Usually, ‘silly season’ is in full swing by now with rumours about many riders. However it has been a bit quiet thus far this year, as all the talk has revolved around Eli Tomac. Now that we know what awning Eli Tomac will ride out of in 2014, the floodgates will open, and a handful of other deals will be signed. So, what do we think about Tomac’s decision to stay with the Geico Honda squad? It’s all right here.
Although there were many, many teams fighting over the signature of Eli Tomac, there is no doubt in my mind that he made the right decision by sticking with the Geico Honda squad. It seems like a bit of a no-brainer really, considering the team quite clearly wanted him to stay with them. So, why spend all this time dragging the process out, and shopping around? Well there was quite a bit that went into the decision, as you would expect.
When Eli Tomac stepped up to the 450 for a handful of rounds in the midst of the supercross season, most expected him to set the world on fire – the reality was much different. Instead, Eli struggled to contend for the podium positions most presumed he would garner. Why was this? Eli mentioned that he just did not gel with the 2013 Honda CRF450, and he struggled to find the right setup for him. So Tomac made the decision to ride the other bikes just to see if they would suit him better. The RCH Suzuki team flew out to Colorado to let him get a better feel for their bike; Eli tested the Yamaha too. In the end, he elected to return to his old team. Clearly, the grass was not greener on the other side.
If you are an Eli Tomac fan, you may be concerned that the Geico Honda team isn’t a factory squad. However, Honda had already confirmed that they would lease Eli a factory bike; so it is similar to the situation he would have been in had he signed with RCH Suzuki. What about the fact that Tomac wasn’t too happy with the bike earlier this year? You have to remember that the 2013 bike is a next generation model. By the time the off-season comes around, all of the technicians and teams would have had a year on the machine; the knowledge gained in that time will be invaluable.
What are some of the other advantages to sticking with Geico Honda? Eli Tomac will be able to utilize the guide and tuition of two former greats, Kevin Windham and Mike LaRocco. So, I do believe that it was the right decision for him to stay at his current home. Eli will definitely be competitive next year, also. Evidently, there are a number of advantages to being able to call Geico Honda home. Hence why I wasn’t surprised to see him head back there; if anything I was more surprised to see the team add Wil Hahn to their 450 roster. Clearly they are serious about building their 450f program.
After the rumours of Tomac going to Kawasaki, RCH Suzuki or even JGR Yamaha, it seems Eli has made a smart decision. Going up the 450 class is tough enough when you have to race Villopoto over 17 Supercross’ and 12 outdoors, but to do it on a new bike means Tomac would have had even more adjustment.
That adjustment would not only have been adapting to the bike but also getting used to the team staff and the staff getting used to Eli and his character. That all takes time and time is something Tomac doesn’t want to waste.
One of the most driven and dedicated athletes out there, Tomac is also smart. He already has experience on the Honda 450, the team knows what makes him tick and he has Mike LaRocco to guide him. He won’t be in anyone’s shadow but with Factory Honda having a team as well he won’t be under pressure as the main rider either. That gives Tomac the time to settle in but also make the team work around him.
The majority of recent supercross champions have also taken the same route of staying with the same brand when graduating, McGrath stayed with Honda in 93, Carmichael stayed with Kawasaki in 99, Reed with Yamaha in 03 and Stewart with Kawasaki in 05. They all won their first big bike supercross titles on the same brand they began their pro career. The omens are good for Eli and he has gone one step further by staying with the same team.
With Ken Roczen making a similar move by staying with KTM the 450 class will getting two incredible talents moving up at once and these two could be the future of Supercross. With his work ethic Tomac might just have the edge on Roczen and he could even win races but like Barcia this year he may struggle with the consistency to beat Villopoto in his first year.
But ultimately Tomac has all the tools to do the job and his latest decision in my opinion enhances his chances of a smooth and very successful transition to the big bike class.
Words by Lewis Phillips and Jonathan McCready