By David Wells
There's so much pressure on rookies to make a dent in their first year of professional racing, and a couple of highly touted young riders are already rising to the occasion. Nearly a month into the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series, Austin Forkner and Cooper Webb have emerged as the top newcomers in the 250 and 450 classes, respectively.
Before turning pro this season, the 18-year-old Forkner captured multiple Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Motocross Championships and won consecutive Monster Energy Cup titles in the supermini class in 2012 and 2013. The 21-year-old Webb, meanwhile, earned back-to-back supercross titles as a 250 rider and is coming off a 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
Both riders had a lot of hype and were expected to make an early splash as pros. Let’s break down how they’ve fared so far.
250: Austin ForknerForkner is no stranger to winning, with championships to his name as early as 8 years old in the 50cc class. Forkner decided to turn pro in 2016 and raced the last few rounds of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, winning his first overall in the final round of the series at the Ironman Classic.
With undoubtedly the best 250 team behind him, the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider has shifted his sights to the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Series. Forkner has not found the same success inside on the stadium floors with eighth-, fifth-, and fourth-place finishes going into Round 4, and he sits fifth in points in the short series. However, he has progressed with each passing week, and we will see if he can pull off his first supercross main event win before the champion is crowned in Vegas in May.
450: Cooper WebbWebb also had a sterling amateur career, winning four national championships and the amateur all-star race at the Monster Energy Cup in 2002. Webb won back-to-back 250 supercross titles and was most recently crowned the Lucas Oil 250 Motocross champion before his rookie season in the 450 class.
Webb didn’t rise to the hype in his first race this season for the Factory Yamaha team, finishing in a distant 10th place in Round 1. We can assume that some of that performance had to do with opening-round jitters and nerves. In Round 2, Webb continued to leave fans scratching their heads with a 14th-place finish. Webb, however, had other plans and gave us a flash of the rider we knew him to be with a strong fourth-place finish at Anaheim 2 last week, just one spot off the podium.
Being a rookie in any class comes with it’s highs and lows, but Forkner and Webb seem to be headed in the right direction at the sport’s highest level. While we will have to wait and see how the rest of their seasons pan out, both are expecting to take home main events wins, if not challenge for the title before it is all said and done in Vegas.