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Monster Energy® Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac Finishes Fourth in New York
The AMA Pro Motocross Championship resumed after a two-week hiatus for Round 8 at the iconic Unadilla MX in New Berlin, New York where Monster Energy® Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac scored a first moto podium on his way to fourth overall. In the 250 class, Monster Energy®/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki riders Austin Forkner and Jo Shimoda finished the day in 13th and 16th, respectively, while their teammate Seth Hammaker made his return to racing with 17th overall.
The Unadilla MX National, the sole New York venue of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship, gave race fans all they could hope for and faced riders with arguably the most challenging track of the 2021 season. Dark cloud coverage and moist air plagued the morning until the 91% humidity turned into outright rainfall leaving the track with one last coat of water from the skies. The resulting wet soil conditions meant there was no shortage of ruts and the track rapidly deteriorated as qualifying sessions began. Tomac adapted quickly to the course and set the eighth fastest lap in his first session out. As the sun started to shine, however, the track began to dry, and the pace was notably faster in the second session where Tomac found himself with the 11th fastest time of 2:25.774.
In the first 450 Class moto Tomac rocketed out of the gate but, while rounding the first turn, was shuffled back when he checked up to avoid a crash near the front of the pack. Never one to waiver, Tomac made his way forward to sixth position by the end of the first lap and continued a spirited ride through the class of the field. In the early stages of the race, Tomac utilized creative line selection to move rapidly up the running order and found himself in fourth before the halfway point. Tomac was then faced with a sizeable gap to the front three riders, but he persistently charged forward and a mistake from a racer ahead led to his inheritance of third position, where he would finish out the first moto of the day with a podium result.
In Moto 2 of the 450 Class, Tomac found himself closed off on the start and well outside of the top-10 by the exit of the first corner. The No.3 KX™450 of Tomac was once again quick to move past the other riders and secured ninth place by the end of lap one. As the treacherous conditions of the Unadilla track began to draw mistakes from the competition, Tomac’s push to the front took a more methodical form. Steadily moving his way forward, Tomac climbed up to seventh by the time the race clock had reached half. With yet again a large gap to the group of riders ahead, Tomac would ultimately finish with a seventh-place result in the moto. The 3-7 moto scores were strong enough to earn Tomac fourth overall on the day.
“In the first moto I had a good start going around the first corner but, I had to check up to avoid a crash at the front and got shuffled back a few positions. From there I went straight into the fight and worked my way to fourth before another rider crashed and gave me third. I was riding well, my body felt good, and I was hitting the right lines around the track. Finishing third in Moto 1 put me in a good spot for the overall and gave me solid gate selection for Moto 2. In the second moto I moved further inside for the start, but that choice didn’t pay off because I came out a little further back in the pack and was having a hard time moving forward. It was a difficult track with a lot of ruts that changed throughout the day. In the morning the track was really soft, so ruts formed up all over the place, but later in the afternoon the dirt got hard and dry with a crust on the ruts which required challenging adjustments. It’s frustrating that I only made it up to seventh in the second moto, but at least we had that podium finish in Moto 1.”
- Eli Tomac
The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team welcomed back Hammaker as the young rider joined teammates Forkner and Shimoda after having been sidelined for the better portion of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Hammaker was quick to prove his form by qualifying third with a fastest lap time of 2:21.987. Shimoda followed close with the fourth fastest lap and Forkner’s qualifying pace was enough to position him 11th heading into Moto 1.
The start of 250 Class Moto 1 revealed Hammaker was ready to race at the front when the No.150 KX™250 rider quickly made his way to fifth place and began challenging the riders ahead. Hammaker maintained his place near the front of the race until a small fall in the later stages would see him lose several positions and finish out the moto in ninth. Shimoda started outside of the top-10 but displayed grit as he passed his way up to seventh and finished with less than a bike length between himself and the sixth place finisher. Forkner was also putting together a strong performance as he ran in ninth position until a mid-race crash would lead to his retirement from the first moto.
In the second 250 Class moto, Forkner was determined to rebound strong and, despite the disadvantage of his 36th gate selection off the start due to his not finishing Moto 1, the No.38 KX™250 charged through the pack for one of his best performances this season. Forkner came from deep in the running order up to sixth place by the end of the race. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki teammate Hammaker was once again looking impressive early in the race as he moved up to fifth on the first lap. Hammaker latched onto the speed of the riders ahead and extended a sizeable gap over the rest of the field until a costly mistake through one of Unadilla’s more demanding sections resulted in a crash that would set him well outside the top-20, he would ultimately finish the race in 21st. Much like his teammates, Shimoda had an admirable race going in Moto 2 of the 250 Class until a late-race collision with a track marker forced him to retire early.
“I am happy with how I rode the second moto given the circumstances. I was sore from my crash in Moto 1 and didn’t have a good gate pick, but I made the most of the situation. I was way outside on the starting gate so, even though I got a great jump, I still came out somewhere around 20th. I made a lot of passes and finished only a few seconds behind fifth. It took me a little while to get up to speed at the beginning of the moto because I was dealing with some pain but, if I had been able to get to my pace sooner, I feel confident I could have scored a top-5 finish. That is the goal right now, to string together two solid motos with consistent riding and we can build up from there.”
- Austin Forkner
“The track was very technical today, but I was able to ride with good speed every time I was out there. In practice I qualified fourth and was comfortable with all of the ruts on the track. In the first moto, my start was not great, but I raced hard for the whole moto and almost made the pass for sixth at the finish. There are a lot of positive to take away from the day and we will continue to push forward.”
- Jo Shimoda
“I’ve been looking forward to my first race back here at Unadilla. I felt great in qualifying and had the third-fastest lap, so I put myself in a good position at the start of the day. The track was gnarly with all the different ruts out there. In the first moto, I got off to a decent start and was running top-5 until I had a small crash that pushed me back to finish in ninth. Regardless, I still felt pretty good and was looking forward to Moto 2. I got off to a better start in the second race and was up in the top-5 again feeling solid until about 20 minutes in when I had a crash. I broke my clutch lever off during the crash, so it took me a while just to get back on the track and get going again. All in all, it was a great learning day and, if I can prevent those mistakes going forward, I feel confident I’ll be in that top-5 and fighting up front.”
- Seth Hammaker