The 2021 Monster Energy Supercross Series kicked off with the 2021 Houston One Supercross, the first of three races that will run at NRG Stadium in just seven days time. It was great to be back at the track, especially for what’s really looking to be one of the season’s in the sport’s history, and there was plenty to see and discuss at the opening round.
Houston One marked Malcolm Stewart's debut with the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha team and he did not disappoint. Malcolm ran the pace with the lead group and finished fifth aboard his Jason Montoya-tuned YZ450F, bettering his teammates Dylan Ferrandis and Aaron Plessinger. How long before Mookie lands on the podium? Sooner than later is our guess. On a sidenote, Malcolm picked up GoPro as a personal sponsor and just started his own YouTube channel. Search "Seven Days Until Houston," then like and subscribe!
And if you're a fan of Malcolm Stewart, you surely know how much he loves fishing. At Houston, he proudly announced that he has secured a personal sponsorship with Abu Garcia, maker of high-end rods and reels. How cool is that?
Cooper Webb had a badass new Red Bull helmet paint job for the new season. There's something about chrome that really stands out... The new Bell Helmet has attracted plenty of attention and questions, but the Bell personnel we know are tight-lipped about the new helmet.
Another one of the new Bell Helmets, this one Jo Shimoda's. The Japanese rider initially transitioned into the current Moto 9 helmet when he switched to the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team and was later put into the new "unnamed-as-of-yet" helmet. Jo told us that the new lid is very comfortable and has amazing air flow.
One last Bell helmet photo; this one belongs to Christian Craig. See the areas at the bottom of the helmet where the shell curves upward, leaving the EPS exposed? We'd assume that is for some collarbone relief/protection in the event of a crash.
SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/Honda rider Benny Bloss missed the main event due to several crashes in both the heat race and LCQ. Bloss certainly has the speed to be in the main event, and thankfully he was uninjured and will be back with a vengeance tomorrow night.
New Yorker Vincent Murphy flies some eye-catching graphics on his Husqvarna FC 250... Eat R Meat is actually the slogan of R-Jerky, the beef jerky brand co-owned by Supercross privateers RJ and Robbie Wageman. Nice.
Broc Tickle told us that one of the things he was looking most forward to as a member of. the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/Honda team was getting some good starts. Well, those didn't materialize for Tick at H1 and he knows exactly why. The former West Coast 250 SX Champ joined us on today's Pro Taper Kickstart Podcast and offered some very interesting insight about the season opener. Check it out elsewhere on swapmotolive.com
The strict social-distancing regulations at Monster Energy Supercross have the pits locked down like Fort Knox. Factory teams have their semi awning windows installed so that the only peek you can get at what's inside through the entrance openings. Or maybe it was due to the chilly weather in Houston at H1? We will see tomorrow night as the temperatures are predicted to be more pleasant.
Mitchell Oldenburg's Muc-Off Honda packs a punch! The friendly rider ripped some great starts aboard his Twisted Development-build Honda CRF250R.
Kyle Chisholm's racing effort is backed by the Ronald McDonald House Charity. We asked Chiz if he wore red and yellow FXR gear to support his sponsors and being the great sport that he is, he played along for this shot. At a distance, of course.
Is SGB Racing/Maxxis Tires/Babbitt's Kawasaki rider Alex Raythe first rider to put BLUR Optics goggles into a 450 main event? We'd guess so.
Did you notice the new Honda X Fox collab gear that Ken Roczen wore at Houston One? A big push was focused on the LE MAWLR kit that Adam Cianciarulo wore, but it was Kenny's kit that really struck our fancy. A call to Fox Racing revealed that the stuff is an athlete-exclusive design and that it will not be available for sale. Bummer for Red Riders! AC will wear another athlete-exclusive tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled.
We think that helmet would be more effective if it was buckled...
Roczen's mechanic Jordan Troxell and team PR officer Kayla Mead are just two of the reasons that Honda HRC runs like clockwork.
Chase Sexton looked set to make quite a splash in his 450 SX debut when he turned in the fastest qualifying lap of the event. As luck would have it, Sexton was collected by Martin Davalos' flipping bike early in the main event and he could only limp home in 14th. Sexton is uninjured, set to race tomorrow, and even more fired up to show his true potential.
Dylan Ferrandis had a solid 450 SX debut in seventh, and his result was even more impressive due to the fact that he spent several weeks in the off-season sidelined first with COVID-19, then with a broken hand suffered in a scary practice crash at Lake Elsinore SX. Ferrandis told us in this week's How Was Your Weekend post that the class is stacked with legends, and that he is anxious to learn.
