2021 Pro Motocross Championship
Round 2 – Thunder Valley National
Images by Jeff Kardas
Round Two of the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship featured the toughest challenges of the season so far as the early title fights continued to take shape.
A dramatic afternoon of action made for added intrigue as Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen captured his first 450 Class victory since 2019, and Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Justin Cooper prevailed for his first 250 Class win of the season – his second straight in Colorado, beating Australian Jett Lawrence by a single-point for the overall.
Jett Lawrence now holds the 250 overall lead however, with brother Hunter Lawrence also on the overall podium.
The stars of the 450 Class charged up the hill to start the first 450 Class moto and as they exited the first turn it was Adam Cianciarulo who came away with the MotoSport.com Holeshot ahead of Cooper Webb, Dylan Ferrandis, and Ken Roczen.
Cianciarulo asserted himself out front, but it was Roczen who was on a torrid charge forward. The German moved into third, made the pass on Ferrandis for second, and then stormed past Cianciarulo to seize control of the lead before the completion of the opening lap.
After a highly competitive early phase of the moto Roczen, Cianciarulo, and Ferrandis settled into their positions and put a little distance over the rest of the field. Roczen and Cianciarulo exchanged fast laps at the front of the pack, but just past the 10-minute mark of the moto Cianciarulo edged closer and closer to Roczen’s rear fender.
The Kawasaki rider looked for a spot to make a move and pulled the trigger just past the finish line, with a dive under Roczen that resulted in slight contact that pushed Roczen off his line, which allowed Cianciarulo to move into the lead.
The top three were separated by less than three seconds halfway through the moto and as time continued to elapse that gap only tightened. With less than 10 minutes remaining Ferrandis took advantage of an opening to slip by Roczen for second.
The Frenchman continued to push the pace and closed in on Cianciarulo, who left an inside line open for Ferrandis to slide under and capture the lead with six minutes to go.
Cianciarulo responded and got back under Ferrandis, but the point leader fended him off and sprinted away. Roczen then took advantage of this battle and made the pass for second, which dropped Cianciarulo to third.
Ferrandis and Roczen soon pulled away from Cianciarulo, which made it a head-to-head battle for the moto win. The international duo carved through lapped traffic with ease and Roczen found alternate lines to keep the pressure on Ferrandis.
With just over two laps to go, Roczen made a pass attempt that caught Ferrandis off guard and forced the Frenchman into a miscue that took him off track. The German assumed the lead and pushed hard for the final two circuits to prevent another late push by Ferrandis.
Roczen earned his second moto win of the season by 3.7 seconds over Ferrandis, with Cianciarulo third, Chase Sexton fourth, and Aaron Plessinger fifth.
450 Moto 2
The final 450 Class moto began as Webb surged to the MotoSport.com Holeshot over his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate Marvin Musquin, but behind them Roczen was heavy on the throttle again. The Honda rider quickly got by Musquin for second and set his sights on Webb.
The rivals briefly battled for the top spot, but Roczen was relentless and fought his way into the lead. Behind this battle, Cianciarulo fell from third place but remounted quickly while Ferrandis was mired deep inside the top 10 off the start.
Back near the front, the jockey for position changed again as Justin Barcia moved into second and Plessinger fought his way into third.
With a wide-open track ahead of him Roczen put the hammer down and built a lead approaching 10 seconds less than 10 minutes into the moto. That left Barcia, Plessinger, and Cianciarulo to duke it out for the remaining spots on the podium.
As Roczen’s lead grew to double digits, Barcia and Plessinger remained in a tense battle for second throughout the moto, often separated by no more than a second. Behind that battle Ferrandis slowly made his march forward as he moved into the top five and then caught and passed Cianciarulo for fourth with just over 10 minutes left in the moto.
As the moto wound down, Ferrandis made quick work of Plessinger and took over fourth. He then looked to close the deficit to Barcia and make a push for second. As the clock ran out on the 30-minute-plus-two-laps moto Ferrandis found himself within striking distance of Barcia.
