We rate athletes who have debuted their new ride at the Las Vegas event.
With this weekend’s Monster Energy Cup (MEC) seeing several riders making their debut with new teams or on new manufacturers, MotoOnline.com.au rate some of the biggest names to have commenced their first race with an outfit at the MEC since its inception in 2011.
Rider: Davi Millsaps (2014)
Rundown: If there’s a way to make an impressive debut with a new outfit, it’s winning a major event that’s largely funded by the team’s naming rights sponsor – this is exactly what Davi Millsaps accomplished in 2014. After injury ruled him out the season, Millsaps signed a new deal with Monster Energy Kawasaki for 2015, racing the KXF450 for the first time at the MEC.
Rider: Ryan Dungey (2011)
Rundown: Dungey’s move from Rockstar Makita Suzuki to Red Bull KTM for 2012 was one of the biggest team changes we’ve seen in the past decade, and his decision to race the inaugural MEC in 2011 came at even more of a surprise. While Ryan Villopoto pocketed $1 million after claiming all three race wins, Dungey was becoming accustomed to his new European machine, which he was only able to ride for a handful of days prior to the event. He went onto the secure a well deserved second overall.
Rider: Justin Hill (2014)
Rundown: As a Lites rider for Pro Circuit Monster Energy Kawasaki throughout the 2014 season, Justin Hill signed with Red Bull KTM for the following year, taking part in his first race with the outfit at the Las Vegas event. Hill’s debut was special – not only did he finish the first two races in second, the night marked his first professional race aboard an open class bike. A costly mistake in race three credited him sixth overall.
Rider: Justin Barcia (2014)
Rundown: Justin Barcia was a Honda guy for several years, dating all the way back to his amateur days. His switch to JGR Yamaha for 2015 was huge at the time, although his debut wasn’t as stellar as the previously mentioned. Many will use the MEC to weed out any race day issues and to also understand the workings of their new team, which is the likely reason Barcia completed the night in ninth – a result that is out of character for a former victor of the event.
Rider: Blake Baggett (2014)
Rundown: Blake Baggett’s 10th place result at the MEC in 2014 was a solid foundation for the former Pro Motocross champion, who made his debut on a 450cc with Yoshimura Factory Suzuki. Sporting the famous number 4, Baggett placed as high as fifth on the night, although he failed to commence the final race, denying him a spot higher in the standings.
Rider: Chad Reed (2015)
Rundown: Prior to Yamaha revealing it’s factory team for the 2016 season that was piloted by Chad Reed, the Australian contested the 2014 MEC aboard an almost but no quite factory Yamaha. Reed has publicly stated that his participation at the MEC in previous years has been due to obligation, which is a clear indication on why he finished last year’s event back in 10th.