Loretta Lynn’s Area/Regional program back in place next spring or do we face another “Super Regional” format like Tim Cotter somehow pulled together? What is Pete Fox’s new RENEN gear going to look like?
But I won’t go on and on because I’ve finally got somewhere to go that’s not a race track or a Zoom call. I’m talking a little vacation to points north, driving up to Maine for, well, nothing. And I can’t wait!
Let me leave you with this summary of the whole series, written up and shot by Trevor Nelson from each of the nine rounds of the series for Motocross Action.
The end of the season in the U.S. meant the end of the run for GEICO Honda, as has been well-documented here throughout the week. The team ended its 22-year run on what was easily it’s best single day ever, with 1-2-3 finishes in the last moto of the 250 class by Jeremy Martin, overall winner Jett Lawrence and Jo Shimoda, and a 1-2 by team alumni Chase Sexton and Christian Craig in the 450 class. But that was the only real farewell or retirement we’ve gotten so far from the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross ranks. However, that was not the case in a couple of other series.
Over in Europe, two of the better-known riders on the MXGP circuit announced that this was their last season. Thomas Covington had a handful of MXGP wins in the MX2 class, which gave him deserved respect in the paddock and over on the continent. Last year, the Alabama-born TC64 then made the decision to return to the states after five years to give the AMA circuit a go. Unfortunately, the time he had finding success in European motocross cost Covington the formative time he would need here to learn to be competitive in supercross, and he struggled during his brief run with Rockstar Husqvarna. He returned to Europe this year with a Yamaha squad for MXGP, but soon realized the time had come for him to look towards the next chapter of his life. Covington ends with the most Grand Prix wins for an American since the glory days of Bob Moore, Trampas Parker and Donny Schmit. Here is an article that appeared on Thomas last year in Racer X Magazine as he began his journey in Monster Energy AMA Supercross:
Read more on Covington in the May 2019 issue of Racer X magazine feature "Coming Home," where I wrote about Covington's return to the U.S. for AMA Supercross and Motocross.
Also calling it quits soon will be the Belgian crosser Clement Desalle. Winner of 23 MXGP races, Desalle was known as a tough, fast, and gracious competitor. Like Sylvain Geboers, he was one of his country’s all-time best, but his timing meant that he rose in the time of all-time greats like Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings. And speaking of Herlings, he posted this upon hearing of Desalle’s retirement:
“Congrats on a great careers mxpanda,” Herlings said yesterday. “You were tough, difficult to pass but a real warrior and fighter. The moment I knew you were the next guy I had to pass I was like 😩😩. I know we never spoke much, but I have huge respect to you. Enjoy your next chapter.”
U.S. fans might recall Desalle showing up a few times at Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, very nearly winning the 2010 Unadilla 450 National against his fellow Suzuki rider Ryan Dungey of the Rockstar Makita team.
Finally, quietly, FMF/KTM Factory rider Kailub Russell, arguably the GOAT of Grand National Cross Country Racing, clinched his eighth consecutive GNCC #1 plate last weekend at Matthews Farm in Pennsylvania, and then announced that he was also calling it quits. Kailub’s reign over GNCC was Carmichael-esque, so it’s no surprise that people hold him in such high esteem. He will continue to work with KTM on some special events, plus he has a few “bucket list” items he wants to see to before he moves into his next chapter of life, away from the racetrack. It should be a lot of fun, and I know there’s a whole pack of XC1 and XC2 Pros breathing a sigh of relief right now! We will wait and let KR557 tell you more when the time is right, but for now, let’s enjoy the end of the 2020 GNCC season and see if the red-hot Steward Baylor can keep winning races on that borrowed Am-Pro Yamaha!
Old Star (Jason Weigandt)
No one saw Jeremy Martin re-signing with Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha. Well, technically my guy Grant Langston did, but only because we saw Jeremy and Star’s Wil Hahn chatting at the awards ceremony near the podium at Pala after the race. Go watch my Weege Show from after the race and enjoy the laugh. We seriously just thought it was two guys catching up on some bench racing after the season. Then, on Monday I started to hear Martin really was negotiating with the team, and then Yamaha dropped a bombshell press release Wednesday night at midnight announcing the 2021 lineup. There was Martin, back in blue!
Of course, Jeremy had two awesome seasons with the team with the 2014 and 2015 250 National Championships, but it did not end well. I talked to him quite a bit during the summer of 2016 and into his transition to GEICO Honda for 2017. There were serious personality conflicts between Jeremy and the team.
