Justin Cooper raced his Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing YZ250F to his third 250SX East podium finish of the season on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. His teammate Mitchell Oldenburg was the hard charger of the night as he recovered from an eighth-place start to finish fourth.

With Oldenburg notching a third-place result in heat race one and Cooper winning heat race two, the results portended good things to come in the main event.

Cooper got off to a great start in the main and was in second place out of the gate. Although he lost one position in the early going, he held tenaciously to third place and maintained it all the way to the checkered flag.

Meanwhile, Oldenburg was clearly on a mission as he moved from eighth to seventh in the opening laps, and then he passed rider after rider as the clock counted down. He made it all the way up to fourth and behind his teammate Cooper, which is where he stayed until he crossed the finish line.

The Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing team’s 250SX East riders will race again next Saturday, March 16, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Wil Hahn

Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing Team Manager

“Daytona is known for being one of the hardest, most challenging supercross races of the year, so tonight was good for us. Justin landing on the podium again was great result for staying strong in the championship. And for Mitch, coming back after a really hard weekend last weekend was huge and showed a lot of heart.”

Justin Cooper

Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing

“The bike was working really well. We did a lot of testing with the team outdoors this week, so we kind of knew what we had to do coming up today. We were able to get the heat win and bring it home for third tonight. Those guys out front were riding good, but no excuses. I just had a couple mistakes tonight that cost me and you can’t do that out here. The track for sure was tough tonight. It got me a couple times, but glad to get out of here safe and on to the next one.”

Mitchell Oldenburg

Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing

“The night was actually really good for me considering how last weekend went. So I’m stoked to walk away healthy, safe and keep it on two wheels. My bike worked amazing all day and night. I can’t thank the Star Racing Yamaha guys enough for all the work they do in and out each week. The track was a difficult Daytona; gnarly, brutal and really demanding, but my fitness was good tonight and I’m happy with my finish.”

2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross 250SX East Daytona Results

1. Austin Forkner
2. Chase Sexton
3. Justin Cooper
4. Mitchell Oldenburg
5. Alex Martin
6. Brandon Hartranft
7. Kyle Peters
8. Joshua Osby
9. Kyle Cunningham
10. Martin Davalos

The road to the premier class in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship is not an easy one. Aaron Plessinger found his way there off the beaten path, so to speak. Coming from an off-road background by heritage, Plessinger turned heads in the motocross scene and worked his way forward into Yamaha’s feeder system, first through the Cycle Trader Rock River Yamaha team, and then Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing team. It all hit pay dirt for the Ohio native in 2018, earning both titles in the 250 ranks – 250SX West and 250MX – which translated to a promotion to the 450 class with the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing Team for 2019.

Every rider has a story, but Plessinger’s isn’t the same as the run-of-the-mill moto kid. There are a lot of similarities though, as, like most, racing was in the blood. His dad is a multi-time off-road racing champion, with two GNCC, and two National Hare Scrambles titles to his resume. Just because he came from that bloodline didn’t mean he was born in riding gear either. It turned out that it was definitely something that he took to at a young age and loved it.

“My dad was a two-time GNCC Champion, and then a two-time National Hare Scramble Champion,” Plessinger said. “I guess he wanted to get me a bike and let me start riding. I fell in love with it and was all right at it, so he let me stick with it, and here we are today.”

Where he is today is sitting in that sought-after Factory ride in the Supercross 450SX class. A class that has a talent pool so deep, a rookie has to figure out how to swim fast.

“This year is so crazy,” he said. “At Dallas, there were fourteen of us all within the same second in qualifying. I don’t even know when the last time that happened. There’s just so many fast guys out there and guys that have the potential to win; first to 12th, potentially anybody could win in that little group of us. It’s tight racing this year.”

It’s definitely tough out there, but one thing that Plessinger has in his back pocket is his roots. And those roots are grounded in off-road. He started out racing Hare Scrambles when he was around five-years-old. Not long after, he started to race some motocross, and even tried his hand at Arenacross as well, but it was GNCC where he found his home.

“We were all over the map there for a little bit,” he admits. “I think it was 2006, when I did my actual first GNCC race. I fell in love with that. I won my first GNCC on a 65. From there on, I really just focused on that, pretty much. We would do a couple amateur nationals in motocross, maybe three or four in a year, and then just do the whole GNCC series. I ended up winning five amateur championships in GNCC’s, and then moved up to the big bikes.”

Plessinger’s budding GNCC career was on an upward climb. He even had some pro offers, but it was his dad who suggested it would be a good idea not to rule out motocross. The plan was to spend the year focusing on motocross to see where it led. It turned out to be a good plan. It led to the launch of Plessinger’s career as we know it. That didn’t necessarily mean that it was an easy decision at the time to turn down a pro deal in GNCC for the young Plessinger.