A brief mishap in Christian Craig's heat race saw him hit the ground while leading. RJ Hampshire assumed the lead, but Craig maintained his composure, reeled his rival back in, and passed him for the lead on the next-to-last lap. "The old me would have freaked out and it would have been over," Craig told us in today's Supercross Quarantine Show. "But I'm more confident this year, and I knew that I could get back on the bike and go to work." Be sure to check out the show; Craig had a lot to say!
Christian's Keys to the Race:
Be confident. Visualize a great start.
Christian's Keys to the Race:
Get a great start and take control early on.
Christian's Keys to the Race:
Ride flawlessly and maintain composure, even when you hit a Tuff Block. Win.
Christian's Keys to the Race:
Celebrate with some big revs for the crowd.
Christian's Keys to the Race:
Remember that you have to race again in three days and blowing up the engine wouldn't be good.
Christian's Keys to the Race:
Think about all of the setbacks and obstacles you overcame to get back to the podium and become overcome with emotions. Congrats, Christian!
One of the biggest downsides to the pandemic...
Dylan Ferrandis had a minor tipover in his heat race but was trapped beneath his bike long enough for several riders to sneak past. Fortunately, he regrouped and earned a direct transfer to the main with ninth.
SGB Racing owner Jason Butschky is one of the coolest guys in the pits, bar none. SoGoodBike Jason will wrench for AJ Catanzaro throughout the Supercross series, but no word on whether he will assist Catanzaro's personal vlog film crew or not...
Props to Vince Friese. In addition to being the top-finishing SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/Honda racer, the oft-misunderstood rider ran super strong in the main event - well inside the top 10 - until he was involved in a crash with defending champion Eli Tomac. Before you assume that it was Friese's fault, though, know that it was an overly aggressive pass attempt by Tomac that took the pair down. The duo again lost time a few laps later when Tomac pushed them both off the track. Vince held on for 16th and is capable of more.
Long-time JGR MX engine builder Dean Baker is now assisting the Phoenix Honda team, and reports that he has yet to really delve into the Honda CRF250R powerplant. "The Suzuki engine ran strong because we had years and years of development with it," he said. "The Honda engine is only a few years old and there aren't as many resources available from our team sponsors right now, so it will be a work in progress." With Baker involved, we have no doubt that the Phoenix bikes will be ripping holeshots soon enough.
A ton of hype surrounded Jett Lawrence entering the 2021 Supercross Championship, and for good reason. The Australian teenager is full of personality and charisma, not to mention raw speed. Several mishaps in the H1 main held him to sixth, but we wouldn't be at all surprised to see him on. the box tomorrow night.
Hey Jo-San, we haven't seen helmet hair like that since Jason Lawrence!
"I missed it by this much!"
Ken Roczen still wears a pair of Mobius wrist braces to protect himself from further injuries to his wrists. We've been huge fans of the braces since they were released a few years ago, as they provide not only hyperextension protection, but offer great support, too.
Props to our local SoCal boy, Josh Verize! We've watched "Jammin' Josh" rise through the ranks at the Swapmoto Race Series and were excited to see him compete in his first-ever 250 Supercross. Verize earned a direct transfer to the main with an eighth in his heat, then went on to race to 12th in the main event! Great going, Josh!
Another rider we had our eyes on at Houston One was our long-time test rider, Rene Garcia. Rene made the drive to Texas with Josh Verize and also competed in his first SX. Thirteenth in the 250 LCQ wasn't what he was looking for, but expect Garcia to improve quickly as he learns!
We asked Marvin Musquin what was going on in this photo from the afternoon qualifying sessions, and he said that he was upset with the timed lap he had just turned in. In-person, it looked as if a bee had gotten inside his helmet. Talk about intensity!
As opposed to the Salt Lake City Supercross Marathon, where riders were required to go to the starting line alone and prep their own gates mechanics are now allowed to accompany their riders to the line. We caught Matt Winters dropping some knowledge on Colt Nichols before the start of the 250 main, in which Colt overcame a terrible start to capture the final podium position.
Although Jess Pettis is a factory KTM rider in Canada, his support level is slightly different here in the States, and he'll be working out one of WP's Sprinter vans for the East Coast region.
Max Anstie suffered every rider's preseason fear late last week: a big crash on the last day of practice. The Twisted Tea/HEP Motorsports/Suzuki rider had a hard slam at State Fair MX, and the resulting back injury will sideline him for the first few rounds of the season. It's a shame, too, as Anstie is one of the many wild cards that could make the 450 Class results interesting.
