Star Racing Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin was one of the hottest outdoor 250 riders at the end of last year’s outdoor series. He plans on starting off hot this year. Photography by Kit Palmer
If this year’s Supercross series is any indication, the 250 class should be one of the most competitive ever during the upcoming Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Series. Regional Supercross winners Jason Anderson and Justin Bogle will get plenty of competition from riders like Dean Wilson, Justin Hill, Blake Baggett, Zach Osborne, Jeremy Martin, Jessy Nelson, Cooper Webb, Matt Bisceglia and surprise entry, former World Champion Christophe Pourcel.
There will also be a couple of riders returning from injury who are expected to be in the mix at the opening round for the May 24 Red Bull Glen Helen National MX, such as Zach Bell, Marvin Musquin and Joey Savatgy.
Here is how some of the 250 class teams are shaping up for 2014:
The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki Team has plenty of power but, unfortunately for them, they have three riders on the injured list: Martin Davalos, Adam Cianciarulo and now Darryn Durham. Davalos and Cianciarulo were leading the 250 East Supercross Championship when they went down with injuries. Luckily, both riders are expected to return before the series is over.
Durham is back on the DL after crashing while training just a few days ago.
Durham was fully recovered from a concussion that took him out of the Supercross Series early in the year. He suffered a tibial plateau fracture of his leg (near the knee) and will be out of action for another lengthy period of time.
But don’t worry, the Mitch Payton squad still has plenty of firing power left over, with Dean Wilson, Blake Baggett and Justin Hill all ready to throw down the gauntlet.
Former MX2 World Champion Marvin Musquin will make his 2014 debut following a knee injury.
Hill is riding a wave of momentum after coming off a strong Supercross Series, which included winning the East/West Shootout at the final round in Las Vegas. Hill is no stranger to motocross and we expect him to be running with the frontrunners all season.
Wilson is also hot right now. He won the last 250 West Supercross race at Las Vegas and is healthy again, and he has been putting in the laps during the two-week transition period from Supercross to motocross. Wilson has the speed, but has been having trouble maintaining that speed from start to finish. But his Las Vegas performance showed that perhaps this issue is a thing of the past and is back to the old Wilson style of riding that won him the 250 outdoor MX title in 2011.
After spending the last few years on 450s and on the GP circuit it Europe, Christophe Pourcel will be going for the AMA 250 title again on a Valli Motorsports Yamaha.
Baggett has struggled with injuries ever since winning the 250 outdoor title in 2012. He suffered a broken wrist that will affect him for the rest of his racing career, but he’s learned to cope with the injury and has already proven that he can ride up to his 2012 level again. Unfortunately, he suffered another injury a few weeks ago when a rock caught him just above the eye while practicing on the track. He’s been experiencing some vision problems as a result, forcing him to miss the last few rounds of Supercross. He has since returned to the track and has been laying down some fast lap times. We will have to wait and see how he fairs once he gets back in race mode again come Glen Helen. But we all know what he is capable of and he wants to win badly.
Over at GEICO Honda, everyone (Justin Bogle, Zach Bell, Zach Osborne and Matt Bisceglia) is healthy and ready to go according to team manager Mike LaRocco, but can Justin Bogle translate a Supercross title into an outdoor championship? That might be the biggest question in the GEICO pits. But if anyone can, it’s him.
Zach Bell is back. The flashy young kid has struggled with injuries ever since turning pro in 2012. We know he has the speed to win when he’s healthy, but staying that way has been a problem for him. He’s been practicing a lot for the outdoors the last few weeks and looks very, very fast.
Recently crowned 250 West Supercross Champion Jason Anderson hopes to keep the magic going in the outdoors.
Zach Osborne will be back and has plenty of outdoor experience. The former GP rider — and moto winner — has the talent and know-how to get the job done. He just needs to start doing that and he knows it. And he knows he’s capable of doing it. It’s time for Osborne to get his first U.S. National overall win.
Bisceglia, who turned pro last year during the outdoor season, will be making his first full-season attempt for the title. Bisceglia is all business on the track. He doesn’t worry about being flashy or impressing you with whips or scrubs; instead, he just wants to win and will do whatever it takes to do that without all the show. He’s been getting faster with every race, so it will be interesting to see how this young man will progress in motocross. If it’s anything like he did in Supercross, he’ll be a podium contender.
Former 250 outdoor champ Blake Baggett is hoping to find that winning form again after injuries have set him back since his title run in 2012.
If you’re wondering about the team’s Blake Wharton, he was a fill-in rider for the squad during the Supercross season and won’t be with them for the outdoors. There have been reports of him switching to Supermoto racing for the summer then returning for Supercross next year.