“It was definitely hard to turn it down, but I knew that I could go a year in motocross and if it didn’t work come back and prove a point and show them I was the real deal in the woods,” he said. “I did a couple of GNCCs in 2013, but after I got the ride with Star [Racing] at Loretta’s, it was kind of like, all right, this is the real deal. We’ve got to really focus on motocross. That’s pretty much what I did after that. That was kind of the end of the GNCC career, but I hope to get back to it someday.”

If you ask him which sport he likes better, he can’t choose. Both are his favorite. And during his formative years, racing both of them helped him in each discipline.

“I think racing motocross definitely helped me in the woods, and then racing in the woods definitely helped me in motocross,” he said. “The woods helped me a bit more, with learning line selection, staying calm and just pacing myself. The woods pretty much shaped how I ride today. But then obviously sprint speed and having to race straight off the bat in motocross helped me a lot in GNCC too.”

“I think racing motocross definitely helped me in the woods, and then racing in the woods definitely helped me in motocross,” he said. “The woods helped me a bit more, with learning line selection, staying calm and just pacing myself. The woods pretty much shaped how I ride today. But then obviously sprint speed and having to race straight off the bat in motocross helped me a lot in GNCC too.”

Even though he’s full bore in supercross and motocross, Plessinger has not forgotten his GNCC roots. The four-time Youth GNCC Champion wants to give back to the sport of his formative years and look for ways to help up-and-coming riders in GNCC. On March 9, Plessinger will be the Grand Marshall for the Wild Boar GNCC where he plans to talk to the youth motorcycle racers competing at the event and looks forward to reconnecting with friends and former competitors.

“I am really excited to be the Grand Marshal of the Wild Boar GNCC,” he said. “I have so many great memories of my time in this series and like I said, many of the skills I learned then, I use today. I am looking forward to seeing some friends and past competitors as well as cheering on all the bLU cRU riders.”

When he made the transition from GNCC to motocross, it went pretty smoothly for Plessinger. After all, he spent most of his training time riding moto, but he readily admits, the hardest transition for him was supercross.

“I think the biggest and hardest transition was going into supercross,” he said. “Before supercross in 2015, I couldn’t even do a fifteen-lap moto. I was struggling. I was jumping off the track and almost going into the fences. I don’t know how I did it, but I got fifth in my first supercross. Still to this day, I struggle with it. These guys and their sprint speed; It’s pretty crazy.”

Plessinger has never had any illusions that the move to the big class was going to be tough, but he’s also never been afraid of hard work. He also knows what works for him.

“I always try to keep it light,” he said. “I wasn’t having too much fun in 2016 and it was really getting to me. I had a moment where I didn’t know if I wanted to do it anymore. After that, I kind of sat back and was like, ‘all right, this is your shot and you’ve got to think about what you’re doing.’ I didn’t want to do anything else other than race dirt bikes, so I started just having fun and not letting the pressure get to me. It turned my season around and I got a few good finishes that year. Ever since then, I didn’t really worry about the pressure. I let the pressure fuel me instead of make me nervous. It was a good thing, too, because I think that’s what led me to my championships last year. It was just me fueling off of that pressure and letting it fire me up instead of letting it bring me down.”

Last year was a year that Plessinger will never forget. It was a big year both personally and professionally. He got engaged, his first child was born and he took home both the 250SX West and 250MX Championships. Even though he’s gone bigger this year with a factory ride in the 450 ranks, last year’s landmark season still hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

“2018 was probably the biggest year I’ll have for a while,” he said. “It was just so crazy. Things started clicking off. I was so focused. I had really good people around me. It was just one of those things where nothing could have gone wrong. It was a dream come true. I still don’t know if it’s sunk in all the way yet. I get chills thinking about it, watching those races. I had to talk myself into believing that’s me out there. It’s a pretty crazy feeling.”

It wasn’t just a personal victory either. It was shared by his family who helped get him there. “If it wasn’t for my family, I don’t think I’d be where I am today,” he said. “Definitely my parents and my grandparents, they really believed in me. They really believed this would go somewhere, and they were right. I’d feel really bad if this didn’t go somewhere, because they gave everything they had for me to be here.”

Part of that family is Yamaha. He’s been with them for most of his career, and he’s hungry to deliver a title in the 450 class. “I switched to Yamaha in 2008, I believe. They’ve been so good to me ever since,” he said. “I haven’t wanted to leave them ever. It’s been a ride, for sure. Being a part of bLU cRU and just having Yamaha support me throughout this whole ride has been amazing. I hope we can click off a few more championships because I definitely owe it to them. They’ve stuck their neck out for me. I definitely think we’re capable of doing it. We’ve just got to get used to this 450 class and take her by storm.”

