What's the month of December without a look at what we should remember from the past year?
Lots of names, faces and places grabbed the headlines this year in Motocross, Supercross and all dirt bike racing in between. Tis the season to post Top 10 lists so we want to throw our hat into the ring. Besides, 2015 provided some of the best headlines and fodder for armchair riders and industry pundits everywhere.
Many of the 2015 headlines were dominated by actual people and their accomplishments or lack thereof, so this Top 10 list features mostly names of headliners. Top 10 lists prove divisive enough so we won't list this in any particular order however, giving the #1 slot to Ryan Dungey shouldn't be too hard to argue against.
So, here is the 2015 Top 10 News Headlines in Motocross (at least how we see them):
1. Ryan Dungey
Ryan Dungey simply dominated the field from January through August. His dual Supercross and Motocross Championships (both he wrapped up a few rounds early) puts him in some rare company. Dungey joined Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto and Bob Hannah as the only riders in the history of the sport to win the Supercross and Motocross crowns in the same year - twice. Dungey did it the first time in 2010, his rookie year in the 450 class.
Dungey won hands-down but it still doesn't stop some from wondering what if. . .
2. Ryan Villopoto
. . . Ryan Villopoto chased an unprecedented fifth straight Supercross Championship. Well, he didn't and the burned-out-from-riding-dirt-bikes red head from Washington eschewed retirement for a chance to cap his career with a title in the World Motocross Championship series. He didn't.
His new career got off to a rough start overseas when the engine stalled in the first race of Round 1 in Qatar and he finished seventh overall. Things got back on track in Round 2 when Villopoto showed the world why he dominated American racing when he dominated the track in Thailand and raised the United States flag straight up the middle for the first time at an MXGP event in six years.
But Villopoto's foray into the MXGPs ended in Italy for Round 4 when he crashed and broke his tailbone. A few months later and after much speculation whether he'd even return to finish the series, Villopoto called it a career.
3. James Stewart
James Stewart would not have made this list if not for some odd decision making in the last month or so. The three-time 450 Supercross Champion and three-time Motocross Champion emerged from his 16 month suspension for Adderall use with a second straight Red Bull Straight Rhythm win in October. The excitement behind his return was hardly containable when fans expected and hoped for a Monster Energy Cup win a week later. He crashed.
Then he pulled out of a much-hyped appearance in the Australia Supercross where he was to go toe-to-toe with longtime rival and Aussie Chad Reed. What raised eyebrows was the injury from his crash at MEC proved manageable at the Bercy-Lille Supercross in France a few weeks later but not in Australia a month later. After an outrage from fans and quite possibly the involvement of some lawyers, Stewart changed his mind. So, he went to France, crashed again and officially pulled out of the Australian appearance letting the conspiracy theorists decide the truth.
In 2015, it was the smaller bikes in the Motocross 250 class that resulted in some of the most excitement and bar-banging riding the sport has seen in years. American Jeremy Martin and Frenchman Marvin Musquin went back and forth all season long trading podium wins and the lead bringing the championship down to the final round with only two points separating Martin in first place from Musquin in second.
Each rider had his share of ups and downs for the season (remember Martin's bike failing to start at Glen Helen and his crew frantically trying to get it started as the gates dropped?) but it was Musquin who got the worst of it when a malfunction ended his race and Championship hopes in Moto 1 of the final round. A dejected Musquin could be seen riding to the pits as Martin cruised around the track en route to a fourth-pace finish. Musquin returned in Moto 2 with a third-place showing but a cautious Martin stayed upright finishing ninth and sealing back-to-back Championships.
Jeremy Martin (r) and Marvin Musquin shake hands after a well fought 2015 Motocross 250 class contest
Ryan Sipes really deserves the headlines here but it's what happened two months after the International Six Days Enduro ended in September that grabbed the front page.
Ryan Sipes took advantage of the Motocross portion of the ISDE to secure the Individual Overall
For his part, Sipes the former Supercross and Motocross pro turned off-road rider became the first American to win the individual overall. His performance went unaffected by the disqualifications given to eight riders who missed a punch card. Those disqualifications on Day 3 got reinstated on Day 5 vaulting Team France to first and dropping Australia, who didn't lose any riders to disqualification, into second thus ending their quest for their first ever ISDE World Team Trophy. Team Australia protested by standing at center podium on awards day before walking off.
But, last month, a judge reinstated the original penalties for the disqualified riders which dropped France to last place and put Australia into first.
6. Bercy-Lille Supercross
A day after one of the worst terrorist attacks hit France killing more than 120 and injuring more than 350, the Bercy-Lille Supercross, held just an hour from Paris where the shooting occurred, went off without a hitch. It was a strong statement from France, riders and fans that the world would go on and they would not be intimidated. American Weston Peick was crowned King of Bercy, which means he won.
In what can only be described as instant Karma, Jacob Hayes' T-bone of rival Kyle Regal in Moto 2 of the final round of the 2015 AMSOIL Arenacross Championship series in Las Vegas knocked Regal to the ground but resulted in a broken water pump on Hayes' bike. He sputtered white smoke for a few laps before riding off the track but not before Regal passed him. Regal finished ninth for the Moto, but second place overall giving him the title by four points over Hayes.
8. Eli Tomac
Quite possibly the crash heard round the world, at least the Motocross world and probably anyone who was at the Thunder Valley round this year, when Eli Tomac somehow got up from a crash that looked more like he jumped from a plane with a malfunctioning parachute. The crash ended some of the most dominating racing in recent Motocross history as Tomac looked unstoppable and up until that Moto 2 of the third round of the Motocross series, was undefeated. The racing wasn't even close when Tomac was on the track and talk of an undefeated season was already underway.
Tomac's season ended as abruptly as the crash which paved the way for Dungey to grab the book-end Championship a few months later.
9. Ken Roczen
The 2014 Motocross Champion changed teams, changed bikes, changed trainers, got hurt, had a gnarly back injury, his dad got involved criticizing his new team through a German publication, he didn't finish the Supercross season and didn't even come close to backing up his Motocross Championship.
Then he got the suspension on his bike dialed in, finished the 2015 Motocross season on a tear (2-2-2-3-1), underwent back surgery and won the Monster Energy Cup. Thus putting everyone on notice for 2016.
10. Kailub Russell
Kailub Russell shredded his Grand National Cross Country series competition this year. In fact, the biggest threat to Russell claiming his third consecutive Championship was a torn ACL and damaged MCL in his knee suffered at the ISDE a week before GNCC resumed its season after the usual three-month summer break. But Russell was so far ahead in points thanks to winning eight of nine rounds he secured the Championship by taking fourth in Round 10, with three rounds remaining.
After that, he grabbed the National Enduro Series title a round early becoming the first rider in the history of off-road racing to claim the GNCC and National Enduro Championships in the same year. Then he got his knee fixed.
Russell moved into third-place on GNCC's Bike Overall Wins list with 30 and if not for that busted knee he likely would have moved into second in front of Rodney Smith.