Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey will lead the U.S. team that will compete in the Motocross of Nations in Lommel, Belgium, with the runaway points leader in the 450cc AMA National Motocross Championship set to be joined by Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Blake Baggett and GEICO Honda's Justin Barcia in the race scheduled for September 30-31.
Perennial U.S. team manager Roger DeCoster will manage the team in its hunt for a record 23rd Motocross of Nations Championship.
"We will have Ryan in MX1. Blake, who has excellent support for the 250cc bike from Mitch [Payton], will be our MX2 rider, and Barcia will be our open class rider," DeCoster said. "This is a great team. They have proven that they are solid riders, especially in the sand, and the Lommel track is a very deep sand track."
Riders in the Motocross of Nations compete in either the MX1, which features 450cc bikes; the MX2 class, which includes 250cc motorcycles; or the open class.
Dungey, who returns for his fourth time to the Motocross of Nations, said he is thrilled for the opportunity.
"It's a pleasure, and it's an honor to represent my country at the Motocross of Nations," said Dungey. "Blake [Baggett] has a year of experience [at the Motocross of Nations] and although it's [Justin] Barcia's first year we do a great job of welcoming everybody. We're not racing against each other. We are racing with each other for one goal, and that's to win the Motocross of Nations. With Roger and the rest of the organizational team behind us, we have excellent support and all the support we need to win."
Baggett said he's confident in the U.S. team's chances to win the title. â€¨
"I'm excited to go to Belgium and race," said Baggett, who is leading the points in the 250cc class in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Racing Motocross Championship. "It will be cool and a life experience for sure. The atmosphere of this race is really big and crazy, but the best advice is what I got last year, just ride to your potential, race the track and don't worry about the thousands of European fans and the competition you've never raced before. If we ride the best that we can, there should be no problems of winning it. We'll just go over there and bring the trophy home."
Barcia, who is stepping up to the 450cc bike to compete in the open class, said he is ready for the challenge and thrilled to be on the 2012 team.
"It's a little bit shocking, really. It's awesome," said Barcia, who is currently second behind Baggett in the 250cc class championship standings. "I've always dreamed of racing for the U.S. at the Motocross of Nations, and it's incredible. I'm speechless. To be picked for that team is just mind blowing. I'll be riding a 450, and that will be exciting. I practice on the 450 a lot, and I ride the sand really well. I've matured a lot in the past year, and I'm ready."
AMA Director of Supercross and AMA Pro Racing Relations Kevin Crowther said that the 2012 team is stacked from top to bottom.
"The AMA has an enormous amount of industry, fan and racer support for this effort," Crowther said. "We are bringing an extremely talented team to Belgium, both in terms of the riders and the support crew behind the scenes. In addition to the on-bike talent, exceptional leaders such as Roger DeCoster, Mitch Payton, Chris Onstott, Jeff Canfield and Doc Bodner, and many more, really step up as part of the operational backbone for this event."
For Belgium native DeCoster, the 2012 Motocross of Nations will be a homecoming in more ways than one. Lommel is the same track where the U.S. team, also managed by DeCoster, won its first Motocross of Nations title in 1981.
"That's where we won the first time, 31 years ago," DeCoster said. "That first team [of Donnie Hansen, Danny LaPorte, Johnny O'Mara and Chuck Sun] was one of the youngest in history, and we are returning with another extremely young team. This will be a great Motocross of Nations. Being on the same track where we won the first time makes it very special."
The United States is the reigning champion of the Motocross of Nations, winning in 2011 when the event was held in Saint D'Angely, France. The United States is also the all-time leader in Motocross of Nations overall victories with 22. Great Britain is second with 16.