The 2021 Unadilla Motocross was another excellent moment in the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. A much-needed mid-summer break gave riders the chance to rest up and regroup for the back-half of the 12-round series, which kicked off with four Motos in Upstate New York.
Yeah, it’s a Friday Kickstart, but we got it in. Hope you think it’s a good one.
Riders are usually hesitant to put them on their bars because they become something else that could break or get dislodged in a crash, but the rocks and roost make them a popular part at Unadilla.
Get a good look at it because it won't be around much longer. Jason Anderson's upcoming departure from the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team to Monster Energy Kawasaki has us thinking about how different the two bikes will be. The most obvious will be the steel to aluminum chassis/WP to Showa-KYB suspension, but there will be a handful of other changes, including handlebars, exhausts, hydraulic clutch components, seats (import to El Hombre), clamps, brakes...
It's time to stop bashing the Suzuki. Dilan Schwartz and Preston Kilroy prove that the RM-Z is a competitive machine, with engines and suspension that anyone could get through Twisted Development and RG3.
Welcome to the pros, Levi.
What we said about Anderson a few shots ago? The same applies to Aaron Plessinger and his looming change from Yamaha to KTM.
Tools of the trade.
Justin Barcia's Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing bike will be idle for at least a few weeks. BamBam and GASGAS have already accomplished a lot in their first year together, including SX and MX wins, and are saying that this partnership could add a few years to the rider's career.
Very happy to see some of the iconic works from the Troy Lee Designs archives are being brought back into the rotation. If you have a kid, print off these coloring pages from the TLD website. https://troyleedesigns.com/pages/tld-creative-color
OCD went Jackson Pollock on Marvin Musquin's Airoh helmet. Marvin's had some great lids over the years, thanks to Red Bull for allowing the shell to be an open canvas.
Justin Bogle and Grant Hutchinson, 2014 250 East Coast SX Championship winners.
There was a little grass on the track Saturday morning. A tribute to the old days?
It didn't last long and by the first lap of 450 Moto One, every blade of grass had been ripped up and turned into roost.
Paved paradise. The Sky Shot is one of the most popular obstacles on the pro tour, so of course, a VIP viewing area was built next to it. We get it, gotta get paid, but the big white tent and bleachers were a bummer.
That didn't stop Justin Rodbell from having a short style session over the hit. Here's a casual leanback...
Followed by an old-school no-hander. We were so caught off-guard by the move that we failed to get the full extension in the frame.
Dean Wilson took the new Husqvarna team bike for a spin during 250 Class Timed Qualifying. We were impressed to see Deano at the back property early in the morning because even with a battery assist, that's a big pedal in Tech 10 boots.
Alex Martin has announced that he will sit out the remaining rounds of the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship after a crash during Moto Two resulted in a wrist injury. The Manluk/Rock River Yamaha/Merge Racing rider has faced his share of issues lately, including a concussion in February, a wrist injury in March, and a broken arm in June, which sidelined him for the majority of the season.
Stilez Robertson gave it a go at Unadilla and finished in the points during 250 Moto One (17th), but ongoing energy issues forced the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider back to the sidelines for the rest of the day. Robertson is out for Budds Creek, if not longer.
Raise it up, Bobby.
Coty Schock appreciates the buzz he's getting lately, especially the calls to get him on a PC-Star-GASGAS-Husky bike, but he told us he's in a good place with the FXR/Chaparral/Honda team. "I believe good things will come eventually and obviously good things are here. But the point of this team is to try to get to the other side and I feel like I'm slowly breaking through and just got to continue to do it and we'll do it next year as well and if the opportunity arises, awesome. But if not, you know what, that's not going to stop anything. I'm still going to work my ass off and just be me." Schock will be back with the team in 2022, likely as a full-time 250 rider.
Joey Savatgy has been very fast recently, something he backed up with the fourth-fastest lap in the Timed Qualifying. What's that saying about "working with speed?"
Costume and customized chain saw. The Dominicans came correct in New York.
Levi Kitchen rode the highs and lows at Unadilla. "In practice I felt like a lost cause out there, I think I was 19th or 20th. It was bad and I was a little bummed. I was like, 'I don't know what I'm doing.' And then first Moto came around. I think I was 26th through the first turn, got a terrible start, and worked up to 12th. And then second Moto came around and I don't know, I was pretty far in front and made a few passes, got up into fifth and then, I think I got around Vohland for fifth. I don't know, about 25 minutes, I hit a little bit of a wall, and he caught back up to me. We had a pretty good battle and then Forkner got me with two laps to go. I made a couple mistakes, but I think I went 12-7 on the day or something that and I ended up eighth overall or something. So that was my goal, to get a top ten overall. And to do that right off the bat, I'm pretty happy with that."
