The Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team is considered to be one of the most successful teams in the history of the sport, and rightfully so. Over the years the team (managed by Mitch Payton) has captured numerous races wins and championships; they have definitely set the bar for those others teams trying to reach the top of the sport. But the team has seemingly struggled in the last year. However, the bikes are still strong and the structure is still superb. Despite this, the squad has not made as many visits to the top of the podium as they would have expected to.
Why is this? Well there have been no major changes to the successful formula used in recent years. Undoubtedly, the structure behind the scenes has only improved. So why is it they are not as dominant as they once were? I believe that it has more to do with the fact that others have caught up, and risen to that elite level. Now you have teams like Geico Honda, and Red Bull KTM that are capable of beating the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad straight out of the gate; it just took them a little longer to get to that point.
Interestingly, the Geico Honda squad made the switch from Pro Circuit exhausts at the start of the 2012 season; from that point onwards they have been much more competitive. Once the Geico Honda squad fitted the Yoshimura pipes to their bikes, they swept the two 250SX titles in the early months of 2012. Immediately, pit pundits asked whether this was the reason for their change of fortune. Perhaps Mitch had been delivering them pipes that were not quite on par with his team? But, I do not believe this to be the case; in fact it certainly is not.
So, what has changed on-track? For the first time, the Geico Honda team have led the way in acquiring upcoming stars right out of the amateur ranks. Essentially, this has prevented all of the other teams from capturing the next big thing. In recent years riders like Justin Barcia, Eli Tomac, Justin Bogle and Zach Bell have jumped straight onto the Geico Honda team in their rookie season. Alternatively, the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad have had to sign veterans of the sport (Martin Davalos, and Tyla Rattray for example).
I believe this is where most of the their problems lie. Those teams that are acquiring some of the top riders straight out of the amateur ranks are building them into champions over a few years. These riders end up believing in the program of the team so much (because that is the only thing that they ever known) that they tend to stick with the manufacturer or team for a long period of time. So, there is never really an opportunity to sign these riders for the other teams like Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki. Mitch Payton himself has gone on record as saying that he does not believe in signing the amateurs so young; however, that has hurt his squad.
Now, the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team are dipping into the amateur ranks; this year Justin Hill joined the squad and Adam Cianciarulo could be under the tent at Hangtown. But still after signing Justin Hill they have not experienced the type of success that they have come to expect, the team has just one race win so far this year. Injuries have played a huge role in their disappointing results; they seem to have been hit hard by these issues so far this year. I do believe that this just comes down to luck though; in 2011 they had no injures at all.
Unfortunately four of their six riders are currently on the sidelines; this does include all three of their 250SX East riders. Of course, this puts them behind the rival teams when it comes to preparing for the Lucas Oil AMA Pro National series also. I do believe that it is fair to say that the team is quite looking forward to the outdoors right now, where they can start afresh and go after another title.
Quite a lot of fans want to know what is wrong with Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki. Is there really an issue though? Sure, right now they are not doing as much winning as we have come to expect. However, within a matter of weeks they could be back on-track and leading the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross series; it would not be surprising.
Right now the squad are focused on the final rounds of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series with fill-in rider Tyler Bowers on the East Coast, and Martin Davalos and Tyla Rattray on the West Coast. I doubt that any more wins will be heading the teams’ way in these last five rounds. However with their impeccable record they can afford one lacklustre year, right?
Words by Lewis Phillips