I texted briefly with Jeremy today. Jeremy is still in search of that elusive 450 factory full-time ride, and he knows he needs one big season on a 250 and a team with a 450 opening to make it happen. I know Mitch Payton was very interested with Jeremy for 2021, and that would have been a great combination, but look at Kawasaki’s 450 lineup. Eli Tomac keeps saying he wants a few more years, Adam Cianciarulo is good for the long haul, and Austin Forkner is waiting in the wings. Jeremy might not have a 450 path there. Meanwhile, we’ve been joking all season that Star is willing to have a 46-rider team. They’re now Yamaha’s factory 450 squad. Not hard to imagine Jeremy taking a 450 slot with that squad in 2022. Heck, Star was willing to have a three-man 450 team this year, trying to hold on to Justin Barcia alongside Aaron Plessinger and Dylan Ferrandis.
Meanwhile, Jeremy knows first throttle hand how good the YZ250F is. He’s put himself in position to have a great 2021 season and get a 450 ride for 2022. It’s that simple.
Great shot and caption by Guy B. and Vital MX!
The Old Man and the 450cc (Andras Hegyi)
In the history of the 250/450 AMA Pro Motocross Championship, in existence since 1972, the vast majority of the champions got their titles in their 20s. Overall, there have been 25 different champions so far and 23 of them were in their 20s. There are two exceptions. First is Tony DiStefano, who is the youngest ever champion in the 250/450 class. DiStefano got his maiden title in 1975 at the age of 18, then he became again a teen champion in 1976 being at 19 years old. The Suzuki legend added a third title in '77 at the age of 20.
The other exception is Zach Osborne, who became the 25th champion of the 250/450MX last Saturday. Osborne became the oldest champion of that series and the only one to ever win the premier motocross championship title at 31 years of age. Osborne was born on September 25, 1989. He became champion last Saturday at 31 year, 15 days old. Osborne takes over the "oldest" role from Doug Henry, who turned 29 years old when he clinched his the 1998 AMA 250/450 Pro Motocross title on August 30, 1998.
Tony DiStefano graced several Cycle News covers in 1975-'76.
Farewell Again Yamaha (Matthes)
Yamaha's announcement that Star Racing will run the 450 program is the second time the fabled OEM has not had an actual presence in the 450 class, as they pulled out after the '07 season also, or around then anyways. Of course, Star will run Dylan Ferrandis and Aaron Plessinger on 450s and in talking to some Yamaha people close to the situation yesterday, the Japanese company will still have a hand in some of the technical aspects of Star's 450 program but as the person I spoke to yesterday put it, "They (Star) have had a lot of success so we'll let them see if they can do it on the 450s."
Sounds like everything will be Star's decision as far as staffing as engineer Sergio Avante isn't joining Star, nor are Jimmy Perry and Dan Rambert, who were let go earlier this year. If Star needs any technical help, Yamaha Japan can help for sure but if Star wants to go down a particular path with testing, they seem free to do so. In the past, with these kinds of situations, Yamaha has had a heavy hand in what the teams can do, but not so anymore it seems.
Something that the Blu Cru has done in recent years is not get so much help from Japan in terms of factory parts. When I was there years ago, we still got transmissions, hubs, small little aluminum, and titanium parts for inside the motor from Japan, true "works" parts, but from what I hear, a lot of things are now sourced from the USA so Star has access to those parts as well. When it comes to taller or shorter gears for the transmissions, that's most likely coming from Japan but outside of that, Star can do pretty much everything else.
So in a sense, another era of Factory Yamaha ends and it's a new beginning for the guys in blue. Certainly the Star guys seems to have a lot on their plate and there are more than a few teams in the pits wondering how they're going to make it all work. Rumor is the team has purchased RC's Goat Farm in Florida as well and will be relocating everyone there in 2022. Huge moves by the guys there and this will be very interesting to see how it all plays out…
New Bike Season Rolls On (Keefer)
I can't remember a year where there has been more new bikes to test than this year. Manufacturers are introducing new models and that means one thing for our sport. We are going to increase the sport's reach with different models of bikes! Our sport will grow! Since COVID-19 has been amongst us, I have seen more people out at the local tracks not only riding, but also coming to watch local races. Being from the Southern California desert, I also see way more people out camping and enjoying life on two wheels. This is all great news for our industry. That being said, Kawasaki brought out two new machines for 2021 and we shook them down Tuesday at Cahuilla Creek MX. The 2021 KX250X/450X are hybrid machines that are meant for the 50/50 type of rider. A rider that loves to ride motocross, but also hit a GNCC or even a WORCS event on the same weekend. The new green bikes come with an 18-inch rear wheel, skid plate, water pump guard, softer/off-road specific suspension settings, and ECU mapping that is smoother as well as more linear. If you missed the first impression video you can check it out right here:
2021 Yamaha YZ250F (Keefer)
This week Yamaha also came out to drop off their new 2021 YZ250F! We spent a full day on it, with some epic rutty conditions, but there is an embargo on the testing information until October 28th. DON'T YELL AT ME! I can't say much, but I can tell you that it's worth waiting for the info. Here are some shots from Kellen Brauer's camera from the day.
