Red Bull KTM and Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha Off to Dominant Starts as Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Hits Thunder Valley
Through two rounds and four motos of the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, two teams have emerged as dominant forces atop the 450 Class and 250 Class, respectively. The Red Bull KTM duo of two-time champion Ryan Dungey and premier class rookie Ken Roczen have traded overall wins in the 450 Class to start the season, while Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha has posted back-to-back 1-2 sweeps in the 250 Class with an undefeated Jeremy Martin and fellow second-year rider Cooper Webb.
This weekend these riders and their competitors will face one of the most unique challenges of the season with the annual visit to Colorado and the mile high altitude of Thunder Valley MX Park in Lakewood for the third round of the championship. The Toyota Thunder Valley National will mark the 10th year the facility has hosted a round of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship competition, which will commence on Saturday, June 7.
Last weekend at the Hangtown Motocross Classic, Roczen broke through for his first career win in the 450 Class with a dominant 1-1 performance the proved he's ready to go head-to-head with his teammate for the most prestigious title in the sport. One week after the German rookie let the win slip away to Dungey on the final lap at Glen Helen, he responded with a confident performance in which he was undoubtedly the rider to beat throughout the afternoon. While Dungey minimized the damage by securing runner-up finishes in each moto, giving Red Bull KTM its second straight 1-2 sweep as well, Roczen was able to assume control of the points lead and will wear the red number plate for the first time in his 450 Class career on Saturday at Thunder Valley.
The only rider in the 450 Class to consistently challenge the KTM dominance thus far is Team Honda Muscle Milk's Trey Canard. Despite missing virtually the entire first half of the 2014 racing season due to injury, Canard has been on point to start the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and has quietly posted back-to-back third place efforts in the first two rounds. Hangtown also saw the emergence of Monster Energy Kawasaki's Brett Metcalfe, who led a significant portion of the final moto and has been a consistent presence in the battle for the top five. Thus far Metcalfe's fill-in duty for injured defending champion Ryan Villopoto has gotten off to a solid start, and he is sure to only get better as he acclimates to the bike. At Thunder Valley, these two riders in addition to Team Yoshimura Suzuki's James Stewart and Team Honda Muscle Milk's Justin Barcia will do all they can to bring KTM's supremacy to a halt.
While initially considered to be a wide-open battle for the title, the 250 Class has become a showcase of Martin's rise to stardom and the ascension of the Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha squad. The second-year rider was an underdog in the discussion for championship contenders coming into the season, but through the first four motos of 2014 no one has even come close to challenging him and now he's a perfect 4-0 in four motos. Winning at the elite level is new to Martin, but considering how well he's handled the newfound pressure of being the "it" rider of the division, one would think he's used to being in the spotlight. With his success Martin has already turned the assumed parity of the 250 Class into a runaway, with only his teammate sitting less than a full moto's worth of points of him in the standings.
If not for the convincing way in which Martin has won this season, Webb's fast start to 2014 could easily be one of the series' top storylines. A highly touted rookie last season, Webb is living up to expectations so far even though he's been forced to chase his Star Yamaha counterpart. Sitting 12 points out of the 250 Class lead, Webb is the only rider up to this point to show he has the ability to stop the perfect record Martin has compiled thus far, and will look to do so at Thunder Valley.
The end result of this duo's incredible start has been the overdue emergence of the Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha effort that had never won a Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship race prior to this season, despite being one of the longest running teams in the sport. Team owner Bobby Regan changed his approach to racing a couple years ago and placed an emphasis on developing the sport's promising young talent. That strategic move is now paying big dividends and has been celebrated by the racing community.
Behind Martin and Webb, the aforementioned parity expected in the 250 Class has been apparent. Whether it be Valli Motorsports Yamaha's Christophe Pourcel, the GEICO Honda trio of Justin Bogle, Zach Bell, and Matt Bisceglia, the Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs Honda tandem of Cole Seely and Jessy Nelson, Rockstar Energy Racing KTM's Jason Anderson, or the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki duo of Blake Baggett and Justin Hill, each of these riders has taken advantage of the opportunity to battle for the podium at some point during the 2014 season. It's clear that the bulk of the field is close on speed, but consistency has been the biggest challenge thus far for everyone other than Martin and Webb, and it's why there's a surprisingly large gap in the championship standings between the Yamaha riders and everyone else so early on.