The Frenchman was patient and with two laps to go he made his move into second. Out front, Roczen was in a class of his own en route to his third straight moto win. He completed his 1-1 outing 8.9 seconds ahead of Ferrandis, followed by Barcia in third.
Roczen’s impressive outing marked his first sweep of the motos since the 2019 Unadilla National. The 19th win of his career has moved the German to within one victory of tying James Stewart for sixth on the all-time 450 Class wins list.
With his runner-up effort, Ferrandis (2-2) has opened his 450 Class career with a victory and a second-place effort. Cianciarulo rounded out the top three (3-6) with his seventh career podium finish.
Ken Roczen – P1-1
“I wasn’t really full of confidence and had a lot of work to do, but the muscle memory is kicking in and we did some work on the bike too that I wasn’t totally sold on when we left the track during the week. But you have to go racing and it proved that it was better and I really nejoyed that today. I knew what the bike was doing, I like Thunder Valley in general, the ruts and the clay dirt just suits me really well. So I enjoyed both motos, I really enjoyed the first one, it was super fun, not just because I won, but being there and all the passing. I also like how in the beginning it’s been a bit of a debate about not ripping it as deep, but I didn’t mind it because it allowed us to move around the track a lot and use a lot of different lines.”
Dylan Ferrandis – P2-2
“It’s the second race in a row that I’m on the podium, which is great. We rode great in the first moto, probably one of the best motos of my career, but unfortunately had a small issue that cost me the win. I had a bad start in Moto 2 and was mid-pack, but I gave everything I had and came back through the field and finished second again for second overall. We made some changes on the bike for the second moto, and it was really awesome. It was a good weekend. I’m just happy to be on the box again, and we’ll see if I can get the red plate back at the next race.”
Aaron Plessinger – P5-4
“It was a solid weekend for me. We had some good battles and were consistent with a 4-5 finish to get fifth overall. I’m stoked to have a weekend off. We’ll go back and do some homework and come back for High Point ready as ever!”
Adam Cianciarulo – P3-6
“I think for me it’s getting back into the flow of racing, the race intensity, it’s difficult to mimic that in practice. I was not doing a lot of riding in this off-season. Getting back into the race condition, beginning of the moto my speed is good, but at the end I’m just not strong enough. I can go as fast as those guys I just need more laps, more time, more races. So really just more time on the bike.”
Justin Barcia – P7-3
“My start wasn’t great in the first moto but I worked my way up to seventh and unfortunately that’s where I stayed. I had a couple guys in front of me but I just couldn’t make it happen, which is a little bit frustrating but I re-grouped and got off to a better start in Moto 2. All-in-all, I’m really happy with where we’re at with the bike and we just need to work on a few little things to put myself in a good position to capitalize on some podiums and wins.”
The win allowed Roczen to move atop the 450 Class point standings. He and Ferrandis are separated by just one point, with Plessinger third, 16 points out of the lead.
The first 250 Class moto of the afternoon began when co-point leaders Jeremy Martin and Jett Lawrence emerged at the front of the field. However, a red flag came out for a downed rider before the completion of the opening lap, which necessitated a restart.
When the 40-rider field stormed out the start gate a second time it was Cooper who grabbed the MotoSport.com Holeshot over KTM rider Josh Varize and Jeremy Martin.
It quickly became a battle between teammates as Martin moved into second and gave chase to Cooper. Behind them, RJ Hampshire and the Team Honda HRC duo of Jett and Hunter Lawrence battled for third.
The lead group settled into their positions through the first 10 minutes of the moto, with about a second between the top two and another short gap to Hampshire in third.
As the race neared its halfway point Martin picked up the pace and started to apply pressure on Cooper for the lead. Cooper was able to fend off an initial pass attempt, but Martin didn’t let up and took control of the moto with just over 15 minutes remaining.
The clear track allowed Martin to open up a lead of just over two seconds, but both Cooper and Hampshire kept him within reach. As Martin approached heavy lapped traffic in the final 10 minutes of the moto it allowed Cooper to get a run, which helped him pull away from Hampshire in third and close the gap to Martin.