How important is proper sag? It's the last thing that every factory team checks before their rider rolls to the starting line for a session.
Aside from ROUGH, it was hard to get an accurate idea of the Unadilla track conditions. The morning sessions were wet and heavy, but by Moto One, the top section of the property was dry, loose, and very dusty. We did not envy any rider that was outside the top-15 on the opening lap.
Gone. When Ken Roczen got the holeshot and took off on the opening lap of 450 Moto One, we figured it would be a good day for the Team Honda HRC rider. Roczen said on the podium that he went into the "flow state," when racers are so focused that the best laps feel effortless, and it took him to 1-1 results and the overall win. KR94 didn't make up a lot of points on Ferrandis with this result, but the momentum swing could be significant through the back half of the summer.
"Hey! Did you see my gear in the first Moto?" Yeah, Cade, we did. Shoutout to Aketiv, who are offering 20% off online sales of their latest collection with the promo code SWAPMOTO.
Chase Sexton's crashes (yes, there were two) in 450 Moto One left his bike with busted body panels, but that didn't seem to bother him on his way back through the pack. Sexton told us he felt a top-10 was possible in 450 Moto One, if not for a run-in with another rider, and he saved the day with a second-place result in 450 Moto Two.
Hey riders, the track crew sees those creative lines around the rough spots.
Jace Kessler was a standout at Unadilla. The Michigan racer put in a solid showing at his last Loretta's (11th in 250 Pro Sport, 7th in Open Pro Sport), jumped right into the 450 Class, and ended 450 Moto One in 13th place. Even though 22nd in 450 Moto Two kept Kessler out of the points, the Michigan rider's 17th overall made quite the impact.
Changes like a new co-owner and Shane McElrath's recent hire at the Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM could mean the end for Bogle and Savatgy on the squad. The duo has been the full definition of teammates this summer, as they spend the week training in Florida and often find each other on the track during the weekend races, like here in 450 Moto One.
This was an excellent battle. Ken was stronger in some sections, while Aaron had the upper hand in other areas. Are you a real stat nerd? Look at the individual lap times the 94 and 7 clocked in 450 Moto One, which shows the ebb and flow of their race.
Marvin Musquin had a small moment in 450 Moto One. We don't know what happened, exactly, but the Red Bull KTM rider was motioning to his bike as he came through one section of the track, hopped up and down, and then got going again as if nothing was wrong.
Privateers had a day at Unadilla. Ryan Surratt was the highest finishing fully independent racer in the 450 Class (we like Schock, but he has Honda support) while Chris Canning, Jeremy Hand, Tyler Stepek, Justin Rodbell, Ben LaMay, Jacob Runkles, Jeremy Smith, and Scott Meshey all scored points in the Motos.
One line, three riders with Eli Tomac...
Back at Spring Creek, we pondered, "Is there another Whoop Monster waiting to take over the chainsaws and noisemakers?" Which then made us think, "Will the next generation know the joys of the Unadilla Boobs Inspector hat?" This man gives us hope.
Sky Shot style check from the 250 Moto One sighting lap starring Levi Kitchen.
One trip to Unadilla will make you realize why the original Woodstock took place in Upstate New York. The hills make for perfect arenas, with clear sightlines that allow you to see lots of the action from one place.
The Justin Cooper-Jett Lawrence duel kicked off when the gate dropped in 250 Moto One.
Popular part-time rider Luke Renzland is doing it for fun this summer. Aboard a very well-tuned Husqvarna TC 125, Renzland hustled to a 20th place finish in 250 Moto Two and scored the first points for a small-bore two-stroke since Gared Steinke.
Cooper came out ahead in the first race but was noticeably off in 250 Moto Two. What was different? "I didn't feel comfortable in the second one. It was a bummer, but yeah, definitely the track was really tough. Once you lose your flow on it, that's kind of it from there," said the New York native. "Was kind of in no man's land and I didn't really have any pressure from behind, I couldn't see anyone ahead of me. I rode around to the finish. Knew I was in fourth and that's the best it was going to get for me. I didn't ride that well on the second Moto and I didn't want to do anything stupid, because the track was definitely pretty dangerous. So glad to get out of here safe and regroup and come back swinging for the next one."
Austin Forkner is learning from his mistakes. Moments after this shot, the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider landed in the rut and went over the bars, a crash he recounted for us in HWYW. "Was top 10, ninth or eighth or something, and just went for a pass on Swoll up one of the hills. It was super rutted, and I carried a lot of speed up one of the hills and jumped into the turn. As soon as I did that, I was like, 'That was stupid. Why'd I do that?' Because I landed in rut, high sided and just really jammed by my hip or twisted it or did something to it."
