Eli Tomac of Cortez, racing without a new contract from Monster Energy Kawasaki, struggled to finish in the top 10 Saturday as the 2021 AMA Pro Motocross series got underway at Fox Raceway in Pala, California.
Starting both races outside the top 10, Tomac managed to finish ninth in Saturday’s first moto, and eighth in the second. Overall, he finished ninth, behind reigning AMA Supercross champion Cooper Webb.
Dylan Ferrandis of Monster Energy Star Yamaha, in his debut race in a 450 motocross, was the overall winner, with a victory in the first moto and a third place in the second. Ken Roczen of Honda was second, after sixth- and first-place finishes. Aaron Plessinger, also from Star Yamaha, was third overall after placing fourth and second in the motos.
In the first moto Saturday, Tomac finished ninth, after starting from the 11th position at the gate.
Webb of KTM was first to the first turn, but Adam Cianciarulo of Monster Energy Kawasaki went to the lead and pulled away to a 2-second lead. Ferrandis was third, and Roczen and Chase Sexton of Honda, were fourth and fifth, respectively.
Tomac, in 10th place after one lap, was in eighth place after two.
Cianciarulo went off the track in Lap 5 and dropped to fourth. Webb grabbed the lead, but Ferrandis, in hot pursuit, passed him for a 2.6-second lead in the next lap.
Sexton immediately challenged Webb for second, then passed him in Lap 8.
After eight laps, Tomac remained in eighth place, 3 seconds behind Justin Barcia and 14 seconds off the lead. Barcia started his charge in Lap 9, and moved into third place, past Roczen, Plessinger, Cianciarulo and Webb by the end of Lap 12.
And with one lap to go, Tomac dropped to ninth, as Marvin Musquin went by him in Lap 14.
Sexton made a charge at the finish line, but Ferrandis held him off for the 0.99-second win, his first victory in premier 450cc class since moving up from the 250cc class. He finished seventh in his inaugural season in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross season, which ended May 1.
Plessinger, racing for Star Yamaha, won the holeshot but gave way to Roczen in the first lap. Cianciarulo was third, and Zach Osborne of Husqvarna and Barcia rounded out the top five.
Tomac again started slow, and was in 12th place after one lap and in 10th after three. He moved into eighth place, behind Musquin of KTM, in Lap 11.
As the checkered flag came out, Plessinger was more than 11 seconds off Roczen’s pace, and teammate Ferrandis was a distant third. Jason Anderson made a late charge to finish fourth, and Osborne rounded out the top five. Barcia faded to sixth.
During timed practice laps Saturday, Tomac was 11th, with a lap of 2 minutes, 22.376 seconds. Kawasaki teammate Cianciarulo was fastest, at 2:18.79. Musquin, Roczen, Ferrandis and Alessandro Lupino rounded out the top five.
On June 5, the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series heads to Thunder Valley Motocross Park in Lakewood for the second of 12 races this season.
Tomac, a three-time AMA Motocross champion, will not race for Kawasaki in 2022. According to unconfirmed reports, he’ll ride with Monster Energy Star Yamaha.
Kawasaki announced in a tweet earlier this month that the decision not to renew Tomac’s contract was mutual.
“We are extremely proud of the success that Eli and the Monster Energy Kawasaki team achieved over the last six years,” said Dan Fahie, Kawasaki’s senior manager of racing. “We have built a great relationship with Eli and his family, and we are proud that Kawasaki played a strong role in Tomac’s racing legacy.”
Tomac has raced the past six years in the 450cc class for Monster Energy Kawasaki, after starting in 2013 with Geico Honda.
With Kawasaki, he has won 60 races in 165 starts, the most wins in the field, and missed just one scheduled main event.
He won the Motocross championship three times with Kawasaki, from 2017 through 2019. He won his first Supercross championship in 2020, at age 27.
Kawasaki has not named a replacement for Tomac but announced it would continue with a two-rider lineup in 2022 that included Cianciarulo.