Taking a closer look at the current American racing scene.
The silly season certainly is in full effect with riders switching teams, sticking with their current teams or searching for a team seat. It’s an interesting time of the year as us media folk live for breaking news and rider announcements, but in the case of the athletes themselves, we’re sure it’s quite the opposite. If you step back and take a look at the situation, just imagine looking for a new day job every year – that’s what it comes down to for some riders and it’s a scary thought.
We’ve seen multiple team announcements in past weeks including the huge move to factory Honda for Ken Roczen. That one was rumoured for quite some time, but it was still exciting to actually see the German rider on the red machine when all was confirmed. Roczen is a seriously talented motorcycle rider and that new 2017 CRF450R looks impressive, the guy will be super strong in 2017. Will he be 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship strong right off the bat? Maybe not, but he will find the comfort he needs and turn up the heat alongside teammate, Cole Seely.
Australia’s Chad Reed and premier class newcomer, Cooper Webb, will be an awesome combination in 2017 at factory Yamaha. 34-year-old Reed has said he looks forward to having a young, eager and energetic rider joining the squad, a fresh energy of sorts to be surrounded by. With Reed’s talent and experience, we know he’ll be in the mix, and Webb, well if his 2015 AUS-X Open performance on the 450 was anything to go off, he’ll be right there too.
Another huge move recently announced was Trey Canard to Red Bull KTM. A Honda rider from day one of his professional career, Canard’s move to orange is a big one. Will it work out? If Canard can remain healthy, it certainly can, the KTM motorcycle championship proven and he will be surrounded by some of the best in the business personnel wise. Riding alongside Ryan Dungey and Marvin Musquin will also be a huge benefit to Canard, let’s hope he can put together a strong season in 2017.
There are multiple big name riders who are yet to lock in a 2017 deal, the biggest name amongst the bunch? James Stewart. Yes, who would have thought Stewart would be left searching for a ride for the 2017 season? He has had a rough two years with a lengthy suspension followed by a 2016 season riddled with injuries and sub-par performances. Stewart has not been linked to any rides and at this stage starting his own program looks to be a possible option to keep his career going.
After multiple years at GEICO Honda, Justin Bogle is another rider yet to announce his 2017 plans, but recent sightings of the Oklahoma native aboard a Suzuki strengthen rumours of a move to RCH/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing. It’s highly probable that we will see Bogle move to the now sole factory Suzuki squad next season. Who would he ride alongside if the deal happened? Broc Tickle has been linked to a return to the team, Jake Weimer is also apparently in talks to continue their relationship.
Following two injury-plagued years with Red Bull KTM, Dean Wilson is now a free agent on the search for a 2017 seat. Wilson was initially said to be linked to the Joe Gibbs Racing MX team, which is expected to make the switch from Yamaha to Suzuki motorcycles next season, but with Weston Peick locking in his 2017 deal with the team that now leaves Wilson looking elsewhere. Justin Brayton, currently leading the 2016 Australian Supercross Championship, is another rider looking for a seat next season. Brayton is receiving help from factory Honda whilst contesting our series, could that deal continue into 2017? You never know.
In the 250 category we’ve also seen a large shuffle of riders across the board. Over at the Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha team we see two new additions to the team and three riders leaving the team, obviously one of those is Webb as he moves to the premier class. With Jeremy Martin moving to the GEICO Honda squad and Alex Martin heading to Troy Lee Designs/GoPro/Red Bull/KTM, we now see Colt Nichols and MXGP regular Dylan Ferrandis join the powerhouse Yamaha outfit.
Nichols made his presence known during the 2016 supercross season to earn himself a seat. The guy is super fast with a tonne of talent, he’ll be one rider to keep an eye on in 2017, a dark horse of sorts. In the case of Ferrandis, we all know he’s super fast outdoors, but due to his European background, supercross may not come as easy for the French rider. In saying that, French riders tend to make great supercross riders with their technical and smooth styles, so this guy could come in with a blistering pace, let’s just wait and see!
Rewinding slightly to Jeremy Martin’s move to GEICO Honda, that one is quite a significant switch. Martin and the Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha squad claimed back-to-back Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 250 Class titles together and he flew aboard that factory Yamaha YZ250F. Why the change? It seems Martin and the team just didn’t gel all that well and he was looking for a change. He also wanted to move to the 450 category and his deal with Honda secures him a seat in the premier class for 2018. It’s a year later than he had hoped, but it also allows him another season to shoot for that elusive 250SX title he’s yet to claim before making the step up.
As Martin arrives at GEICO Honda, former team member, Jordon Smith, has departed and made his way to the Troy Lee Designs/GoPro/Red Bull/KTM squad to ride alongside Alex Martin, Shane McElrath and Mitchell Oldenburg. As Smith arrives, Justin Hill exits the Troy Lee Designs/GoPro/Red Bull/KTM and makes his way to Mitch Payton’s Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team for 2017. Hill previously spent two seasons, 2013 and 2014, with the Kawasaki-backed outfit and after multiple injury-plagued seasons with KTM, the younger brother of former premier class star, Josh Hill, will be looking return to form next season alongside teammates Austin Forkner, Adam Cianciarulo and Joey Savatgy.
One rider who may or may not return to the US circuit for 2017 is Australia’s Luke Clout. The 2014 Australian MX2 champion was set to contest next year’s American supercross and motocross schedules with the MAD Racing Dirt Candy Suzuki team – that was before the team unfortunately folded. This leaves Clout searching for a ride very late in the year, will he find a US seat or be forced to return to Australia? We’re sure an Australia team will find an opening for a ride of his calibre, but it’s uncertain whether he’ll racing be stateside again in the near future at this stage.
Fellow Australian racers, Hayden Mellross and Jackson Richardson, are also yet to confirm their 2017 US deals. Mellross was part of the 51FIFTY Energy Drink Yamaha squad for 2016 and it’s likely he will continue that partnership. In Richardson’s case, nothing has been announced from his camp. Currently riding for Serco Yamaha in our supercross series as a last-minute addition, could we see team owner Gavin Eales offer him a 2017 spot on the team or will he continue his privateer effort in the US? We’ll be sure to keep an eye on his movements as the year rolls on.