Is this what Spring Break feels like? After two bitterly cold weekends in Indiana, the pro circuit has headed South for the next portion of the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross Series, a month-long stay that started with the 2021 Orlando One Supercross.
By now you know about the 14-year break between visits to Camping World Stadium, that the track was a replica of the 2007 layout Ricky Carmichael raced in his final SX before retirement, that it rained in the morning, and that we’re getting to the nitty-gritty of this year’s 17-race tour.
This week in Florida will be key. With no Tuesday race to worry about, riders are going to make use of everything in the Sunshine State has to offer or will retreat to their chosen home bases. Teams that hope to hone in on their setups will join the racers for daily practice sessions at the riding facilities located throughout, guys will train in the heat looking for an extra edge, and everyone will take a minute to regroup before we charge into the middle and end of the championship.
Here’s what we saw on Saturday. Enjoy.
We arrived at Camping World Stadium on Saturday morning just as storm clouds hovered overhead and the AMA released the abbreviated schedule for the afternoon, then watched as the torrential rain rolled off of the tarp-covered track and into the venue's drains. It was enough to prompt a last-minute run to the store for rain boots and towels, just in case...
When the rain stopped on Saturday, the track workers removed the plastic covers, which revealed a mostly dry course, and worked to channel the standing water off to the edges of the stadium floor.
Proper Prep Prevents Poor Performance. Dirt Wurx and Feld knew that rain would be a factor at Orlando One, which prompted them to cancel Friday's press riding session and keep the track covered on Saturday morning. Smart call.
The Orlando dirt was something we were very curious about leading up to the race. When you think of Florida, you think of bottomless sand and black soil, so it's a bit surprising to see bright red clay. This dirt is kept on-site at Camping World Stadium (there's a big pile in a corner parking lot) and reminded us of the OEM SX test tracks in Corona, California.
Jett Lawrence pulled something special into the stadium on Saturday: a signature OGIO 9800 gear bag. Sounds like the collab luggage will be part of an upcoming merch collection by the Team Honda HRC rider; his last drop on jettson.co sold almost immediately.
Ride red. Although the production version of the all-new 2021 Honda CRF450R didn't get the warmest welcome in test reviews (slight bog, off the mark suspension settings), the bike's limited retail inventory has sold out, and it has an incredible record at the highest levels of racing. Ken Roczen is currently leading the 450 SX championship on his Team Honda HRC AMA-spec machine, and Tim Gajser claimed the 2020 MXGP title on a works version built by Team HRC.
Mud Prep Step One: SC1.
Will Colt Nichols add a number one plate to the door on the Star Racing rig? The transformation the team has undergone in the last ten years is impressive and matches up with Yamaha's improvements of the YZF line, with both groups now near the top of their respective divisions. Oh, and the team has two title contenders on the West Coast region.
Okay, bear with us if this is hard to follow because we're learning about this too. Last week we noted how the Rides Unlimited KTM is supported by Earl Enterprises, owners of Buca Di Beppo restaurants. This week, the riders had graphics and helmets featuring branding from Mr. Beast, a YouTube vlogger known for charitable videos and expensive performances that are watched by millions of subscribers. What's the connection? The Mr. Beast brand is apparently big enough to merit being part of Earl Enterprises Virtual Dining Concepts program, which is celebrity restaurant brands delivered through Doordash/Ubereats style platforms.
The teams weren't worried about a mud race, as the spare wheels on their trackside carts were prepped with standard-issue knobby tires, not the scoop that would be necessary for the slop.
What do you think this spells? Answer revealed later in Kickstart.
Pre-Ride Relaxation With Mitchell Oldenburg
Want to win a Red Bull helmet? The energy drink and Marvin Musquin have decided to auction off the custom painted lid that he wore during the Houston Supercross rounds (it was the one with Texans-Rockets-Astros sports logos and NASA space shuttles). The proceeds will go to Wings for Life USA, a spinal research charity supported by Red Bull, a cause that is close to Musquin. The current bid is $3,100, and the auction ends on Saturday afternoon. www.charityauctionstoday.com/auctions/MMGC-21148
The Orlando races are going to be an important time for Eli Tomac. The Monster Energy Kawasaki isn't known for prowess on slick tracks, something you could blame on a heavy throttle hand and constant clutch use, but he still claimed the 450 Heat Race One win and overcame an abysmal start in the Main Event to finish in fifth place. Tomac is down 29-points to Roczen in the championship standings as the series prepares for the Daytona and Atlanta events.
Dylan Ferrandis experienced his first significant setback in the 450 Class. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider didn't seem to flow with the track, was 13th overall in Timed Qualifying, and finished ninth in 450 Heat Race Two. Ferrandis went down in the early laps of the Main Event and was run into by another rider, which per the team press release, was hard enough to knock the wind out of him and prevented him from finishing the race. Aside from the 22nd place finish, Ferrandis is all-good and will be back on Saturday.
