Round three of the AMA Pro Motocross championship saw Team Honda HRC’s Cole Seely record his best finish of the AMA Pro Motocross season so far. As was the case in AMA Supercross, the 450 class rookie had gotten off to a rocky start, but he has continued to make progress each weekend and was able to notch a top-five finish in Colorado.
In the first moto, Seely rode to a respectable eighth place after a mediocre start left him mid-pack on the first lap. The Californian found his pace during the day’s final race, taking the holeshot aboard his Honda CRF450R and riding to a solid fourth-place result. Fredrik Noren made his 2015 debut with Team Honda HRC and, in spite of some challenges, was able to secure 14th overall with 14-13 moto scores.
After GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac dominated the first moto and extended his perfect win streak to five-straight, it looked as if he would continue his winning ways during the final moto at his home track. Unfortunately, while leading the field by nearly 10 seconds, Tomac crashed on a downhill, suffering a dislocated shoulder. Although he was unable to finish the moto and collected no points, Tomac still sits second in the championship standings.
- One the eve of the race, Team Honda HRC’s Trey Canard and Fredrik Noren, along with GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac, Matt Bisceglia, RJ Hampshire and Jordan Smith, attended Sun Enterprise’s annual fan fest, which is one of the largest autograph signings of the year. Hundreds of racing enthusiasts were on hand to meet their favorite riders and take part in the festival-style event.
- Canard-who attended the race to support his team for the second consecutive week-has a special history at Thunder Valley Raceway, having participated in the 2008 and 2009 nighttime nationals, as well as helping lead Team USA to victory at the 2010 Motocross of Nations. “There have been a few really cool races for me here in Colorado,” he said. “Obviously, the Motocross of Nations tops that list, but the night racing was also awesome since it was a first for motocross. I also had a great race here in 2010, which really turned my season around and put me in contention for the 250 championship.”
- The Thunder Valley track features a steep uphill start, which makes it unique from any other track on the circuit. This forces riders to adjust their starting technique, as Team Honda HRC’s Cole Seely explained: “We go with a first-gear start here, which is different than any other track we race on. At such a high elevation and with such a steep start straight, it makes it hard to get a good jump out of the gate. It’s a bit tricky though because you have to shift through neutral and make sure your timing is right. I upped my rpm in the second moto, got my shift really good going up the hill and was able to edge the rest of the guys out for the holeshot.”
- As he had done at the first two races, Tomac topped the charts in qualifying by turning a 2:06.165 lap. Meanwhile, Seely secured the sixth-quickest time at 2:09.867, while Noren was 17th at 2:12.278.
- Despite a disappointing end to the day, Tomac proved he was the fastest man on the track by laying down unmatchable lap times in both motos. He recorded a 2:10.281 in the day’s first race, and before crashing in the final moto, he notched a 2:13.391. In both cases, the times were over 1.2 seconds faster than the next-best rider.
- Team Honda HRC has a short week before heading to Muddy Creek Raceway in Blountville, Tennessee, where Seely and Noren will return to action at round four on Saturday, June 6. Prior to that, they’ll participate in Thursday’s press day, during which they’ll give pre-race interviews with the local media.
THE FOCUS: Team Honda HRC Adjusts to the Mile-High track
With an elevation of 6,100 feet above sea level, the Thunder Valley National presents some unique performance challenges for both riders and machines. The air pressure is lower at high altitudes, meaning fewer oxygen molecules are present, affecting horsepower on all the bikes. “In order to adjust to the conditions and try to get back some power, we change our engine settings by adjusting the mapping,” said Team Honda HRC manager Dan Betley. “It’s still different than at sea level, but I think our engine package is actually really good up here, because we normally get really good starts.”
For riders, the lack of oxygen presents similar challenges, as both heart rate and respiratory rate increase at higher altitudes. Acclimatization and fitness are key to performance at higher elevation, but each rider has his own way of approaching the event. “There isn’t a whole lot you can do to become more prepared for the elevation,” Trey Canard explained, “but making sure you’re hydrated is huge and regrouping after each time on the track helps, because it really takes more out of you than you think.
Cole Seely’s body seems to cope well with the conditions. “Honestly, I don’t even really notice the elevation when I’m racing,” he said. “I’m not sure exactly why but it doesn’t bother me and never has. The biggest adjustment for me is getting used to the bike feeling different.”
Cole Seely #14
“I think today went really well. We did a lot of testing after last weekend and found some good settings that made racing a lot easier for me. With outdoor testing, I’m still not too sure exactly what I’m looking for or what direction to go, so I’m lucky to work with such a knowledgeable crew that can help point me in the right direction and have me try things that they think will help. I felt like the bike was handling and turning so much better and I wasn’t getting as beat up out there, so I’m really happy with that. I got the holeshot in the second moto and led for a little bit but the front three guys are going so fast, I couldn’t hold them off long. It’s going to be hard to run their pace but I definitely feel like I’m getting closer.”
Fredrik Noren #39
“My first ride back with factory Honda went pretty good, but I feel like I could’ve done better. I hurt my knee on press day, so heading into practice I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to ride. With the help of the Asterisk Mobile Medical Center, I was able to get it wrapped up and felt pretty decent. I’m going to get it checked out on Monday, but hopefully it’s nothing too serious and I can be ready for action at Muddy Creek. I’m really grateful for the opportunity Honda has given me, so I want to make them proud.”
Yasuhiro Yokoyama Technical Director, Team Honda/ HRC Motocross
“Cole Seely seems to be getting more used to the 450 class every time he’s on the track. He got the holeshot in the second moto and finished fourth, his career best. We were able to identify some areas of improvement for Cole so he’ll continue to get better. As for GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac, the day started very strong. We didn’t have to change too much on the bike and he qualified first. He won the first moto easily, but while in the lead again in the second moto, he crashed hard, causing him to DNF. He seems to have hurt his right shoulder but we’ll wait for the further prognosis. We hope for a quick recovery”
Dan Betley, Team Manager
“I’m happy with the progress Cole made today. He rode well, got the holeshot in the second moto and led the field for a little bit, which was awesome for him to get a feel for what it’s like up front with those guys. He ended fifth overall. The team worked really hard this past week, testing with him for two days and making a lot of bike changes, all for the better I think. We’re going to keep plugging away and keep working closer to the podium. The day went fairly well for Freddie; he rode strong and produced two solid finishes despite having hurt his knee on press day. Our goal is to consistently get him into the top ten. I’m extremely bummed for Eli and think it’s heartbreaking for the whole team. He dominated the first moto again and was leading by 11 seconds in the second moto when he went down hard, dislocating his shoulder. The status moving forward is unknown but we’re hoping for the best.”
Rich Simmons, Mechanic (Cole Seely)
“There are a lot of positives to take away from today. We continue to make improvements on the bike and Cole is also improving every time he’s on the track. I think missing the race at Hangtown really set him back, so he’s still on that learning curve and trying to figure out the 450 class outdoors. He just needs to take it one step at a time, but he rode well today and showed he has good speed.”
Brent Presnell, Mechanic (Fredrik Noren)
“Freddie is such an awesome guy to work with. He’s super positive and very appreciative of everything that we do, so it makes for a great combination. Today went well and I think it went as expected. It was a bummer that he tweaked his knee on press day because I don’t feel like he was at 100%, but he still rode well. We made a few clicker changes here and there but he didn’t want to change too much stuff on the bike because he knew he wasn’t riding that well and the few spots he had trouble with he thought were because of his knee. We’re going to regroup this week and come back stronger at Muddy Creek.”