The MAVTV+ 50-Day Countdown to the 2022 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship hits 2012, as we go over each year of the series’ history, beginning with 1972. After a fantastic 2011 the stage was set for even more great action in 2012, and initially, the racing lived up to the immense preseason hype, with Ryan Villopoto, Ryan Dungey, Chad Reed, and James Stewart each winning a race in the first four rounds of Monster Energy AMA Supercross.
Coming into 2012 the big news was Dungey joining ranks with the KTM Factory squad, now shepherded by Roger De Coster. At that time the team still hadn’t tasted victory in the 450SX Class, but with the 2010 450SX champ now in the fold, things were looking good for the newly revamped KTM to break that trend. Stewart was on a new team too, although still on a Yamaha. The two-time 450SX champ had joined forces with JGR Yamaha, who’d promised they’d be able to deliver Stewart whatever he wanted in terms of bike setup.
The changes seemed to be positive for Stewart and Dungey, as Dungey promptly delivered KTM their first 450SX win at round 2 in Phoenix, and Stewart snagged his first W with JGR at round four in Oakland. Villopoto would win the next two rounds, and with Stewart, Dungey, and Reed all consistently nailing podiums, things were looking up for an exciting season of racing. Unfortunately, the attrition rate started to spike early. Reed would be the first contender to get eliminated when he went over the bars over a jump in Arlington in a nasty crash. Dungey, who was having a great season, then missed five races with a broken collarbone, and Stewart followed suit when he banged his head and broke a bone in his hand in a heat race in Indianapolis. Kevin Windham also had issues, crashing huge in Houston while furiously trying to go back after Stewart, who Windham mistakenly thought flipped him off after Stewart had bumped his way by. Turns out it was an apologetic wave from Stewart, but Windham’s wrist was fractured, and his shoulder was separated all the same. Not even the eventual champ, Villopoto, could escape injury. After clinching the title with an incredible four rounds remaining, Villopoto tore his ACL in Seattle and missed the final two rounds. Andrew Short benefitted, taking his first and only 450SX win that night.
Watch Reed’s crash here:
Red Bull KTM had reason to be happy when it was all over. Even though the team didn’t win the championship, it won multiple races for the first time in the premier class, as Dungey reeled off a few more once he returned from injury… It had also finally produced a 450 that was competitive in supercross, and when the nationals arrived several weeks later, the team would prove just how capable the bike was outdoors as well.
The 250SX West Region title fight was a duel between Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson and GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac. As the series headed into Seattle the two of them had won seven of nine races. The points were tight, and in the main event Tomac and Wilson were really going at it, banging into each other seemingly at every opportunity. At one point Tomac even got bumped off the track and retaliated by putting Wilson on the ground. Unfortunately, Wilson would sustain a dislocated shoulder in the crash, which required surgery and would subsequently ruin his shot at running the #1 plate he’d earned the year before by winning the 250 National Championship.
The 250SX East Region wasn’t as raucous, as GEICO Honda’s Justin Barcia was having another banner year. He established a commanding lead early by winning the first four races, and he only finished off the podium once, taking fourth in New Orleans. He won his second title in a row, largely without challenge, topping Red Bull KTM’s German import Ken Roczen by 45 points.
Following supercross it looked like it was Dungey’s 450 National Championship to lose. After all, Reed and Villopoto were out, with injury. But the big story was Stewart’s return to the Pro Motocross series for the first time since his 2008 perfect season, and the fact that he was suddenly on a new bike and team! Stewart and JGR Yamaha parted ways in time for him to jump on a Suzuki and race motocross. Was Stewart still at his 2008 level outdoors? Was the Suzuki all he needed to get back to the top of the game?
Well, he made noise immediately by going 1-1 at the opener at Hangtown. Then he went 1-1 again at round two! Stewart was back in a big way and looking great on the Suzuki, although Dungey applying heavy pressure at every turn. Unfortunately, Stewart’s roll would come to an abrupt halt at Thunder Valley when he crashed on a tricky downhill section and injured his hand. Footage would later reveal that a photographer had crossed the track as Stewart was charging through, and although it wasn’t a near miss, it was likely enough to break Stewart’s concentration in a section that required all of it. Stewart missed several rounds and wasn’t ever able to regain his early-season form.
Mike Alessi at the Lake Elsinore National. Simon Cudby Mike Alessi at the Spring Creek National. Simon Cudby Ryan Dungey at the Freestone National. Simon Cudby Ryan Dungey at the Freestone National. Simon Cudby Ryan Dungey at the High Point National. Simon Cudby Ryan Dungey at the Spring Creek National. Simon Cudby
The summer then became almost a repeat of Dungey’s rookie year in 2010, when he trounced the field, seemingly with ease, at just about every round. Credit to Mike Alessi who took second over, and over, and over, and even beat Dungey in a moto at Washougal (remember the handshake that never was?). One of the more bizarre moments of the season came when Dungey crashed at Southwick and his fuel cap came off, forcing him to make a rare pit stop to refuel. No problem for The Diesel, however, as Dungey still won that day.