Sure, it was a few rounds late, but Shane McElrath got the full rookie experience in his 450 Class debut. The Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda was put in the Unseeded group for the afternoon practice sessions but still put in the sixth-fastest time of the day, then backed it up with an excellent start and laps led in 450 Heat Race One.
His Main Event ride was a little more eventful, as the still-recovering rider tapered off midway through the race and was part of Anderson's crash; thus a 17th place finish. McElrath told us the intensity of the Main Event caught him by surprise and that it's something he'll have to get used to over the next few weeks.
It's nice to be outside.
It was good to see Dean Wilson back on the track. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider told swap last week that he intended to line up at Orlando One, but he would sit it if it was a full-blown mud race and not risk further injury to his leg. Wilson was on the gas during Timed Qualifying (51.700 for seventh overall), had to go through the LCQ, and finished the night in 12th place.
The patch on Shimoda's Fox Racing pants translates to "Joe."
Justin Barcia is a little beaten up after the Indianapolis Three incident. We spotted a kinesiology tape wrap around the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing rider's knee during the afternoon track viewing, an issue he said was a nuisance but not too big of a deal. It didn't seem to faze Barcia too much on the track; he finished fourth in 450 Heat Race Two (his 49.702 lap was the fastest of the race) and was in the mix for a podium finish until a mistake in the whoops caused him to run alongside the up the wall. Running full speed probably didn't feel good on the sore leg, but Barcia remounted and finished the night in fourth place.
Tongue hanging out? Zach Osborne was going all-out during this lap. Don't worry; he wears a rubber mouth guard on his bottom teeth.
We said it last week and will repeat it now: keep an eye on Jason Anderson in these next few rounds. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider is back "home" in Florida and excels on hard-packed, slick tracks. Anderson was the fastest rider in the first Timed Qualifying session, ended the afternoon ranked seventh overall, and was second in 450 Heat Race Two. He was on pace for a top-five finish in the Main Event until a run-in with Shane McElrath, an incident Anderson took responsibility for, dropped him to eighth place.
Take Your Kid To Work Day.
Seventeen races in a season, from January to May, year after year. Some of you are jaded by Supercross, and we get it, but those Instagram comments aren't exactly constructive criticism. For many riders, every SX race is a dream come true, and it was cool to see Thomas Do, a champion in France but a virtual unknown in the US, watch opening ceremonies from the front row of the stands.
Riding out to the hometown crowd. Malcolm Stewart and Adam Cianciarulo were among the elite few introduced during the opening ceremonies at Camping World Stadium. Love to see it.
Lorenzo Camporose caught a glimpse of Colt Nichols going up and into the lead in 250 Heat Race One. Orlando One was the last race of the 250 East Coast region before the extended midseason break, and yes, it's much-needed for the riders in the field. The next time you'll see these guys on the starting line will be the Salt Lake City One Supercross on April 24.
This has been a career-defining year for Colt Nichols. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider probably liked that he was overlooked in the preseason, and with a string of wins and podium finishes, he controls the East Coast region as they go on break. Is it time to consider Nichols a contender for the Pro Motocross season?
Winning is Nichols' standard for success now. He was visibly frustrated after the moto was over but admitted that he couldn't do what was necessary (get around lappers, make a clear run at Lawrence) to win the Orlando One Main Event. He's ahead by eight points in the standings.
Shoutout for Vincent Luhovey. The Pennsylvania privateer is a rookie in the East Coast region, and despite limited time on a full-blown SX track, has already made the cut for two Main Events. Luhovey funds his racing effort by pouring concrete for the family's construction company.
Holeshot. Max Sanford, another rookie on the 250 East Coast region, aced the start in 250 Heat Race Two and led the pack down the first rhythm lane. There's no denying that the East Coast region has been a little strange, and with most of the expected front-runners on the sidelines, unknown and less-experienced riders have filled the void. The 250 Class is supposed to be for the development of riders that are early in their career, after all...
Christian Craig's crash in 250 Heat Race Two was rough. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider asserted himself as the rider to beat at Orlando One, as he posted the fastest laps in both Timed Qualifying sessions and looked poised to win the sprint race. The way Craig favored his right wrist caused some concern, and he was unable to lift the bike by himself...
After some Craig returned to the line the LCQ, gutted out a crucial win and got a gate in the Main Event. CC said that his grip strength was lacking during the long race, which was probably taxed during laps on the technical track, and he pushed on to finish the feature in third place. Craig has been tested multiple times this year, so this time off will much-needed and will let him be ready for a final push in April.
Shoutout to Josh Varize. The Orange Brigade KTM rider has been impressive in his rookie run in the 250 East Coast region and put in a season-best sixth-place finish at the Orlando One Supercross, a nice result to carry into the break. Varzie has steered clear of the usual issues that riders face in their first year of SX, made every Main Event, and is now ranked eighth in the overall standings.
Just another moto at Robbie Reynard's place.
Seven rounds, seven Main Events. Kyle Chisholm kept the streak going at Orlando One and finished the 450 Main Event in 19th place.
