No team has had as busy of an offseason at the JGRMX crew. After making the switch to Suzuki equipment with some support from the OEM in 2017, the North Carolina-based team has become the sole factory effort for Suzuki's motocross operation. With the increased support came a massive swell to the team's squad, as they will field two riders in the 450 class aboard a brand-new bike and have up to four riders in the 250 class through the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross Series, with a slight reduction for the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Let's have a quick run through the changes and topics of discussion...
The shutdown of RCH/Yoshimura/Suzuki had a huge impact on JGRMX, as they inherited the factory support and instantly became AutoTrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing. There are a few elements Justin Bogle's inclusion to JGRMX that need to be gone over, particularly that he wasn't simply reassigned from one team to another. Bogle was at the end of his contract with Suzuki and RCH when the team shut down in 2017, and his signing to JGRMX was largely up to team manager Jeremy Albrecht (being highly recommended by Ricky Carmichael and training at the GOAT Farm in Florida certainly helped). The rider and team wasted no time getting to know each other by racing the 2017 Monster Energy Cup, but a hard crash in race one resulted in a serious concussion that kept Bogle off of the bike for a period of time. Bogle will remain in Arai helmets and Answer Racing gear in 2018.
It was widely assumed that Weston Peick was going to continue his tenure with JGRMX, a deal that was all but announced when the all-new Suzuki RM-Z450 was shown at the team headquarters for the first time with Peick's numbers. It took a little longer for the news to become official, as his signing to the team for another year was stated in September. Peick has managed to maintain a program on the East Coast with the team in North Carolina as well as in his native Southern California. Unlike Bogle, Peick opted out of the 2017 Monster Energy Cup but has remained active on the test tracks in recent weeks. Peick will remain in FLY Racing helmets and gear for 2018.
One massive element to Suzuki's increased support in the program was a long and rigorous test with the riders, team, and the engineers that developed the bike from the ground up in North Carolina. This was a huge improvement for JGRMX's relationship with an OEM, as per Albrecht, they had never worked side by side with the people that designed the motorcycle. With this wealth of knowledge, it'll be interesting to see how the first races with the new equipment play out.
To fully support the six-rider roster, JGRMX has purchased a second tractor-trailer to house the 250 team at the races, added to their race shop, greatly increased their staff with in-house technicians and mechanics.
As soon as the two 450 spots were determined, all attention turned to the growing 250 team. Riders from around the world expressed interest at the four available spots, even with the unique strategy (although there are four spots for Supercross -two for each coast- only two would be "full-time" positions with the outdoor Nationals included). Suzuki's shuttering of the MXGP program had an influence on this as well because the team waited on Jeremy Seewer to make the decision of staying in Europe or coming to the US before they filled in the final spots.
Reigning 250 West Coast SX champion Justin Hill was the first to sign a deal, as his contract runs will have him race the 250 in Supercross and the Nationals and includes a very important transition to the 450 class in 2019. Hill's lackluster performance in the summer of 2017 drew ire from the industry, as he struggled to finish near the front of the pack in any moto, but Hill has stated that his recent move from California to North Carolina should eliminate the same setbacks and distractions. In order to run the number one plate, Hill will again race the West Coast SX series.
The second rider to ink a deal was Jimmy Decotis. Many considered this a surprise, since Decotis had long held Supercross-only contracts with GEICO Honda and was assumed to return in 2018, but the full-time ride with JGRMX for Supercross and the outdoors was too good to pass up. This agreement was a source of motivation for Decotis, who sat out the summer months due to a battle with Lyme Disease that sapped his energy levels. Now recovered and back to training, many have high expectations for Decotis on the East Coast.
Kyle Peters signed on for the third position, but his inclusion was not as surprising as others on the team, as the North Carolina native was hired as a fill-in rider for a handful of racers in 2017. Since both full-time 250 spots were filled, Peters will only race Supercross for the team, likely on the East Coast.
The final spot on the team went to Phil Nicoletti, a long-time JGRMX rider that dropped down to the 250 class in 2017 as part of team's initial push in the small-bore class. A badly broken ankle midway through the Supercross season put Nicoletti on the sidelines for much of the year, but he returned for the final rounds of the summer in the 450 class. Nicoletti has expressed a preference towards the Nationals over Supercross, but since there were few options for support in the sport, it looks as though he is only confirmed for the technical 250 West Coast Supercross series in 2018.
One interesting coincidence for the 250 riders at JGRMX is their gear endorsements, as West Coast racers Hill and Nicoletti will both wear O'Neal Racing apparel while East Coast racers Decotis and Peters will both wear FXR Racing. Every rider on the team, 450 included, will run SCOTT goggles thanks to the eyewear brand's complete sponsorship.