The 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Series is about to start. This Saturday is round 1 in Sacramento. The race is called “Hangtown”, based on where the event was held years ago in Placerville, CA. The facility used now is called Prairie City SVRA and is just outside of Sacramento, in Rancho Cordova, California.
There are two classes competing in the 12 race series, which ends back in California in late August, at Lake Elsinore Motocross Park. The 250 class has Blake Baggett as the defending champion, and the 450 class has Ryan Dungey as the defending champion.
Who are the top contenders as the series starts? In the 450 class, the top three have to be the same top three that just finished battling in the 2013 AMA Supercross Series – Ryan Dungey, Ryan Villopoto, and Davi Millsaps.
But there are a lot of ‘champions’ behind them, ready to go, since it’s a brand new season. Former East Supercross Champions and team-mates Trey Canard and Justin Barcia, and riders that have won both supercross titles and motocross titles – James Stewart and Chad Reed.
You might be asking yourself “Where’s Ryan Villopoto in the point standings?” Ryan won his second supercross title in 2012, but had knee surgery and did not race in the “Nationals”.
In the 250 class, Blake Baggett is the defending champion. He rides for the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team. Blake was racing in the 250 West Supercross class earlier this year, but suffered an injury – and then started preparing for this upcoming outdoor series.
The 250 class will be a shoot-out for sure. There are so many good, competitive riders – starting with Blake Baggett … and then you have regional supercross champions Ken Roczen and Wil Hahn. There is also Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin. Dean Wilson. And all the riders that have chased them in supercross earlier this year.
Below are two items for you to read. First is from MX Sports and their preview of this upcoming motocross season, and the second is a video from Yoshimura Suzuki of James Stewart getting ready for this series.
From MX Sports: Dungey and Baggett Lead the Way into 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Opener – 45th Red Bull Hangtown Motocross Classic Kicks off 2013 Series
Following months of anticipation, the 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, kicks off this Saturday, May 18, at the Prairie City OHV Park in Sacramento, Calif. for the 45th running of the Red Bull Hangtown Motocross Classic. This weekend’s opener sets the stage for an epic season of racing in both the 450 Class and 250 Class, as the champions of each division – Ryan Dungey and Blake Baggett, respectively, return to defend their titles against one of the most competitive fields in the sport’s history. In addition, Hangtown will host Round 1 of the inaugural Women’s Pro Motocross Triple Crown, featuring the fastest WMX racers in the country.
As the longest-running event on the championship calendar, the Red Bull Hangtown Motocross Classic actually precedes what is now known as the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and boasts a devoted local following. The iconic Hangtown track, constructed by the Dirt Diggers North Motorcycle Club, features a vast array of elevation changes and highly-technical obstacles, set in a natural amphitheater which provides race fans with spectacular viewing from almost any vantage point.
Hangtown also kicks off an unprecedented telecast and online streaming coverage for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, featuring 63 hours of competition from all over the nation. NBC, NBC Sports Network and FUEL TV will combine to showcase live coverage from all 12 rounds this summer. In addition, more Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship races will be live streamed than ever before. Coverage of this weekend’s Red Bull Hangtown Motocross Classic begins this Saturday at 4 p.m. ET with the opening 450 and 250 motos on FUEL TV, with second motos to air on NBC Sports on Monday at 12:30 a.m. ET.
450 Class: After a highly successful season in 2012, during which he claimed 10 of the 12 national victories and his second 450 Class Championship, Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey returns this season to defend his title. Dungey’s nearly flawless performance proved to be a breakthrough season for KTM, securing the Austrian brand’s first-ever championship in the 450 Class. However, this season presents an all-new set of challenges for Dungey, who hails from Belle Plains, Minn., as a deep field of superstars will line up next to him.
Returning to Hangtown is the 2011 Series Champion, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto, who was forced to sit out last season due to a knee injury. Since then, Villopoto scored his third consecutive AMA Supercross Championship, giving him a boost of confidence heading into the summer.
Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart also returns to the mix after missing most of last season due to injury. However, a healthy Stewart could pose a threat to the rest of the field this weekend as the Floridian swept both motos at last year’s Hangtown opener to defeat Dungey. Coincidentally, Stewart and Villopoto have never faced off against each other in motocross while racing in the same class, which shows the unprecedented depth of competition featured in this season’s 450 field.
Another rider returning from injury this season is 2009 Series Champion Chad Reed. A knee injury forced the veteran Reed to the sidelines last summer, but the TwoTwo Motorsports Honda rider is back in action and ready to challenge for another championship. And then there’s Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Trey Canard, who has been plagued with injuries over the course of his career but still continues to demonstrate great resilience in both recovery and race results. Canard will line up at Hangtown this weekend for the first time since his 250 Class championship-winning season in 2010.
Familiar contenders from last season’s championship will also be in the hunt, including 2012 series runner-up Mike Alessi of the MotoConcepts Smartop Racing Team, as well as Joe Gibbs Racing Yamaha’s Justin Brayton and Josh Grant.
In addition to the return of several 450 Class veterans and past champions, a couple of familiar faces will also be joining the 450 Class title chase this season. Team Muscle Milk Honda’s Justin Barcia and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson will both make the jump from the 250 Class to compete against the nation’s most elite 450 motocross racers. Barcia proved his merit amongst the talented field by finishing inside the top five in the 2013 supercross season, and was also a threat to win during guest appearances on a 450 in previous seasons. And Wilson, the 2011 250 Class Champion who is a native of Scotland, will enter the 450 Class for the first time this summer, alongside his teammate Tyla Rattray, a former World Motocross Champion who hails from South Africa.
