This was a big blow for the market. GEICO Honda ran one of the biggest teams in the paddock, with veteran talent, up-and-coming young guys and usually quite a few amateurs in the hopper as well. When Factory Connection Racing lost GEICO as title sponsor, the team couldn’t continue, which suddenly put a bunch of riders on the open market, late in the season during one of the craziest years we’ve ever witnessed.
Now all five pro riders appear to have landing spots and even the Honda CRF250R has a squad to man its own racing future, as the long-awaited Honda HRC factory deal with Hunter and Jett Lawrence is finally here. With Factory Connection Racing/GEICO Honda gone, Honda needed to hastily throw together a new factory 250F effort, and also make sure the promising Lawrence brothers didn’t go walking to other manufacturers.
Said today’s Honda PR:
The Australian Lawrence brothers both rode for Factory Connection in 2020, with Jett winning the final AMA Pro Motocross round and earning the Marty Smith Rookie of the Year Award. In recent seasons, Team Honda HRC has focused on the 450 class, but with the recent dissolution of the Factory Connection Race Team following a long and successful collaboration with Honda, the 250 effort is being absorbed into the in-house project for 2021. Factory Connection will continue to work with Team Honda HRC in various capacities.
“The 2021 season will be upon us soon, and our team is working hard to prepare,” said Brandon Wilson, Manager of Advertising and Motorcycle Sports at American Honda. “While we were sorry to see Factory Connection’s race team shut down, we’re pleased to continue a relationship with their company, and we’re excited to have such a talented rider lineup for both classes. When you also factor in our solid team structure, there’s every reason to expect a positive performance from Team Honda HRC next year.”
We can assume the Lawrences will race opposite coasts in Monster Energy AMA Supercross to give Honda a factory presence at all the races. Honda operated a factory 250F operation alongside the GEICO Honda team for many years, with big-name riders like Davi Millsaps and Andrew Short, but this is the first return to the division for the team in over a decade.
Jeremy Martin was the first rider to find a home after GEICO Honda announced its closing, signing a contract with Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha right after the 2020 season had completed. Check out our interview with Jeremy for more on his deal.
With Martin and the Lawrence brothers locked in, it left rookies Jo Shimoda and Carson Mumford on the market, as well as amateur Hunter Yoder. Yoder, by the way, recently thanked the Factory Connection team on his social media, but hasn’t announced a new bike or team for 2021.
Yesterday, Mumford, who has yet to race Monster Energy AMA Supercross, confirmed he will stay on red with the FXR/Chaparral Honda team.
“Just super stoked to be where I am at,” he said in a video on his YouTube channel. “There was kind of a period there where I didn’t know what was gonna happen, as far as maybe I was just going to be a fill-in rider for who knows where or I was thinking about maybe buying bikes. But Chaparral stepped up with Michael Lindsay’s team and just got the ball rolling there and I’m happy to be here.”
Shimoda has popped up riding Kawasakis on social media and rumors say he will end up as part of Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki, although that is yet to be announced.
For certain, there were some tense moments for everyone involved, as the Factory Connection squad was usually one of the most loyal in the pits, often signing riders to long-term developmental deals. That’s all gone now, which made life tough on everyone. With the Lawrences, Jeremy Martin, and Shimoda, they’ll still be astride factory bikes, and Mumford has a chance to learn the supercross game with a developmental team. It wasn’t easy for the industry to absorb this, but riders found a way to get to the track in 2021, which is reason enough to breathe a sigh of relief.