The foreseeable happened at Budds Creek, as Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb clinched their 2016 titles. There was plenty more though,
with battles raging (or at least being contested) for podium spots in both the 450 and the Lites, and recent/newcomers to the pro circuit trying their luck again.
2016 Pro MX Week 11 - By-The-Numbers Recap: Budds Creek
(Note: now interactive, so in one graphic you can select 450/250 and Moto 1/2. Hover over the lines to see the Rider/Lap/Position.)
Once again, Roczen blew the field away in both motos, getting great starts and quickly building a lead that was insurmountable. Since Roczen took off without a challenge from the pack (auto-fill at this point), let's look at what else was interesting.
Could anyone else (looking at you, Eli Tomac) even challenge Roczen?
Since Tomac got in trouble in the first lap of Moto 1, apparently colliding with Ronnie Stewart--then gallantly aiding Stewart, who was stuck under his own bike--perhaps Tomac was running at a speed nearly equal to Roczen's but we couldn't see it since they were so far apart. Tomac did manage to climb from 39th up to 6th, making up a spot in nearly every single lap, but here's how he compared to the Moto 1 podium finishers:
As you can see, the lap times for Tomac didn't really approach Roczen or the other two, possibly because Tomac was fighting through the other riders trying to get back toward the front. Marvin Musquin and Justin Barcia were closer to Roczen's pace--in laps 6 and after, at least--but by then Roczen was probably riding at a more casual speed since he had a giant lead.
In Moto 2 it was a little more competitive between Roczen and Tomac -- as long as you only look after Lap 4, where Tomac had some laps that were better than or equal to Roczen:
This bar graph's not great, but tries to look at the running total of these four. As the laps go from left to right, the total time adds up, where having a shorter bar is better than a longer one. This is limiting the laps to the best ones for Tomac -- Lap 5 through Lap 17:
You can kind of see how around Lap 13, Tomac and Roczen are about even, while Musquin and Barcia are running behind by a detectably bigger margin. This pattern continues through to the end of Lap 17. But laps 1 through 4 matter, too, of course.
450 Rookie Jerry Robin
Robin was predicted at #19 in the Budds Creek predictions, due to improvement at Unadilla versus his amateur-to-pro prediction that put him closer to 31st in the rider profile based on his amateur results (the fact that so many top riders are injured had something to do with that, as well). Robin ended up with 2 points at Budds Creek, finishing 22nd, but it wasn't quite as simple as that. In Moto 1 he was running as high as 13th, then dropped back to 21st in Lap 7. From there he was running between #19 and #21 up through Lap 11 -- then he left the race, though it wasn't announced why, so no points for Moto 1.
There's not a lot to see on his lap times, other than that he was running similar pace to those who finished at the bottom of the points in Moto 1:
In his 3rd pro race, not bad. He started out well in laps 1, 2, & 3, but then slipped some, before picking it back up in 8, 9, and 10. In Moto 2, Robin hung out between 17th and 21st the whole race, finishing 19th. Again, Robin's times were around the same range as his competitors in the lower-end of the Top 20:
Justin Starling made his 450 debut
Having ridden 3 seasons-and-change in the 250 MX and 250 Supercross classes, Starling entered the 450 race at Budds Creek, his first race in all of 2016 (that I can tell). Had he been listed in the MotoXGraphs predictions, it would have been around #29. Starling finished 22nd and 27th, which averages out to 24.5. Better than the prediction, and he ran lap times close to the above-referenced riders in Moto 1 near the bottom of the points, though a bit slower:
So, Starling has some work to do, but as a privateer he made a decent showing in his first go-round with the 450 pros.
And while rookie Benny Bloss didn't have his best day at Budds Creek, he still finished 11 / 10 for 9th overall, which means he picked up 21 points on 5th place rider Christophe Pourcel. Now, Bloss has only 13 points remaining in order to overtake 5th for the 450 full season standings, and he can do that next week with a Top 10 finish (or a little worse, depending on how the points work out).
Speaking of rookies, Bradley Taft rode his 2nd pro weeken, finishing 14 / 12 for 13th overall. That beats his MotoXGraphs prediction of 18th, and at times he was running comfortably in the Top 10. In Moto 2, his better finish, he rode in the Top 10 until Lap 5, where he gradually drifted back to his finishing position in 12th, which you can see here, where Taft is compared to the guys who finished just inside the Top 10 of Moto 2:
It's clear he lost some speed going into the halfway point, while these other 3 were able to maintain their pace. That's often a problem for new riders -- they haven't gone through the grueling 30+ minute races twice in one day. But even so, 13th overall is a really good start for the 19-year-old.
Oh yeah, and Austin Forkner -- whose great rookie season is old news by now. He had the fastest lap time in Moto 2, which is something I don't think he's done yet as a 250 pro. Even if he has, it's still a great sign that he has the speed to match the results, such as his 5 / 2 on the day for 3rd overall.
One more week for the 2016 season, and before that we'll look at how this week's results shape up the possibilities for advancement at the final round. Will Bloss catch Pourcel? Who's going to come out with 2nd place in the 250s? Any other Top 10 surprises? We'll see by the middle of the week.