The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship kicked off its stretch run to close out the 2021 campaign with an anticipated return to legendary Unadilla MX in Central New York.
Picture-perfect weather and a passionate crowd greeted riders for the Circle K Unadilla National, where the eighth round saw Team Honda HRC sweep the day’s victories. In the 450 Class, Ken Roczen provided arguably the most impressive outing of the summer with a sweep of the motos to secure his second victory of the season. In the 250 Class, Jett Lawrence rode a dominant second moto to surge to his second win and tighten up the championship battle.
As the gate dropped on the opening 450 Class moto it was Roczen clear ahead of the field exiting the first turn to easily capture the MotoSport.com Holeshot. As the rest of the field jockeyed for position behind him, it was the Aaron Plessinger and Dylan Ferrandis who slotted into second and third. Roczen was able to drop the hammer on the opening lap and took full advantage of the clear track to establish a multi-second lead over Plessinger and Ferrandis, as the lead trio surged out to a significant margin over the remainder of the 40-rider field.
Soon the race became a two-rider affair as both Roczen and Plessinger continued to pull away from Ferrandis. Roczen was comfortable in control of the moto, but Plessinger continually kept him honest by mirroring the lap times. No more than two seconds separated the lead pair through the first half of the moto.
Plessinger looked to be faster than Roczen in some places and even showed a wheel a couple of times, but the Honda rider kept him at bay and put a few bike lengths between them. With 10 minutes remaining in the moto, as he gave chase to Roczen, Plessinger suffered a frightening crash that saw his Yamaha loop out and resulted in heavy impact with the ground. Fortunately, Plessinger was able to get up and walk away under his own power, but it brought what began as a strong start to the afternoon to an abrupt and heartbreaking conclusion.
With the pressure no longer a factor, Roczen rode alone out front and managed a double-digit lead through the remainder of the moto to earn an impressive wire-to-wire win. He took the checkered flag 10.6 seconds ahead of Ferrandis, while Eli Tomac followed in a distant third. Marvin Musquin was fourth, with his teammate Cooper Webb fifth.
The second and deciding moto began with Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton out front with the MotoSport.com Holeshot, followed by Webb, Ferrandis, and Roczen. As Sexton looked to take advantage of his position at the front of the field Roczen was incredibly aggressive and made passes on both Ferrandis and Webb to surge up into second behind his teammate. Shortly thereafter Ferrandis put the pressure on Webb for third and successfully moved into podium position.
As the points leader took over control of third, the Hondas out front had built a lead of more than five seconds. Sexton showed impressive pace to maintain a lead of about a second over Roczen, but the German bided his time and waited for the race to come to him. As the moto reached its opening 10 minutes Roczen pulled the trigger and went on the attack. An impressive outside move allowed Roczen to make quick, easy work of his teammate. From there he cemented his control of the moto with one of his fastest laps of the race.
Sexton kept Roczen honest and was within reach as the moto reached its halfway point, but Roczen responded to open up his biggest lead of the moto. The German never looked back and put the finishing touches on one of the most dominant outings of his career. He wrapped up a sweep of the motos by six seconds over Sexton, while Ferrandis withstood a persistent threat from his fellow Frenchman Marvin Musquin to finish third.
It’s the second 1-1 effort for Roczen this season and signifies the 20th victory of his career, which moves him into a tie with James Stewart for sixth on the all-time wins list. It’s also the second straight victory for Roczen at Unadilla, where he won the last time the championship visited during the 2019 season.
“This was unreal,” exclaimed Roczen, who won earlier this season at Thunder Valley. “I just felt like I got into the zone today. The track was brutal, and it was easy to make a mistake, but I was able to find great lines and ride really consistently. The crowd was awesome today. They were so passionate and really kept me going. I just want to thank everyone for their support and my team for all the hard work.”
Ferrandis finished in the runner-up spot (2-3) for his eighth podium result this season, which effectively minimized the damage done in the championship standings. Musquin captured his first podium result of the season in third (4-4) to complete an overall podium composed entirely of international competitors.
“I came here to win, but Ken (Roczen) was way too strong today,” said Ferrandis. “It’s fine. Second overall is still good. I lost some points in the championship, but there’s four rounds to go. We’ll see. I think we got the maximum today out of myself and the bike. Ken was just better. We’ll come back and try to be on the top step (of the podium).”
Roczen gained eight points on Ferrandis in the 450 Class standings, and now 39 points sit between them with four rounds remaining. Tomac, who finished fourth (3-7), is third, 62 points out of the lead.
The opening 250 Class moto saw championship point leader Justin Cooper emerge with the MotoSport.com Holeshot just ahead of Jett Lawrence, Cooper’s championship rival, and Jeremy Martin, who brought a two-race win streak into Unadilla. Lawrence applied heavy pressure on Cooper on the opening lap and looked for a way around, but to no avail. Instead, Cooper withstood the challenge and put a few bike lengths on the field, as Martin looked to close in from third.
The field stabilized about 10 minutes into the moto, but the lead trio was closer than ever with less than two seconds between them. Lawrence appeared to be the fastest of the leaders and once again went on the attack. The top two riders in the championship put on a show as they went to battle for control of the race, which allowed them to drop Martin in third, but Cooper was able to respond to the challenge again. As they reached the halfway point of the moto the leaders settled into their positions, where Cooper managed a multi-second advantage over Lawrence as Martin continued to give chase from third.
