The AMA Pro Motocross Championship kicked off its final stretch run of the 2021 season this weekend at Unadilla MX in New Berlin, New York, where Team Honda HRC took overall victories across both the 450 class and 250 classes.
Ken Roczen executed one of the most dominant outings this season in the 450MX class. The German rode to a flawless 1-1 sweep for his second win of the season, tightening the championship fight. Chase Sexton was also impressive, securing second place in 450MX moto 2, though a hard first-moto crash held him to fifth overall. Jett Lawrence prevailed in the 250MX class, achieving his second victory of the season, via 2-1 moto results, setting him only four points away from recapturing the red plate. Meanwhile, 5-11 finishes put his teammate and older brother, Hunter Lawrence, sixth overall in the same class.
After showing good speed in qualifying first and third, respectively, Roczen and Sexton carried their momentum into the first 450MX moto, with great starts. Roczen secured the holeshot and built a considerable gap on the rest of the pack. He was challenged by Aaron Plessinger before Plessinger suffered a frightening crash. From there Roczen rode solo to the checkered flag, finishing 10.6 seconds ahead of runner-up Dylan Ferrandis. Unfortunately, Sexton had gone down at the start, but he remounted and was able to charge forward from the back of the field to an 11th-place finish. Sexton started the second moto with the holeshot, with Roczen fourth. Roczen was aggressive and made quick passes up to second behind his teammate, with a decent gap on third. Sexton maintained a good pace, but Roczen stayed patient and made an impressive move on the outside of his teammate, assuming the lead. Roczen never looked back and completed one of the most dominant outings of his career, winning by a margin of over six seconds, with Sexton second for fifth overall.
The 250MX class saw Jett Lawrence in second in the early going of moto 1, and he applied pressure to points leader Justin Cooper. The two battled about 10 minutes in, but Jett eventually settled for second. Hunter showed good speed and ultimately finished fifth. In the opening moments of the second moto, Jett found himself in a battle with RJ Hampshire for third. Jett made his way into second, which he and Cooper traded back and forth before Lawrence made a pass that stuck. The Australian then set his sights on the leading Jeremy Martin and made a crucial pass just before the halfway point. He maintained the lead to the finish, earning his first moto win since RedBud four rounds earlier. Unfortunately, Hunter dealt with a bent front brake rotor during the second moto but managed to finish 11th, for sixth overall.
This weekend marked AMA Pro Motocross’s return to Unadilla MX after the legendary circuit was skipped last year due to the pandemic. The event was marked by picture-perfect weather, with sunshine and warm-but-not-uncomfortable temperatures peaking at 77º F by late afternoon. That said, track conditions proved challenging at what most consider to be the toughest track of the 2021 season thus far.
During the break after the previous round, Team Honda HRC and crew spent time testing and prepping in both Southern California and Florida, and the riders also were very busy with media-related events. Chase Sexton and the Lawrence brothers attended the 2022 Alpinestars gear launch at Southern California’s Perris Raceway, and then the Lawrence brothers joined test rider Trey Canard at the media ride event for the 2022 Honda CRF250R, in Sandy, Oregon. The Australian brothers will race the all-new machine next year in AMA Supercross and AMA Pro Motocross.
The Unadilla event ran at 100% capacity, with pro pit passes made available for the first time this season from 9 a.m. to noon. Whereas only VIP ticket holders were allowed in the pits previously, anyone with a pro pit pass could enter the Unadilla pits.
Live broadcast coverage from Unadilla was highlighted by a national network telecast of the second 450 class moto on NBC. Therefore, for the second time this season, the day’s racing began with the 450 class. Additionally, live coverage of the first motos were featured on MAVTV Motorsports Network, and tape-delayed coverage of the second motos aired on NBC Sports Network on Saturday night.
This was the first time at Unadilla MX for Hunter Lawrence. Hunter was active in AMA Pro Motocross in 2019 but injured his collarbone in a practice crash, forcing him to sit out two rounds–the Washougal and Unadilla Nationals.
Former Team Honda great and current training coach for the Lawrence brothers, Johnny O’Mara was inducted into the Unadilla Walk of Fame this weekend. Among “O’Show’s” memorable Unadilla performances was the 1986 250 USGP, where the Californian won the first moto and led late in moto 2 until running out of fuel, handing the overall win to Bob Hannah.
Roczen dominated qualifying in the 450MX class, posting a notable 2’21.338” lap in the final session, and Sexton was third-fastest at 2’22.492”. FXR/Chaparral Honda’s Coty Schock was eighth-best, and privateer Jeremy Hand was 17th.
Hunter Lawrence posted the third-fastest time in 250MX qualifying, his 2’24.942 ” in the final session good for seventh overall, one ahead of Jett Lawrence’s 2’25.619”. FXR/Chaparral Honda rider Carson Mumford posted the 13th-best time, and TiLube Honda’s Maxwell Sanford was 34th.
This was Roczen’s second 1-1 effort for this season and the 22nd overall AMA Pro Motocross win of his career (20 in 450, 2 in 250). His 20th 450MX class victory 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 also won both 450 motos the last time AMA Pro Motocross visited, in 2019.
Unadilla marked the third overall AMA Pro Motocross 250 win of Jett Lawrence’s career, the other two having come at Fox Raceway (last year’s season finale and this year’s opener). He and Cooper are tied for the most moto wins so far this season, with four.
This is the first time Team Honda HRC has won both classes this season. The previous time Honda was at last year’s Fox Raceway season finale, where Sexton and Jett Lawrence came out on top.
Roczen gained eight points on Dylan Ferrandis in the 450MX title chase, and now only 39 points separate them, with four rounds remaining. Sexton also gained valuable points and now sits fourth, 75 points out of the lead. In the 250MX title chase, Jett is eager to regain the 250MX red plate and sits in second, with just a four-point deficit to Justin Cooper. Hunter is in third, 61 points out of the lead.
Roczen, Sexton and Jett Lawrence participated in the virtual post-race press conference Saturday evening, via Zoom. Earlier, they attended the post-race media-corral interviews, which include the top 15 finishers from each class.
The AMA Pro Motocross series will continue this Saturday, August 21, in Mechanicsville, Maryland, for the Budds Creek National.