WP had the latest version of the XACT air shock on five factory bikes Saturday (Justin Barcia/Cooper Webb/Marvin Musquin/Zach Osborne/Jason Anderson) and claimed two positions on the 450 Class podium. The suspension company has been tight-lipped about the part (they tried to keep it hidden throughout the day) but have been told that it's quite a bit different than the piece used by Andrew Short/Ryan Dungey a few years ago and significantly lighter than a traditional spring shock.
Final touches. Cooper Webb and Carlos Rivera made sure the Red Bull KTM 450 SX-F levers were to Webb's liking on Friday. Trust us; a few millimeters can make a big difference to elite riders.
WP isn't the only brand that's riding on air. Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha has long relied on KYB's PSF fork for their YZ250F. So yeah, that's four of six podiums for pneumatic suspension.
Derek Rankin joined Star Racing over the offseason and was paired with Christian Craig for 2021. Rankin has been around the paddock for a few years and has tuned for guys like Alex Ray, Fredrik Noren, Benny Bloss, and Justin Bogle, but Craig's Main Event win was Rankin's first as a wrench. Congrats, Jerico.
With interactions between functional groups limited and trips from rig to rig restricted, gear reps have turned their rental cars into temporary work sites. We caught Kyle Vara putting together the latest lid from Bell Helmets in the truck and got a good look at the carbon fiber, shell shape, and visor mount.
Although there's no facetime with riders at FanFest this year, you can still score an autograph. Chase and Jett took a few minutes on Friday to sign posters that were passed out to attendees of the pit party on Saturday. It's good to see teams taking the initiative and giving the public some free souvenirs in "these trying times" because they could have easily skipped it altogether in an attempt to save a few bucks in the budget.
We were excited to see the all-new Team Honda HRC CRF450R in person. It didn't disappoint. The engine was outfitted with the usual assortment of lightweight fasters, a billet shifter, red cylinder head, hydraulic clutch system, coated engine case, carbon fiber skid plate, and lots of unseen internals.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's KX250 was another bike we were eager to see. Mitch Payton and Co spent the latter part of 2020 dialing in the all-new engine and chassis, and it's said to be one of the fastest small-bore green bikes ever. The bike was complete with the usual PC parts, like a CMI shifter and aftermarket motor mounts, but the ongoing supply chain issues forced them to use a few stock pieces, including the clutch cover. The team expects to have their trademark billet fixture in the next few weeks.
The '21 KX250 was outfitted with the latest Showa rear shock. We'll get more info on this at one of this week's races.
Brandon Hartranft was one of three rookies in the 450 Class Main Event. The Twisted Tea/HEP Motorsports/Suzuki rider admitted that the class's intensity was a little more than he anticipated, but it's something that he has ample time to figure out.
Look, we understand that Marvin Musquin had been absent from Supercross for a while, but we weren't that surprised by the Red bull KTM rider's podium finish in the 450 Class. Remember, Musquin has six premier class Main Event wins and has been in title contention for years. It will be interesting to see how he works the rapid-fire race order, especially when the series heads to Indianapolis and Arlington, cities known for soft dirt and technical tracks.
Despite being one of the shorter guys in the 450 Class, Cooper Webb isn't concerned about having the tallest step possible; the Red Bull KTM rider could easily adjust the sliders for more lift inches.
Martin Davalos had a big moment in the 450 Main Event when he quadded into the tuff blocks and went down in front of Chase Sexton. The Team Tedder/Monster Energy/Lucas Oil/KTM rider has explained the crash wasn't the result of a mistake; it was a precautionary measure that kept him from intersecting with Malcolm Stewart's different combination of jumps through the rhythm lane.
When Feld first announced Houston as the first venue of the 2021 season, we didn't think much about it. Racing is racing, no matter where it is. Right? Not quite. Don't get us wrong, it's great to be back at the track, and the racing was excellent, but Houston One's atmosphere was nothing like what we know, love, and hate about Anaheim One...
Riders told us that it was difficult to get into the right mindset during the afternoon practice and that they didn't feel so high-strung during the night's race, two things we could totally relate to. We're eager to see what round two is like because although it'll be the first-ever Tuesday SX, the 7 PM race time could bring a sense of normalcy.
Shoutout to Kyle Chisholm. The popular privateer made what felt like his millionth Main Event with a big win in the LCQ.
Enzo Lopes' season might be over. The Phoenix Honda rider went down hard during the last Timed Qualifying session after a mistake in the long, challenging rhythm lane and was quickly tended to by the Alpinestars Mobile Medical team for shoulder and wrist injuries. Here's to a quick recovery for the Brazilian racer.
New eyewear for El Hombre. SCOTT Sports has added Jason Anderson to their athlete lineup for 2021, a deal that will make the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider a key figure for the goggle brand. Be on the lookout for some SCOTT-Team Fried content over the next few months.
