If there were any questions about whether or not he could be a legitimate championship contender this year, Joey Savatgy put those doubts to rest at the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season opener. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider notched the first moto win of his career en route to a clean 1-1 sweep at Hangtown and his second career overall victory.
One season ago, Savatgy finished third in 250MX points and earned his first overall win at Unadilla. Earlier this year, he took Cooper Webb down to the wire and nearly earned a 250SX West supercross title. Now he hopes to take the next step in his continued progression – winning a outdoor championship in the 250 Class.
The day started with Savatgy turning the fastest lap in practice, and he proceeded to carry that speed over into the first moto of the season when he powered to the front of the field to grab the holeshot. Close behind were Jordon Smith and Jeremy Martin, with Cooper Webb and RJ Hampshire rounding out the top five.
Up front, Smith pressed Savatgy for the race lead and kept himself within about half a second in the opening minutes. Eventually though, Savatgy began to open up a lead and steadily pull away. He took the checkered flag, finishing more than three seconds ahead of second-place Smith.
The moto win was the first of Savatgy's career and put the rest of the field on notice.
Joey Savatgy led 23 of 34 laps across both motos. (Photo: George Crosland)
As for Smith, his second-place moto finish was a career high. "I've been putting in a lot of really hard work at Millsaps Training Facility and out in California with the GEICO Honda team," he told Georgia Lindsay after the race. "They've done a great job, my bike's really good this year. You never really know where you're gonna be until you line up for the first moto, but that was a really good showing for the first moto."
Webb took over third place from Martin on the opening lap and proceeded to put some distance between the two of them. Martin was then forced to deal with pressure from the GEICO Honda duo of Hampshire and Charboneau before closing back in on Webb with about 10 minutes left in the moto.
The latest installment of the Webb vs. Martin rivalry was an entertaining one. By this point in the race, heavy rain had started to fall. As a result, the longer that Martin rode behind his Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha teammate, the more tearoffs he was forced to use. After a few unsuccessful pass attempts, Martin successfully made the pass on Webb for third with under seven minutes left on the countdown clock.
Jeremy Martin's quest for a three-peat started off with a third-place finish in Moto 1. (Photo: George Crosland)
Webb, who is dealing with a nagging wrist injury that has limited his riding time recently, would not back off after being passed. He closed the gap on Martin late in the race, but was unable to get himself close enough to make a move on the two-time defending champion. Webb went all-out in his effort though, even crashing just short of the finish line in a last ditch effort to get around his teammate. Webb was able to remount and cross the finish line without losing any positions, but Martin escaped with third, while Webb settled for fourth.
Hampshire rounded out the top five, while teammate Charboneau finished behind him in sixth.
RJ Hampshire and Tristan Charboneau were both solid in Moto 1. (Photo: George Crosland)
In the second moto, it was Jessy Nelson storming to the front of the pack for a holeshot with brothers Jeremy and Alex Martin in tow. A first-turn pileup ensued, then a a downed rider caused the red flag to come out though, and the race needed to be restarted.
On the restart, Nelson did it again and took the holeshot. This time it was Moto 1 winner Savatgy right behind him. Savatgy spent the next 24 minutes of the race keeping pace with Nelson up front before finally closing in and making a move to take over the lead.
After giving up the top spot, Nelson began to fade back. He finished in sixth place after dropping spots to Alex Martin, Aaron Plessinger, Zach Osborne and Cooper Webb in the closing laps. Alex Martin began to close in on Savatgy but never got close enough to attempt a pass. Savatgy won the moto by a final margin of victory of less than 1.5 seconds.
Alex Martin turned in an impressive second-place ride in Moto 2. (Photo: George Crosland)
The 1-1 sweep gave Savatgy the overall victory and a significant 15-point lead in the 250MX standings heading into Glen Helen, where he will run the red plate on his bike.
"It's a good way to start a season," Savatgy said afterwards when interviewed on the broadcast. "We’ve been working for a long time and finished the supercross season strong. We came out swinging today, it felt good all day. First moto win this morning, now two in the same day. We'll take it and now keep working, keep improving."
Behind Savatgy, the overall results featured a quartet of Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha teammates. The group was led by Alex Martin, who posted 8-2 moto finishes. Webb (4-5) joined him on the overall podium despite riding with a broken wrist that he described as "brutal" after the race. Plessinger (9-3) and Jeremy Martin (3-9) rounded out the top five.
250 Class podium: Alex Martin (2nd), Joey Savatgy (1st), Cooper Webb (3rd). (Photo: George Crosland)
Jeremy Martin had a shot at a much better finish, as he had climbed up to fifth in Moto 2, but while battling rookie Austin Forkner for position on Lap 10, Martin went down and dropped back to ninth place.
As for Forkner, he was one of two rookies that had an impressive pro debut at Hangtown. The Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider posted 13-7 moto finishes, good for eighth overall. He climbed as high as third place in Moto 2.
GEICO Honda's Tristan Charboneau (6-14) finished ninth overall in his pro debut and was knocking on the door of a top-five finish in Moto 1.
After his incredible effort in Moto 1, Jordon Smith appeared to be on the brink of another podium finish in the second moto. He was running in the top three for the first five laps of the race before dropping a spot to Forker. On Lap 8, he tipped over and then began to fade, ultimately finishing 16th in the moto. His 2-16 moto finshes slotted him seventh overall for the day.
Cooper Webb landed on the overall podium despite being hindered by a wrist injury. (Photo: George Crosland)
Adam Cianciarulo made his 2016 racing debut at Hangtown after sitting out the entire supercross. Unfortunately, neither of his two motos were memorable, as he finished outside the top ten in both. His 12-11 moto results landed him 13th overall.
Next week, the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship head to Glen Helen for the season's second round. Will Savatgy continue his winning ways, or might one of the Star Yamaha riders reclaim their familiar spot atop the podium?
250 CLASS OVERALL RESULTS
1. Joey Savatgy (1-1)
2. Alex Martin (8-2)
3. Cooper Webb (4-5)
4. Aaron Plessinger (9-3)
5. Jeremy Martin (3-9)
6. Jessy Nelson (7-6)
7. Jordon Smith 2-16)
8. Austin Forkner (13-7)
9. Tristan Charboneau (6-14)
10. Mitchell Oldenburg (11-10)
11. Zach Osborne (20-4)
12. Christian Craig (15-8)
13. Adam Cianciarulo (12-11)
14. Colt Nichols (14-12)
15. RJ Hampshire (5-38)
16. Alex Frye (10-17)
17. Justin Hill (21-13)
18. Arnaud Tonus (22-15)
19. Mitchell Harrison (16-20)
20. Luke Renzland (19-19)
23. Shane McElrath (18-36)
250 CLASS OVERALL RESULTS
1. Joey Savatgy, 50
2. Alex Martin, 35
3. Cooper Webb, 34
4. Jeremy Martin, 32
5. Aaron Plessinger, 32
6. Jessy Nelson, 29
7. Jordon Smith, 27
8. Tristan Charboneau, 22
9. Austin Forkner, 22
10. Mitchell Oldenburg, 21
250 MOTO 1: SAVATGY GRABS LEAD ON HOLESHOT
250 MOTO 1: MARTIN PASSES WEBB
250 MOTO 1: RACE RECAP
250 MOTO 2: FIRST-TURN PILEUP BEFORE RED FLAG
250 MOTO 2: SAVATGY VS. NELSON FOR THE LEAD
250 MOTO 2: RACE RECAP