Words and Photo: Yamaha Racing

Following a heavy fall in Race 2 at the opening round of the FIM Motocross World Championship in Patagonia, Argentina, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Romain Febvre will undergo surgery next week to repair a severely broken ankle.

After taking the first Qualifying Race victory of the season, Febvre was looking in top form to put chase to his second MXGP World Title. The former World Champion finished third in Race 1 and was running in third-position in Race 2 when he unfortunately caught an edge in the wave section and was thrown from his YZ450FM. He landed heavily on his right ankle and was immediately taken to the Medical Centre for examination. While he was cleared from injury in Argentina, he was in an immense amount of pain and decided to see another doctor for a second opinion upon arrival in Belgium, the country in which the Frenchman resides. 

Earlier today, the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP star went to the University Hospital Antwerp (UZA) where top Orthopaedic specialist Dr. Geert Peersman confirmed he has broken his Talus (ankle) in two places. The injury requires surgical repair, which is scheduled for Tuesday 12th March, and is expected to take six weeks to heal after the date of the operation.

Romain Febvre

Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP Rider

“Sad news today. I broke the Talus bone in my ankle. I feel really sad, not only for myself but for my entire team and all of the people involved. This is how it is; these things are part of our sport. Now I need to focus on getting it fixed with an operation next Tuesday, and then I can start my rehabilitation. I will try to be back on the bike as soon as possible, right now they are saying around six weeks more or less, but even when I get back on the bike I will have lost a lot of time and physical condition with no training. I will see when I am back on the bike how things are going and what I am focusing on, until then I can not say too much. The main goal is to get my foot fixed.” 

Massimo Raspanti

Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP Team Manager

“Obviously we are really saddened to hear this news, also for Romain. He worked really hard this winter. Things were looking really positive for him. In Argentina he was fast in both practice sessions and then he won the Qualifying Race so we were really excited for the races and the rest of the season. He was riding well in the races, he set the fastest lap of the GP, so he is very unlucky to crash and be in this situation now. Now we will focus on getting him healthy and back to 100% and hope to come back and finish the season strong.” 

Words and Photos: Yamaha Racing

A dramatic MXGP season opener saw Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Romain Febvre return to his winning ways with an incredible Qualifying Race victory followed by an impressive top-three finish in Race 1. Unfortunately the tenacious Frenchman was unable to finish the Grand Prix after a heavy fall in the closing stages of the final race. Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha MXGP’s Gautier Paulin stole the show as he utilized the impeccable power and handling of his YZ450F to finish inside the top-five after falling at turn one. Paulin was fifth in the overall classification only 3-points shy of the podium, while Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Jeremy Seewer finished ninth.

Romain Febvre was the man to beat this weekend. After topping the charts in Time Practice, the former World Champ charged to a stunning victory in the first Qualifying Race of the season.

As the pole man, the 27 year-old chose gate number one in both races, which gave him the inside line going into the first sweeping left-hand corner. In Race 1, he entered a raging battle with Antonio Cairoli for the first fifteen minutes, and controlled second place for all but three-laps with Gajser taking advantage of a slight error in the latter stages. 

Behind the gripping action at the front of the field, Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha MXGP’s Gautier Paulin started inside the top-seven and showed some good speed as he forced his way into the top-five. Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Jeremy Seewer got off to a good start but after more than 3-weeks off the bike, he was sucked back to tenth-place by the time the flag was waved. 

After spinning up on the start-gate, Arnaud Tonus’ start was less than perfect. Nevertheless, the Swiss rider ran a hot-pace as he charged from outside the top-fifteen and up into the top-ten before he spectacularly high-sided on a fast-paced section of the track. Fortunately, he was not injured in the crash, it only cost him championship points as he lost too much time after the shake-up and did not finish the race. 

Tricky conditions caught out a number of riders this weekend. The final race started with Paulin and Seewer being hit by the bike of another rider, while Febvre fell heavily from third place with 6-laps to go. 

Bouncing back from the chaos of the opening lap, Paulin brought the crowd to their feet as he used his masterful line-choice to surge from the back of the pack and up into the top-five, which was enough for fifth overall. Seewer, who also fell at turn-one had to dig deep as he fought back to eleventh. He was rewarded for his efforts with ninth in the overall classification. 

To the amazement of the highly animated crowd, Tonus lined up for Race 2 after his enormous crash in Race 1 and managed to finish inside the top-ten. With no points scored in the first race, he wrapped up the MXGP of Argentina in 16th.

Febvre has been taken to hospital for further medical examination. An update on his condition and his return to racing will be published when available. 

