Analysis: A 450SX Preview II

The 450SX riders on the verge of success

· 7 minutes read

The deal of the day on 24MX.

The 450SX riders that were featured in the previous MX Vice Monster Energy Supercross preview are going into the opening round, run at Angel Stadium, and expecting to challenge for a title. Anything less than that would be considered a disappointment. The six riders listed below are in a more comfortable spot, as their respective teams are not pushing them to bring a number-one plate home, but there is a chance that they are going to exceed all expectations. It is keeping a close eye on their progress, bearing that in mind. A new star could be born.

Zach Osborne

It is fair to say that the Zach Osborne stock rose a tremendous amount following the off-season events that were run in Europe. It seemed as though everyone was tipping him to achieve some unspecified success in his maiden term aboard the bigger bike, admittedly, but there is now a sense of the sky is the limit. Fighting for a title is probably a step too far at this point, but winning races is certainly not out of the question. Why would he not be able to? The triple-crown mains, or whatever you want to call them, were built with riders like Osborne in mind!

Zach Osborne has impressed whenever he has ridden his new FC 450 (Husqvarna Motorcycles/Simon Cudby)

What would be considered a successful term for Zach Osborne? It is not like the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing squad are relying on him to deliver race wins and a championship, as that pressure is mainly on Jason Anderson. There will certainly be points throughout the season where Osborne shines and pushes his stablemate though. Although that is a bold claim, what transpired in France in November supports that statement. Osborne gave his teammate a run, at what was an early point in the off-season, and opened so many eyes. Everything changed at that point.

Aaron Plessinger

The common consensus across the last twelve months has been that Aaron Plessinger will immediately gel with the YZ450F, because of how big he was on the YZ250F. Heck, he was even bumped up into the premier class a year earlier than expected! The reality is that the off-season has not been quite as easy as some had expected; he even had to pull out of a scheduled appearance in Geneva, Switzerland, with a back injury. It was not anything too serious, thankfully, but these bumps in the road are not exactly ideal when preparing for such a high-profile debut.

Will this impact his 450SX debut later this week? Time will tell. There is really no way to know what he will do at Anaheim 1, as there is no benchmark. There is no past data to go off of unlike his counterparts. Based on those reports of crashes and various knocks, getting through unscathed with a solid base to build off of would be a success. The same could be said for every single rookie though. The fact that Plessinger is really an unknown quantity and a complete mystery means that there is even more intrigue that surrounds him. That will make him the most exciting prospect to follow this weekend.

Aaron Plessinger has had a few knocks and crashes during the winter (Monster Energy Media/Octopi)

Joey Savatgy

Do you want an example of just how easy it is for someone to get forgotten about? Joey Savatgy came out at the Monster Energy Cup and exceeded expectations, held it together across three mains and could have even won one of those. Now, Savatgy has not actually lined up since then and has therefore been low key whilst Zach Osborne, on the other hand, has been impressing pundits in Europe. All of the attention is now on the latter and Savatgy is an underdog again. This is a great position for him to be in though, as he is not faced with the weight of expectation that seemingly wore on him at points last year.

There is one strength that Joey Savatgy has compared to his fellow rookies: Starts. Savatgy was the best of the bunch in that particular category in the 250SX division and, based on the very small sample of evidence that has been collected in recent months, that skill has not evaporated since he moved up onto the all-new KX450. It seems that there are more positives than negatives in his camp, but exactly the same thing could have been said entering his final 250SX campaign. Will this fresh start be exactly what he needs to jump on the right track again? That is the greatest question of all and one that could define his future.

Justin Hill

There is absolutely no doubt that stepping into the 450SX category in Tampa, Florida, last year was one of the best moves that Justin Hill could have possibly made. An underwhelming 250SX campaign has not even been referenced in the months prior to his full-time 450SX debut, as instead the way that he performed on that one day in Tampa has captivated the minds of most. How many pundits remember that he ended sixth in that main event? Those raw bursts of speed are all it takes for everyone to leap to a conclusion and get excited.

Justin Hill will undoubtedly render fans speechless with his raw speed (JGR Yoshimura Suzuki)

The two mains that Justin Hill completed in the premier class last year sum up how this season could go for him. There were flashes of brilliance, incredible qualifying times and then a solid main event finish that was followed up by a DNF the following week. It is typical for all rookies to experience a pattern such as that in their first seventeen-round campaign anyway. There will certainly be jaw-dropping rides from him and one would presume that he will be the best-placed rookie in qualifying more often than not, but that does not necessarily mean he will be ahead of guys like Zach Osborne and Aaron Plessinger in the points.

Cole Seely

Cole Seely has been on the verge of breaking through for some time now, yet he always appears to fall just short of becoming a consistent winner. Seely seems to float in the lower half of that lead group more often than not and is always in a position to capitalise, should someone else trip up, but rarely pulls into the lead and runs there for multiple laps on his own accord. Is this going to be the season that he steps up and fulfils his potential? Perhaps, although one would presume that the odds are stacked against him considering the devastating injury that he suffered in February.

The initial signs are good though, as he was quite impressive in the two off-season events that he competed in and has not had any publicised hiccups. Whether he still boasts the same intensity and confidence in the American stadiums, which really cannot be replicated at any European fixtures, remains to be seen, but an answer will emerge soon enough. There is no reason to think that he will go backwards though or not meet expectations on the Honda HRC squad. Seely will continue to be the perfect second rider on a factory outfit and back up Ken Roczen in an effective manner.

Cole Seely will be just outside of that lead pack and ready to capitalise (Honda Racing Corporation)

Cooper Webb

There is so much uncertainty that surrounds Cooper Webb, yet one thing is clear: This is going to be a make-or-break season for him. It is tough to believe that this is going to be his third term in the premier class, but then he has not actually had a full run at a seventeen-round series yet. Webb missed five rounds last season and four the year before that. How is a guy supposed to build momentum and prove his worth whilst trying to battle through injuries? It seems that most have kept that in mind when making judgements, hence why no one has completely written him off yet.

What could he potentially achieve with Red Bull KTM, a team that is arguably the greatest in the pits? There is no doubt that most pundits need to realign their expectations. Cooper Webb should no longer be thought of as a contender for wins, not for the time being anyway, as consistent top-seven finishes would be a step in the right direction at this point. Although that may seem as though it would be a step backwards for him, he has only actually finished in the top seven in eight of the twenty-five 450SX mains that he has completed in his career.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Monster Energy Media/Octopi

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