Watch Ryan Dungey's season recap:
Barcia, Roczen, and Baggett at the Hangtown Motocross Classic. Simon Cudby Blake Baggett Simon Cudby Blake Baggett Simon Cudby Blake Baggett Simon Cudby Blake Baggett Simon Cudby Blake Baggett and Mitch Payton Simon Cudby Eli Tomac Simon Cudby Eli Tomac Simon Cudby Jake Weimer Simon Cudby Jake Weimer Simon Cudby Justin Barcia Aaron Hansel Ken Roczen Simon Cudby
With Dungey romping to the title, the best action was had in the 250 Class. Blake Baggett, Barcia, Tomac, and Roczen all came out of the gate hard, and each kept the throttle pinned for all twenty-four motos, resulting in a never-ending supply of incredibly intense battles. The dark cloud of injuries seemed to steer clear of this class too, and most riders were able to avoid disastrous mistakes. This translated into a points battle that stayed tight all season. It would ultimately be Baggett, who only finished off the podium in six of twenty-four motos, who would muscle his way into the championship after winning five overalls and ten motos. You wouldn’t necessarily know it just by looking at the points, as Baggett’s margin of victory was 20 over Barcia, which isn’t massive, but Baggett truly was on another level in 2012, and race after race he would do eye-opening things, like jumping into the 12-pack at Freestone in Texas. His second-half charges also became famous. In races where it looked like he had no shot, he’d muster incredible speed and fitness and put in late-moto surges that are still talked about today. El Chupacabra, as it was called. When he clinched the 250 National Championship, he became the first Californian to do so since Steve Lamson in 1996.
2012 250 Class Overall Points
|1||Blake Baggett||Grand Terrace, CA||519|
|4||Ken Roczen||Mattstedt, Germany||456|
|La Reole, France||406|
2012 450 Class Overall Points
|1||Ryan Dungey||Belle Plaine, MN||580|
|2||Mike Alessi||Apple Valley, CA||453|
|3||Jake Weimer||Rupert, ID||355|
|4||Andrew Short||Colorado Springs, CO||354|
|5||Broc Tickle||Holly, MI||349|
Baggett jumping into the 12-pack at Freestone:
It wasn’t as good for Baggett, Barcia and Dungey at the FIM Motocross of Nations, because the event was held in a deep sand in Lommel, Belgium and it quickly became clear the Americans didn’t have the pace on such specialized terrain. Only Barcia showed even podium level speed on his Honda 450, but Dungey and Baggett were having their problems. Team USA’s 2005-2011 win streak at the event was over. The German team, which had come so close to winning in Colorado in 2010, came through this time. Roczen and Max Nagl led the way, and third man Marcus Schiffer came through with a solid-enough ride in the final moto to lock down the nation’s first-ever ‘Nations victory.
MX of Nations - NationsSeptember 30, 2012
|Maximilian Nagl||3||Race 1 (MX1 + MX2)||MX1||KTM|
|Ken Roczen||4||Race 2 (MX2 + Open)||MX2||KTM|
|Ken Roczen||5||Race 1 (MX1 + MX2)||MX2||KTM|
|Maximilian Nagl||6||Race 3 (MX1 + Open)||MX1||KTM|
|Marcus Schiffer||7||Race 2 (MX2 + Open)||Open||Suzuki|
|Marcus Schiffer||14||Race 3 (MX1 + Open)||Open||Suzuki|
|Ken De Dycker||3||Race 2 (MX2 + Open)||Open||KTM|
|Clement Desalle||4||Race 1 (MX1 + MX2)||MX1||Suzuki|
|Ken De Dycker||5||Race 3 (MX1 + Open)||Open||KTM|
|Clement Desalle||7||Race 3 (MX1 + Open)||MX1||Suzuki|
|Jeremy Van Horebeek||10||Race 1 (MX1 + MX2)||MX2||KTM|
|Jeremy Van Horebeek||38||Race 2 (MX2 + Open)||MX2||KTM|
|Justin Barcia||3||Race 3 (MX1 + Open)||Open||Honda|
|Blake Baggett||6||Race 2 (MX2 + Open)||MX2||Kawasaki|
|Ryan Dungey||7||Race 1 (MX1 + MX2)||MX1||KTM|
|Ryan Dungey||9||Race 3 (MX1 + Open)||MX1||KTM|
|Justin Barcia||14||Race 2 (MX2 + Open)||Open||Honda|
|Blake Baggett||14||Race 1 (MX1 + MX2)||MX2||Kawasaki|