How Zach Osborne lifted the 2020 AMA 450 crown
As soon as the COVID-19 crisis broke there was a huge question mark over the likelihood of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship even running in 2020. Sure, it was still a couple of months off but as the pandemic took hold it was looking increasingly likely that defending champion Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Kawasaki) would – along with fellow 450cc big-hitters Ken Roczen (Team Honda HRC), Cooper Webb (Red Bull KTM), Marvin Musquin (Red Bull KTM) and Jason Anderson (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) – get an extended summer holiday.
The schedule was rehashed time and time again until promoter MX Sports Pro Racing finally settled on a nine-round calendar kicking off three months later than initially planned in the middle of August at Lorretta Lynn’s.
However, before a wheel was even turned in anger it was announced that Roczen was out after deciding to rest-up over the summer to give his ongoing health issues time to resolve themselves.
Former British MX2 champion Zach Osborne (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) busted out the overall at the opening round with a 2-1 scorecard giving him a comfortable victory over Anderson who ran 1-4 and a below-par Tomac who carded 7-2. Musquin and Justin Barcia (Monster Energy Yamaha) completed the top-five.
Dean Wilson (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) ended the day in 10th, one place ahead of fellow Brit Max Anstie (HEP Motorsports Suzuki) who was making his comeback after missing the full SX season with an Achilles tendon injury.
The series returned to Lorretta Lynn’s the following weekend for round two and Osborne struck again, taking the overall with a 5-1 to get the verdict ahead of Adam Cianciarulo (Monster Energy Kawasaki) who went 3-5 and Musquin who ended the day with 8-2 finishes.
Anstie’s 15-3 finishes were rewarded with fifth overall but Tomac ended the day all the way back in 16th after bike problems in race one and a crash second time out limited him to 9-24 scores.
An ongoing back problem stemming from the Arlington SX meant that Webb was missing in action with multiple herniated discs and the 24-year-old wasn’t seen again for the rest of the season.
Ironman Raceway was next up where Tomac bounced back, following Musquin home in the opening moto before winning race two. Musquin’s 1-6 was good enough for second ahead of Cianciarulo who went 3-4.
Osborne ran 7-3 for fifth but kept the series lead by 13 points from Musquin with Barcia a further 13 behind in third and just one point in front of Tomac.
The momentum looked to be with Tomac heading into round four at RedBud but Osborne had taken his A game to Michigan and strengthened his stranglehold on the championship lead with a devastating double win as his rivals struggled to string two consistent rides together.
Chase Sexton (Team Honda HRC) scored a career-first outdoor 450cc podium with his 3-4 moto finishes good enough for second ahead of Barcia’s 6-2. Musquin lost out on a tie-break for third with Cianciarulo and Tomac losing ground in fifth and sixth.
Just two days later America’s fastest racers were back at RedBud to do it all again and this time it was class rookie Cianciarulo on top, backing up his opening moto win with a third in race two to lead home Blake Baggett (Rocky Mountain KTM) who ran 6-1 to beat Osborne’s 4-2 on a tie-break. Musquin was fourth with Tomac back in fifth.
So with the series just past the halfway mark it was Osborne who held a commanding 28-point lead over Musquin with Cianciarulo a further 14 off the pace. Tomac was fourth but with a 47-point gap to Osborne it looked as though his title defence was dead in the water.
From RedBud it was a relatively short trip west to Spring Creek in Minnesota where Osborne’s campaign suffered its first serious set-back of the series.
Cianciarulo took a pair of wins for the second 450 overall of his career with Baggett going 2-2 for second and Barcia snapping up third with a 5-4. Tomac continued to struggle with fifth behind Sexton but after a fourth-placed finish in the first moto Osborne was 16th in race two, allowing Cianciarulo to cut his lead to 15 points with Musquin another five behind.
Just when Osborne looked to be stuttering he fired back with another double win at Florida’s WW Ranch to re-establish his dominance. A pair of thirds was good enough for second overall for Musquin ahead of Tomac’s 6-2 with Cianciarulo losing ground in fourth.
Next up was Tomac’s home race at Thunder Valley and he didn’t disappoint as he raced to 3-1 finishes to take the overall on a tie-break from Cianciarulo who went 1-3. With the title almost in his grasp, Osborne’s 4-2 performance for third overall was rock-solid and set him up with a 24-point lead from Cianciarulo heading into the final round at Fox Raceway in California.
As is so often the case, the series finale proved to be a bit of an anti-climax. Sexton won with 3-1 scores ahead of Tomac’s 1-4 with Cianciarulo running 2-3 for third but Osborne’s 5-7 gave him the title by a comfortable 12 points and, at 31, became the oldest winner of the 450 crown.
“I came out swinging and was able to take home a national championship which is something I never ever dreamed of doing,” said Osborne. “I felt it was way out of my league – so dream big is the moral of the story and don’t ever give up.
“Find people that believe in you even when you don’t and keep pressing on. It’s such a relief to win this. Thank you to everyone who has been behind me.”
In the 250 class Dylan Ferrandis (Monster Energy Yamaha) finally got his hands on an outdoor title following a season-long fight with Jeremy Martin (Geico Honda). The pair gapped the entire field with three overall wins each as the best 250 riders in the USA struggled to keep up with them.
Ferrandis drew first blood at Lorretta Lynn’s before Martin fired back with three overalls in a row to move into a 12-point lead over the Frenchman approaching the halfway point in the championship.
RJ Hampshire (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) stuck it on top of the box at RedBud 2 but Ferrandis then went on a two-round win-streak so with two rounds – and four points-paying races – to go he led Martin by 13 points.
After finishing second at Thunder Valley behind his team-mate Justin Cooper, Ferrandis extended his advantage to 18 points over Martin with Shane McElrath on the third Monster Energy Yamaha best of the rest a further 80 points off the pace.
Just weeks after his 17th birthday, Aussie sensation Jett Lawrence (Geico Honda) took the overall at the series finale from Martin but Ferrandis rode with a cool head to take third and make sure of the title. His total points tally of 390 gave him the championship by 13 points from Martin with McElrath a distant third, 102 points behind Ferrandis.
“It’s awesome,” said Ferrandis. “Really the goal is accomplished. I’m really proud and honoured. It’s been a really crazy season. I never dreamed that big to win a supercross and motocross championship in the same year. It’s really awesome.”