With the 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season one-third of the way finished, we’re looking back at the first period of this year, starting with some of the newcomers to each class. The 250 Class was expected to get a major talent infusion in this year’s rookie crop, and although Adam Cianciarulo has yet to line up and Zach Bell‘s been ruled out for the rest of the season, the rest of the field has certainly had their share of highlights. As for the 450 Class, the early returns have looked good for several riders making the jump up to the big bikes for their first full season. (As for the question of what constitutes a 450 Class “rookie,” in this case we’re looking at riders who are planning to compete full-time in the class for the first time, even if they’ve come up from the 250’s to race three or four events late in the year in past seasons.)
Justin Barcia, Honda Muscle Milk: The clear-cut No. 3 in the class right now, Justin Barcia has looked right at home on a 450 since first making an appearance in the premier class two years ago. With 4 Motorcycle Superstore Holeshots in the season’s first 8 motos, he’s seemingly usurped Mike Alessi as the Holeshot King of the 450 Class. Barcia’s finished top-five in all but one moto this year, with 4 moto podiums and 2 overall podiums to his credit so far. Despite how dominant Ryan Villopoto has been, it wouldn’t be surprsing to see Barcia win a race at some point this year. In fact, it seems likely to happen eventually if he can stay hard on the throttle for a full 30 minutes.
Barcia’s 2-2 at Muddy Creek is his best finish of the season
Phil Nicoletti, N-Fab TiLUBE Yamaha: Like Barcia, Phil Nicoletti‘s entered a few races in the 450 Class before. A long-time veteran of the 250 Class, Nicoletti had the opportunity to move up to the class on a privateer effort late last season after parting ways with Eleven 10 Mods. Right from the start, he looked much better-suited for the big bike, and his results almost immediately improved, placing 8th overall in back-to-back weeks at Unadilla and Steel City in his second and third races. The 2012 season in general was marked by a ton of bad luck, but Nicoletti seems to have put that behind him and has frequently found himself on the cusp of (or just inside) the top ten. Although he’s struggled to match his 1st moto performance in the 2nd motos, Nicoletti is earning praise as one of the year’s most surprising riders.
Nicoletti sits 12th in points after four rounds
Malcolm Stewart, Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs/Honda: Talk about turning your luck around. Mookie’s original team, JDR/J-Star/KTM, was forced to close its doors after the Supercross season, leaving the younger Stewart brother without a ride. Christian Craig’s injury opened up a spot on the TLD Honda team and an opportunity for Malcolm Stewart to make the jump to the 450 Class. As a bigger rider, he’s adjusted well to the 450 and has had solid rides at Thunder Valley (9-11, 11th overall) and High Point (12-12, 12th overall). If he can continue challenging for top-tens on a weekly basis, Stewart would have to be thrilled with his season.
Stewart passed 21 riders in Moto 2 at Hangtown to earn the season’s first RC Hard Charger Award
Cooper Webb, Star Racing: The 17-year-old from North Carolina was expected to make an immediate impact this year, but he’s managed to meet and probably even surpass most people’s expectations. The only downside to Cooper Webb‘s season so far is his inconsistency, which has been rather… well, consistent. He’s finished inside the top 6 in the first moto at all four races, highlighted by a 3rd at Thunder Valley, but has yet to nail down a top ten finish in the second moto of the day. Clearly the talent is there, so if he can iron those troubles out over the course of the season, look for him to move a bit closer to that top-tier of riders.
Webb is currently 7th in the 250 Class point standings
Jeremy Martin, Star Racing: While teammate Cooper Webb has gotten the majority of the rookie hype so far,Jeremy Martin has been the most consistent of a talented bunch and sits just 2 points behind Webb. He’s finished inside the top ten in all but two motos this year and has come in between 6th and 8th overall in three out of four weeks. Martin got the chance to cut his teeth at a few rounds late last season after Loretta Lynn‘s, and it seems to have helped him acclimiate to the grueling 30-minute motos. Accomplishments for the 20-year-old this season have included grabbing a Motorcycle Superstore Holeshot in Moto 2 at Thunder Valley, which Martin parlayed into a 6th-place finish. Two weeks later in the 2nd moto at High Point, Martin ran in the top five for most of the race before being passed late by Eli Tomac.
Martin sits 9th in points, but is just a few points behind Webb for the rookie lead
Joey Savatgy, FMF Orange Brigade KTM: Like Malcolm Stewart, Joey Savatgy was also affected by the folding of the JDR/J-Star/KTM team, but KTM and FMF stepped up to create a new team for him just in time for Hangtown. Savatgy was having a solid season outside of one poor day at Thunder Valley (16-35), but really turned the corner at High Point when he took 5th place in the 2nd moto. During the race, Savatgy lost positions to 250 powerhouses Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac, but held his own against the rest of the field, including making a pass of fellow rookie Jeremy Martin. KTM’s a fan of the kid, and just in case he needs any extra motivation, there’s speculation that Savatgy could wind up in the running for a spot on next season’s Red Bull KTM squad when Roczen is expected to move up to the 450 Class.
Savatgy joined Cooper Webb as the only rookies to score a top five moto finish