The next round of the FIM MXGP World Championship will take place at the popular Matterley Basin circuit in Winchester, England, on the weekend of March 24th.

Gautier Paulin

5th MXGP Overall, 5th MXGP Championship Standings

“The bike was working good today. We have been working hard this winter and we had to put the bike in the crate even with some more things to work on. But today, I just had to put my helmet on and go racing. We know there are things we still need to improve but it is what it is. The bike is working really good. The chasis is awesome on the Yamaha, I really enjoy it, and the engine too. With the little improvements we can make, I am really looking forward to it, and I need to keep working myself also. I feel like I had a good weekend, just had bad luck with another rider hitting me in the first turn. I think his bike hit my bike and I went over the ‘bars big time. But overall I feel strong and fifth place to start the season, close enough to the podium is a good start. I really enjoyed the racing.”

Jeremy Seewer

9th MXGP Overall, 9th MXGP Championship Standings

“The weekend was tough as expected. Today was better than yesterday. We have some positives to take away, like my starts were good. My endurance is not so bad, I just struggle with the quick laps especially in Time Practice. I am missing some riding hours, but starting the season inside the top ten is good points on the board and we have some weeks now to get stronger for the next GP.”

Arnaud Tonus

16th MXGP Overall, 16th MXGP Championship Standings

“It was a difficult Sunday for me. I had a huge crash in the first moto. I made a small mistake and went a little bit off the track on a really fast part of the track and had a really big crash. I didn’t know if I was going to ride the second moto, but Yamaha’s physiotherapist worked some magic and helped me a lot to line up for the second race. It was not easy, but I am glad I was able to line-up again. I finished tenth, and like I said, I am happy I went back out there, it was like a mental test and it’s all good.”

Words and Photos: Yamaha Racing

Two former World MXGP rivals will now be firmly on one team, as Yamaha Motor New Zealand, in association with Josh Coppins Racing, are signing up Ben Townley (YZ450) and son Levi Townley (YZ65), who will both be joining bLUcRU effective immediately.

“Ben will be a Yamaha ambassador and we will support him across a bunch of racing activities with more to follow and Levi is about supporting the future of the sport. We have decided to re-establish the Yamaha brand in junior racing and off the back of the new YZ65, timing has never been better to look for our new champions,” Coppins says.

He and MX2 World Champion Townley are two of New Zealand’s most successful motocross riders and used to live together for three years in Belgium racing in the World MXGP Championships. In 2005 they finished second and third respectively in the MX1 class to ten-time world champ legend Stefan Everts. At one point Ben and Josh won five GPs in a row between them over Everts – not bad for a couple of Kiwis!

Despite being fiercely competitive on track, off it they were good mates. So, when it came time for Coppins to move away from investing in international racing, he decided to refocus on a junior programme.

“I wanted to look for and develop the next future champions. We needed somebody to help mentor and be a real ambassador and a leader for the Yamaha brand. Ben was the ultimate person for this role with all his international racing experience,” Coppins says.

Tauranga-based Townley, who retired professionally in 2016, will not only be coaching young riders he will also be riding in select races around New Zealand, including some enduro events.

Being able to share the workload is vital for Coppins, as he is busy running his own Altherm JCR Yamaha motocross race team – made up of senior riders Kirk Gibbs, Kayne Lamont (both MX1) and Maximus Purvis (MX2) at all the major national events. Coppins will continue with the team and also take on a more managerial position within Yamaha New Zealand, which allows him to be more involved in fostering the country’s young riders.

Eight-year-old Levi’s first race will be the 2019 Ebbett Pukekohe Auckland Motocross Champs in Tuakau on Saturday 23rd February 2019. The following day he will race in the Yamaha Motor New Zealand YZ65 Cup at Harrisville, Pukekohe, which is part of the third round of the Fox New Zealand Motocross Championships.

Levi’s first foray into international racing was a success as he finished second in the invite-only KTM Junior Supercross Challenge in Los Angeles, United States on January 15.

Ben says Levi is enjoying his riding and looking forward to riding his new YZ65 in national and club events but there is no pressure for his son to follow in his footsteps.

“He’s really starting to stretch his legs now, but he needs to race for himself. Just because I was a professional rider, it doesn’t mean he needs to be too. We will see what happens.”

Levi’s younger brother Jagger will follow him into the bLUcRU as soon as he’s ready to jump on the YZ65.

“Following on from this statement we will announce further partnerships with Ben and we’re excited about the future and to be working with someone of Ben’s calibre,” Coppins concludes.

Ben Townley (YZ450) and his eight-year-old son Levi (YZ65) have been signed by Yamaha Motor New Zealand, in association with Josh Coppins Racing.