The 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, reached its conclusion on Saturday, as the summer campaign ended with American motocross’ oldest event for the 12th and final round, the Carson City Motorsports Hangtown Motocross Classic just outside of Sacramento.
While one championship had already been decided in the 450 Class, the 250 Class title remained up for grabs, which put the division into the spotlight on a sunny afternoon in Northern California. When the dust settled on the final two motos of the season, it was 18-year-old Team Honda HRC rider Jett Lawrence who emerged with the Gary Jones Cup as the first-ever Australian champion in the smaller displacement.
Lawrence’s championship-winning ride wasn’t without serious drama as Justin Cooper did all he could to try and steal the title with his first 1-1 moto sweep and his second win of the 2021 season. In the 450 Class, Monster Dylan Ferrandis put the finishing touches on the championship he clinched one week ago with an impressive sixth victory.
With the attention focused on the culmination of the title fight in the 250 Class, the division began its first moto with Cooper out front with the MotoSport.com Holeshot ahead of RJ Hampshire. As Cooper led, Lawrence was faced with a bit of adversity as he crashed on the opening lap and remounted deep in the field, crossing the line in 23rd place. A couple laps later Lawrence faced even more adversity when a rider crashed in front of him and forced the Australian to stop and briefly get off his bike to keep from tipping over, which caused him to lose a couple more spots.
Back up front, Cooper continued to lead the way over Hampshire while Austin Forkner ran third. A little more than 10 minutes into the moto Forkner was seen pushing his motorcycle off the track, which moved Bar Dylan Schwartz into third. Further back, Lawrence clawed his way into the top 20 and broke into the top 15 before the moto reached its halfway point.
Hampshire was able to close in on Cooper and stabilized the margin to just over a second, but Cooper responded with his fastest lap of the moto to open it back to nearly three seconds. Behind them, the battle for third between Schwartz and Michael Mosiman turned into misfortune for both riders as they made contact and went down. That handed third place to Team Honda HRC’s Hunter Lawrence. The incident also worked to the benefit of Jett Lawrence, who was able to get by both Schwartz and Mosiman to break into the top 10 and slot into ninth with less than five minutes remaining.
Cooper stretched out his lead in the closing stages of the moto and went wire to wire for his sixth moto win of the season, crossing the line 3.5 seconds ahead of Hampshire, with Hunter Lawrence in third. Jo Shimoda finished fourth, while Max Vohland completed the top five. Jett Lawrence did well to overcome the odds and minimize the damage of his early misfortunes to finish eighth.
As the riders lined up on the starting gate one final time in 2021 a total of 11 points separated the title combatants, who lined up side by side. If Cooper were to win, Lawrence would need to finish no worse than seventh. As the field emerged from the first turn to begin the moto it was Josh Varize who captured the MotoSport.com Holeshot, followed by AEO Powersports GASGAS rider Ty Masterpool and Cooper, while Lawrence went to work from a start just outside the top five. Adversity then struck Lawrence for a third time as he went down in pursuit of Vohland, which dropped the Honda rider outside the top 10.
Meanwhile, Cooper took matters into his own hands and stormed into the lead just five minutes into the moto, which put the pressure on Lawrence to respond. The Australian was patient and started to gain positions one-by-one, avoiding any additional misfortune.
Back up front, Cooper established a lead of more than five seconds as Forkner moved into second and brought his teammate Shimoda along in third, dropping Varize from the top three. Shimoda then made the pass on Forkner to take over the runner-up spot.
As the moto surpassed the halfway point, Cooper continued to do all he could and remained in firm control of the moto. However, Lawrence continued to move forward. The Honda rider once again found himself in pursuit of Vohland, as both riders made their way around Forkner to take over third and fourth, respectively. Lawrence continued to ride with patience and with mere minutes remaining he caught and passed Vohland to take over third.
Cooper wrapped up the best performance of his career with another dominant moto win, three seconds ahead of Shimoda in second, while Lawrence put forth a championship-winning ride to finish third.
