Blake Baggett ends Jeremy Martin’s streak, Ken Roczen gets 450 Class Motocross win at Thunder Valley (VIDEO)

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It took six motos, but Jeremy Martin finally showed a hint of imperfection.

Martin has absolutely dominated the 250 Class this year, winning the first four motos of the season in convincing fashion. His sudden ascent to the top of the division caught the rest of the field by surprise, but now that the secret’s out, everyone has him in their crosshairs.

One of the riders who has been vocal about wanting to put an end to that success is Blake Baggett. The 2012 champion of the 250 Class entered the season as a title contender but has become more of an afterthought with Martin stealing the headlines at each of the first two rounds.

After he pulled out of the second moto a week ago at Hangtown with bike problems, Baggett told the TV crew that he was determined to “come back next weekend and try to stop the Yamaha streak.” Saturday at Thunder Valley, Baggett followed through on that wish.

In Moto 1, Martin found himself in an unfamiliar position – having to chase down the leader for the first 20 minutes of the race after Jessy Nelson got off to a great start and opened up a lead. A couple mistakes from Nelson allowed Martin to close the gap and make the pass for the lead, which he would not relinquish. Although it was his smallest margin of victory this season, Martin extended his winning streak to five motos.

Martin would face an even tougher challenge in Moto 2. Finding himself in seventh after the first lap, he was left with a lot of work to do in order to get up front. Baggett took advantage with a vintage performance, moving from fifth to first over the opening six laps and then checking out with the lead en route to a win.

Having battled his way up to fourth, Martin still would have been able to secure the overall win had he picked up one more position, but an uncharacteristic crash cost him several spots and gave the overall victory to Baggett. Martin would settle for sixth in the moto and third overall for the day but still holds a significant edge in the point standings.

250 Class Overall Results
1. Blake Baggett (4-1)
2. Justin Bogle (3-2)
3. Jeremy Martin (1-6)
4. Jessy Nelson (2-9)
5. Marvin Musquin (7-4)
6. Jason Anderson (5-5)
7. Christophe Pourcel (11-3)
8. Cooper Webb (9-7)
9. Cole Seely (8-8)
10. Justin Hill (10-10)
*Moto 1 and Moto 2 results in parenthesis

In the 450 Class, James Stewart stepped up to the task of ending the streak of wins from Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey. Leading the race nearly wire-to-wire, Stewart fended off a challenge from Roczen in the final laps of Moto 1 to take the win – becoming the fourth rider to win a moto in the premier class this season.

Roczen stormed back in the second moto though, passing Josh Grant and Ryan Dungey on the opening lap to move into second, then overtaking Trey Canard for the lead two laps later and holding on for the win. With 2-1 moto finishes, Roczen locked up the overall win for the second consecutive week and more than doubled his points lead in the process. After a third-place finish in Moto 2, Stewart secured second overall for the day and continues to look better each week.

450 Class Overall Results
1. Ken Roczen (2-1)
2. James Stewart (1-3)
3. Ryan Dungey (4-2)
4. Trey Canard (3-4)
5. Josh Grant (5-6)
6. Brett Metcalfe (9-5)
7. Malcolm Stewart (7-8)
8. Andrew Short (6-9)
9. Weston Peick (10-7)
10. Jake Weimer (8-12)
*Moto 1 and Moto 2 results in parenthesis

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”