Author: Brent Stallo
First off, we'd like to welcome everyone to the new MotoSport Blog. While many say it, we can actually say with conviction that we are a company that lives the sport. As such, we wanted to give back to those who have given us so much over the years by supplying a home for even more motocross coverage throughout the year. We'll be updating with new features daily, so be sure and check back in throughout the week.
Now onto perhaps more important news... Hangtown and the kick off to the 2011 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. The glitz and glamor of supercross are behind us and it's time to get ready for the rough and rugged outdoor tracks that make up the DNA of this sport. And after witnessing a supercross season filled with more surprise than a box of cracker jacks we have a feeling we might be staring down the barrel of a loaded gun heading into the 12-round outdoor series.
With the first gate drop less than 24 hours away we decided to give our breakdown of the season ahead. First off, the always-entertaining 450 class.
450 Keys to the Season:
First and foremost we, like most of you, were keeping our fingers crossed that somehow, someway, James Stewart would find a way to race outdoors, and while we are confident he will make an appearance, it's not going to be at Hangtown, and it's not going to be for the entire season. As fans, we're disappointed. As businessmen, we understand the huge financial burden and what all goes into putting together a successful outdoor season and can't say that we blame James for holding off until all the i's were dotted and t's crossed. Either way, he will be missed.
With James out, who will be the favorite this year? There are quite a few ways to look at this. The obvious choice we feel would be Ryan Villopoto. True, he's yet to make it through a 450 outdoor season with all his bones and ligaments in tact, but at the same time we're looking at a new Ryan Villopoto. One that is in shape and fresh off a wildly successful supercross season. Add to that the fact that when he has been on an outdoor track on a 450 he dominated. Remember Glen Helen '09? Alessi got out to a huge lead off the start and RV tracked him down like a dog and gapped him by at least 15 seconds. While we don't think he'll be able to run away with things like he did that day in 2009, he's definitely got the speed to win a title if all goes his way.
From there it's anybody's guess. RV may be the favorite, but let us not forget the 2010 champion, Ryan Dungey, who will undoubtedly be back for redemption after having his supercross title stripped. Dungey is consistent and willing to hang it out without crashing, two very unique and difficult attributes to obtain as a pro motocrosser. He'll be carrying a chip on his shoulders this year that could definitely push him over the top.
Then there's Chad Reed, the newly supported Factory Honda rider. We're unsure if Reed will race the entire series, but are willing to bet that if the first few rounds go his way he'll be hard pressed to pack it up and watch the rest of the series on Fuel and SPEED with the rest of the country. There isn't a time over the last decade that Reed hasn't been a title contender and 2011 will prove no different.
While the above-mentioned are the likely top three contenders, there are a host of riders that will be out to ruin the party. Mike Alessi and Andrew Short both have shown incredible outdoor skills in the past and both are very capable of putting together race wins. The question with Factory KTM tandem, however, will be, can they do it week in and week out and can they find the extra bit of speed they need to win the title? Next up is Brett Metcalfe. Dungey's new teammate showed beyond the shadow of a doubt that he had the speed to win motos in 2009, but after a rough supercross season questions are being raised as to whether he still has it in him? Metty is an outdoor specialist with the heart of a lion. We wouldn't put him in the drivers seat for the title, but he'll be fighting tooth and nail for podiums this season, that you can count on.
Oh, and what about that guy from France. What was his name again? Oh, yeah, Christope Pourcel. The new Motoconcepts rider is the only one coming in with fresh legs and if the rumors that he rides a 450 better than he does a 250 are true he could be the class favorite after Hangtown.
One thing is for sure, unlike seasons past, we don't see a clear cut favorite coming into the season, at least not one that could totally wipe the floor with the competition and check out every moto. RV may have the nod heading into Hangtown, but all that goes out the window on Saturday when the gate drops and the, well, you know what, stops.
250 Keys to the Season:
If you thought the 450 season was going to be a knock down, drag out brawl, the 250 season is going to be an outright war. The list of potential winners is longer than the line for the Porta-Johns at RedBud. While we won't get into who favors who heading into round one at Hangtown, we will throw down a brief highlight of some of the class favorites.
The GEICO Powersports Honda team is coming off a superior supercross season that nearly saw them crown two title winners in Justin Barcia and Eli Tomac. Both Tomac and Barcia will be GEICO's Ace in the hole this year and after taking the overall at Hangtown as a rookie, we've got a special feeling about Tomac again this year.
Not to be outdone, Mitch Payton is fielding an extremely strong and extremely title hungry Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team this year. Tyla Rattray, Dean Wilson, Blake Baggett and West Coast Lites Champion, Broc Tickle all have what it takes to win and win often.
While one rider in particular would be hard to label as the lead title contender, the two teams mentioned about without doubt will be vying for the title at the end of the season. Not to say there won't other potentials, just saying that to bet against these horses would be like betting against the 49ers in the 80s. Not smart.
Other title contenders include Motoconcepts Ryan Sipes and Kyle Cunningham, both of whom enjoyed outstanding supercross seasons and both of whom feel the need to solidify their legacy in the Lites class this year. Motoconcepts is fielding competitive equipment this year and look poised to sneak a title away from the big boys. It's going to be easier said than done, but if anyone can do it Sipes and Cunningham look to have the potential to do so.
Add to that list a very long list of talented rookies, including Rockstar Energy Suzuki/MotoSport's, Jason Anderson and Nick Paluzzi, as well as seasoned veterans like Martin Davalos and Ryan Morais and you've got a receipt for greatness.
It's going to be one helluva season and we at MotoSport are ecstatic to bring it to you through our eyes.
Be sure and check back in Monday for a full breakdown from Hangtown.