The Red Bull KTM Team will have two riders — Marvin Musquin and Dean Ferris — and both of them are coming off injuries. Musquin, a former MX2 World Champion, missed the entire Supercross Series with a knee injury, and Ferris also went down with an injury and missed much of the series. Musquin is very fast outdoors and has to be considered one of the favorites to win the title. He’s been back on the bike for a quite a while now, prepping for the outdoors, while everyone else has been riding Supercross. He’s got a head start.
Ferris is an outdoor specialist. He had little Supercross experience coming into the 2014 season, so he’s basically been riding under the radar anxiously waiting for the start of his bread-and-butter sport — motocross — to get underway. The 23 year-old Australian raced in the MX GP Series the past two seasons and had a standout performance for Team Australia at the Motocross des Nations in Germany, which caught the attention of Red Bull KTM team manager Roger DeCoster, who quickly snatched him to race in the U.S.
GEICO Honda’s Zach Osborne is capable of winning. He just needs to do it. Once he does, watch out.
The Rockstar Energy Racing Team boasts newly crowned 250 West Supercross Champion Jason Anderson under its awning. It’ll be interesting seeing how he makes the transition from Supercross to motocross, but once someone has tasted the champagne of a championship, you know they — Anderson — will be in the hunt.
Anderson’s teammate Joey Savatgy will make his 2014 debut. Savatgy, who turned heads last year in his rookie season, missed the entire 2014 Supercross Series with a preseason wrist injury. But he too has been on the bike for quite some time prepping for the outdoors.
Both Anderson and Savatgy will be riding 250 SX-F KTMs like they did in Supercross.
You will see a lot of Yamahas in the 250 class this year. The “blue” factory supports the Rockstar/Yamahalube/Star Racing Team, which is made up of three very fast and dynamic racers: Jeremy Martin, Cooper Webb and Anthony Rodriguez.
Martin just capped off his rookie Supercross season with a win at Las Vegas and he was one of the strongest 250 outdoor riders last year, especially toward the end of the year. The young rider from Minnesota should be a podium contender at every round, as should Webb.
Webb is another young racer who is getting faster and faster with every race. He was named the 2014 AMA 250 Supercross Rookie of the Year, and he didn’t get that award for being slow. Webb wants to win badly and we expect him to get that first win this year.
Dean Wilson is hoping to win the 250 outdoor title one more time before moving up to the 450 class next year. He won the 250 outdoor championship in 2011.
Rodriguez is another hot up-and-coming young kid that you might not know a whole lot about, but you will soon. Unfortunately, the Venezuelan has had a hard time getting his pro career going, as he has been swatted down by injuries. But “A-Rod” is healthy again and has been tearing up the tracks in southern California in preparation for the 250 Nationals. So don’t be surprised to hear the name Rodriguez many times over the summer.
Yamaha will also be supporting the return of former World Champion Christophe Pourcel, the temperamental Frenchman who has come within a blown motor and a crash of winning the 250 AMA outdoor title twice. He’s come so close of winning the title that he’s not going to quit until he gets it.
His last stint in the U.S. was in the 450 class two years ago on the MotoConcepts Yamaha, but that only lasted a few races before he headed back to Europe to compete in the MX1 World Championship, forming his own CP377 team. Now he’s back in the U.S. after hooking up with Valli Motorsports Yamaha early in the year. Pourcel will be receiving factory support from Yamaha and will be under the leadership of team manager Erik Kehoe, who has in the past managed the factory Honda and Yamaha of Troy Teams, winning a 250 Championship for YoT with Ernesto Fonseca.
Pourcel, a two-time AMA 250 Supercross Champion, looks very smooth and calculated on the Valli-backed YZ250F and we expect him to be at or near the front of the pack in every moto.
East/West Supercross winner Justin Hill is just as comfortable outdoors as he is “indoors,” if not more so. This could spell trouble for his competitors.
Honda will also have a strong presence with the Troy Lee Designs/MavTV/Lucas Oil Team. Cole Seely, Jessy Nelson and Shane Mcelrath will be contenders at every race. Seely nearly won the 250 West Supercross title and Nelson and Mcelrath were consistent through out the SX season. Both Nelson and Mcelrath are better known for the MX skills.
The team’s Malcolm Stewart is moving up to the 450 class for the outdoors.
There are many other riders on the list who could slip in there as well before the season is over, such as California’s Jake Canada and Michael Leib, Texas’ Matt Lemoine, and New England’s James Decotis. And if we had to pick a sleeper in the 250 class, especially at the opener, it would be Blake Savage, a young local Californian who has shown great speed at Glen Helen in the past and will be receiving some support from Suzuki, which has little presence in the 250 class this year. In fact, there was not a single Suzuki in the 250 East/West Shootout in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. Maybe Savage will get Suzuki back on the map at Glen Helen.
So, who do you think will win the 250 class at Glen Helen? And who do you think will go on to win the 2014 250 outdoor MX Championship? It truly is anyone’s guess at this point.