It signified the first 1-1 outing for Cooper and also marked the first time in his career that he’s won more than one race in a single season. He finished on the overall podium at all 12 rounds and ended the season with the fourth overall victory of his career.
“Every weekend on the overall podium is a big accomplishment for me,” said Cooper. “I gave it all I had today and did what I had to do. I’m really proud of that, especially to get my first 1-1. Maybe it was too little, too late, but we worked our butts off and can end the season with our heads held high.”
Shimoda wrapped up an impressive close to the season in second (4-2), as the Japanese rider captured three runner-up finishes in the final four rounds. Hampshire rounded out the overall podium in third (2-6).
Lawrence’s title-winning effort came on the heels of one of his worst finishes of the season in fifth (8-3), but the podium effort in the final moto allowed him to finish six points ahead of Cooper in the final standings. It marks the first 250 Class championship for Honda since 2013 with Eli Tomac.
“It feels so great,” exclaimed Lawrence. “I rode so bad today and Cooper rode awesome. I loved racing him this season because he kept me on my toes. It’s a very special day for me, but I could have never done this without all the support of my family, my team, and so many others who helped me get here.”
In addition to the newly crowned champion, the 2021 Marty Smith Rookie of the Year was also named at the end of the day, as Vohland took the prestigious honors on the heels of a career-best fourth-place finish (5-4) at his home track. The second-generation racer finished ninth in the final standings.
The opening 450 Class moto of the afternoon saw Team Honda HRC’s Ken Rozen, Ferrandis, and Cooper Webb side-by-side coming to the MotoSport.com Holeshot, from which Roczen emerged with the lead. While Roczen asserted his position at the head of the pack, the jockeying for position behind him was exciting as Ferrandis, teammate Christian Craig, Webb, and Eli Tomac all fought for second and third in the running order.
After a couple of laps the field settled in, with Roczen, Ferrandis, and Webb occupying the top three spots, while Tomac ran fourth. As the moto approached the halfway point a battle for the lead started to take shape between Roczen and Ferrandis, as Tomac made the pass on Webb to take over third. Ferrandis moved to within striking distance of Roczen and began to look for alternate lines, but the Honda rider fended off the challenge. Tomac was the fastest rider on the track and made big inroads on his deficit to the leaders, only to give it away with a tip over that dropped him back to fourth behind Webb.
Out front, the season-long championship rivals from Europe went bar-to-bar for the lead. Ferrandis looked for a way around at various points on the track, but Roczen didn’t waver and was able to inch away. Ferrandis persisted and finally got the upper hand. He made the pass happen with less than 10 minutes left in the moto.
Once out front, Ferrandis ran away with the moto and opened up an advantage of more than 10 seconds. He cruised to his eighth moto win of the season, 12 seconds ahead of Roczen at the finish, while Webb followed in a distant third. Tomac finished in fourth, while Craig rounded out the top five.
The final 450 Class moto of the season began with Webb at the head of the pack with the MotoSport.com Holeshot, but he was quickly passed by Craig. Behind them, both Roczen and Ferrandis were collected in incidents off the start, with Roczen unable to continue as Ferrandis got underway at the tail end of the field.
Back up front, Craig asserted himself as the leader while Webb and Tomac gave chase. Further back, Ferrandis was making quick work in his climb through the field and it wasn’t long before he broke into the top 10. As the moto surpassed its opening 10 minutes, Craig was forced to deal with both Webb and Tomac, who were eager to get by. Webb made quick work of his Yamaha counterpart to reclaim the top spot, while Tomac followed through into second shortly thereafter.
The battle was on at the head of the pack as the moto reached its halfway point and Tomac made a push to put the pressure on Webb. The distance between the leaders ebbed and flowed as they both took advantage of strong portions of the track, but eventually, Tomac’s continued pressure allowed him to make the move and seize control of the moto with a dozen minutes remaining. Webb battled back and looked to keep Tomac honest.
