LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. – The 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, came to an exciting conclusion on Saturday with its return to Southern California.
After 12 weekends of competition spanning all over the country, the inaugural round from Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park served as a fitting season finale, crowing a pair of National Champions at day’s end.
While Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey closed out the season with his 10th consecutive victory in the 450 Class, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett took center stage by winning his fifth 250 Class race of the season and securing his first career professional title.
In the Women’s Motocross Championship, Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Ashley Fiolek overcame a five-point deficit coming into the weekend to claim her fourth title in five years.
With a track that had never been raced on prior to Saturday, there was an even playing field for the riders as the gate dropped on the first 450 Class moto. As the competitors rounded the first turn, MotoConcepts Suzuki’s Mike Alessi grabbed the holeshot and proceeded to open up an early lead. Dungey slotted himself in third, but made quick work of Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Tyla Rattray to set his sights on the lead.
Dungey chipped away at Alessi’s advantage lap-by-lap, and began to pressure the Suzuki rider halfway through the moto. On lap six, Dungey made his move and took over the lead, quickly pulling away to a comfortable margin and winning the moto by over 14 seconds.
In Moto 2, Alessi once again put himself out front with the holeshot, while Dungey found himself in a battle with Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda’s Christian Craig, of El Cajon, Calif., for several laps. Eventually, Dungey moved into second, putting he and Alessi in virtually the same situation as the previous moto. On Lap 7, Dungey made his move again, but this time Alessi’s defense of the position resulted in a pass back for the lead, only to surrender the spot for good just moments later.
Dungey’s victory came on the heels of his eighth moto sweep of the season. He also equaled his win total from 2010, when he captured his first 450 Class title as a rookie. In just 36 career starts in the premier division, Dungey has captured 24 wins, leaving him three shy of second all time in the 450 Class.
“It feels great,” said Dungey. “I’ve said it a lot, but (the team) had a lot to figure out. I felt like we made improvements at the middle of the season and to keep winning since round three is awesome to finish off on a strong note like this. I’ve had a lot of fun his season. All the success we’ve had is because of the effort of everyone at KTM.”
Alessi capped off his impressive 2012 season with his ninth podium finish of the summer in second (2-2), while Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Broc Tickle finished third (3-3).
Following a summer full of parity, four riders entered Lake Elsinore with a chance to claim the 250 Class title. GEICO Honda’s Justin Barcia was one of those contenders, and he looked to make a statement by leading the early portion of the opening moto. However, Baggett wouldn’t be denied, putting the pressure on his rivals by racing to the front of the field and taking a convincing win.
In Moto 2, Barcia once again put himself in position to win following a strong start, while Baggett needed to work his way forward from a mid-pack start. Once in the lead, Barcia quickly opened a multi-second gap over the field, which he would carry through to the finish. As he pulled away, Baggett went to work, clawing his way from 11th place to second in a matter of six laps.
A quick fall forced Baggett to drop a couple spots, but he made up the lost ground and asserted himself in second place for the remainder of the moto, needing just a runner-up effort to secure the overall victory and the title.
In the end Baggett, who mathematically needed to finish in 13th or better in the final moto, walked away with the championship, the 10th for his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team. The win was also Pro Circuit’s 100th Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship victory.
“I came out swinging today,” said Baggett. “I knew I would either go to the front, or it would all go down the drain. The first moto was crazy battling with Justin (Barcia) and Eli (Tomac). In the second moto, I got a horrible start and I don’t even know, I couldn’t even see. I just needed to get to the front and finish as good as I could, so I did. I really wanted to make a push at the end just to show that I was still giving it all I had.”
Barcia finished second (3-1), while Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin, of France, grabbed the final spot on the podium in third (4-3). GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac who entered the afternoon only 14 points behind Baggett, experienced misfortune in the final moto to finish seventh overall (2-14).
The final round of the eight-race Women’s Motocross Championship saw only 10 points separating the top three riders in the standings. However, it was a relative unknown who stole the spotlight as Italian rider Chiara Fontanesi dominated in a guest appearance aboard her Yamaha/Monster Energy machine.
Fontanesi, the recently-crowned Women’s World Motocross Champion, swept the day’s motos, while Fiolek capitalized on a consistent finishes. In the end, Fiolek surpassed Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki’s Jessica Patterson in the points to successfully defend her title, despite missing a round of competition earlier in the season due to injury. MotoConcepts Honda’s Mariana Balbi finished second overall (3-2), while Fiolek finished third (2-3).