Intriguingly, the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross series is considered the toughest series in the world by most. The hot temperatures and rough tracks of the outdoors defeat even the best of riders. It is refreshing when the tours heads into motocross, as it presents both the riders, and teams with a fresh challenge. Although the series is based solely in America, riders from all over the world will head to Hangtown on Saturday to kick off the title fight! But, how will the results play out? Well, here are our predictions.
450 Final Championship Standings
1st Ryan Villopoto
2nd Ryan Dungey
3rd Justin Barcia
4th Mike Alessi
5th Chad Reed
At the moment, I expect to see Ryan Dungey (the reigning champion) and Ryan Villopoto in a position to win the title at the final round. I think we can all agree that these two guys will be the main protagonists in the fight for this title. Although there will be a handful of riders that are going to rise to their level at different points in the series, I do believe that these two are going to be the only ones that can maintain that intensity over the course of twelve rounds. I would not be too shocked to see that Villopoto and Dungey have separated themselves from the rest of the pack by round four, to be completely honest.
But out of the two, which rider will reign victorious? In my opinion Ryan Villopoto will be the man that hoists the number one plate above his head at the final round. Villopoto has never lost an outdoor championship that he has completed. So why would you bet against him? At the moment he seems to be in the best position of his career; but he may be slightly rusty at the first round. I think that Ryan Dungey is going to win round one this weekend, because of this. However I do think that RV is going pull through in the end (similar to 2011). Although I do not think that he will be as dominant as he was in supercross, I believe that Villopoto will win a majority of the races.
Realistically, there are seven riders that could finish up in third position in the final standings at the end of the season. So out of these guys, whom do I think will end up on the podium? I have predicted that Justin Barcia will finish in that position for a variety of reasons. Although Barcia is technically a rookie, he has completed a handful of 450 races outdoors – remember when he completed a stint as a fill in rider in 2011? It was clear that he had the raw speed to contend for podium positions back then, and he has made undoubted progress since then.
Originally, I had Chad Reed pegged for the fourth spot and Mike Alessi in fifth. But, I chose to switch the two around once I had analysed the situation further. Alessi has undoubted speed outdoors, which will serve him well this year I believe. Although I do not believe that Alessi is going to win a moto at all this year, I think that Mike will find himself right on the edge of the top five at most rounds; this will eventually culminate in him ending the series there!
Chad Reed could potentially have a difficult season ahead of him. The Australian is fighting a knee issue still, which will undoubtedly hinder him at different points on the rough tracks of the outdoors. But I do think that he is smart enough to settle for whatever he can get on the days that he is really struggling. But, when he is feeling closer to one-hundred-percent, Chad will surely be in contention for the victory. Although he may not be able to push too much at certain points, he will remain consistent. Undoubtedly, this will help Reed finish inside of the top five at the end of the year at least.
250 Class Final Championship Standings:
1st Eli Tomac
2nd Ken Roczen
3rd Blake Baggett
4th Marvin Musquin
5th Zach Osborne
Although the 250 class does not have as many title contenders as the 450s, the class is going to provide us with some great action as per usual. Interestingly, there is not a clear favourite for the title at the moment. Despite this I believe that Eli Tomac will clinch the championship this season. In the past, Tomac has struggled outdoors. However, he proved last year that he has the speed and conditioning to run with anyone in the class. Although his consistency still suffered last year, I think that he will have straightened that out for this title fight. However, there is always the possibility that he could end up struggling with the heat again; for Tomac this is a big weakness.
It is undisputed that Ken Roczen is as fast as anyone, but there are still a few question marks that surround his program. Although he proved that he was capable of matching the leaders last year, he too struggled with the heat over the duration of a moto. I presume that this will not have as much of an affect on him this year. However, we have seen that it can take more than just a year to overcome this issue. Undoubtedly, this will be his biggest issue this year. I do think that if he can find a way to not succumb to the humidity, he will be right in the thick of the title hunt. It will all come down to how well he deals with the weather, though.
Intriguingly Blake Baggett does not have much movement at all in his wrist (just five percent) at the moment. I am not too sure that he can defend his title this year, because of this. In my opinion his wrist injury was much more serious than anyone believed. However reports from California suggest that he is very quick at the moment. So, would it really be surprising to see him come out and dominate this weekend? In 2012 his biggest issue was his starts; I do think that he desperately needs to improve on these this year. If Baggett can grab a few holeshots, (and his wrist allows him to perform to his potential) he could be tough to beat again.
What about Marvin Musquin? Musquin really needs to improve his raw speed this year, if he is going to contend for the championship. At the moment, I do not consider him a contender for the title, because of how off the pace he was last year. But, Musquin made some massive improvements in supercross this year. Perhaps this proves that Marvin will make some gains outdoors also? If he could recapture his form of 2010, he will be a real threat this season. All things considered, I believe that he will end the year a tick off of the top three.