With 10 minutes remaining in the moto the battle for the overall saw added intrigue as Ferrandis’ comeback continued with a climb into the top five. Tomac built his lead over Webb to more than four seconds and appeared to have the moto win in hand, while Webb sat comfortably ahead of Craig in third. Ferrandis was still on the charge and made an easy pass for fourth. He then set his sights on his teammate in third and got around Craig with two laps to go to take over third.
Tomac ended the season with his third moto win in the last six motos, taking the checkered flag 5.8 seconds ahead of Webb, while Ferrandis completed an improbable comeback to finish third.
Ferrandis’ resilient second moto was the difference-maker in the overall standings, as he wrapped up his sixth win of the season on the heels of 1-3 moto scores. Tomac completed his tenure with Kawasaki in the runner-up spot (4-1), while Webb ended the season with a third straight podium finish in third (3-2). A total of three points separated the top three finishers.
“I gave it everything I had today with a clear mind (with the championship wrapped up),” said Ferrandis. “I just went out there and rode as hard as I could. That was my plan. I didn’t know that I won. I thought I was too far back to win the overall, especially with a crash at the start, so I didn’t believe it when my team told me I won. It’s been an unreal season and I’m just so proud to do this for my team and everyone that supports me.”
With his 12th consecutive podium finish, Ferrandis’ historic season added another layer as he became the ninth rider in history to earn a top-three result in every race of his first full season of premier class competition. In the ongoing pursuit of the runner-up spot in the final standings, Roczen’s DNF in the final moto, combined with Tomac’s win, saw them trade positions as Tomac finished the year in second, with Roczen third.
250 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)
1 Justin Cooper: 1 – 1 / Yamaha YZ250F
2 Jo Shimoda: 4 – 2 / Kawasaki KX250F
3 R.J. Hampshire R.J: 2 – 6 / Husqvarna FC 250
4 Max Vohland Max Vohland: 5 – 4 / KTM 250 SX-F
5 Jett Lawrence: 8 – 3 / Honda CRF250R
6 Hunter Lawrence: 3 – 9 / Honda CRF250R
7 Dilan Schwartz: 10 – 7 / Suzuki Rm-z250
8 Joshua Varize: 7 – 11 / Husqvarna FC 250
9 Levi Kitchen: 6 – 12 / Yamaha YZ250F
10 Michael Mosiman: 11 – 8 / GasGas MC 250F
250 Class Championship Standings (Round 12 of 12)
1 Jett Lawrence – 497 Pts
2 Justin Cooper – 491 Pts
3 Hunter Lawrence – 381 Pts
4 R.J. Hampshire – 364 Pts
5 Jo Shimoda – 340 Pts
6 Jeremy Martin – 307 Pts
7 Austin Forkner – 256 Pts
8 Michael Mosiman – 252 Pts
9 Max Vohland Max – 236 Pts
10 Dilan Schwartz – 209 Pts
450 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)
1 Dylan Ferrandis: 1 – 3 / Yamaha YZ450F
2 Eli Tomac: 4 – 1 / Kawasaki KX450
3 Cooper Webb: 3 – 2 / KTM 450 SX-F
4 Christian Craig: 5 – 4 / Yamaha YZ450F
5 Brandon Hartranft: 7 – 6 / Suzuki RM-Z450
6 Max Anstie: 9 – 5 / Suzuki RM-Z450
7 Ryan Surratt: 8 – 8 / Husqvarna FC 450
8 Justin Bogle: 10 – 7 KTM 450 SX-F
9 Ken Roczen: 2 – DNS / Honda CRF450R
10 Robbie Wageman: 12 – 9 Yamaha YZ450F
450 Class Championship Standings (Round 12 of 12)
1 Dylan Ferrandis – 531 Pts
2 Eli Tomac – 458 Pts
3 Ken Roczen – 446 Pts
4 Cooper Webb – 358 Pts
5 Chase Sexton – 342 Pts
6 Christian Craig – 292 Pts
7 Marvin Musquin – 240 Pts
8 Joey Savatgy – 240 Pts
9 Justin Barcia – 239 Pts
10 Aaron Plessinger – 232 Pts