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American Analysis: 450MX Season Review

It seems weird writing a season review in the first week of September, but the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season did end abnormally early this year, in order to give the teams more of an off-season. Still, the compact schedule did not alter the results, as the Ryans (Villopoto, and Dungey) dominated all year long [shocker]. In this article, we’ll take a look at the final series standings, and how the series went for the elite 450f riders.

Since he entered the professional ranks in 2006, Ryan Villopoto has won the AMA Motocross title every year that he has stayed healthy. Now, that is remarkable and something that does get overlooked by most fans, because RV has missed three seasons with injury in the last five years. But the fact that Villopoto has managed to rebound from those problems, and win the title each time proves just how strong he actually is. In total, RV has won eighteen (of twenty four) motos, which is quite impressive. Ryan won eight of the rounds overall, as well – that is dominant. It is shocking to think that RV was not one-hundred-percent this year – he is going under the knife in the coming days to get some hardware removed from his ankle, which has been aggravating him recently. Can you imagine how strong he will be next year?

I imagine that this year was incredibly tough on Ryan Dungey mentally, as he really struggled to match the pace of Ryan Villopoto, which is a tough pill to swallow for any top guy. I mean, he was the second best rider, undoubtedly. But, that is not what Dungey expects. Overall, he won just three rounds, which is pretty dismal in comparison to his season last year. However the level of competition is really very different, which is the reason for this. Interestingly, the KTM seemed to hold him back more so this year, as he was pushing the machine a lot harder than he did in 2012. So, you heard Ryan make a few subtle, public hints about his frustration, which you do not usually hear from the robotic rider.

If there is one guy that confused me this year, it was Justin Barcia. Honestly, Barcia blew very hot and cold, and no one really has a reason why. Justin seemed to be capable of challenging the top two at the beginning of the year – but he really wasn’t even a factor in that battle by Lake Elsinore. In my opinion, the long 450f schedule probably took its toll on him. Barcia only finished in the top three in a moto nine times; if you had asked me, I would have said that he was up on the podium a lot more than that. It was not a bad season for him, but he probably expected more from himself, I believe.

I am just happy to see that Trey Canard completed the full season without having to deal with any injuries, big or small. I am certain that this was his primary goal; anything on top of that was always going to be a bonus. Honestly Canard wasn’t really too noticeable out on-track this year, as he didn’t have too many flashes of brilliance. Although Trey surely would have wanted to spend a little more time on the box, fourth in the standings is a great finish for him, especially when you consider everything that he has had to overcome. It has been a good learning experience for him; he can apply this knowledge to the title fight in 2014, which he mentioned a few times this year.

Will the real James Stewart please stand up? Although James did not score points in the final four motos, which hindered him in the final series standings, I think he would have ended up fifth in the series either way. When was the last time that Stewart finished fifth in a series, because he was the fifth best rider? It is a strange time. Obviously, Millville was the highlight of the season for Stewart, as it was the site of his one, and only win; at least that stopped his season from being a complete disaster. James also won the Motorcycle Superstore Holeshot award, despite the fact that he didn’t even contest the final round!

Interestingly the battle for sixth was hotly contested heading into the final round, as a whole host of ‘second tier’ riders were scrapping over the spot. Jake Weimer garnered the position, eventually – I think that he was deserving of it. Admittedly, the season was a difficult one for him – however, Jake came on strong at the end, as he had more of an impact on the top five, it seemed. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was seemingly deflated earlier this season, as he was frustrated about how his year was going. But he turned it around in the end, which is surely going to help his mentality going into the off-season.

In comparison to how last year went for them, this year seemed lackluster for Andrew Short, Broc Tickle and Mike Alessi. But with the level of competition much higher this, they were close to where they were last year in regard to speed. I felt like Andrew and Broc were pretty invisible about there this year, as they hardly set the world alight. In my opinion, Short had a few more high points than Tickle; the BTO Sports KTM rider finished in the top four (in a moto) twice – he came close to taking a win at Southwick, after finishing second in moto one! In comparison, Tickle finished fifth in a moto twice, but he never broke into the top four. I am willing to bet that RCH Suzuki would have liked to have their sole rider finish higher than eighth in the series.

Maybe you could argue that Mike Alessi had a quiet season too, in regard to results? But his off-track presence was well documented (remember the laser debacle?), which really raised his profile – despite the lackluster results. Following Washougal, the twenty-nine points that Mike garnered at the venue were taken away, which obviously hurt his position in the series standings. If you give him those points back he would have finished eighth in the final points standings, rather than ninth. So, it would not have made a lot of difference to him. Overall it was a pretty disastrous season for Mike, as he was not where he expected (or wanted) to be – the whole laser debacle just made it even worse.

On paper, a tenth in the series seems like an average result for Josh Grant. But, Josh actually had a breakthrough season, in my opinion. Admittedly, it was an inconsistent year for Grant, which is typical of him. However, his high points were impressive, as he became a consistent threat for the podiums positions each week by the end of the season. Unfortunately, there were a handful of issues that stopped him from scoring points six times this season. I’m sure that if Josh had scored points in three of those, he would have been able to finish up in sixth in the series, which is probably where he deserved to be.

Shockingly, Justin Brayton didn’t finish in the top five at all this season – not even in a moto! It is odd, as you would think that he is capable of finishing up there. Justin is a better rider than his eleventh shows. But, I wouldn’t put him ahead of the guys that beat him, as he isn’t as strong outdoors. I would say that the final rounds were his strongest, as Justin spent a lot more time at the front of the field. However, he failed to translate that into strong results.

Unfortunately, Tyla Rattray didn’t enjoy too much success in his final season in the USA. Tyla actually had some good individual rides. Utah was strong for him, and so was High Point. But unfortunately, there were more disappointing rides where he struggled to break into the top ten. At times, bike failures were the cause of some poor finishes – but more often than not it was down to him. It was strange to see him so hot and cold, as he is usually very consistent. I think that the return to Europe is going to be good for Rattray, as I think the style of racing in the MXGP series suits him.

Malcolm Stewart is another rider that had an odd season. At the start of the year, it seemed as though he could be on for a good year. But since he landed on the box at Budds Creek, he didn’t really make an appearance inside the top five again for the remainder of the season. I thought he would spend more time up there, to be honest. However, he seemed to settle in on the cusp of the top ten. It is all a learning experience; so, thirteenth in the series is not an awful result. In fact it is quite good when you consider how deep the field is, and that he did not get on the Honda until the week leading up to Hangtown!

Finally, shall we skip to Chad Reed? Prior to the season, I predicted that Chad would finish in fourth in the final series standings, and I was worried that I was underestimating him. But, it turns out that a fourth would have been an amazing result in comparison to how the season actually went for him. Overall Reed finished in the top ten in seven of the twenty-four races; a seventh in a moto was his best result. Honestly, it leaves me speechless looking at how the year went for him. However, Reed thinks that he can turn things around next year. I do hope that he can – if he can get a different bike beneath him, it will surely help the situation.

So there you have it – a detailed look at what went happened in the 450MX class in the 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series. In the end, the class turned into the Ryan Villopoto show. But a handful of interesting results, and storylines emerged – I am sure that those will provide us with plenty of bench racing topics in the coming months.

Words by Lewis Phillips

MX Vice Editor || 25

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