ONE PHOTO & ONE STORY: THE 250 SUPERCROSS PLAYERS
Teammates Shane McElrath and Mitchell Oldenburg fought for victory at the Red Bull Straight Rhythm. Was it a sign of things to come for the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM team in 2017? Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool.
By John Basher
Anaheim 1 is 65 days away, which may seem like an eternity, but the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross series will be here in the blink of an eye. November is typically when Pro riders enter so-called “boot camp,” basically breathing, eating and sleeping moto. Outside distractions are prohibited. It’s a period for self-improvement, grueling as the schedule may be, but the sacrifice can pay long-term dividends.
The next nine weeks will go especially fast for those riders still waiting to sign a contract. Look no further than JGRMX and their new union with Suzuki. The Huntersville, North Carolina based team has become Suzuki’s official 250 factory effort. Only a few weeks ago they petitioned the AMA to allow Phil Nicoletti to contest 250 Supercross. The AMA wisely obliged, given that Nicoletti has limited 250 Supercross experience and truthfully hasn’t moved the needle in his 450 Supercross foray. JGRMX’s team manager, Jeremy Albrecht, suggested in our “Interview of the Week” that they intend on filling the other 250 seat with Matt Bisceglia. Although time is running short, Bisceglia is well versed in Suzuki’s platform, given that he raced the yellow bikes in 2016. That fact, along with Yoshimura’s continued involvement in the 250 program, suggest that Bisceglia will have little trouble getting ready for the gate drop.
Several big name 250 riders switched brands this offseason, none more prominent than Jeremy Martin. The long-time Star Racing Yamaha rider jumped to Geico Honda in a last-ditch effort to claim a 250 Supercross title. Despite little time on the bike (at that point), Jeremy wisely decided to race the Glen Helen USGP on the new bike. The two-time 250 National Champion looked surprisingly comfortable on the Honda. Jeremy’s experience of working with the new team before Supercross and shaking out the bugs could make a big difference.
Jeremy’s older brother, Alex Martin, jumped ship by signing with Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM; although, to be fair, Star Racing left Alex high and dry. They had seen enough after Supercross and decided to go in another direction. Then Alex caught fire outdoors, winning Nationals and finishing second overall in series. Alex has a lot to prove for the new year and will relish every time he beats a Star Racing Yamaha. His new teammate at KTM, Jordan Smith, is also on unfamiliar equipment after riding for Geico Honda the past two years. Smith wanted out from under the Geico Honda awning. He got his wish. Time will tell if the bold move makes a difference.
“ON PAPER, PRO CIRCUIT KAWASAKI HAS THE STRONGEST TEAM ENTERING THE 2017 SEASON. MITCH PAYTON’S FEARSOME FOURSOME OF JOEY SAVATGY, AUSTIN FORKNER, JUSTIN HILL AND ADAM CIANCIARULO HAVE ALL EXPERIENCED THE THRILL OF VICTORY. EACH KNOWS WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN. EACH EXPECTS TO WIN. THAT IS A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS, BE IT SUPERCROSS OR TIDDLYWINKS.”
Swiss rider Arnaud Tonus went back to Europe to race for Wilvo Yamaha in the 450 class after two disastrous seasons in the U.S. Instead, it will be France’s Dylan Ferrandis carrying Europe. Ferrandis is lightning quick, but injuries have stalled him out the past two seasons. Dylan has never raced Monster Energy Supercross, but he has one thing going for him–heritage. Historically the French have been natural Supercross talents. It will be interesting to see how Ferrandis adapts to indoor racing. After losing the Martin brothers to other teams and Cooper Webb to the 450 class, the powerhouse Star Racing Yamaha team suddenly has a lot to prove.
We’re two months out from the start of the 250 West, but 108 days away from the 250 East kick off. That added time for the injured and unprepared could make a big difference. Although teams won’t release their West selections for well over a month, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who is riding where. Teams normally put one championship contender on each coast. Of course, that becomes infinitely more difficult when a team owner has four riders that can win titles. It’s a great problem to have. On paper, Pro Circuit Kawasaki has the strongest team entering the 2017 season. Mitch Payton’s fearsome foursome of Joey Savatgy, Austin Forkner, Justin Hill and Adam Cianciarulo have all experienced the thrill of victory. Each knows what it takes to win. Each expects to win. That is a recipe for success, be it Supercross or tiddlywinks. After the longest title drought in Pro Circuit’s history, Mitch Payton’s effort could again take control of the 250 class.
It all kicks off on Saturday, January 7th at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California–for roughly half the 250 field, anyway. Will we see the Supercross debut of Austin Forkner, brothers Jeremy and Alex Martin battle on different bikes, the rise of an unknown, or someone step up and dominate? That’s all part of the excitement that is Anaheim 1. We’re only 65 days away, and it’ll be here before we know it.
250 RACE TEAMS FOR 2017
Pro Circuit Kawasak…Joey Savatgy, Justin Hill, Adam Cianciarulo, Austin Forkner
Geico Honda…Jeremy Martin, Christian Craig, RJ Hampshire, Chase Sexton, Jimmy Decotis
Star Racing Yamaha…Aaron Plessinger, Colt Nichols, Dylan Ferrandis, Mitchell Harrison
Troy Lee Designs KTM…Shane McElrath, Alex Martin, Jordan Smith, Mitchell Oldenburg
Rockstar Husqvarna…Zach Osborne, Martin Davalos
JGRMX Suzuki…Phil Nicoletti, Matt Bisceglia (reportedly)
BPRMX Yamaha…Scott Champion, Chris Alldredge