We’re in the final days of the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, and remarkably, they’re just as eventful as any other day of the summer. The 2021 Ironman Motocross had its share of results, absent riders, shifts in the standings, parts in the pits, and on-track action. Here’s a rundown of what we saw and heard in Indiana.
– First, we must mention the number of 450 Class riders sidelined by illness or injury. COVID caught up with Marvin Musquin and Max Anstie, a long illness got the better of Dean Wilson, Christian Craig was battered from his Budds Creek crash, Jason Anderson was allowed to sit out the final races in his Husqvarna tenure, and Aaron Plessinger struggled through 450 Moto One due to his Unadilla crash. The entry list was still robust, with 73 racers on the qualifying sheet, but there’s no denying this is the most injury/illness/issues-riddled season of recent memory.
– Jett Lawrence took control of the 250 Class standings with his first-ever 1-1 win in the 250 Class. The Team Honda HRC rider is up 11 points going into Fox Raceway Two, a place he knows very well, but the factor could be Hangtown, a track he’s never ridden as a pro. Cooper, on the other hand, has been a bit off in recent weeks due to alleged thumb injuries and possible illness. Who gets it done in the final races?
– Dylan Ferrandis put more points between himself and Ken Roczen in the 450 Class, which makes an early championship celebration at Fox Raceway possible (he’s ahead by a full 50-points). It must be noted that Ferrandis was physically spent after 450 Moto Two and stopped by the Alpinestars Mobile Medical unit for some initial care. Will that be something to watch for at Pala?
The weekend started with the first-ever Scouting Moto Combine, an initiative by MX Sports and the OEMs that help young prospects learn the ropes of pro racing. The 18 participants at Ironman were split into groups, coached by former pros (Bradshaw-Reed-Glover) and active trainers (Wessling-Fedorow), then put on the track for a Timed Qualifying session and two 25-minute plus one lap races. Nearly every rider we talked with at the end of the day commented about the hurried pace of race day, how little they rested during downtime, and the long duration of the Motos. Hit the homepage for a How Was Your Weekend video with them.
Chance Hymas was the favorite coming into the day, thanks to his success at Loretta's in the Pro Sport divisions and at off-road races out West. The Team Green rider got the win over Ryder DiFrancesco in Moto One, crashed in the early laps of Moto Two, and charged from the back of the pack to second place before the checkered flag. A young teenager (16), it sounds like the plan is for Hymas to do one more year of amateur competition.
Ryder DiFrancesco and Daxton Bennick went at it for the top spot in Moto Two, a good match-up that we expect to see more of in the future. The race was Ryder D's first in five months, as a broken femur cut his summer short. Bennick has spent the season learning the ropes of big bike racing and told us that he will race the B Class again in 2022. DiFrancesco left the combine with one Moto win and the overall victory, while Bennick was third overall.
In-field access during Saturday's races was another important part of the amateur weekend, as it gave the young riders an up-close look at the line choices and techniques used by the pros.
Lover's cruise. Dylan and Nastasia Ferrandis got on the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha pit vehicle Friday night, took a look at the track layout and conditions, and shared some thoughts with the AMA. The championship leader was open in his displeasure about wood chips and sawdust mixed into the dirt, an element that he and others said made the topsoil feel unpredictable.
Morning light. Jarrett Frye has scored points in 18 of the 20 Motos, with 13-8-14-10-15-10 results since Unadilla being his best of the summer. Though the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider hasn't been blazing fast this season, he's managed to avoid any big issues through SX and MX, a feat for any young pro.
Another steady result for Preston Kilroy, as the BARX/Chaparral/ECSTAR/Suzuki rider went 10-14 for 11th overall at Ironman. A look at the individual lap times shows (2:06.572 average in Moto One, 2:08.106 in Moto Two) that Kilroy can keep up with the pace of the 250 Class through a full race day.
