The Weekly Dirt: May 10, 2012

Welcome to the Weekly Dirt, the place to go each week to get your off-road fix. This week, there’s lots of interesting news heading up to the outdoor motocross season. Plus a few off-road tidbits as well.

Stewart to Suzuki, Regal to JGR, Rattray to 450s, and Mullins for GNCC only…

Photo by Shan Moore

Just a day after the Joe Gibbs motocross team announced that they had officially parted ways with James Stewart, Stewart inked a deal with the Yoshimura Suzuki factory motocross team that will see him competing in this year’s AMA Pro Motocross and the 2013 Supercross Championships… and so ends a somewhat turbulent relationship between JGRMX team and Stewart.

Reading Stewart’s press release, it becomes apparent that the rumors of Stewart testing a yellow bike during the SX season were true, although they were flatly denied by all parties.

"I'm really looking forward to joining the team," Stewart said in the release from Suzuki. "It's been a pleasure to get to test with these guys and meet the team. I'm very excited - I love the bike. Ever since I rode it from day one, I knew it was a great opportunity for me to come out and showcase my talent. With Mike Webb as the team manager and Don , the President of Yoshimura Racing - it's been great what they've been doing. The whole team is phenomenal. We're all excited to get the ball rolling and see what we can do over the next few years. I just want to thank everyone at Yoshimura and American Suzuki for giving me this opportunity."

With six AMA Championships to his credit, Stewart will be a boon for this summer’s outdoors series, especially since Ryan Villopoto and Chad Reed are sitting out the series with injuries, and it will be interesting to see how he stacks up with the rejuvenated Ryan Dungey on the KTM 450 Factory Edition.

As far as JGRMX, the team announced today that they had signed Kyle Regal to join Davi Millsaps on the team for the AMA Pro Motocross Championship Series.

“We are coming off a great Supercross season with Davi Millsaps and both Davi and Kyle are turning some very fast laps at our test track. We are excited about the upcoming outdoor national season,” said team manager, Jeremy Albrecht.

With Villopoto missing the outdoor series with a knee injury, Monster Energy Kawasaki dipped into Mitch Payton’s talent pool and elevated Tyla Rattray to the 450 squad for the summer. Rattray, a former XC2 World Champion from South Africa, will join Jake Weimer in trying to defend Monster Energy Kawasaki’s AMA Motocross title, which Villopoto claimed last year.

“I’m pumped to race the 450cc class with Monster Energy Kawasaki,” said Rattray. “I know both the team, and the bike can win championships. I couldn’t be more thankful to everyone allowing me to have this opportunity.”

Rattray, who suffered a fractured C-7 vertebra back in January at the Oakland Supercross, will get his first official start with the team at next week’s Hangtown Motocross Classic in Sacramento, California.

Photo by Shan Moore

Charlie Mullins was a no show at this weekend’s Cajun Classic National Enduro in Louisiana, which raised a lot of eyebrows. The word on the street is that KTM is restructuring its off-road effort to free up money for its Baja team. A press release is supposedly in the works, but as we understand it, Mullins, who has had his share of bad luck during this year’s enduro series, will be racing GNCC only for the rest of the year.

Depleting KTM’s numbers even more, Cory Buttrick pulled out of the Cajun Classic just about a mile into the first test when he twisted his knee. The factory KTM rider went for an MRI on Tuesday and was still awaiting results when we checked in on him this morning. Buttrick has had more than his share of health issues and we wish him a speedy recovery.

Photo by Shan Moore

The good news for KTM is that Steward Baylor claimed his fourth win of the season on a shop-backed 250 two-stroke. Look for this kid to be under the factory tent next year. So far, the 18-year-old has been untouchable in National Enduro competition, and right now holds an impressive 32-point lead in the series standings over eight-time champ Michael Lafferty at the halfway point of the season. – Shan Moore

Photo by Shan Moore

And in even more bike-hopping news, there are rumors that Ivan Tedesco is testing with the Pro Circuit team... on a 250F. Yes, the 2005 250F champ might ride again for the team that is several riders short with Rattray looking like he'll be on the 450, Durham out with an injury, and Dean Wilson deciding to start the outdoor series with an injured shoulder, with no one sure if he'll make the full season before being forced out for a shoulder surgery that sounds inevitable. – Pete Peterson

Photo by Mark Kariya

Kurt Caselli’s win streak in the AMA Racing/Kenda National Hare & Hound Championship Series came to a crashing halt--literally--at round five of the series outside of Jericho, Utah.

The FMF/KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team desert star had taken his now-customary position at the front of the pack on the first loop, which took riders through the Little Sahara Sand Dunes Recreation Area and had a comfortable lead aboard his 450 SX-F when things suddenly went very wrong.

“I just hit a rock on a downhill and went over the bars,” he said. “Obviously, I didn’t see it. It was just like a regular crash--I’m sure everybody’s done that in the desert at least once--but I landed on my shoulder pretty hard and hit my head pretty hard. I didn’t get up too quick and just sat there--did the whole body check to see what was wrong and I knew my shoulder was bruised or something pretty bad. So that was it; my day was over, which sucked.”

That opened it up for Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green/Purvines Racing’s Jacob Argubright, who was first on the scene and ascertained Caselli wasn’t seriously injured before going on to record his first-ever National victory followed by teammate Justin Morrow (in his first National podium) and local ace T.J. Hannifin.

As for Caselli, his immediate concern was, of course, getting diagnosed so he, mechanic Anthony DiBasilio and teammate Ivan Ramirez drove about six hours south to Las Vegas, heading straight for Sam Boyd Stadium and that night’s supercross finale.

While DiBasilio and Ramirez enjoyed playing the role of spectators, Caselli got himself checked out by the Asterisk Medical crew. They determined that he hadn’t broken anything that required immediate surgery, but a visit to his own doctor would be prudent.

So, on Monday morning, Caselli visited his physician, who diagnosed a third-degree shoulder separation.

As it stands after five rounds, Caselli still leads with 120 points, but THR Motorsports Kawasaki's David Pearson--fourth at the Sage Riders National--closed the gap markedly to six points back and now has 114 while Morrow is third with 90. – Mark Kariya


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That’s all for this week. Be sure to check in this time next week for more off-road news!