2012 250 Silly Season Update
Here's a breakdown of who's going where for 2012 in the AMA 250/Lites class.
Because the 250 (or Lites) class is, sort of by design and definition, a support class in motocross and supercross racing, it also goes to reason that silly-season stuff is considerably less silly, as the racers aren’t as big of stars, and there isn’t the same kind of money on the line. However, that’s not to say that it doesn’t matter, because it does. The 250 class has a direct bearing on the future of the 450 class. One of the biggest stories for 2012 in the 450 class was Ryan Dungey moving from Rockstar/Makita Suzuki, where he also spent his entire 250 career, to the 450 class. Dungey moved up to the 450 class in 2010, and only two years later he was probably the biggest story of the off-season.
That being said, here’s a breakdown of what we know about the 2012 250/Lites-class lineups, alphabetized by bike brand, to complement our 450 Silly Season post that you can find if you click here:
#17 Eli Tomac
#20 (#1E) Justin Barcia
#58 Wil Hahn
#49 Justin Bogle
Don’t be surprised to see the GEICO Honda Lites racers get confused a little bit early on in the 2012 Monster Energy/AMA Supercross Championship. Why? Because Eli Tomac will be riding with the number 17 this year, taking the number from teammate Justin Barcia. And to add to the confusion, Justin Bogle is racing with #49, which was Wil Hahn’s number in 2010 on the TLD Honda team! Barcia is the reigning Lites East SX champ in 2012, but he has raced East the last couple of years, and he will likely be moving up to the 450 class in 2013, so expect him not to defend his title if he’s healthy for the West Coast series. It’s always smart for the racers to do a tour on each coast so that, when they move up to the 450cc class, they are familiar with all of the tracks. Plus, the West series is usually considered the premiere series, with the most hype happening at Anaheim 1, so most teams will try to have their two best, healthy guys on the west. Many times, though, the “healthy” part gets in the way. It will be Bogle’s rookie SX season, and he will likely race East, so he gets more time to prepare – again, with the caveat depending on how healthy his teammates are. And Eli Tomac finally admitted during the AMA Nationals this year that he really likes supercross, so expect him to come out swinging. Then there’s Wil Hahn, who spent almost the entire 2011 season injured after a fall during practice at Anaheim 1 landed him with a broken back. He has high hopes for 2012. On the team side, away from the racers, the GEICO team is reportedly making some pretty big changes. First, the team will be stepping away from Pro Circuit as a sponsor for 2012. The way it has always worked at the Factory Connection-owned team is that Pro Circuit would supply engine mods and exhaust to the team, and the team would take the engine mods and attempt to make them even stronger with their own R&D, and with help from the Honda factory. But for 2012, the GEICO team will be more in-line with the factory Honda team on the technical side of things, running Yoshimura exhausts and engine mods developed internally, by Honda, or by Yoshimura. And then there’s the riding gear. For the last few years, the GEICO team has been sponsored by Fox Racing for riding gear. Fox provided everything but the helmet (Shoei) and boots (Gaerne) in 2009, and in 2010 and 2011, Fox provided the helmets and boots, too. But it seems GEICO wants more branding space, so GEICO will be leaving Fox Racing to wear riding gear nearly entirely branded to GEICO, and the manufacturer(s) of said gear has yet to be named.
TLD/Lucas Oil Honda
#34 Cole Seely
#51 Travis Baker
#43 Christian Craig
The TLD/Lucas Oil Honda team returns unchanged for 2012, and for good reason. Baker is a promising talent, as is Christian Craig, who was impressive – although pretty hot-or-cold – outdoors on a 450 in 2011. And Cole Seely? He won the inaugural Los Angeles Supercross at Dodgers Stadium, and he’s a gamer indoors. He very well could be a title contender. Rumor has it this team, which has always used Pro Circuit not only for exhaust but for motor mods and suspension mods, has been testing exhausts for 2012. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it’s interesting to note if we see changes in the technical side of their program for 2012.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki
#12 Blake Baggett
#15 (#1 MX) Dean Wilson
#28 Tyla Rattray
#35 Darryn Durham
When three of the four 250cc racers on your team have permanent numbers, that says something. Blake Baggett earned his new permanent number this year after winning a number of AMA Nationals and finishing near the front in the points, and he’ll be trying to channel his inner Jake Weimer with number 12. Weimer won the Lites West for Pro Circuit with the number 12 in 2010. And Dean Wilson could’ve picked a single-digit permanent number from here on
out since he’s a National Champ now (he will be running the number one outdoors), but the only numbers available are 4 (who wants to be the first guy to pick that number up?), 6 and 8, and apparently Deano didn’t like any of the above, so he chose to stick with number 15, which served him pretty well in 2011. And Rattray’s number 28 is also permanent. Wilson will be looking to pull down his first indoor title this year, as will Baggett, and both will be motivated. I would bet that PC will split these two up, sending one east and one west if they can, but both of them have only raced east, and it will be both of their third seasons racing SX, so if either one wins a title, they will be bumped to the 450 class in 2013 no matter what. This creates an interesting dilemma, as they will undoubtedly both plan on winning a title, and both want to get experience on the west-coast tracks before moving up to 450s. As for Rattray, he just wants more SX experience, and he would probably be happy to race East, as he raced West in 2011, in his first-ever attempt at racing SX. Rattray may move up to a 450 for outdoors. And Durham is going to be fun to watch this year. He was very, very fast on basically privateer equipment all year and was rewarded with a Pro Circuit ride, so the question is going to be about how he handles the pressure. Finishing 5th on privateer equipment is like a win, but finishing 5th on PC equipment is like missing the main event.