Flat Track Final (Weigandt)
All the racing series are jamming races in for 2020, and it looks like the Progressive American Flat Track Championship is indeed gonna make it to its final rounds. Daytona’s short track will host the double header finale tonight and Saturday night. It will be really, really interesting because the Daytona Short Track has not hosted AFT since the series changed rules back in 2017. Today’s rules say riders in the SuperTwins class must ride the big twin-cylinder bikes in every race. The big bikes are a handful on a small track like Daytona, so back in the day riders used to be able to jump on 450 MX bikes for tracks of that size. Not anymore. Meanwhile, during the last three years, the Daytona race took place on the a purpose-built TT track on the infield of the speedway, right where the supercross track is built. Now, the pandemic has led to a smaller-scale event back at the short track right outside of the speedway’s Turn 1. It’s small, it’s slick, and no one knows how the big bikes will handle it.
And we’ve got a title hanging in the balance! Jared Mees isn’t giving up, and a late-season surge has seen him cut Briar Bauman’s lead down to just nine points heading into this weekend’s final two rounds. What’s the difference between a race win and a second place? Five points. Do the math here and it’s nearly winner-take-all this weekend between Mees and Bauman. On a track no one has raced these modern SuperTwins on. Back-to-back nights. What a script.
You can watch the races live via NBC Track Pass (just like NBC Sports Gold for the motocross and supercross set). Here’s a link to more on how to tune in.
Dylan Ferrandis (Andras Hegyi)
Dylan Ferrandis is the first French champion in the history of the 125/250 AMA Pro Motocross Championship, in existence since 1974. Ferrandis became only the third non-American rider to be champion in this division, the other being Grant Langston from South Africa and Dean Wilson from Great Britain.
-Ferrandis is the first international rider be champion both in the 125/250 Supercross and the 125/250 Pro Motocross in the same year. He collected also his second straight SX title in the 125/250SX West Region. Previously, Langston had two small-bore SX titles, but he took his 125/250 MX title in a different season, while Scotsman Wilson never won the SX title.
-Ferrandis' nine wins in 125/250 MX is the most for a French rider.
-Regarding the 125/250 MX podium results, Ferrandis is the most successful import ever. By finishing third last Saturday, Ferrandis grabbed his 22nd podium. On the all-time 125/250 MX podiums list Ferrandis caught up with Ryan Dungey, who also had 22 podiums during his 125/250 MX career. Ferrandis also has 22 podiums in SX, all while riding Yamaha.
- His total of three small-bore AMA titles makes Ferrandis the most successful French rider ever, surpassing his countrymen Mickael Pichon and Christophe Pourcel, both of whom were two-time 125/250 SX champions. Of course Jean-Michel Bayle remains the most successful Frenchman of all, having swept three titles—AMA Supercross, 250 MX, 500 MX—in 1991.
All-Japan Motocross (Andras Hegyi)
Here's a quirky little footnote to the conclusion of the 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross: In the 450 Class season finale, only Japanese brands finished on the overall podium. In the last nine years such Japanese superiority's been a rarity. Between 2012 and 2020, there were 105 national rounds in all, but only in six rounds were the non-Japanese brands, KTM and Husqvarna, missing the podium. It happened at RedBud in 2013, and then in 2016 there were four rounds in which both KTM and Husky were not able to get any podiums: Muddy Creek, RedBud, Southwick, and Ironman. From that final round of 2016 (Ironman) until the final round of 2020, the European brands had at least one spot on the podium every time. Now, with Gas Gas joining the paddock in 2021, as well as top riders like Cooper Webb (KTM) and Jason Anderson (Husqvarna) from injury, it may be just as long before we see an all-Japan podium again in 450 Class.
The december 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Listen To This
JT and Weege join host Steve Matthes to review what happened at the final round of the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, from the two title winners to the two race winners, the GEICO situation, some 2021 SX ideas, and more.
Adam Cianciarulo is always a thoughtful and articulate interview, but he's finally bringing those popular skills to the center as a genuine title contender in the 450 Class. His rookie big-bike season included a second-half flurry that put the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship in reach, but, win or lose, he was just happy to avoid the many hazards are hurdles of the premier class and make gains throughout the year. In this podcast, culled from several interviews with Jason Weigandt and Cianciarulo over the final rounds of the season, you'll hear Adam's take on learning and growing, rediscovering the addiction to winning without getting too frustrated if he loses, as well as ancillary thoughts on why 250 riders don't win as soon as they turn pro anymore, and other topics. As a student of the game, Adam knows the sport well. Here's his take on racing in 2020.
This week on the Main Event Moto Podcast, Daniel Blair and Producer Joe talk about the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship season finale.
HEAD-SCRATCHING HEADLINE/S OF THE WEEK
“Lommel - Ugly Beautiful”—MXLarge.com
“The inside story of how Ice Cube joined forces with Donald Trump”—Politico.com
“Finger pointed at Swiss yodelling 'superspreader' concert”—Yahoo News
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!