Well, it’s over. The 2021 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship is done and with it, 2021 a wrap, indoors and out. There are plenty of things to talk about—we had a new champion crowned and the Hangtown Motocross Classic was exciting and drama filled almost all the way to the last moto. Lots to talk about, let’s dive in yeah?
The Hangtown track has, as I’ve said before, come along the furthest from when I first went there (1997) to these days. It used to kind of suck to be honest. It was hard packed, dusty, square edged, and not much fun to ride. These days it’s loamier, routed a little better, and it’s a good venue to watch from. It’s come a long way. This year though, it looked like there was a little less prep done to the track than usual and I know water hasn’t been the easiest thing to get up there with the wild fires and drought so maybe there wasn’t as much soaking and ripping coming into the race as usual. Not sure but in short, the track was beat up. It was old-school Hangtown and didn’t look like a ton of fun for anyone out there. But glad it was back on the schedule!
Since the 250 Class was where all the drama was, let’s start there, yeah?
Ummmm, who else thought that we might be witnessing a Damon Bradshaw-esque meltdown at the final round from Jett Lawrence? The Aussie kid who had ripped off four straight moto wins didn’t need to do much in a 250 class to clinch the title but he sure made it hard on himself. Two bad starts and three crashes in two motos, but he actually rode very well the second half of the second moto to make it all the way up to third by the end. THE JETT is the national champion, and I must say, it’s impressive the way he rose to the challenge the second half of the season. He told us on the PulpMX Show Monday night that he really didn’t change anything after the break, but just getting refreshed helped him out. He came out of that looking like a new JETT and grabbed control of the title. Nice work for him and the Factory Honda guys, who won a title in house in this class for the first time since Steve Lamson in 1996. I know they took a lot of the GEICO guys over but it’s still impressive they didn’t miss a beat in getting Jett and his brother Hunter to race wins and seemed to improve the bike from last year as well.
As we were talking about on the PulpMX Show on Monday, THE JETT is amazing and all that, there’s no doubt. He’s got a massively bright future ahead of him and probably many more titles and wins.
But, and there’s always a but, right? Here are stats from two 250 Class title hunts.
RIDER A: 24 motos - Points: 538, Average finish: 2.0, Moto Wins: 11
RIDER B: 24 motos - Points: 497, Average finish: 2.7, Moto Wins: 8
Rider B has worse stats, right? Well, that’s Jett Lawrence and rider A is Dean Wilson in his 2011 250 Class championship season. Wilson has 0 450 Class wins in either SX or MX and just five career 450 podiums. Deano, an awesome guy and a great rider, has really had a hard time with injuries since bumping up to 450s. This isn’t to shit on Jett or Dean but there IS a lot of Jett Lawrence hype and I get it, but I also have been around long enough to know things don’t always work out. No one would’ve said Dean wouldn’t get a bunch of 450 wins before he was all said and done.
Also, just FYI: Dean Wilson had a HELL of a season in 2011!
Justin Cooper did what he had to do in taking his first 1-1 of the year and maxing out on points. It’s weird he’s been battling illness and a thumb injury since Washougal and he hasn’t been the same guy including last week at Pala, but then just seven days later, he looks like a different dude in going 1-1. Like, I get it he had to do it this weekend and hope for the best but just seven days earlier he went 5-2. Then he was dominant. Anyways, yeah man he’s so close to being a national champion and I think there was very little to choose from Cooper and Lawrence, one Washougal crash late in moto two changed everything for the #32.
Austin Forkner’s 2021 season was summed up at Hangtown in that nothing went right. Oftentimes, he just wasn’t that good but at Hangtown he was running third and he probably would’ve ended up on the podium overall. That would’ve been a nice final race to go into the off-season with some confidence but nope, his bike had to blow up while he was up front. Second moto he took a 40th gate pick, far inside spot and still got close to a podium. Austin Forkner, maybe more than any other rider, really wants 2021 to go away.
I have to admit that I was cheering for Max Vohland to get an overall podium at Hangtown. He’s from there, his dad won there, and it would’ve been cool to see. I’m a sucker for this stuff, so sue me. He was right there! Also, RJ Hampshire was working up from an early crash, Vohland was pressuring Jo Shimoda for a podium, and things were set up for Mad Max! But then he slipped back a bit, Hampshire charged up, and POOF, there went Max’s podium in front of friends and family. Dammit. He still picked up the Rookie of the Year for the series and it’s funny how his first moto (where he led for a while and then probably would’ve gotten a podium if his bike hadn’t blown up) and his last moto of the series were probably his best ones? I was like a lot of dudes with one eyebrow raised at the hiring of Vohland at the start of the year, but I think he’s got a bright future.
Is Jo Shimoda a 2022 title contender? Are “we” there yet? (Editor’s note: site editors Kellen Brauer and Mitch Kendra are!) I mean, the dude’s been good but then I look at the Lawrences, Cooper, Jeremy Martin, maybe Hampshire, and probably some guys I forgot and I put Jo behind them. Maybe I shouldn’t? I don’t know, I know I’m slow to come around to Sushi and his title potential. Change my mind.
Hunter Lawrence, he of the self-proclaimed LIT KIT from Hangtown, had a good season overall. The second moto at Hangtown was weird but first moto he rode great to get on the box and overall, he was third in the series with one overall win. After a frustrating start and stop to his USA career, Hunter had a good year this year indoors and out. Hey, he won a national with 1-1 finishes, and he won an SX. I know people cling onto THE JETT but any rider who won two races in a year and finishes that high in the points is very fast.
