It’s over! The 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is over and we’ve got two new champions in Cooper Webb (250MX) and Ken Roczen (450MX). Both riders, especially Roczen, handled their competition with relative ease. Webb just had to wait for a wrist injury to get better before he laid down his ass-kicking.
We’ve got some more racing to go though before it’s full supercross testing mode, including the next two weekends that will feature a USGP. It’s interesting to see what happens this weekend in Charlotte on a track that no one’s ridden. I think, judging by last year, the USA based riders should all be near the front at Glen Helen as they’ve all ridden there so much, but this weekend it could be some great racing. Look, I know everyone wants to see the Webb/Herlings battle and most likely that will happen. But it says here that watch out for Pro Circuit’s Austin Forkner who’s been better than Webb the last couple of weeks and just won his first 250MX national. Webb’s the champ but Forkner may well use his youthful exuberance to make a statement this weekend.
In the 450’s, I expect that Eli Tomac will be in the mix with Honda’s Tim Gajser for the win. If Gajser takes the top spot that wouldn’t surprise me in the least. This guy’s the real deal. Romain Febvre, Justin Barcia and ol’reliable Antonio Cairoli will fight it out for third methinks. Anyway you look at it, there will be some good racing under the lights Saturday night. I just feel sorry for the team guys that can’t quite say “we’re done" quite yet.
Don’t look now but one of the most successful 250 teams in America might just be back on top real soon. Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s had a rough go of it the last few years with injuries and some signings not working out, but they had a very good outdoor series with Joey Savatgy, Austin Forkner and Adam Cianciarulo. Wins, holeshots, fastest qualifiers and many laps led are a good sign and next year those three, plus Justin Hill who's returning the team, could be just the ticket owner Mitch Payton needs to get another number one plate. I spoke with the winningest team owner in the sport after Indiana to talk about Forkner’s win, the season that was and the future.
MX Vice: Forkner got his first overall today in a dominant fashion and I don’t think anyone thought he was this good outdoors. What an outdoor season for the guy.
Mitch Payton: Yeah, honesty, we didn’t have an expectation because everybody wants to ask that. I don’t think that’s worth saying because everybody just gets talking. We were going to start the season, see where it was and build on it, build on it, build on it. Then it got better and better and better and I had talked to him too and just said the way he was riding, with the right circumstances, good starts, you’re going to win a moto. You win a moto, you can win an overall. He finally got a moto at Washougal, and then here. First moto he was epic. Really, really good. Stayed on it. Was great. Then second moto he was right there too and then he had a little crash and still got the overall, so I’m really happy for him.
Joey Savatgy, what’s been going on with him a little bit? He’s obviously got some issues in the second half of the season.
We’re not sure. He’s just tired. He gets tired. He’s exhausted. We’re getting some blood tests done on him and we’ll have some results. We got one set of results but we’re getting some more. We’ll have those next week. It’s almost like too little, too late. But it kind of crept up on us before everybody thought it was serious. There were some races too where he threw it away, with a crash here, a crash there and stuff like that. I think it just built up to where it was hard to get out of the hole, but we’ll get it figured out. Obviously I think he’ll be a contender in both supercross and outdoors next year.
The last few races we’ve seen Tonus, AC and Joey not finish motos after having pretty good first motos at times. I made a joke about you absolutely losing your mind. Were you, or are you? Each guy’s got a specific issue maybe and you’re okay with that?
No, I’m not alright with it because I don’t think it should happen. The one thing is I believe in all my guys. They’re all putting in the work. I think they’re all doing the things they need to do. Adam once again was hurt in supercross, didn’t ride. Was trying to get ready for outdoors. Didn’t have a ton of time, but we wanted to do it. Our goal for Adam was I want to go the whole series. I want to finish races. I want to get a base underneath him, because he’s been hurt for a while. He’ll be much stronger next year just by doing this. I think that’s awesome. Joey, we didn’t expect and we knew Arnaud was coming off of Epstein Barr. It just tore him down pretty bad and it’s taken a long time to build back up.
So, no, not happy about it but I've got to say that I don’t think it’s through lack of effort by any of them. I know Adam puts in the work, Joey’s putting in the work, and Arnaud is putting in the work. Austin, he’s at Robbie’s house too and he’s putting in the work. So they’re all doing what it takes to be good. It’s just how it works out sometimes.
So you’re not sending them all running shoes the next morning like you did with Nick Wey, Nathan Ramsey and those guys?
No. Back then everybody kind of did their own thing there too. Back then that started early in the series and it just didn’t seem like it was getting any better. Everybody now it seems like has a program. All the good kids, they really do try to focus on the program and they stick to it. It’s like anything. You want to believe in your guys, so I believe in what they’re doing and we’re going to stick to it. I think next year we’ll have a kick-ass team. I think we’re going to have guys that supercross and outdoors, we’re going to be for sure winning lots of races.
Tyler Bowers came out and said that you had told him we’re thinking about you, but in the end we’re not taking you in 2017. I found that a little bit surprising, to be honest, I thought you’d put him on a 250SX West ride.
I would say this year was a disappointment, but obviously it was the same thing. It started last year and it carried over to this year a little bit. He was behind the eight ball going in and he did everything he could to get ready and it didn’t seem like it was changing a lot. Then there was a lot of, just for himself he didn’t really know why. Was it fitness? Was it arm pump? Was it this? Was it that?
I believe in him. I think he’s a great rider. He wanted to ride outdoors. I didn’t think he was prepared for that, so we didn’t think that was a good idea. Then Kawi, with Josh getting his ankles done, wanted a replacement rider and I think that was cool they did it. He got an opportunity to see if he wanted to ride outdoors and he did.
Adam Cianciarulo, lots of talk about him obviously. Lots of injuries. He got through the season, like you said. Some flashes, some not-so-great motos. But in the end you’re probably starting to see this kid come around a little bit, huh?
Well, I’ve always believed in his speed. He proved that a million times in the past. I just don’t think he’s had… He rode supercross and he won his very first supercross. So we know he can ride supercross, but we have to stay healthy. I think right now where he’s at, he’s changed trainers and his program has changed. I think that’s all positive. I think it’s only going to make a better him. I think you’ll see him come into supercross really good. I think he has a great opportunity to win a series. Then outdoors next year by him riding all the races I think you’re going to see a lot better guy outdoors next year too.
Words: Steve Matthes | Image: ConwayMX