Thor MX gear, Bell Helmet, KTM with a number 2. Cooper Webb had the McGrath look dialed at Orlando One. Thor MX originally made this style in 2002 and revived it as a one-off for the Red Bull Straight Rhythm in 2019. The response to the retro look was enough to warrant it being in their 2021 collection, and it's now available through Parts Unlimited retailers.
Welcome back, Tyler Bowers.
The matchup everyone waited for came together in 450 Heat Race Two when Vince Friese ran ahead of Justin Barcia and held off his new rival for a few laps. Like everyone at the stadium, we were waiting for the two to run into each other, but they kept it civil during the pass exchange, and Barcia came out ahead.
Weekly acknowledgment for the guys doing a lot with a little. Devin Harriman chipped a bone and tore a ligament in his wrist at Indianapolis Three, then had his elbow slashed open in practice at Orlando Three. Despite a limited range of motion and some stitches, Harriman gave it his all and finished the LCQ in fifth place.
After numerous attempts, Alex Nagy qualified for the first Main Event of his career. He celebrated the third-place result in the LCQ with an impressive whip. Congrats, Alex.
Jeremy Hand has gone through the usual ups (sixth-place finish at Indianapolis Two, strong pace late in the race) and downs (DNF at Orlando One).
Justin Starling and Fredrik Noren, two riders that went all-out for third and fourth-place finishes in the 450 LCQ and qualified for their first Main Events of the 2021 season. Starling ended the night in 20th, Noren in 21st.
Austin Politelli missed Indy Two and Three after a hit to the head and returned at Orlando One, but experienced some more post-concussive symptoms and was far from race-pace. The HRT supported rider will take the necessary steps to recover. Feel better, AP981.
Adam Enticknap and Tyler Bowers came together early in the LCQ, a collision that ended either rider's hopes for making the Main Event. Enticknap voiced his frustration with Bowers as they regrouped, and Bowers acknowledged that his mistake was the cause of the crash.
Jett Lawrence put in a start-to-finish run at the front and scored his second 250 Main Event of the season. The Team Honda HRC rider is far from full strength (he says his shoulder is 75-percent healed from Indy Two), so his self-control and bike skills were put to the test on his way to the checkered flag at Orlando One. An SX championship is out of the question now, but this is one to grow on.
The crowd reaction to Lawrence is something. The limited fans in the stands showed overwhelming to the teenager at Houston, Indianapolis, and Orlando, and he was cheered by the masses on the walk out of the stadium on Saturday night.
The starting grates require their own sort of pre-race prep. When riders rolled onto the track for their Main Event sighting lap, mechanics started to clean the mud from the metal grid.
Although some of the mechanics take scrub brushes to the starting line with them, many figured out that their hands and rags were the best way to clear away the heavy, wet clay.
The work continued when the riders returned, as the attention turned to getting mud off of the tires, first by spinning the rear wheel on the metal backstop...
And finally, wiping the center knobs off. Overkill? Not at all. Every 450 Class rider we've talked to this year has said that a start is crucial for a good result, and they'll do whatever it takes to get near the front in the early moments of a moto.
We've got a Moto Tip with Zach Osborne about starts that will hit the site later this week. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider said that he changed a few things before the gate drop this week, and it earned him a much-needed holeshot in the 450 Main Event.
Aaron Plessinger's progress continues. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider ended the Orlando One Main Event in sixth place, and with 8-16-7-9-5-11-6 results through seven rounds, is now ninth in the championship standings.
Thanks for the accidental lighting assist, GuyB.
Assorted Action Shots From The 450 Main Event At The Orlando One Supercross. Think of them as postcards.
Marvin Musquin has no major hangups with his left leg. The Red Bull KTM rider missed all of 2020 SX after repeat injuries to the ligaments in his knee but didn't seem to mind dragging a toe in this rutted corner on Saturday night on his way to a seventh-place finish.
This was a big ride for Cooper Webb. The Red Bull KTM rider tried everything from pre-race head games to all-out pushes in the final laps to beat Roczen during the Indianapolis rounds but came up short each time. Webb wasted no time in the 450 Main Event at Orlando One, and when an opportunity to pass Roczen and Brayton in one sweep occurred, he took full advantage of it and went on to the race win.
We're entering the time of year when Webb usually excels, and his win on Saturday brought the championship gap down to 13 points between leader Roczen and himself. Things are about to get interesting.
How new were the Fox Racing goggles Ken Roczen wore during the Main Event? We noticed the production tag was still on the strap.
The rutted flat turn after the finish line wasn't a simple section. Riders all dropped into the same long rut and ripped through the dirt down to the base of the track...
What was the base? A piece of thick black plastic. Dirt Wurx laid the sheets down to protect Camping World Stadium's turf before the dirt was dumped on top, but the powerful bikes soon chewed through the topsoil and were down to the slick surface in a matter of laps. Imagine trying to get on the gas of a 450 while going through this turn with one of the world's best riders on your rear fender.
"Hey Kid, Catch! Wow! Thanks, Mean Joe!" This kid went home with the first pair of FMF Vision podium goggles. Thanks for reading Kickstart.
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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