Features 1 Nov 2012

The Matthes Report: 43

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

The Monster Energy Cup was notable for a lot of things but somewhat quietly the race marked the (re) debuts of Josh Grant and Justin Brayton on the JGR Yamaha team. Both riders showed up to race their first race for the North Carolina-based Yamaha team and the results, like so many other things with JGR over the years, were up and down.

It’s certainly a little weird when a team re-hires a rider one year after seeing him walk out that door but what about pairing him up with another rider that left the team two years earlier? That’s exactly what owner Coy Gibbs did for 2013 as he re-signed Grant and Brayton after both left for greener pastures (or actually redder pastures as both riders left JGR for factory Honda – Grant in 2011 and Brayton last year).

Both guys are back and at the MEC, we saw some good and some bad from both of the guys. With minimal testing under their belts Grant ended up fifth overall with three consistent steady rides. He didn’t have anything for the top guys but he started well and was the best of the rest.

Justin Brayton spent a year aboard the factory Honda bike before returning to the JGR squad. Image: Simon Cudby.

Brayton had a terrible MEC finishing outside the top ten with crashes and ineffective rides. For some reason, the MEC hasn’t been good as last year Brayton debuted on the factory Honda and stunk up Sam Boyd stadium. No worries though, after that Brayton put in his best supercross season ever so there’s a bit of danger in deciding how Brayton is going to do back on JGR.

Both riders were lucky to land on their feet with a team that previously employed them. Brayton had a terrific supercross year and a so-so outdoor season. Honda had signed Justin Barcia to a deal early on in the year and really, the call was to either bring back Trey Canard who’s shown the ability to win races when not hurt or Brayton who’s never won a supercross but is as solid as they come.

Honda chose Canard and rumors were they made a bit of a push to keep Brayton on red but for nowhere near what he deserved as one of the top riders in the sport. And what’s funny about the JGR deal is that when Brayton was there, JGR had a policy of the teams riders living and training in North Carolina where the team is based. But unfortunately for JGR and the riders, the weather there doesn’t always co-operate so it makes riding and testing tricky.

This is one of the reasons why Brayton wanted to leave – he didn’t like North Carolina all that much. But he then ended up buying a condo there and went back and forth last summer from his previous home base. So he grew to like North Carolina, at least in the summer, and when JGR relaxed their policy regarding the riders doing everything at the teams headquarters, well it all lined up for Brayton to make his return. Both team and rider learned that maybe, just maybe, both didn’t realize what they had.

Josh Grant took his first-ever premier class AMA supercross win with JGR. Image: Simon Cudby.

As far as Grant, his departure on the team was a bit acrimonious as by the end, Josh was tired of the teams rules and JGR was tired of Grant trying to do his own thing. There’s no doubt that, as good as Brayton was for the team, which Josh delivered the team its greatest successes with Anaheim sx and Redbud mx wins.

Combine that with his pure speed back when he was on JGR and you had a fast combination. Grant left JGR after an injury-filled 2010 for factory Honda and with it came more injuries. All told, Grant raced just five races between the summer of 2010 and then end of 2011.

He went to the Jeff Ward Racing team this past year and podiumed a supercross, had some nice rides here and there and although some of the old flash was gone, he stayed relatively injury-free and rebuild himself after so much time missed.

Can JGR recapture some new magic with its two old riders? That remains to be seen but it’s going to be interesting to watch the unique approach that JGR has taken and maybe we’ll see some other teams follow their lead and not be so quick to toss some riders aside once trouble hits.