Anticipation was high when two-time 250 Eastern Region Supercross Champion and 2012 Monster Energy Cup winner Justin Barcia joined the 450 class full-time in 2013, and he quickly proved he had the speed to run up front. Among the best riders in the world, this remarkable 21-year-old solidified his place in the premier class with two Supercross race wins and numerous podium appearances. Since his professional debut in 2009, Barcia has established himself as one of the fastest racers in the world.
“I think I am a completely different person than the other racers out there on the track,” explains Barcia with a smile. “I ride different than my competition and think I have a little edge and attitude on the track that makes it exciting to watch.”
In 2009, Barcia made an impressive debut in the AMA Motocross Championship, finishing fifth overall in the series with eight podium appearances and a moto win at Southwick. The young phenomenon then went on to contest the Lites East Supercross series for the first time in 2010 and instantly become a force to be reckoned with, posting a total of five podium finishes en route to second overall in the standings. 2011 became Barcia’s standout year, appearing on the podium at every round of the nine-race Supercross series to clinch his first Lites East Championship title. During the 2011 outdoor motocross season, Barcia capitalized on the opportunity to fill in for an injured Trey Canard with American Honda in the premier class, and he did not disappoint. Competing with the best riders in the world, Barcia took third overall at both Unadilla and Pala, and grabbed a moto win at Southwick. Barcia’s 2012 season proved just as successful, as he earned five race wins, maintaining his points lead throughout the entire season and wrapping up his second Lites East Championship with one round remaining. He ended the season with an impressive performance at the Monster Energy Cup, coming away with the overall victory and $100,000 in his pocket.
Barcia may have been a newcomer in 2013, but he definitely made his presence known. At only the second round of the AMA Supercross series, Barcia posted his first career 450 class victory. Then in what seemed like a repeat of his first win at Chase Field, Barcia put together an exceptional race in Seattle despite muddy conditions, grabbing the holeshot and leading wire-to-wire to capture his second career 450-class win. In addition, he logged eight top-five finishes and landed on the podium at Anaheim 3, San Diego, and Daytona en route to fourth overall in the championship. During his first full 450 campaign in the AMA motocross series, Barcia placed third overall in the championship after a successful year highlighted with five podium appearances and an additional five top-five finishes.
Although it was a noteworthy performance for a rookie, Barcia is not satisfied and wants nothing less than a championship. “The season didn’t go as planned because we didn’t win a championship, which is the main goal,” he says. “I wasn’t able to put the whole season together and had some good and bad races in both Supercross and motocross, so that took us out of the running. But, it could have gone worse, and overall I am happy to have gotten two Supercross wins, a bunch of podium finishes and the experience. It is a relief, though, to have my rookie season over and now I am ready to take it to the next level in 2014.
“My most satisfying race last year was definitely the Phoenix Supercross. It is where I got my first win and it was an awesome race. Everything went perfectly for me. I felt good and the bike was working great, so I was able to get out front and lead the whole race. It was early in the season and it kind of set my expectations really high for the rest of the year. It was definitely the highlight of my season.”
Barcia finished 2013 strong, traveling to Europe in November to compete in the famous Genoa and Bercy Supercross races. At the Superbowl of Supercross in Italy, Barcia was crowned King of Genoa for the first time in his career after an impressive 2-1 performance. The following week, Barcia continued his winning ways, becoming King of Bercy for the second time in his career with a three-race score of 1-1-2. Some of the biggest names in the sport have been crowned the King of Bercy, but the list of multiple winners reads like Supercross royalty, and Barcia is excited to be part of that group.
“Europe went really great for me,” he says. “Winning Genoa for the first time was awesome, but being added to such a small list of riders who have won Bercy multiple times is a real honor. It definitely wasn’t easy, though, with Trey there. We had two weekends of intense racing, which was great for my off-season training and made the wins even more satisfying. You can train at home as much as you want, but nothing beats racing experience and time on the bike.”
The New York native believes he learned a lot throughout his rookie season. Now, in his second full year with Team Honda Muscle Milk, he is looking to expand his already impressive résumé. “In my mind I am always thinking about a championship, so that is the ultimate goal for 2014, but I also want to work on being more consistent than last year. I had never raced on the West Coast or done the entire series before last year, so it took awhile for me to make that adjustment. Now I know what to expect going into each race and am hoping to be on the podium every weekend. Usually when you do that you set yourself up to be in the hunt for the championship.”
For many riders the transition from the 250 to 450 class can be very difficult, but Barcia seemed to do it with ease. “For me making the switch to the premier class was actually pretty easy. I have been on Hondas my entire career, so it wasn’t like I was having to get used to a completely new bike. I think the 250 and 450 are pretty similar except for the difference in power, so that was all I really had to get used to. It is a big bike and it is very fast, so you can’t ride over the edge or you can get hurt pretty easily. You really need to respect the bike and the power that it has.
“The Honda CRF450R is awesome, and really suits my riding style. It is lightweight and nimble, which lets me move around a lot and throw big whips. We have also made some really good adjustments while testing during the off-season, so I am more comfortable than ever on the bike.”
For 2014, Barcia will continue his relationship with Honda’s six-time national champion and world champion Jeff Stanton. “Working with Jeff has been really awesome for my program,” says Barcia. “He brings a lot to the table because he has been there, winning races and championships, so he knows what it takes. I think he brought a lot of confidence to my program and also really helped me mature as a rider. I was pretty wild and crazy with my riding when I was on the 250, always just going for it no matter what. Now, he has helped me become smarter and safer on the track.”
Barcia knows what he needs to win in 2014, and he’s ready to do exactly that. Make sure you’re watching number 51 when that starting gate drops.