The 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, begins May, 19 with the legendary FMF Hangtown Motocross Classic.
The 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, opens with Round 1 at the FMF Hangtown Motocross Classic on Saturday, May 19. The top riders in 450, 250 and Women’s Motocross will meet at the event to kick off the season in the longest running National on schedule. “Hangtown” has hosted events since 1969, and was moved to its present location at the Prairie City OHV Park in Rancho Cordova in ’79. The Dirt Diggers North Motorcycle Club still organizes the event as they did in the old days, making this the only Lucas Oil Motocross round still run by a club. Other stops are scheduled in traditional spots like Thunder Valley in Lakewood Colorado, Washougal MX Park in Washington State, and RedBud in Buchanan, Michigan. The new Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park will debut as the last round of the season marking the first time that the Nationals have stopped in the legendary motorcycling city. Bruce Brown made the famed Lake Elsinore Grand Prix known to households across the nation in his 1971 classic “On Any Sunday” and Honda Motor Corporation named its first motocross bikes “Elsinores” in 1973. The track has suffered in recent years from management issues but is finally ready to host a world class event this year.
Tyla Rattray seen here in 2011 at “Hangtown.” The Kawasaki rider has been bumped up to the 450 class for 2012, taking the place of Ryan Villopoto who is out due to injury.
Following a Supercross season full of injury, a number of top 450 riders will be absent from the outdoor contests. 2012 SX and 2011 MX champion Ryan Villopoto is out nursing the knee injury he sustained during the Seattle stop in April. Riding in his place is Tyla Rattray. Brought up from the 250 ranks where he finished second in overall points in 2011, Rattray has been training for the past three weeks in preparation for his big-bike debut in May.
“I’m pumped to race the 450 class with Monster Energy Kawasaki,” said the South African rider, “I know both the team and the bike can win championships.” He has big shoes to fill and will be fighting alongside teammate Jake Weimer to defend the team’s 2011 motocross championship. This will be Weimer’s second year competing in the class; the Idaho native finished sixth overall in his inaugural 450 season. Allisports reports that veteran rider Ivan Tedesco will replace Rattray on the 250 Pro Circuit Kawasaki team.
Two Two Motorsport’s rider and owner Chad Reed remains sidelined with injuries as well and in April he appointed Ben Townley to ride in his stead. Almost a month to the day after the announcement, Townley suffered injuries of his own during practice for the second round of Australia’s national motocross championship. It remains to be seen when or if Townley will be able to ride in the American series.
Big news kept coming as James Stewart announced his split from the Joe Gibbs Racing team after the final round of Supercross in Las Vegas. Bubba signed with Yoshimura Suzuki in early May after being released from his JGRMX Toyota Yamaha contract, confirming rumors that he wasn’t satisfied with the YZ450F. “It’s been a pleasure to get to test with these guys and meet the team,” Stewart said of his new Yoshimura Suzuki team. “I love the bike – Ever since I rode it from day one I knew it was a great opportunity for me to come out and showcase my talent.” He joins teammate Brett Metcalfe who finished fourth in overall motocross points in 2011.
Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey persevered through injuries of his own during the SX season, making a late comeback with three rounds remaining and winning the final two events. He placed second overall last year in motocross behind Villopoto and has the momentum to remain a dominant presence this year. This will be his first season aboard the KTM in motocross and is looking to give the Austrain brand its first American title.
JGRMX’s Davi Millsaps took second place in SX and has been a regular presence at the front of the pack. He will definitely be looking to improve on his 10th place finish in last year’s motocross. Kyle Regal will be joining Millsaps on the team, filling in the vacant spot left by Stewart. “I am excited about this opportunity,” said Regal, “the bike is awesome and the team has been great getting me comfortable with the set-up.”
Other riders to watch during the upcoming season are Muscle Milk Honda’s Justin Brayton, who took fourth in overall points in SX and MotoConcepts Suzuki’s Mike Alessi who, even though he struggled to earn podiums in SX this year, ended sixth in points. Both riders were in the top seven after last year’s motocross season wrapped and will be in contention for top spots in the points race this year.
Geico Honda’s Justin Barcia will ride one more motocross season in the 250 class, seen here in 2011 at “Hangtown.”
In the 250 class Geico Honda’s Justin Barcia will be riding his final season in the Lites class, having announced plans to join with Muscle Milk Honda next year as a 450 rider. He dominated the SX Lites East division this year, besting his closest competition (Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen) by 45 points. Barcia also came out the victor in the Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Shootout held during the final round in Las Vegas. If the Honda rider maintains his pace into the outdoor events, it may be impossible for anyone else to score a win this season.
Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson is the defending 250 motocross champ and will return aboard his KX250F. Rival Eli Tomac of Geico Honda took the SX Lites West championship this year, but lagged in fourth during motocross in 2011. Tomac was unable to overtake Barcia in the East/West Shootout, but kept close on his heels to take second. The Colorado native will be a definite threat to Barcia and Wilson this season.
With Rattray’s move up to the 450 class, other riders such as Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett and Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin will have a chance to contend for championship points, both riders posting consistently well in SX this year. Bagget finished fourth in SX Lites East and Musquin came in third in SX Lites West. The Kawasaki rider had an impressive motocross season last year as well, earning five wins and placing third behind Wilson and Rattray.
Fans unable to attend the Nationals will be able to log on to AlliSports.com’s Live Stream and catch all the action. This marks the third season that live streaming is available and is made possible this year by Kawasaki.