Austin Politelli found himself in a unique situation this past weekend, as he had been given a one-race deal with the Red Bull KTM team for the Monster Energy Cup. Rarely do the factory teams open their doors like this, hence why it was such a surprise. The KTM squad does have a vacancy for next year, which they do not have to fill if they do not want to. Presumably, the one-race deal that Politelli was given this past weekend was a tryout for the 2014 season.
Austin is quite different to the stereotypical American Motocross youngster. Whereas a rider like Austin Stroupe, or Nico Izzi, was given a ride on a top-tier team immediately, Politelli has had to work for everything he has received thus far, hence why he is so likeable. Admittedly, he has not set the world alight like those riders, as his progression has been gradual. But, he has had some flashes of brilliance in recent months, which most overlook.
Although I am sure a lot of you are not familiar with the name Austin Politelli, he has been around for a couple of years now, as he joined the professional ranks in the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series. Prior to that, he contested the Canadian Nationals in 2011. So, he is not exactly new to the sport, although he has spent very little time contesting the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series. In fact, he missed the entire series this year, as he couldn’t find a ride. So, he elected to travel north and return to the Canadian series.
Interestingly, heading to Canada proved to be a wise decision. Although most did not believe that he would be a contender going into the series, Politelli ended up clinching the MX2 title aboard a Leading Edge Kawasaki. I am certain that his performance up there helped him to secure the one-race deal with Red Bull KTM. However, Austin has also had some impressive results in his short supercross career, also, especially when you consider he has been on privateer machinery.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of his career in the USA has been a fourth in the 250SX West main event in San Diego, back at the beginning of the year. The 250SX West class featured many top names, also, which made his performance even more impressive. Austin proved that it was no fluke at the other rounds, as he finished in the top ten four times in total; he also had two eighths and a sixth. If you look back on what he has achieved thus far, it is clear that he has the skill set required to achieve respectable results in the competitive world of American Motocross.
Unfortunately, the Monster Energy Cup did not go to plan for him, so he did not get to show what he really has to offer with factory machinery beneath him. Politelli did not make the night show, as he failed to post a good enough lap time, and then missed the top four in the LCQ (it is worth noting that he did crash in the last change qualifier). Presumably, Austin did not too much time testing on the KTM 350f, which surely would have hindered him. You also have to remember that it is more difficult for the riders to qualify at the Monster Energy Cup, as you have 250f and 450f riders in one ‘Cup class’.
It will be interesting to see where Austin Politelli ends up next year now, as he is running out of options. Aside from Red Bull KTM, every top team is full. So, if Roger DeCoster does not sign Austin, he will have to either return to a privateer effort or head to Canada again, which is unfortunate, as he has to be racing down in the USA in order to prove himself. However, it seems extremely unlikely that he will end up beneath the factory KTM awning this past weekend, as he failed to shine like most thought he would.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of KTM Images/Simon Cudby