First of all, who is even racing? That’s the first question, always, for 250SX, and as Houston 1 looms, we have some answers. Feld Entertainment held a Tuesday night press conference with riders who intend to race 250SX East, which kicks off this weekend. We’ll give you the rider names and some of their thoughts heading into 2021—but keep in mind this isn’t the full field. Could be more big names on the gate come race day!
Austin Forkner: Still in pursuit of that elusive 250SX championship, the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki man would be the on-paper favorite heading into this championship. He took the 250SX West Region title fight with Dylan Ferrandis down to the final round last year, until a huge crash left him with some scary injuries.
“There’s not really any added pressure, yeah it is looking like it’s my last year to get it done, but it’s not added pressure because I’ve wanted to get it done every other year, and I’ve come close, but I haven’t gotten it done,” says Forkner.
“Injuries are all good they had to take my spleen out, but that’s not a big deal, you can live without a spleen, but they had to take part of my pancreas out, which is not the greatest thing,” he continued. “I haven’t had a lot of side effects and I healed a lot quicker than I thought I would, but they said when I’m older I might have to get on some medication or something. I don’t know. I feel really healthy and really good.”
Forkner spent most of his off-season in California and learned a lot more about testing as they worked on the new 2021 KX250.
“There’s quite a bit that changed compared to last year’s bike, and we tried to set it up the same way and that didn’t work, just because of the changes to the geometry and things like that,” he said. “I had to figure out how that works, but once we figured that out, we made changes and we have that working good now.”
Where’s Forkner’s confidence after missing the entire Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship campaign again?
“More so I need to remind myself,” he says. “Same situation as last year. I won St. Louis and that was my first win since the injury, and it was like Ah, okay, I can do it again. You have to get to that step and then go forward from there. I wasn’t off the bike as long as I was last year with the ACL, but it’s another missed outdoor season, more time off the bike that I didn’t want. Now I have to get to that first step, and then long term try to get that championship, not get hurt this year, do all the races.”
Jett Lawrence: We list Jett second because so many fans have been asking, “Are we gonna get to see Jett versus Forkner this year? That was fire at Salt Lake City last year!” Indeed, you get your wish, although both Lawrence and Forkner say any beef has been squashed….for now. DMXS Radio’s David Izer asked them both about it.
“Yeah, everyone always tries to build things up to make some drama, it’s like every TV show, they want drama,” says Lawrence. “It was a one-time thing. If either of us decide to do a stupid thing the other one will give it back, that’s just how racing goes. We did it to each other there. If one of us gives it to the other, we know the other will come back harder and harder. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
“I’ve been seeing everyone building it up, everyone likes a rivalry,” says Forkner. “That’s all I chalked it up to. We got together in one of the last Salt Lake City races, there was a start thing where we came together and I went down and we were battling in that race. I don’t know if that set us up for a huge rivalry, it was kind of something that happened. But yeah, I guess everyone wants a rivalry and they picked us two. I didn’t know who was riding what coast, I just worried about myself and getting my bike working.”
As for Lawrence himself, he said the right things about trying to learn consistency after crashing out of last year’s SX season.
“I just want to ride as best as I can, and ride smart,” he said..” I wanted to soak in a lot of lessons from last year, some good and some bad. I just want to walk away from all the races on both legs. I’m glad to start on the first coast because I don’t think I could do any more practice laps! I’ve been on supercross just about as soon as last season ended, so I’m getting dizzy doing all the laps!”
Jo Shimoda: Jo got a Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki ride after GEICO Honda closed.
“We had a test ride with like four people, and we had to ride supercross, and I had not ridden supercross in a long time and it was on a new bike, so it was kind of sketchy,” said Shimoda on testing the Kawasaki. “Then it was like two weeks before the team decided who they would take. I had a had a short time to prepare, but I feel good. I won’t know until I race, though. It took me maybe two weeks on the bike to where I could ride it to 100 percent. I feel like this bike is more stable, I’m not talking bad on the Honda, but I felt good on the Kawasaki right away, especially through the whoops and stuff. I feel much better than before. I don’t like changing stuff between rounds or during practice. I will have a base setting and then after that I just kind of get used to the bike more than having the bike get used to me.”
Christian Craig: Lots of pre-season “Craig will be really good with this Star Yamaha bike!” buzz so we’ll see if he can deliver. It will take just a few laps of practice in Houston for everyone to remember how amazing Craig looks on a motorcycle. It’s an annual thing the first time you see him ride in the new year.
Craig would like to make it clear he switched to Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing long before anyone knew the GEICO Honda team was shutting down.
“There were all these rumors, like the rumor that my father-in-law [co-owner of the old GEICO Honda team Jeff Majkrzak] was investing in Star Racing, or rumors that I had been tipped off that GEICO Honda was folding,” he says. “No. I actually signed an agreement with Star Racing at Salt Lake City. This was all before I had any idea about GEICO shutting down. It still hit me, though, I just saw some pictures of the shop now, and it’s empty and closed down. It’s sad to see.