Max Vohland put in 6-5 finishes for 5th overall at Unadilla, a career-best result for the Red Bull KTM rider. Is a podium before the end of the season a reasonable expectation for the rookie, or should we wait until next year?
Shoutout to Hunter Calle. When Derek Kelley crashed in the closing laps of 250 Moto One, the Yamaha-mounted privateer selflessly stopped his race to get a flagger's attention so they could safely and correctly display the wheels on the ground flag.
SML Super Fans. There were a lot of them at Unadilla. We appreciate it.
That thing is coming in strong, Dean.
What'd Chase Sexton and Ken Roczen think about 450 Moto Two? "Second Moto I got another holeshot, which my starts are... It's very encouraging to see my starts turn around this much from where they were at the beginning of the season," stated Sexton. "Pulling holeshots is probably the best feeling that you could have in a motocross race. And I just tried to ride as fast as I could. Kenny and I had a good little battle and then he got by me, he got me a little bit. And then I ended up catching him again and just got screwed by a few lappers, but it's racing and he had lappers too, so. He rode really well and he's obviously really fast, right? I mean, he's won four Motos in a row."
Roczen had similar thoughts, saying, "I actually felt like I rode a lot better in second Moto. That Chase goes that speed, that didn't surprise me at all. If there's a guy that can do it, it's him for sure. I tried as hard as I could, it's not like I stayed back. But at the same time I kind of just had confidence that one way or another, at some point, that I can at least try and make a move and yeah, I just was trying to figure out some lines and see where I can carry a little more momentum. Or get really close and carry the momentum to actually make the pass."
Sounds like Max Anstie will be in the US for a few more years, as he is now getting linked to the second spot at RM ATV-MC/WPS/KTM for 2022 and beyond. The British rider said that Unadilla shared many similarities with Matterley Basin, and he went 8-9 for eighth overall.
Jeremy Smith's return to action was excellent. The SGB Racing/Maxxis/Babbitt's Online/Kawasaki rider took full advantage of being in the first practice group on the track (450 B cut the early lines in the morning), qualified 13th overall, and went 24-19 for 22nd overall.
Euro Sweep. Ken Roczen, Dylan Ferrandis, and Marvin Musquin reinforced the notion that Unadilla is a GP rider's sort of track. Technique and precision are necessary for the long ruts and choppy lines, traits that this trio is known for.
Head-to-head runs, a single-digit difference in the championship standings, and a dark horse with nothing to lose. What'd we do to get so lucky?
Garrett Marchbanks has been plagued by problems the last few weeks, including another mechanical that sidelined him in 250 Moto One. The CLUB MX rider got back for the second gate drop and put in a 16th place result. Remember, although Marchbanks has been around for a while, he hasn't raced many tracks on the Pro Motocross tour.
Jeremy Martin's end-of-day comments were great. "Drew, our suspension guy here at Star, really made some good changes, even after Moto One. I mean, I got third in Moto One and I was with those guys and they just slowly inched away. I was like, 'We got to make some changes, Drew, so I can drive this track better and I can try to close that gap.' And he did, he executed on that. And then, yeah, just didn't have anything for the Donut. The Donut beat me there in that second Moto and he had some really good, a couple of better lines, for sure. He was riding just really good there for a little bit and I just couldn't get him, then he just managed it from there. I tried to get back up on him, but ran out of talent."
Jett Lawrence's telling of 250 Moto Two was vivid, as the Team Honda HRC rider detailed his charge to catch Justin Cooper -Jeremy Martin and his run to the win. "I had some really good lines that second Moto and just felt really good and strong in that one and yeah, ended up getting him back. Then I put a charge on JMart because he started to creep way. I'm like, 'I can't let you get too far,; so I put on good charge, got him, and I just kept charging. I felt really good. That second Moto had really good lines, had such a good flow. I barely got tired. I felt really strong throughout that whole Moto. So no, it's a pretty good day and it's just good to be back on the podium again. It's been a while."
Jalek Swoll's High Point win showed the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider is capable of being the guy when it matters, but he and the team aren't getting ahead of themselves with expectations. "Me as a rider and as a racer, the racer in me, I want to win, you know what I mean? I had little goals before the season; it was just to be top 10. Then I started getting some top-10s and then it was, 'Okay, let's go top five.' And then I won. So all that stuff went out the window and it was, 'All I want to do is win now.' And he sat me down and we talked about it and was like, 'Yeah, nobody expected you to win this year, and nobody saw it coming. You have to go back to the goals, the little goals that we were trying to achieve in the beginning.' Not saying that I can't win. Because any given day I can go out and win again or podium again and all that good stuff. But in the pro ranks, a lot of stuff has to go your way. And honestly, a lot of the races just haven't gone my way. And it is what it is. I mean, you can't do anything about it."
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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