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The gates have officially dropped and the 2012 season is underway. While last year was a great one for us here at MotoOnline.com.au as we shifted from a dirt/road site to a dedicated moto site (see CycleOnline.com.au if you’re into road!), we’re certain that this year will be even better.
Today’s Insider column may be uploaded late even though I’m writing this before 9.00am, but that’s because I’m currently in an airplane on a whirlwind trip to Melbourne in what is my first flight of the new year… there are many more to come!
Finishing touches are currently being put on our new design and increased functionality, so we’re hoping to roll that out next week if we don’t get it completed by Friday – we can’t wait to unveil it! The web is becoming an increasingly important place for dirt bikes and most things in general, so the aim here is to ensure Australia stays on par with the best from around the world.
There will actually be a few subtle changes to this very feature this year, with a major one being that much of the inside news from the off-road world will be featured in Adam Riemann’s new ‘Off-Road Observer’ column that we debuted yesterday (click here in case you missed it).
Manufacturers and those involved in off-road put in such a huge effort that we thought it’d be a nice way to help boost their presence online as well alongside our leading motocross content. Ad who better to do the job? Riemann is a respected figure in the off-road world and we’re confident he’ll do the sport proud right here on MotoOnline.
Another feature that may slightly impact the way that we do the Insider column is Steve Matthes’ ‘The Matthes Report’ column that will now be weekly, starting tomorrow. His work is a favourite of mine personally, so I look forward to reading his updates week in, week out.
Better yet, we’ve just landed a deal with Simon Cudby to supply images from the U.S. all year long, meaning we’ll have some of the nicest shots in the game!
So that leaves us with the Moto Insider feature, which will basically be a hub for all things motocross from an Australian perspective. We’ll still mention the AMA guys to compliment Matthes’ insider status in the States, as well as follow the progress of Dean Ferris in World Motocross, however Australian motocross will be the core of the feature.
First things first though, Anaheim 1 was a great event for the Australian contingent. All of our guys transferred through to the main directly from their heat races apart from Cody Mackie, who made his 450 Class debut in what is arguably the toughest open class field in supercross history.
Chad Reed was the best performing Aussie as expected with second behind Ryan Villopoto, but he’ll be happy to get out of A1 with a solid podium result. In fact, second is probably a nice way to start the season because it doesn’t place the pressure on him just yet. He said he needs five wins to win this title, which is very much possible considering he almost got the job done as a full privateer last year.
The night wasn’t so great for Brett Metcalfe, who struggled through practice and qualifying with a couple of crashes before racing to 11th in the main event. As Suzuki’s lone factory 450 rider after the departure of Ryan Dungey, he’ll be desperate to rebound this week in Phoenix. There’s no doubt he has the talent, it’s just a matter of working out supercross on the 450, which we all know he can do.
Villopoto was unstoppable for Kawasaki in his first race with the number one plate, while Dungey did what Red Bull KTM paid him to do by scoring the Austrian brand’s first ever 450 podium in the U.S. (sweet bike, too!).
As for James Stewart, well, he did what many expected – qualify on top and then go down in the main. There’s a breaking news over at Matthes’ ProMotoTalk.com site regarding Stewart using a Dunlop instead of Pirelli in qualifying so check that out, too.
Matt Moss was top Australian in the West Coast Lites opener with 11th, but he came back from near the back of the field to claim the spot. It wasn’t quite what he wanted, but he’s happy enough with the result and I expect him to be well inside the top 10 come round two.
Ryan Marmont was a last minute replacement at JDR for PJ Larsen, entering the round with just three rides under his belt. But he stepped up to the plate, holeshotted his heat and qualified straight through before claiming 17th. His night was ruined by the start gate delay in the Lites main, but those 15 laps under race conditions will be crucial for his progress.
And finally, relatively unknown (at least compared to the likes of Moss) Cairns privateer Jackson Richardson made his AMA debut and stunned with sixth in the first heat of the season. Richardson ultimately finished in 18th behind Marmont, but we were well impressed by his speed he displayed, especially in that heat race.
All in all it was a fair night for the Aussies, but I think we’ll see a true indication of their current form over the next two weekends in Phoenix and Los Angeles. The good news is that, like last year, MotoOnline.com.au will be on the ground in LA to catch up with all of them first hand. Hopefully we can get some test track content while we’re there.
By the way, those with a keen eye for detail will see that as of today, all of our AMA images are done by the one and only Simon Cudby. We’ve struck a deal with the guy who I think is the world’s best moto photographer, so look forward to that all year long. We’ll have a sweet gallery up from A1 later today.
Back home it has been a relatively quiet couple of weeks, which is understandable as the MX Nationals don’t kick off until April in Queensland at Conondale. The New Zealanders have been racing away though, and word is that Ben Townley is already absolutely flying on his Honda. If he has momentum on his side heading to round one, we might just see a dominant day from the 27-year-old.
However the locals aren’t about to simply move over for the Kiwi contingent. Four-time defending champion Jay Marmont has been spotted at various local tracks putting in time aboard his Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F over the holidays, while Lawson Bopping continues to familirise himself with the ex-Marmont CDR Rockstar Energy Drink Yamaha YZ450F.
Marmont and the Kawasaki team are rumoured to be making a number of changes for the new season, which will see the bike exactly to his liking come race time. None have been officially confirmed though so we won’t mention them until deals are complete and announced, however team green is going all out to win their first title under the management of Troy Carroll.
Motul Pirelli Suzuki has confirmed that Steven Clarke will ride its Lites bike this year full time in Australia, joining previously confirmed 450 rider Todd Waters. In addition to that, Cody Cooper is expected to return for the team outdoors.
What that means is that current Super X number three Dan McCoy is officially out at Suzuki’s factory team, with the Hart and Huntington team expecting to field him alongside Lewis Woods. The question is, will the team remain with Kawasaki?
While on the topic of both Waters and Bopping, both are expected to run a heap of pre-season races in NZ, while we’ll see Marmont head north to Queensland over the next few weeks to carry out further testing with Kawasaki.
Speaking of Kawasaki teams, Axis Motorsports has confirmed that it will be armed with KXs this year, but riders are yet to be locked in. To go alongside that, Axis has officially been made the only official Pro Circuit service provider outside of the United States.
I mentioned Dungey’s bike earlier, the Factory Edition 450 SX-F, and the word is that Tye Simmonds will be racing one in Australia this year if all goes to plan for JDR Motorsports. However, there’s been no word yet if the bike will be for sale on local shores.
We have a lot of catching up to do in order to complete the final stages of the silly season in Australia, so stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as we unveil all of the riders and teams for this year. Like I’ve said before, the 2012 season is definitely shaping up to be the best yet.
Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to check back tomorrow and every single Thursday for The Matthes Report for even more news from the AMA series. It’s going to be great.
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