“As soon as I got on the bike in October I felt comfortable right away, and there were no question marks if I had made the right move,” he continued. “I believe in the bike and the training program. Every day at the test track we are battling. We’re at each other’s throats every day, putting each other in a racing situation. The team picks who races first, so they think I’m ready and I think I’m ready.”
Why switch teams?
“You could see it the past few years—I was in a stale position. I was right on that verge of breaking through but had lingering injuries. I got a sense that I needed to try something different, give it one more shot on the 250 before I go to the 450. Now that I’ve got that I love it every day. I love what they do. I’m expected to win and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
What other Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing riders will join him? Craig was asked in the press conference and said “#64” which would mean Colt Nichols. Star has four other riders, though. You’d think they’d bring one more over to East to give three riders on each coast. We might have to wait until Saturday to know for sure.
Michael Mosiman: Mosiman was sneaky-good last year in 250SX West. He’s switched over from Rockstar Energy Husqvarna to Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GasGas Factory Racing.
“I’ve had a few years of building, and now I’m trying to come at it from a different angle and hone in on my technique even more,” Mosiman said. “I stayed out in California and got a lot of time to dial in the suspension, more than I’ve had before.”
Is switching from a Husqvarna to a GasGas really any different?
“When I first got on the bike it was much more different than I expected,” he says. “Now as we’ve fine-tuned it, they have a sick motor package and we just keep getting power out of this thing. Overall, its’ a different feel for the bike and how we set it up. Obviously, we’re not stock bikes versus stock bikes, there are different things we can do.”
Check out more from Mosiman from our full interview.
RJ Hampshire: Speaking of Husqvarna, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Hampshire might be a title contender in the 250SX East Region. One year ago he was in the fight with Sexton and McElrath early on but opted for reconstructive knee surgery when the championship went on pause due to COVID-19, thus sidelining him when it resumed. He put in a solid Pro Motocross season but is hungry for an SX title. With another year strong and another year with the Husqvarna team give him his first professional title?
Max Vohland: The Red Bull KTM rookie is, surprisingly, racing the first coast of the season instead of taking an extra month to get ready for the West Region kickoff.
“The original goal was to go to the second coast to have more time, but the way the schedule worked out it was better to go with the first coast because there’s a lot of rounds together, and I can learn a lot of things in short amount of time,” Vohland said. “Riding at the test track has been great so far, feeling comfortable and ready to go.”
Vohland raced the Mini O’s over Thanksgiving to earn supercross points, but he wasn’t a contender for race wins. That led to some skepticism that he’s not ready for this big step.
“Mini O’s was definitely just to get the points and be ready to race supercross,” he said. “The team is not putting pressure on me, I’m not putting any pressure on myself. The goal is to get experience and learn.”
Jess Pettis: The Canadian looked capable when he tried supercross in 2019. He’s back in the U.S. with support from Red Bull KTM in Canada, pitting out of a sprinter van. He’s been training at the Baker’s Factory in Florida.
“I’m excited the opportunity came up to train at the Baker’s Factory, and I came down here two months ago and I feel good,” he says. “In 2019 I had some good results, a top-ten and a top five. I wanted to race supercross last year but I tore my ACL. I’m pumped to get back down here with a good program. I’ve got more preparation and time on a KTM [than I had in 2019] and I hope to be in the mix and battling with those guys.”
A few other teams have been announced, such as Phoenix Racing Honda sending Enzo Lopes and Josh Osby into battle. Kyle Peters is currently looking to defend is Kicker AMA Arenacross title so he’ll join supercross once the AX series is complete. Unfortunately the team will be without supercross rookie Mason Gonzales, who suffered an injury to his ankle during training in December.
The ClubMX team is also coming in with several talented riders. Garrett Marchbanks joined the team after two years with the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team—which included winning the 2020 Daytona Supercross. Now, you may think Marchbanks has downgraded significantly from a factory Pro Circuit ride to the ClubMX team but Marchbanks is liking his new Yamaha YZ250F—which we know is a proven bike in terms of race results—and he is more determined than ever.
“I want to make them pay,” he said in December. “Oh heck yeah! I’m pushing as hard as I can every day. This is the most motivation I’ve had since I was little, on and off the bike. I’m not saying I wasn’t trying hard before, but I’m excited.”
The ClubMX team will also have Joey Crown who burst into the 250SX East Region Championship with a bang last year as he finished eight and seventh in his first two main events ever. Jace Owen will also join Marchbanks and Crown on ClubMX Yamaha YZ250F models. At this time, we known Crown and Owen are both competing in the 250SX West Region. This could mean Marchbanks will be the lone rider in the East Region, or he could also compete in the West Region as well.