Other riders to watch this season include Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer, BTO Sports KTM’s Andrew Short and Michael Byrne, and RCH Racing’s Broc Tickle, and many others.
250 Class: This season’s 250 Class Championship should boast one of the most exciting championship battles in series history, as Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett returns to defend the #1 plate he earned in a hard-fought summer of 2012. Baggett is a past winner of Hangtown, who many consider to be the fastest 250 Class racer on the planet, though he has struggled to stay healthy since earning his first professional title last season. The Californian will face the same onslaught of competitors that made for a memorable 250 chase last season.
Red Bull KTM teammates Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin are fresh off a successful supercross season, with Roczen taking his first-ever 250SX Western Regional Supercross title, and Musquin finishing a close second in the East Region. Both Roczen, who hails from Germany, and Musquin, a French athlete, are former World Motocross Champions hoping to show their mettle here on the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac, who finished third in the 250 Class in 2012, also returns this summer with a championship on his mind. He will be joined by younger teammates Justin Bogle, who hails from Oklahoma, and the quick-starting Zach Bell, a resident of Cairo, Georgia. And then there’s Zach Osborne, a veteran racer from Virginia who spent much of the last five seasons on the Grand Prix tour in Europe.
There’s no counting out veteran riders like Rockstar Energy Racing’s Blake Wharton and Nico Izzi, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Martin Davalos, or Lucas Oil Troy Lee Designs Honda’s Cole Seely, as all four racers have proven to be serious contenders in the past. Even rising stars like Rockstar Energy Racing’s Jason Anderson and Lucas Oil Troy Lee Honda’s Jessy Nelson must be counted in the mix in this talent-packed division.
And then there is the next generation of future stars that will add even more excitement to the competition. The recent confirmation of amateur motocross sensation Adam Cianciarulo to line up at this weekend’s Hangtown Motocross Classic for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki has garnered much attention already, while Cianciarulo’s longtime amateur rival Cooper Webb also debuts his Pro Motocross career this weekend with the MyPlash Star Racing Yamaha team. Star Racing Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Justin Hill both showed great promise during the supercross tour and are expected to be top-five challengers. And yet another rookie contesting the Nationals for the first time ever is FMF/Orange Brigade/KTM racer Joey Savatgy. All of these young athletes have enjoyed great success in the amateur ranks and will look to make an immediate impact at the Red Bull Hangtown Classic.
WMX: The Women’s Pro Motocross Triple Crown will make its debut this weekend at the Red Bull Hangtown Motocross Classic. The WMX Triple Crown consists of three stops along the 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross tour, with Round 2 taking place in Mt. Morris, Pa. for the High Point National and the final stop at Moto-X 338 in Southwick, Mass. Six-time WMX champion Jessica Patterson leads the way in a stacked class of WMX competition aboard an N-Fab/TiLube Yamaha. Also returning for Round 1 is Brazil’s Mariana Balbi and KTM backed Alexah Pearson, as well as Japanese rider Sayaka Kaneshiro, who grabbed her first career podium finish at the High Point National in 2012.
Racing at the Red Bull Hangtown Motocross Classic begins at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 18, with competition in the 250 Class and 450 Class, as well as Round 1 of the WMX Triple Crown.
And here, from Suzuki Racing: Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s James Stewart is healthy, healed, and eagerly looking forward to this weekend’s action-packed 2013 AMA Pro Motocross season opening round at Hangtown in Sacramento, California.
Although Stewart opted out of the last three AMA/ FIM World Supercross rounds when he tweaked his already-injured wrist at the Minneapolis race, the Yoshimura Suzuki rider still finished in the top 10 in the overall championship points. Since then, he took some much-needed time off to recover and came back with a vengeance, focusing his considerable efforts on training and testing on the Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450.
“After Minneapolis when I hurt my wrist again, it was a struggle,” admitted Stewart. “With trying to rehab my wrist, I decided to take the last couple of rounds off and be as close to 100% as possible for Motocross. Even though Supercross didn’t go the way I had planned, I fell in love with my Yoshimura Suzuki team and I had a great time. We had some ups and downs, but we also had some great moments, whether that was winning or just accomplishing a goal together as a team.
“I was definitely bummed to sit out, but that gave me a chance to take a break, rehab my wrist and get ready for Hangtown. Last year, we came into the series and I only had a few days on the Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 and now I’ve had a few weeks. I love racing Motocross, it’s got a more relaxed family-oriented atmosphere, there’s more time to focus on bike set-up and the racing is really fun. I’m looking forward to Hangtown and to the whole season.”
By the conclusion of the 2013 Supercross season, Stewart had captured the win at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, becoming one of just three racers ever to go nine straight seasons with a win. Additionally, he raced his Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 to podium finishes in St. Louis and Indianapolis, won eight of his heat races; and was the fastest qualifier at seven events.
The Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing crew will return for the season-opening round of the 2013 AMA Pro Motocross Championships on Saturday, May 18th, at the Hangtown Motocross Classic in Sacramento, California.
Check out the Motocross Preview Video – Check out Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s James Stewart in action as he prepares for the upcoming AMA Pro Motocross series.
Photo of James Stewart courtesy of Suzuki