Speed & Style
Brandon Scharer's "return" to pro racing has been solid. The former privateer turned full-time trainer/part-time racer for CLUBMX was the team's only rider at Ironman and went 14-12 for 13th overall in the 250 Class. Scharer has been dealing with a broken sternum since Loretta's (he raced in the 250 Pro Sport and 25+ Classes), making the finish even more impressive. Unfortunately, CLUBMX will not make the cross-country trip to California for the final rounds due partly to Garrett Marchbanks' recent diagnosis of Addison's Disease.
Justin Cooper's morning pace was off at Ironman, something the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha team was sure to inform him of during the early sessions. The typically quick qualifier was seven seconds down to the leader in the first practice, found some much-needed speed in the second practice, and was third overall in the final times. Watch Lawrence and Cooper in qualifying during these final rounds because the correlation of qualifying rank-Moto One gate pick could become part of their tactics.
Hi, Cade! Any guess as to what two-digit number will Clason get assigned in 2022?
Take a good look because it won't be around much longer.
We caught Aaron Plessinger in the middle of a starting line change in the morning practice. What was up? AP accidentally put on boots that belonged to Dylan Ferrandis and had the team bring his kicks down to the track. Alpinestars is known for tailoring products to suit a racer's request, and because boots are the principal point of contact between rider and bike, they offer different traction patterns and booties to the pros.
Ironman was a big day for Bryce Hansen: the Kawasaki-mounted privateer finished 20th in 450 Moto Two and scored his first point of the 2021 summer. The Wisconsin rider was in the action track for most of the summer, as the far-off Fox Raceway One and Washougal were the only four Motos he missed of the entire series.
Hate to see it. Jalek Swoll's wild crash in the first practice (you can the whip gone wrong clip on his Instagram) resulted in a shoulder injury for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider, and after repeat dislocations during the day, Swoll was forced to call it quits on his summer. The good news for Swoll is that his progress on the track and win at High Point have secured his spot under the Husky truck for two more years.
All seven of the major OEMs have active racing efforts in the 250 Class. It's always interesting to see how companies delegate support at the highest levels of MX, and as this shot shows, we're fortunate to have an extensive mix of bikes and brands.
An 11-point gap with four Motos to go. Who do you see winning the 250 Class championship?
Here's an assortment of bar-to-bar battles that we saw at Ironman, starting with Kaeden Amerine (432), Max Sanford (162), and Xylian Ramella (112).
Carson Mumford (39) and Levi Kitchen (147).
Maximus Vohland (115) and Jo Shimoda (30).
Speaking of Max Vohland, he is the latest addition to the Baker's Factory program. The Red Bull KTM rookie and family have developed a detailed and varied training program over the last few years to make the young rider more versatile. It'll be interesting to see what he learns at the Florida compound, where weather and track conditions are far different than NorCal or Europe.
The Jeremy Martin-Jett Lawrence races are excellent. Despite their different personalities and techniques, the two riders are an even match-up, and both are willing to go all-out if it brings them a race win. Here's their 250 Moto One spar in three frames.
Anyone else already looking forward to 2022?
Jo Shimoda told us that his past experiences at National tracks have helped him in the first practice sessions but that he needs to find a bit more speed if he wants to be a race winner. How much time does the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider think he needs to pick up? "1.5 to two seconds, not every lap, just overall," he said. "If I can have one more second in me, 1.5 more seconds in me, it'll be awesome. Because my fitness is okay for my pace, but I feel like I can push a little more and that's going to be key to fight for the front."
Joey Savatgy got a much-needed start in 450 Moto One, an advantage that helped the Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM rider stay with the key group in the early laps and finish in seventh place. Currently tenth overall in the championship and with riders ahead of him (Craig/Plessinger/Barcia) in dubious conditions, Savatgy could make up a lot of points in these last two weekends.
Stay low or send it? Coty Schock, Jeremy Smith, and Ryan Surratt made their own decisions off this big flyaway jump.
It's cool to see how Ferrandis and Roczen ride their respective bikes. The YZ450F is known for being powerful and "heavy" in a way that keeps it stuck to the ground, which works with Ferrandis' aggressive style. The CRF450R, on the other hand, is springy and nimble, traits that Roczen makes the most of when hopping around the track.
