Undoubtedly, the 2014 season is going to be a crucial one for the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team. In the eyes of most, the team defines excellence; that feeling is well justified – just look at the amount of number one plates that they have hanging on their truck doors! But, the last two years have been dismal by their standards. So, they are hoping to get back to winning ways next season, and reclaim their spot at the top of the sport.
Although many had anticipated a shake up in the Pro Circuit Kawasaki lineup for next year, it is mostly the same, because many of their riders were in the middle of two-year deals, or had a clause in their contract, which enabled them to stay on for another year. Sure, they didn’t have the greatest season. However, despite this, it is undoubted that their riders are capable of great things; they have proven this in the past, things just went against them this year.
It is certainly realistic to expect the team to win more than one 250f title next year. After all, they are the only 250f team that is heading into 2014 with more than one former champion. Both Blake Baggett and Dean Wilson will spearhead the team as they head to Anaheim 1. Of course, we will not find out what coast the riders are racing on until the week of the race, as Mitch Payton likes to keep his cards very close to his chest.
Despite the large amount of success that the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad has had, I feel like they are going into the new season a little under the radar. I know this sounds peculiar, but I believe it to be true. In fact, you could argue that the whole of the 250SX class is being overlooking in the lead-up to Anaheim 1. Anyway, I digress. I think that Dean Wilson is going to rebound next year and put himself in title contention both indoors and out. I, like many others, am intrigued to see how he will rebound from his two disastrous seasons. But, it seems like he is revitalised, and on top-form.
Although some are probably questioning his motivation, seeing as he is stuck on the 250f for another year, I think that he will be just fine. In reality, Dean has been given a second chance to claim a 250SX title, which is something that he so desperately wants. Interestingly, Blake Baggett is in a similar situation to his teammate, as he too needs to rebound from a disappointing year. In my opinion, it is going to be a big season for Blake, because everyone will be watching closely to see if he can master supercross; he has had little success in that discipline in the past. How he performs indoors this year could influence what deal he gets when he moves up to the 450 class. But of course, you cannot question his speed when it comes to motocross.
The 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series could be where the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team really shines, and reclaims the top spot. Both Baggett and Wilson know what it is needed in order to win that title. So I would be very surprised if the team fails to win a single title next year, for that reason. Of course, there are more riders on the squad than those two, as there are four more guys that will be donning the green and black colours next year. In my opinion, it is unlikely that we will see Martin Davalos, Darryn Durham, Justin Hill or Adam Cianciarulo win a championship in 2014, but they should all be in contention for race victories.
Interestingly, Mitch Payton has mentioned in various places that in order to prevent the team from having another disappointing season, he will bench riders if they are not performing. You can bet that he is not joking too; the man hates to lose! I am sure that this will spur his riders on to give it their all every time that they are out on-track. Presumably, the atmosphere beneath the team’s awning would be quite competitive next year, with six riders. It is certainly one of the larger teams in the pits.
Personally, I think that the youngest riders on the squad, Justin Hill and Adam Cianciarulo, could surprise next year – I expect big things from those two. Of course, everyone expects Adam to impress, because of the attention (and hype) he has received in his career thus far. Although some were disappointed with how he performed in his Lucas Oil Pro Motocross debut, his iron deficiency issue really hindered him. At the penultimate round of the series, he showed what he can do when he is near one-hundred-percent. So, I see no reason why he cannot do that consistently in 2014. Honestly, I would not be surprised at all if he came out and won his first supercross.
Most thought that Justin Hill would be one of the riders that Mitch Payton let go at the end of this year, as he did not achieve the type of success that some rookies have enjoyed in the past. However, he is back for another year, and he seems to be going faster than ever, if reports are to be believed. I am actually quite excited to see what he can do next year. He has to perform, and I think that he will. If he doesn’t have a couple of podium finishes to his name by the end of next year, I would be shocked. I am sure that Mitch expects a lot more than that out of him, too.
Evidently, there are going to be some interesting storylines to follow beneath the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki tent in 2014. However, I have a feeling that they will rebound, and move back into the limelight as the most dominant team. But, the question remains, who is going to be the rider that steps up?
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of Kawasaki Racing