Photos by Jeff Kardas
The 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship has started its Eastward journey, with round three taking place today just outside Denver, Colorado, at Thunder Valley MX Park. This stop has seen its share of interesting events in its 10 years on the tour, including a period of night races to combat the heat and altitude, but is now held earlier in the year when temperatures in the Rocky Mountains are somewhat cooler. The thinner air slightly affects both bikes and riders, but advancements in electronic fuel injection allow the bikes to run closer to normal.
We've seen a number of scenarios unfold through the first four motos of the year, including Jeremy Martin's rise to dominance in the 250 class, Red Bull KTM's control of the 450 ranks, and the comeback of Christophe Pourcel. All are expected to be factors in today's action, but a long list of competitors look to bring things closer as the weeks press on.
Timed qualifying has just come to a close at Thunder Valley, and despite the running order being close in both the 250 and 450 classes, two riders proved to be on another level in the Colorado mountains.
450 Timed Qualifying
Trey Canard is the only rider under the Team Honda Muscle Milk tent this weekend, as Justin Barcia is out with an ankle injury, and it seems like the extra CRF450R engine has been wedged in Canard's bike. After taking third in the first session, Canard found the fast line around the course in practice two and jumped to the top of the board with a 2:02.007.
Canard bested Red Bull KTM's Ken Roczen, whose first session time of 2:02.268 was more than enough for second place. Roczen's rides through the first two rounds have put him in control of the 450 championship and he wears the red number plate this weekend.
Despite feeling the effects of a stomach bug and sitting out the second practice, JGRMX/Toyota/NFAB/Yamaha's Josh Grant nabbed third place overall with a 2:02.938. Grant is still slatted to compete later in the day.
A number of riders have turned their fastest times in the first practice this year, and this was the case for Ryan Dungey. The Red Bull KTM rider took to the smooth, wet track early in the first session and posted a 2:03.100 lap, putting him fourth overall.
Yoshimura Suzuki James Stewart was incredibly consistent through both practice sessions, seeing only .020 seconds difference between his best laps in either outing. His first practice time of 2:03.669 ranked him fifth on the charts.
The remaining riders in the pack saw their share of excitement as well, with privateer Kellian Rusk nabbing 10th overall, BTO Sports KTM's Matt Georke making his return after an elbow injury disrupted his season, and Chad Reed running to 15th following a first practice crash.
1. Trey Canard 2:02.007
2. Ken Roczen 2:02.268
3. Josh Grant 2:02.938
4. Ryan Dungey 2:03.100
5. James Stewart 2:03.669
6. Jake Weimer 2:04.382
7. Brett Metcalfe 2:04.475
8. Andrew Short 2:04.839
9. Malcolm Stewart 2:05.593
10. Kellian Rusk 2:05.800
250 Timed Qualifying
Christophe Pourcel deployed his well-known tactic of waiting until the last moment of practice to unleash all of his speed, and the Valli Motorsports Yamaha rider jumped to first place with a 2:04.303 lap time. This marks Pourcel's third consecutive top qualifying time in 2014.
GEICO Honda's Zach Bell started the morning off with the quickest time of the first 250 session, a 2:04.480, and this was enough to maintain second after all was said and done.
Injuries have dwindled the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team down to just two riders, but both are worthy contenders for race wins. Justin Hill piloted his machine to a 2:05.182 for third overall, while Blake Baggett claimed fifth with a 2:05.597.
Jeremy Martin comes into the weekend with the control of the 250 championship, and the Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha rider showed that he will once again be one the day's strongest riders, charting a 2:05.342 and taking fourth on the timed charts.
Rockstar Energy Racing KTM's Jason Anderson has shown incredible speed through the first races of the year, and he claimed seventh on the clock. AG Motorsports' Kyle Peters and Smartop/MotoConcepts Racing's Kyle Cunningham put their privateer rides into seventh and eighth, respectively.
1. Christophe Pourcel 2:04.303
2. Zach Bell 2:04.480
3. Justin Hill 2:05.182
4. Jeremy Martin 2:05.342
5. Blake Baggett 2:05.597
6. Jason Anderson 2:06.320
7. Kyle Peters 2:06.625
8. Kyle Cunningham 2:06.958
9. Marvin Musquin 2:07.265
10. Jessy Nelson 2:07.325