However, the late push from Cooper was short lived and Martin built a comfortable multi-second advantage that he carried through to the finish for his second moto win of the season. He crossed the line three seconds ahead of Cooper, with Hampshire third, Jett Lawrence fourth, and Hunter Lawrence fifth.
250 Moto 2
The second and deciding 250 Class moto saw Cooper sweep the MotoSport.com Holeshots for the day, with Jett Lawrence right behind. The two riders immediately engaged in an exciting battle for the lead and swapped positions several times before Cooper got a firm hold of the top spot.
Behind them, Martin had to battle back from a bad start after he completed the first lap in 17th place. Out front, Cooper and Lawrence were pursued by Hunter Lawrence in third and Hampshire in fourth, but an early crash took the Husqvarna rider out of contention.
While Cooper and Lawrence controlled the pace of the moto out front, Martin continued his climb through the field and sat just outside the top 10 when he crashed and was eventually forced to retire from the race. With the first moto winner out of contention, the focus shifted to Cooper and Lawrence’s battle.
With just under 20 minutes to go Lawrence saw an opening and made his move with a pass that nearly put Cooper on the ground. Once out front, Lawrence put his head down and laid down some fast laps to open a gap of nearly three seconds.
The lead duo checked out on the rest of the field and built an advantage of more than 20 seconds over Hunter Lawrence in third. Jett Lawrence continued to charge ahead and was able to consistently add to his gap over Cooper as the moto continued.
The young Australian was never challenged the rest of the way and carried on to his second moto win of the season, 15.6 seconds ahead of Cooper while Hunter Lawrence completed the top three.
The consistent effort from Cooper meant his two runner-up finishes were enough to secure the third overall win of his career, which narrowly beat out Jett Lawrence (4-1) by a single point.
Hunter Lawrence joined his brother with his first overall podium result of the season, and the third of his career, in third (5-3). The Lawrences became just the second siblings to ever share a Pro Motocross podium, joining Alex and Jeremy Martin, who first accomplished the historic feat at the 2016 Glen Helen National.
Justin Cooper – P2-2
“I had no idea I won. I’m happy, but not happy. Going 2-2 for the win is awesome, but I should have won one (of the motos). Jett (Lawrence) tested me and it took all my strength to keep that battle going (in Moto 2). We’re definitely getting better and I’m getting a little closer, but we’ve still got some work to do. It’s been a good start to the year, but let’s keep it going and try to get some moto wins.”
Lawrence and Martin entered the afternoon tied atop the 250 Class point standings, but by virtue of Martin’s misfortune Lawrence moved into sole possession of the red plate with a lead of 10 points over Cooper, who moved into second. Martin dropped from first to third, 18-points out of the lead.
Jett Lawrence – P4-1
“I was hoping the track would get rougher and that I could get the start (in the second moto), I executed on that and it was fun going at it with Cooper. He was really going and I had to do all I could to keep up. I didn’t intend for the pass (for the lead) to be that aggressive, but I knew I needed to take advantage of the moment and make it happen.”
Hunter Lawrence – P5-3
“I think we definitely rode better, we did some work during the week testing suspension which worked better, the second moto with the little crash wasn’t ideal, but we were pretty safe, the gap to fourth place was pretty far, so I had a cushion there, but it was better and I’m happy with it, but nothing to jump up and down about. I feel like the outdoors really puts a magnifying glass on all the areas that aren’t 100% yet. Obviously coming back from the shoulder injury it was quite a lot to build and the supercross I managed pretty well. Unlike the supercross it’s so much slower, but we’re working hard and enjoying the process.”
With his DNF in the second moto, Jeremy Martin finished eighth overall (1-40).
“We had a great first moto, but unfortunately I crashed in Moto 2 and was unable to finish. I’m really bummed. I hit a soft spot when I landed off a jump and the front end just knifed on me. I’ve been managing a Scaphoid fracture on my left wrist for months and a bum left shoulder. I still felt like I could be competitive to win races and contend for this outdoor championship. Unfortunately, stuff happens, and it’s time to get healthy!”
The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will enjoy its first off weekend of the 2021 season before returning to action on June 19 with the GEICO Motorcycle High Point National.
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