I do believe that there will be two tiers in the class this year (similar to what there were back in 2012). So effectively the battle for fifth will also be the battle of the ‘best of the rest’. Zach Osborne is reportedly flying out in California currently, which indicates that the Geico Honda rider is going to be a threat this summer. But Zach has had some injury problems in the past. If he can stay healthy I think that he will occupy that fifth position, but he is going to have to adapt to the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross series again this year.
450 Final Championship Standings:
1st Ryan Villopoto
2nd Ryan Dungey
3rd Justin Barcia
4th Dean Wilson
5th Mike Alessi
What an amazing line up of riders going to gate in 450 class! It is hard to look past the two Ryan’s for the title but it is hard to pick a favourite. Villopoto is just coming off his third straight supercross title but Dungey is the defending champion.
Right now I have to go with RV because injuries withstanding when it comes down to the pressure of a title in the last moto of the series RV is the king. Dungey though is smart and just as fast and both will be utterly determined to prove that they are the best. Dungey hates losing and feels outdoors is his domain but Villopoto thinks otherwise!
James Stewart has the speed but I am not sure anyone thinks he will have the consistency of the Ryans or even finish the series. Hopefully James can stay healthy and make it a three-way battle that would be fantastic to see, but I doubt it will happen.
Justin Barcia and Dean Wilson are new to the class but will not be intimidated. Barcia has already beaten Dungey outdoors and on his day should be banging bars, literally, with the Ryan’s. Dean Wilson is being overlooked due to his injury but he is a former 250 national champion and I really think he will be a good on the 450.
Tyla Rattray is in the last chance saloon for his career. He isn’t too hot on supercross so really needs to perform on the 450 to get a big bike ride for next season in the USA or maybe even back in the GPs but I think Tyla will struggle to be top five in the championship.
Trey Canard wasn’t far off Ryan Dungey and Ryan Villopoto when he broke his leg in Washougal in 2011 but it almost two years since then and it may take him a while to get back into the swing of things. Come late in the year Trey could be challenging.
Mike Alessi always comes on strong in motocross and took the last few supercross’ off to prepare he could be top five in the series with his good starts. Unfortunately Chad Reed has been having a hard time this year and is still troubled with his knee. Racing the outdoors with a bad knee might not work out well for the Australian. The dark horse could be Josh Grant who is coming back from injury. Grant is super talented and if it clicks he might battle with the top five at times.
250 Final Championship Standings:
1st Ken Roczen
2nd Eli Tomac
3rd Blake Baggett
4th Marvin Musquin
5th Zach Osborne
I think the four main protagonists will be the awesome foursome of Roczen, Musquin, Baggett and Tomac. It is hard to look past those four as the title contenders but in just what order is the conundrum! Blake Baggett’s wrist has been the subject of a lot of rumour and conjecture with the PC boys saying he is 100% and others saying he just isn’t back to speed. Even if Baggett isn’t quite on top form at the start of the year I think he will get their by mid season and challenge for this title but not being 100% at the start of the year may cost him.
I think Ken Roczen may just edge it this season. Ken has the talent and now the experience and he believes he can do it. With the confidence from his supercross title Roczen may just show his GP form of 2011 and if he does I think he could win the title.
Eli Tomac will disagree and he has shown some amazing speed at times but sometimes Tomac can have a big crash or a bad start and that might be his undoing. But it could come down to a final moto shootout just like supercross!
Marvin Musquin is on course to show what he can really do outdoors but his smooth technical style seems to work against him in the USA on the pin it to win style tracks they have. If Musquin gets a win early he could contend for the title but if he doesn’t he may not have the confidence to do it.
The battle of the rookies is also an interesting story and if anyone is going to get amongst the big four it could be Adam Cianciarulo. For all his hype the not many are tipping him to challenge for a title which is surprising but with good starts and his talent he may figure out the pace quicker than people expect. Adam should have the speed to challenge at times but inexperience may lead to inconsistency that could cost him top five in the series. In saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if he made the big four the big five all yearlong!
Cooper Webb according to a lot of people is just as good as Cianciarulo but the simply doesn’t get the media coverage. Webb has been on a 250f for longer and if he wants to prove himself as the star rookie – this is his time to do it.
Zach Osborne could surprise a lot of US fans. Largely off the map in the USA since he has been racing GPs, Zach will be wanting to show just how fast he is now outdoors compared to the last time he raced. He couldn’t beat Musquin or Roczen in the GPs and I am not sure he will start doing it now on a regular basis, but he is racing them in his home country and you have to think he has the potential to match the top four at times.
The dark horse for the series for me is Jeremy Martin. The star racing Yamaha rider is training at Ricky Carmichael’s place in Florida and was very impressive in supercross but has his injury healed enough to let him show his potential. Another rider who could surprise is Darryn Durham. That guy is so talented but injuries have destroyed his chances at Pro Circuit but hopefully Durham can show what he has this year.
Words by Lewis Phillips and Jonathan McCready
Image courtesy of KTM Images/Hoppenworld