Troublemaker. Hooligan. Menace. Embarrassment. This year, Yamaha of Troy’s Jason Lawrence has been called nearly every name in the book. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, the aforementioned book was thrown at J-Law with major league accuracy by the AMA’s best pitchers, relegating No. 338 to the sidelines indefinitely. Talk about a rough season! But doesn’t anyone remember Lawrence’s real achievements in 2008-like the hard-fought supercross championship or the dominant first-moto slaughter he served up at Glen Helen? What about the multitudes of supportive people and sponsors behind him and his team, or the obviously competitive bike they’ve supplied him with? Sadly, most JL fans would rather roll a rental car with Jason than take a lap on his race bike. But not Dirt Rider readers-no, you guys and gals are much too smart for that. You would trade J-Law rumors for J-Law’s jetting specs any day of the week. You’d rather learn the width of his handlebar than the width of his jail cell bars. And you also realize that when we refer to the specifics of Lawrence’s suspension, we’re talking about the stuff that was handed down by Enzo, not the AMA!
One may assume that with Jason sitting out the second half of AMA races this year, his bike had been crammed into some obscure corner of the Yamaha of Troy race shop while Lawrence turns his life around in some high-desert celebrity rehab facility. If you believe this, then you might as well go with Jimmy Lewis on one of his weekly bulk shampoo shopping trips! Over the summer we got a chance to take a quick spin on Lawrence’s bike while he was hard at work with the usual schedule of training, testing, racing the X Games and getting ready for more off-season races, not to mention the team was finishing out the remainder of the season with Lawrence’s teammates Ryan Morais and Tyler Bowers. In fact, the YoT mechanics were so slammed on the day of our test that we were only allowed a quick photo shoot and a brief moto around Gorman’s I-5MX motocross track to evaluate the machine. Yet despite the time restrictions, it didn’t take long to realize that Lawrence’s YZ250F is as unique as he is. The most instantly noticeable aspect of his setup is, without a doubt, the handlebar. Rolled back well into the rider’s lap, J-Law’s bar gives the bike a low, squatted-in-the-rear type feeling that is augmented by a seemingly large amount of race sag in the shock.”We’ve really got the whole bike dialed in just for me,” Jason says of his lowboy style. “It’s set up kind of low, so it is super stable. I’ve liked my bikes this way for as long as I can remember.”Representative of the new-school style of riders, the squatty setup not only aids in stability but also encourages the rider to focus his weight on the rear of the bike, which helps the tire grab massive amounts of raw traction. Beyond the bar, the next most specialized setup element of the bike is the slipper clutch, which drastically alters the feel of the lever while simultaneously cutting down on engine-braking.
According to the YoT technicians, Jason became fond of the slipper clutch in supercross, where the drag of a rear wheel can have a negative effect on the attitude of a bike over big jumps. This is mitigated by the use of a slipper. Apparently, J-Law became familiar enough with this setup that he simply carried it over onto his outdoor bike.Although the motor on J-Law’s motocross bike was once a stock YZ250F, every aspect of the engine has been tuned and tweaked to specifically suit Jason’s style. Which means? Just like nearly every pro-level bike that we’ve tested, this baby was built to please only one rider. Consequently, unless your name starts with a J-ason and ends with a L-awrence, you may not agree with the manner of the motor. In fact, if you ride this machine like you think it should be ridden, you’ll come away feeling like the bike was downright slow. Allow me to explain: When you first crack the throttle on J-Law’s G-ride, the bike produces a strong blast of power and pulls hard into the mid before stumbling into an incredibly low rev-limiter. Try to pin it further from here and the bike goes absolutely nowhere, a feeling that can easily be mistaken for a lack of performance. However, if you short-shift before the revs tap out and ride the bike in what seems to be a gear too high, you make perfect use of the beefy low-end and strong, all-out torque-which is exactly how Jason likes it.”I always like to run a 51-tooth rear sprocket outdoors, so I can use all the gears,” Lawrence told us. “My motor is awesome. It’s got a lot of bottom so it pulls really hard, and it’s got a lot of hit so it kind of winds out fast. I’ve always liked a motor that has a lot of snap, so I don’t really mind if it winds out quick because I like to bang gears and not be lazy. After all, I got the first holeshot of the year at Glen Helen with it, and you can’t beat that!”
Compared to the top-end-heavy, revved-to-the-moon 250Fs that many recent 85cc graduates prefer, Lawrence’s quick-shifting, hard-hitting power preferences are more reminiscent of a 450cc woods weapon than a motocross screamer. Ironically, though, it still takes a keen left foot and an ear for rpm to make the bike competitive.
While the power delivery on the No. 338 bike may be surprising, the suspension settings certainly are not. Fast-guy stiff is the name of the game here, with both the fork and shock set up to absorb harder-than-life hits that only pro motocrossers and desert racers are exposed to. Granted, Lawrence is lighter than your average rider, but the speed at which he hits various obstacles is anything but average. As mentioned, the most distinct setup feature is the slightly low attitude of the bike, which again makes it a powerhouse when charging up hills or across fast chop.”My suspension is the best that I’ve come across in as long as I’ve been racing. It has definitely gotten stiffer as I’ve gotten faster and the tracks have gotten rougher, but pretty much we’ve run the same basic setup since I’ve been on the team,” Jason said.To a heavier test rider, this setup may seem to blow through the initial portion of the stroke, but it never bottomed out. To a rider close to Jason’s weight, the extra margin of error provided by the bike’s resistant fork was a welcome-albeit rigid-breath of fresh air.In the end, we couldn’t care less about J-Law’s criminal record or rumor-built reputation. What matters most is that the kid is a solid, talented racer with the means and ability to earn championships on a bike that-quite frankly-surprised us with how little it wanted to be wound out. Obviously, the hard hit and strong acceleration are to be expected, though the falling out up top was fairly uncharacteristic of a typical Lites-class race bike. But maybe this false expectation in setup is a parallel for how people respond to Jason; perhaps he, like his bike, simply wasn’t built to bounce off the rev-limiter. Maybe his style is to do things in his own way and operate in what he feels is the right gear, and those who push him are met with nothing but resistance. Sure, Jason has some work to do in order to clear his name, but fixing this problem may be no more of a challenge than fine-tuning his bike.”If there is ever something on my bike that is not perfect,” J-Law says, “we fix it. It seems like we always find a way to make it exactly how I want it. Just recently, with some more help from Yamaha and the rest of the team, we have made my bike really, really good. I can’t really ask for anything else.”Clearly, this kid has everything he needs to remain a champion. Time will tell if he has what it takes to put them together.