Cooper was able to pick up the pace over the second half of the moto and pulled away from Lawrence to establish a lead of more than five seconds. He continued to charge through to the finish and capped off a wire-to-wire victory by 3.3 seconds over Lawrence, with Martin third, RJ Hampshire fourth, and Team Honda HRC’s Hunter Lawrence fifth.
As the field charged through the first turn to start Moto 2 it was Cooper who wrapped up each of the day’s MotoSport.com Holeshots, with Martin in tow. Behind them, Jett Lawrence and Hampshire duked it out for third. Martin didn’t waste any time trying to put the pressure on his teammate as the Yamaha-mounted riders went bar-to-bar on multiple occasions on the opening lap. Cooper held him off as Lawrence closed in to make it a three-way fight.
Martin’s persistence paid off five minutes into the moto when he took advantage of a slight bobble by Cooper to take over the lead. Lawrence then proceeded to follow his way into second, but only briefly, as Cooper responded and reclaimed second. Meanwhile, Martin moved out to a lead of nearly two seconds. A lap later Lawrence found his way back onto Cooper’s rear fender and seized the moment to make the pass once again for second. The Australian then set his sights on Martin for the lead.
As Lawrence continued his pursuit of Martin out front, Cooper was facing additional pressure from behind, this time from Hampshire. The Husqvarna rider needed a couple of tries, but soon dropped Cooper outside the top three. Not long after that, Lawrence’s path to the front was complete with a decisive pass on Martin just before the halfway point of the moto.
Once out front, Lawrence was able to sprint away from his rivals and quickly built a lead of more than five seconds. He maintained that advantage through to the finish to earn his first moto win since RedBud, taking the checkered flag 3.6 seconds ahead of Martin, with Hampshire in third and Cooper a distant fourth.
The triumph in the second moto vaulted Lawrence to the overall win (2-1), the third of his young career. It ended a three-race drought from the podium and follows up his season-opening victory at Fox Raceway in May.
“I finally got my starts sorted and that helps a lot,” said Lawrence. “The boys (fellow competitors) were hooking, but I got some lines, and they were working. I just felt really good there. It felt like home. I got into a groove and felt so fast. It’s just awesome. My mentality isn’t going to change (for the rest of the season). I’m going to come into these last four rounds trying to do everything I can, because Justin (Cooper) is riding well.”
Cooper finished in the runner-up spot (1-4) to miss out on a win in his home state but has still finished on the overall podium in all eight rounds this season. Martin rounded out the podium in third (3-2).
“I just felt really good in the first moto, but I think we needed to make a bike change for the second moto,” explained Cooper. “The track was a lot rougher than I expected. I just lost my rhythm out there. It was still a positive day. We’ll come out swinging (for the final four rounds) and try to wrap up this championship.”
After eight rounds, just four points separate Cooper and Lawrence in the 250 Class standings. Hunter Lawrence, who finished sixth (5-11), is third, 61 points out of the lead, while Martin sits an additional point back in fourth.
The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will continue next weekend with a visit to Southern Maryland, in the shadow of the nation’s capital of Washington D.C., where Mechanicsville’s famed Budds Creek Motocross Park will host Round 9 of the championship and the Circle K Budds Creek National.
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship – Circle K Unadilla National
Unadilla MX – New Berlin, New York – August 14, 2021
450 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)
1 Ken Roczen, Germany, Honda (1-1)
2 Dylan Ferrandis, France, Yamaha (2-3)
3 Marvin Musquin, France, KTM (4-4)
4 Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki (3-7)
5 Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda (11-2)
6 Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., KTM (5-5)
7 Christian Craig, El Cajon, Calif., Yamaha (7-6)
8 Max Anstie, England, Suzuki (8-9)
9 Justin Bogle, Cushing, Okla., KTM (9-12)
10 Coty Schock, Dover, Del., Honda (12-10)
450 Class Championship Standings (Round 8 of 12)
1 Dylan Ferrandis, France, Yamaha – 345 Points
2 Ken Roczen, Germany, Honda – 306 Points
3 Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki – 283 Points
4 Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda – 270 Points
5 Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., GASGAS – 239 Points
6 Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha – 217 Points
7 Marvin Musquin, France, KTM – 213 Points
8 Christian Craig, El Cajon, Calif., Yamaha – 211 Points
9 Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., KTM – 209 Points
10 Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, Ga., KTM – 160 Points
250 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)
1 Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda (2-1)
2 Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha (1-4)
3 Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Yamaha (3-2)
4 RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna (4-3)
5 Max Vohland, Sacramento, Calif., KTM (6-5)
6 Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda (5-11)
7 Jalek Swoll, Belleview, Fla., Husqvarna (8-9)
8 Levi Kitchen, Washougal, Wash., Yamaha (12-7)
9 Jarrett Frye, Mechanicsville, Md., Yamaha (13-8)
10 Ty Masterpool, Paradise, Texas, GASGAS (11-14)
250 Class Championship Standings (Round 8 of 12)
1 Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha – 324 Points
2 Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda – 320 Points
3 Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda – 263 Points
4 Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Yamaha – 262 Points
5 RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna – 243 Points
6 Jo Shimoda, Japan, Kawasaki – 192 Points
7 Jalek Swoll, Belleview, Fla., Husqvarna – 173 Points
8 Colt Nichols, Muskogee, Okla., Yamaha – 172 Points
9 Michael Mosiman, Sebastopol, Calif., GASGAS – 154 Points
10 Austin Forkner, Richards, Mo., Kawasaki – 152 Points