Fredrik Noren knows how to do it on his own. The Swedish rider put together a privateer program as soon as JGRMX's shutdown was announced, and thanks to his quick action and connections in the pits, he has scored technical support from Kawasaki and Showa.
Gratuitous ARay photo.
It was great to see a proper opening ceremony presentation again...
John Short could have a breakout season this year. The Texas native has landed a ride with the BAR X/Chaparral/ECSTAR Suzuki, the first time he's been part of an OEM-supported team, and made it through the opening round without issue to finish the 250 East Coast Main Event in 11th place. Side note: what'd you think about the "Lite Copper" gear from FLY Racing?
The tire tap line was tight. Jett Lawrence was one of the first guys that dabbed the rear-wheel on the roller during Friday's media session, and the Team Honda HRC rider was among the elite few that managed to hit it consistently during Saturday's race.
Keep an eye on Thomas Do. The French rider is a multi-time champion in Europe's SX Tour and could be a top-10 finisher in the 250 East Coast. Do was eighth-fastest in the Timed Qualifying results, something that's rarely seen from a "B Group" rider, and advanced to the Main Event from his Heat Race.
Max Vohland had a great showing at his first-ever Supercross. Despite some hype and criticism from fans, the Red Bull KTM rider and team made it very clear in the days leading up to the race that their objective was to make it through the opening round in one piece, hopefully with a top-10 finish. The teenager did just that, as he avoided the typical rookie catastrophe during the race and ended the night in ninth place.
Jo Shimoda and Michael Mosiman had an excellent duel during the 250 Main Event, but unfortunately, it was cut short when Mosiman bumped into a lapped rider and went down. How close was their battle? Shimoda's bike clipped Mosiman on the shoulder as the crash happened and ripped the red rider's jersey.
Congrats again, CC.
How many 250 Class wins are in this photo?
Don't overlook Justin Brayton's opening round performance. The Muc-Off Honda rider was in the mix all day, as he was one of the 14 guys in the 44-second range during Timed Qualifying, finished fifth in his Heat Race, and scored a solid sixth-place result in the 450 Main Event. Need more JB10? Hit the homepage for the latest episode of the SML Show.
Joey Savatgy was solid on Saturday. The Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM rider was 10th in Timed Qualifying, fractions of a second from the top of the board, and rode problem-free Main Event for an 11th place finish. Though he won't talk it up, this was a big deal for Savatgy, as it was his first ride with the KTM team and his first SX since 2019.
Chase Sexton had the true rookie experience at the opening round. The Team Honda HRC rider set the pace in Timed Qualifying, diced with experienced competitors in his Heat Race, and got caught up in a crash during the 450 Main Event. He remounted the twisted CRF450R, rode past the work area, and completed the race in 14th.
Down, but not out. Eli Tomac and Zach Osborne faced their share of issues at the opening round and are down by double-digits in the point standings. Will they rally to podium finishes at round two?
The quad after the finish line was impressive. Justin Barcia and Ken Roczen got it figured out during their Heat Race battle and cleared it consistently during the Main Event, something that helped them pull clear of the pack. With the pace as close as it is, a rider's ability to do something that others back down from could end up being a big factor this season.
While we're on the Barcia-Roczen battle topic: their techniques and line choices prove there's more than one way to ride a motorcycle. Barcia's high-energy riding style looked wild as ever on the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing bike, while Roczen looked precise and fluid on his Team Honda HRC machine.
Cooper Webb is widely considered Tomac's key rival this season, and like the defending champion, the Red Bull KTM rider was off the mark at round one. Neither rider can afford a similar result on Tuesday, especially after the confidence boost that Barcia and Roczen just received.
This is a big win for Justin Barcia. Yes, it's his third opening-round victory in a row, but how he did it was much different from others. An excellent start put Barcia in the lead on the first lap, and he kept Roczen at bay without making contact or banging bars, a rarity from the aggressive rider. He looked quick and comfortable on the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing bike, similar to his Honda days, and didn't have many "oh god" moments. Is this a new BamBam?
There's a new level of maturity in the 450 Class, thanks to the fact that everyone has grown up, gotten married, or had kids. Justin Barcia and Ken Roczen have had their share of scraps and close passes over the years, but all of that was absent during the Houston One Main Event, as they pushed each other to the limit for 28 clean laps.
Red Bull KTM had the spool and wire telemetry sensor on Marvin Musquin's front-end during the Main Event.
Michael Antonovich has a wealth of experience with over 10 years of moto-journalism under his belt. A lifelong racing enthusiast and rider, Anton is the Editor of Swapmoto Live and lives to be at the race track.
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