While early trends have already been established in just two rounds of action this season, the high altitude of Thunder Valley can always prove to be a wild card in how the racing unfolds. While getting the powerful four-strokes to perform in the horsepower-robbing conditions of the Denver area isn't as difficult as is used to be, the dramatic elevation changes and sometimes unpredictable weather of Thunder Valley still makes it unlike anywhere else in the world. As a result, Thunder Valley is a place where any rider or team can misstep, opening the door for a possible shakeup in the championship.
In its 10 years of hosting the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, Thunder Valley has grown to become one of the premier facilities in the world. While its mountainside setting provides incredible panoramas of the greater Denver area and one of the most picturesque backdrops of any motocross track on the planet, its distinction of being the site of the first ever night motocross race in 2008 and the host venue for the 2010 Motocross of Nations has cemented Thunder Valley's legacy in the sport's history.
Last year at Thunder Valley signified an afternoon of firsts as both Villopoto and eventual 250 Class Champion Eli Tomac captured their first career wins at the track. Villopoto was dominant in the 450 Class, posting a 1-1 effort, while Colorado native Tomac needed a win in the final moto to ensure his inaugural triumph at his hometown race. Unfortunately, neither rider will have the opportunity to repeat his efforts this weekend as both currently sit sidelined by injury.
Another rider to keep an eye on Saturday afternoon is crowd favorite Andrew Short, who will carry the torch for state of Colorado. The BTOSports.com KTM rider was born in nearby Colorado Springs and always seems to step up his efforts at Thunder Valley. The veteran hasn't had an easy go of it thus far in 2014, but his hometown race is a great opportunity to turn things around in his 13th season of full-time competition.
Action for the 10th Annual Toyota Thunder Valley National this Saturday, June 7, begins at 10:30 a.m. ET with timed practice. Opening ceremonies get underway at 2:25 p.m. ET, with the first gate drop scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET.
Previous Round Results
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship
Hangtown Motocross Classic - Rancho Cordova, California
May 31, 2014
Round 2 of 12
450 Class (Moto Finish)
1. 1. Ken Roczen, Germany, KTM (1-1)
2. 2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM (2-2)
3. 3. Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda, (3-4)
4. 4. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki (5-3)
5. 5. Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., Honda (4-5)
6. 6. Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki (8-6)
7. 7. Jake Weimer, Rupert, Idaho, Kawasaki (7-8)
8. 8. Brett Metcalfe, Australia, Kawasaki (6-9)
9. 9. Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki (10-7)
10. 10. Chad Reed, Australia, Kawasaki (11-12)
450 Class Championship Standings
1. 1. Ken Roczen, Germany, KTM, 94
2. 2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 89
3. 3. Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda, 72
4. 4. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 66
5. 5. Brett Metcalfe, Australia, Kawasaki, 61
6. 6. Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., Honda, 52
7. 7. Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki, 52
8. 8. Jake Weimer, Rupert, Idaho, Kawasaki, 52
9. 9. Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 51
10. 10. Josh Grant, Riverside, Calif., Yamaha, 43
250 Class (Moto Finish)
1. 1. Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Yamaha (1-1)
2. 2. Cooper Webb, Morehead City, N.C., Yamaha (2-2)
3. 3. Christophe Pourcel, France, Yamaha (8-3)
4. 4. Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki (4-6)
5. 5. Jessy Nelson, Paso Robles, Calif., Honda (7-5)
6. 6. Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., KTM (10-4)
7. 7. Marvin Musquin, France, KTM (9-7)
8. 8. Zach Bell, Cairo, Ga., Honda (5-12)
9. 9. Matt Bisceglia, Weatherford, Texas, Honda (13-8)
10. 10. Justin Bogle, Cushing, Okla., Honda (3-35)
250 Class Championship Standings
1. 1. Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Yamaha, 100
2. 2. Cooper Webb, Morehead City, N.C., Yamaha, 88
3. 3. Christophe Pourcel, France, Yamaha, 63
4. 4. Jessy Nelson, Paso Robles, Calif., Honda, 51
5. 5. Marvin Musquin, France, KTM, 50
6. 6. Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., KTM, 49
7. 7. Justin Bogle, Cushing, Okla., Honda, 48
8. 8. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., Kawasaki, 48
9. 9. Matt Bisceglia, Weatherford, Texas, Honda, 45
10. 10. Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki, 43