Love to see Josh Varize step up when he got the factory bike from the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna dudes. He’s been good all year as a privateer, and I hope there’s room for him somewhere on an Austrian bike. I don’t know where, but there’s enough there to keep Josh I think if you’re KTM. Hey, he led a lap!
Dilan Schwartz was again great and if Michael Mosiman doesn’t collide with him there in the first moto, maybe he ends up top five or higher overall. The dude is solid in speed and stamina. SX didn’t go great and that’s what he’s missing overall, but man he looks good and as he got more confidence late in the nationals here, the more he excelled.
Onto the 450 Class…
Dylan Ferrandis’s Hangtown encapsulated his season, I think. The dude won again and did it in style. He was fast, he was fit, and he never, ever, stopped charging. People want to compare Dylan to the great JMB as they became French champions in the premier class and I get it, it works because they’re both French but they ride so differently. JMB was smooth, in control, not really willing to lay it all out there. He won with a scalpel-like precision but Ferrandis, well he’s more aggressive, he’s a bit dirty if he needs to be, and he’s got a desire, I think, that JMB didn’t have.
His 20-seconds-behind to third-place ride in moto two was awesome. What heart he showed! His fitness was also amazing late in the race as he ran down most of the top runners. Now, the 450 class is just wrecked with injuries right now so that made it a bit easier for him but still. What a capper on the season and Ferrandis has won two outdoor titles in a row, which puts him in rare company to do the 250/450 back-to-back.
I think Eli Tomac wins Hangtown if he doesn’t fall in the first moto. He had just activated beast mode Eli with a 2:14.5 lap time which was a second and a half better than he had been at any point in the race and all systems were set to go. Then he fell on the next lap, hurt his thumb and really it was all he could do to stay in fourth ahead of Christian Craig. Second moto he did what he might’ve done in the first moto and took the win. Tomac’s done with Kawasaki and went out with style, not an overall win, but a moto win on his last in green. Okay, so we probably need to reassess Eli’s outdoor series now that we know those first two races were the odd ones and not the norm. There were times when he went full “ET heading to the space ship” mode and we know it’s buried deep in there.
With Tomac going to Yamaha, it’s time to remark about his amazing accomplishments on green. Five championships, seventy-something wins, he missed ONE race in seven years with Kawasaki, he raced USGP’s, he raced Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations, he raced Monster Energy Cups and he was just so damn reliable. As his mechanic Brian Kranz reminded me after the race, there’s been no motocross rider in the world that raced as many races as Eli Tomac has over the last seven years. Crazy great stats!
Cooper Webb was again better this week and again ended up on the podium. He’s been better at the end of this season which is awesome, but we also lost some good dudes to injuries so how much better did Coop get, you know? He put on his IG that he wanted to show he wasn’t a “supercross only guy” but it’s like, dude you won a 250 national championship. You’re a gnarly outdoor dude! You don’t lose that, at least I don’t think so. He finished 16 points up on Chase Sexton in the points and Chase didn’t race the last four motos. Not to mention, Adam Cianciarulo was faster than him also most motos when he was there.
I have all the belief in the world in Cooper Webb and I can’t quite figure out why he has barely been a podium guy outdoors. We’ll see next year if things change for him, it’s still pretty mystifying to me.
Brandon Hartranft getting fifth overall is cool to see, he’s been working very hard this summer and it hasn’t always gone super smoothly over there. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the team totally revamped their motor and suspension package over there for both Hartranft and Max Anstie and they’ve been happier about everything. Anstie is heading to Rocky Mountain ATC/MC-KTM-WPS but Hartranft is staying there next year so that should benefit him as well as his new teammate, which might be Justin Bogle.
Kevin Moranz got the call every privateer wants when the Rocky Mountain ATC/MC-KTM-WPS team asked him to fill in for Joey Savatgy who sat this one out. Moranz jumped on Savatgy’s bike, complete with Joey’s motor and suspension on it, with no practice. That’s a bit weird to me, seeing as how Kevin rides a KTM and could bring his suspension over or his bars or something, but I’m not exactly sure how it all played out. He faded in the first moto after he got his usual good starts. Second moto the team put Bogle’s suspension setting on the bike (it was softer) and he looked better. Like Varize, it’s nice to see the team help out a privateer kid.
Ryan Surratt going 8-8 in a 450 Class national is awesome, that’s quite an accomplishment and as I wrote somewhere or said somewhere, he’s been easy for me to miss this summer. Like, he’s a three-digit dude, he’s not real flashy with his gear or bike, and he mostly starts decent and stays right there. But hey man, 8-8 is great.
Just two riders scored points in every single 450 Class moto this year (Ferrandis and Tomac) which is super low from usual. Only nine riders lined up for every moto (Ferrandis, Tomac, Roczen, Webb, Hartranft, Bogle, Justin Rodbell, Surratt, and Ben LaMay) which seems about right. No mud races this year but these last five in a row were brutal for sure. If your name is on the above list, take a bow.
What a year it was man, five different champions crowned, we had three supercrosses in a week, we had more breaks than ever before, we had two nationals at one track, we had a minor COVID-19 outbreak, and also some great racing. Hell of a year on and off the track, and I can’t wait to do it again in 2022. Email me at email@example.com if you want to chat about this or anything else.