With James Stewart’s recent arm injury putting him out of contention for the 2005 AMA Supercross title, speculation surrounding the much-anticipated Stewart/Carmichael battle has shifted to the AMA Nationals which will get rolling later this year. Carmichael is coming off an unprecedented two perfect undefeated outdoor motocross seasons (2002 and 2004), and is unquestionably the most dominant outdoor rider in the history of the sport.
Stewart, meanwhile, has inflicted similar domination on the 125cc class for several years, and is considered by some to be the fastest outdoor rider ever. The question is, can Stewart stand above Carmichael on the podium during his rookie year in the 250cc class?
Last year Stewart was one of the few riders to stick with a two-stroke 125cc for most of the season (he rode a KX250F for the season finale at Glen Helen). For 2005 it is likely that his KX250 will be the only 250 two-stroke among the top four riders – Windham will be on the CRF450R, Reed the YZ450F, and Carmichael is expected to ride the new RM-Z450. The KX250 is an incredible bike, and definitely one of the best 250cc two-strokes ever built. However, it is still at a disadvantage to the 450 four-strokes in terms of ultimate power, especially since the AMA instituted a rule requiring unleaded race fuel (which works better in four-strokes than two-strokes).
Will Stewart and his KX250 be able to challenge Carmichael on the new Suzuki thumper? This will be the first year of AMA competition for the RM-Z450, but many reviews (including our own first riding impression) have indicated that it will be a very competitive package. While it is unlikely to carry Ricky to another perfect season, it is likely to give him a distinct advantage in the race-to-race battle against the speed and raw talent of James Stewart.