Features 20 Sep 2012

The Matthes Report: 37

Pulpmx's Steve Matthes checks in from the US every single Thursday, presented by Fox.

The off-season is underway here in America and I suppose you can debate on whether the Monster Energy Cup is the kick-off to the 2013 season or the ending of the 2012 season, but whatever.

And of course the MXDN is coming up next weekend, but that’s only an elite few (although there would be a little more ‘elite few’ if the organisers ever lifted their 24-year old MX2 rule which eliminates a lot of countries from sending their absolute three best riders. It’s like the Olympics just all of a sudden saying “Hey everyone, you can only send your best sprinters under the age of 20!” which is, of course, simply ridiculous, right? Well welcome to the Motocross des Nations!) racers and so we’re left with just preparation and trickles of news of what we’re going to see next year.

So let’s touch on a couple of the recent topics in the moto world:

Justin Brayton’s move to JGR Yamaha was officially announced the other day. We saw this coming for a while and how weird is it that a rider goes back to his team after a year with another? Brayton and the JGR guys remained friends and when he left, he indicated to them (and to me) that he was only leaving because it was a factory Honda ride and that’s what he grew up dreaming about.

To many riders, getting a factory Honda ride is the pinnacle in a career and Brayton just couldn’t turn it down. The JGR guys understood it and also said they’d welcome him back one day but no one really ever says that and means it! After all, you’re, uhhh, leaving them right?

But anyways, Brayton’s year at Honda was mostly good as he stepped up his previous years level a little bit. But anyone who was expecting to see Brayton all of a sudden turn into this ‘Ryan Villopoto-slayer’ with a factory Honda under him was nuts. Brayton’s entire career has been one of steady gains getting better each and every year.

If you would have asked anyone in 2001 if they saw Justin Brayton getting podiums in a supercross they would have said you were nuts. Justin’s been a hard worker and earned everything he’s gotten from the local arenacross circuit back in the day till now.

So he’s back on Yamaha for the next two years at least and the JGR team is getting someone who’s very familiar with the team and personal and as well, very importantly, has no problems or issues with the Yamaha YZ450F (right or wrong, this perception is out there, and will give it 100 percent every time he hits the track).

Justin Brayton will switch back from Honda to JGRMX and Yamaha in 2013. Image: Simon Cudby.

And although it hasn’t been announced yet, the JGR guys are getting the band back together and Josh Grant has also signed back up with the guys for 2013. Grant’s on his way back from injury and had a solid season this year for the Jeff Ward Racing crew.

He’s not ridden the YZ450F (new style) as he left two years ago and my theory on the bike needing bigger, stronger guys will be tested by Grant once he gets on it.

It’s definitely strange in our sport to re-hire a couple of old riders back on your team but the JGR guys do a lot of things different than the traditional teams in our sport and this is just another one.

And let’s face it, although they aren’t officially ‘factory’, with the innovation and forward thinking over there when it comes to the bike, they are on the level of any factory teams out there in my opinion.

Another thing that came up was Pro Circuit’s 100th win in the motocross series recently happened when 2012 250 MX Champion Blake Baggett won Lake Elsinore and to me, this is a pretty cool achievement.

Now of course they have a ton of wins in supercross also (another 100 there I believe) but the real test of a team and of a program is the outdoor nationals. Two 30-minute motos in heat, rain, dry and wet conditions not too mention no regional series where the competition is split in half.

It’s crazy that the little shop in Corona, California, has been able to consistently beat the giant Japanese factory teams over and over to the point where the factory teams just say “Here, you run our program for us because we can’t seem to beat you”.

That’s what Pro Circuit has done, they’ve changed the way the sport operates and now the 250 class is basically all satellite teams funded by the giant OEM’s.

The very first win by the team was when they were supported by Honda with Brian Swink in 1991 at High Point, back then they were sponsored by Peak Antifreeze and took the sport by storm winning a bunch of indoor races with some guy named Jeremy McGrath but outdoors, they were still finding their stride.

And in a move that Honda has to regret to this day, they pulled their support from Pro Circuit and decided to go back to fielding 125 teams in-house.

Pro Circuit continues to churn out champions, picking up its 100th win at Lake Elsinore. Image: Simon Cudby.

This left Mitch Payton, the owner of Pro Circuit, scrambling to find someone but he did get a partner in Kawasaki at the last minute for very minimal help but he made it work. He made it work so well that Kawasaki is still racking up the wins with Pro Circuit.

The 1993 season, their first on Kawasaki’s, didn’t go that great. Payton says that to this day, that KX125 was the bike he had to make the most out of the least on.

It wasn’t very good when matched up to the Honda’s back then. But the team won another supercross title with the unheralded Jimmy Gaddis and won their second outdoor race with Jamie Dobb in the mud at Unadilla (they had been shut out outdoors in ’92).

Ryan Hughes delivered the next few wins here and there (even finishing second in the 125 MX championship in ’94) before some kid named Ricky Carmichael came in and that’s when the winning really started happening.

The next phase that was big and in my opinion really set PC ahead of the competition was when the 250 four-strokes came about. Payton had another ‘dog’ bike to deal with in the shared RM-Z/KX-F 250F that wasn’t very good and more than a few times one of those bikes was pushed off the track by another team.

But very rarely was a PC bike pushed off. They made that thing work with Ivan Tedesco winning the 250 MX title on it and from there, Pro Circuit was again producing bikes that were much better than the competition.

If you have PC a production bike that wasn’t very good, they could win on it. If you gave PC a production bike that was really good, they could dominate. Unless you were RC and then you rode dog-slow KX125s to victory.

Anyways, 100 motocross wins is definitely something to hang your hat on and I congratulate Pro Circuit on this achievement, they’ve all been well earned and I’m sure we’ll be talking about 200 soon enough.