Red Bull KTM
#38 Marvin Musquin
#70 Ken Roczen
This is a strong pair, to say the least. These two young racers are the last three MX2 World Champions, with Musquin winning in 2009 and 2010 and Roczen doing likewise in 2011. But interestingly enough, Roczen now has more SX experience than Musquin, as Roczen raced nearly the entire Lites West series in 2011 while Musquin missed his rookie SX season after blowing out his knee at the Bercy Supercross prior to the 2011 season. Musquin’s luck went south again at round two outdoors in Texas when Justin Barcia crashed violently in front of him, and Barcia’s bike cleaned Musquin off of his bike, breaking his thumb pretty badly. Still, Musquin grabbed podiums at the end of the season, and he’ll be strong indoors and out if he’s healthy. The same goes for Roczen. If you’re wondering, like I was initially, how Roczen got a two-digit number when he didn’t race outdoors, remember when he raced a KTM 350 SX/F to seventh at the Houston SX and eighth three weeks later in Daytona? Well, I did for a moment. He’ll be a guy to beat in 2012, indoors and out.
JDR Motorsports/JStar KTM
#37 Malcolm Stewart
#927 PJ Larsen
#TBD Matt Moss
After a promising rookie season, although it was pretty hot-or-cold, Malcolm Stewart finds his way onto the JDR KTM team, which is good because he’s a big guy, and KTMs are notorious for their power output. Some people were suggesting that he just join onto whatever team his brother was racing in 2012 and race 450s due to his size, but the Joe Gibbs Racing team isn’t that kind of operation where James Stewart can decide other racers, necessarily. PJ Larsen will be returning with the team in 2012 as well, and if he’s healthy, he will surprise some people. And then there’s Matt Moss, take two. It’s his second time attempting to make the leap from Australia to the USA. By all accounts, he has the speed and talent, he just has to stay focused and injury-free.
Dragon Racing Fuels/AG Motorsports/Cernic’s KTM
#40 Gannon Audette
Gannon Audette is good friends with the Dungey clan, and also hails from Minnesota. After some signs of brilliance, separated by quite a bit of lackluster performances, in his rookie 2011 season, Audette will be getting KTM support through Cernic’s, and you can bet he will be spending as much time as possible with Dungey preparing for his second assault on the pro ranks.
Rockstar Energy Suzuki
#31 Martin Davalos
#44 Jason Anderson
#TBD Hunter Hewitt
#TBD Blake Wharton
Martin Davalos will be returning for yet another run at the Lites class indoors and out. He is always very fast, but his racing has yet to come together for him consistently on the weekends. He showed a lot of grit this year, though, standing on the podium at Unadilla after losing a front tooth in practice when a rock hit him in the mouth, and if he carries that kind of determination into SX, he could be dangerous. Jason Anderson took a little time off during his rookie pro season in 2011 after his friend Ian Trettel was seriously hurt at Daytona. Trettel’s injury took a big toll on Anderson, and he had to do some soul-searching, but he returned to put in some solid rides during the Nationals. They will be rejoined by Hunter Hewitt, the son of team owner Bobby Hewitt, in 2012. Hunter wasn’t part of the team in 2011, but put in some rides better than the entire team, so perhaps he proved it wasn’t totally nepotism that got him the ride in 2010 and he returns for 2012. And then there’s Blake Wharton. Wharton is a weird guy. He’s very, very talented, and he has proven himself as a guy with the potential to win races when he’s motivated to do so. He took off most of 2011 with the GEICO Honda team to fix a shoulder injury, but it was likely just as much to get his head straight.
Rockstar Valli/Star Racing Yamaha
#19 Kyle Cunningham
#23 Gareth Swanepoel
#53 Ryan Sipes
#96 Kyle Peters
There have been rumors of Yamaha teams merging for like a decade now, and it finally happened! First, it was supposed to be the now-defunct Yamaha of Troy team joining together with the Motoworld Yamaha team. That didn’t happen. Then it was supposed to be YoT with Star Racing. That also didn’t happen. Both Motoworld and YoT ended up folding instead. But now, the Star Racing Yamaha 250 team has merged with the Valli Motorsports 450 team. This is at least the third-best rider lineup in the class this year, and maybe even second-best to the Pro Circuit team, depending on how you look at it. Kyle Cunningham was the top racer in the AMA 250cc National MX Championship not on the Pro Circuit team for nearly the entire series. If not for a really tough day at Southwick, round 10 of the 12-round series, where he crashed out of moto one and had to sit out moto two, scoring no points on the day, he would’ve been fourth in points. He went 12-11 at Steel City to Tomac’s 2-2 and still didn’t lose fourth in points until after Steel City. He finished three points behind Tomac in the title chase. Then there’s Gareth Swanepoel, who is the only racer not on a PC Kawasaki to win a moto in 2011. Swanepoel won the first moto at Southwick, while PC won the other 23. He finished sixth in points outdoors and hopes to make a splash indoors, his first attempt at racing SX will come in 2012. Ryan Sipes was sick throughout a lot of the outdoors, but landed a podium in the first moto at RedBud. Indoors, though, Sipes was strong this year, winning the Indianapolis SX as well as the much-hyped East/West Shootout in Las Vegas. Those three are joined by Kyle Peters in his first full season of pro racing.
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