If someone at Fox Raceway One asked you to predict which of these two would have 129 laps led and seven Moto wins by round ten, who would you have chosen?
Vet Class knowledge. Kyle Chisholm and Ben LaMay have been pro racers roughly half their lives, much of that time in the 450 Class.
Now in their 30s, the two raced to season-best finishes at Ironman (Chisholm 11-10 for 11th, LaMay 12-11 for 12th).
Expect news about Husqvarna's 2022 rider roster to come out in the next few weeks. Like many in the pits, the team is set to see a few changes.
Rider service reps are very careful when washing boots between Motos as unnecessary power washing can saturate the foam, causing them to become heavy and wet. Because every ounce counts, brands like Alpinestars will blast off the heavy mud with quick spurts of a spray gun, then scrub away the dirt with rags and brushes.
Good friends Jett Lawrence and Jo Shimoda found each other at the start of 250 Moto Two, a duel where both riders knew the strengths and weaknesses of the other. "When you get around Jo, if he sees you, he's actually really good at catching onto that speed and running that speed behind you," explained Lawrence. "I knew if I could just break him a bit, I might be able to start pulling away."
RJ Hampshire put everything he had into 250 Moto Two. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider went down at the start of 250 Moto One and came from dead last to 13th place, a fair result that took a lot of effort. A much better start in 250 Moto Two put Hampshire near the front and allowed him to average a 2:03.542 lap time through the race, a pace bested only by Lawrence. Apparently, RJ was a little under the weather coming into the weekend, and the team constantly poured water on him during the post-race podium to get his body temperature back down.
Austin Forkner's results are coming at a good time, and pair of fifth-place finishes put the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider fifth overall. Forkner's never shied away from saying how he feels and has openly stated that this summer's struggles were partly due to his history of severe injuries. If he can get a healthy offseason under his belt, then next year's 250 Class will be even more competitive.
Jo Shimoda's fanbase has quadrupled this summer. The Main Event win in Utah put the PC rider on the map, and both of his podium appearances this summer have been capped off by chants of support from the crowd.
We're big fans of the razor slices riders added to their jerseys to combat the hot weather at Budds Creek and Ironman. Keep the scissors out, boys, because these last two races look like they'll have the typical West Coast September heat.
Only eight gate drops to go. What happened to the summer?
Hi, Truck Driver Taylor!
Eli Tomac got his overall win, finally. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was determined to get the W at Ironman, a track he's got a good history at, and the outside lines he used to carry speed around the course were wild to see up close. Does Eli like being in his current third place, no pressure situation? "It allows you to not really worry about anything. But at the same time, I'm not there and I haven't won an overall so maybe I actually perform when I'm in that situation. Yeah, it's a different situation but I'll take the other one (being in the championship chase) over this one."
There are a handful of benefits currently in the works to help the Racers 4 Waverly relief efforts, including a soon-to-be-launched auction of special autographed Renthal bar pads from Ironman.
"Industrial strength" and "able to stand up to Eli Tomac's abuse" are two very different levels.
Alright, we teased you with Cooper's bike in the lead image, so let's cover his podium comments, which referenced a "frame change." We've watched Webb's setup switch a few times this summer, including a move to the Renthal FatBar 36 (different flex than Twinwall, lighter weight, used by Cairoli/Prado in MXGP) and the use of various triple clamps (Webb and Musquin have had these mounted up for much of the summer). We asked Roger DeCoster what Webb meant moments after he said the "frame change," something The Man explained happened between Unadilla and Budds Creek. KTM adds a spar between the two rails of the front cradle on their bikes for SX, addition that changes some of the rigidity and remains in place on Musquin/Savatgy/Bogle's bike, but it's now gone from Webb's SX-F. It makes a difference, yes, and above all, completely legal under the AMA rulebook (material can be added to stock frames, not taken away).
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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