It is not uncommon for a rookie to take the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series by storm in their first year as a professional. In fact it has happened quite recently, both Ryan Dungey, and Trey Canard won their first AMA Supercross main event in 2007, and 2008. It is because of this that most rookies are now expected to come in and show immediate flashes of speed. How have the rookies of 2013 fared thus far? Let’s take a look.
It seemed logical to begin with the rider that has garnered the most press thus far, Zach Bell. But, the reason he has had so much attention is not because of his raw speed, or impressive results; it is because of the crash that he survived at the first round of the 250SX East series in Arlington. If you haven’t seen the spectacular mid-air get off then head to YouTube when you’ve finished reading this and check it out; it is one that will be make it onto the highlight reel for many years to come. Thankfully, Zach got up from the fall; he even qualified for the main event through the last chance qualifier.
However, there was some debate about whether he should have been aloud to race or not; most feared that he had suffered a concussion. I believe that this debate overshadowed the raw speed that Zach had shown at round one and continued to show at the second round in Atlanta this past weekend. Bell actually has the speed to challenge the established top four, however he is known to crash a lot; this will more than likely hurt his results this season. He managed to finish a race without crashing in Atlanta this past weekend; he was tenth in the main event, which was a step in the right direction. I do believe that out of all of the rookies we have seen so far this year, Zach has the most potential. He is a great starter (because of his size, he rockets out of the gate), which means that once he figures out how to keep it on two wheels he should be a threat.
Currently, Justin Hill (Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki) is the best-placed rookie; he sits fifth in the 250SX East championship standings after two rounds. I think that he entered the pro ranks with the least hype; this might be because he was injured for most of his last year as an amateur. Even now, I feel as though he is not getting enough recognition for his good, consistent rides thus far this year. Although he hasn’t set the fastest practice times, and he hasn’t really shown that he could challenge the established top four; Hill has finished right around the top five both weeks, which is admirable as rookies often struggle to remain consistent.
One thing I have noticed about Justin Hill is that he hasn’t really gone backwards at all thus far this year; it is reasonable to expect a rookie to grab a good start and drop back because of the pressure in their first race. However, in Arlington Hill started eighth and finished fifth, then in Atlanta he started fifth and finished sixth. Clearly, he is comfortable with the current pace that is being run around the top five.
I have been very impressed with Jeremy Martin thus far, even though he failed to make the main event in Arlington. The MyPlash Star Racing Yamaha rider has shown some impressive raw speed, and has also proven to be competitive in the 250SX East field. He was definitely capable of making the main at round one, but first turn crashes and racing incidents meant that he just missed a qualifying position. However, in the timed qualifying practice sessions earlier that day he placed third (!); undoubtedly Jeremy Martin has the speed to battle for podiums. In fact, I think that Jeremy will be the first rookie to break into the top three this year.
It seems to be normal for a rookie to debut in the 250SX East class; however Joey Savatgy made his professional debut on the west coast this year. The JDR J-Star KTM rider has had many opportunities to show his speed, as he has started upfront at most of the rounds. It [the west coast] has a much deeper talent pool, so although Savatgy hasn’t finished inside the top five thus far; he has done well against some stiff competition. After six rounds, he sits in eighth in the championship standings with a best finish of sixth. Unfortunately, Joey will find himself without a ride when the AMA Supercross series concludes, as his team is shutting down due to funding issues. But, Savatgy shouldn’t have a problem finding a ride, because of the outbursts of speed he has shown thus far.
Most forget that Jessy Nelson is a rookie, because he contested the full Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross series last year. But, this is his first Monster Energy AMA Supercross campaign, and like Savatgy he has had multiple good starts, which have helped him thus far. Just two points separate him from Savatgy in the championship standings, however Jessy has had some crashes, which have hurt him in the points. I believe that Nelson has a bright future; the structure that Troy Lee Designs can provide will undoubtedly help him.
There have been a number of high profile rookies join the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series this year, this number will only get bigger when the tour heads outdoors, as Cooper Webb and possibly Adam Cianciarulo will be making their debut. Thus far, I think we have gotten a good glimpse at what the future stars of the sport look like.
Words by Lewis Phillips