Monster Energy Kawasaki's Villopoto Wins 450 Class Motocross Debut Monster Energy Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto started off the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Racing Motocross Championship just as he finished the 2009 supercross season, on the top step of...
Monster Energy Kawasaki's Villopoto Wins 450 Class Motocross Debut
Monster Energy Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto started off the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Racing Motocross Championship just as he finished the 2009 supercross season, on the top step of the podium. Villopoto went 1-1 in his motocross 450 class debut making it 26 straight moto wins for the Kawasaki KX450F. In the 250 class, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Christophe Pourcel won the first moto and finished seventh in the second while his teammate, 2008 MX2 World Champion, Tyla Rattray went 5-2 in his first race on American soil. Jake Weimer went 6-9 and Austin Stroupe finished 13-5. Timmy Ferry started the first moto in the 450 class but was unable to finish as he continues to recover from a broken heel he sustained in March.
Take a Bow
Villopoto joined elite company as he went 1-1 in his first motocross race in the 450 class. After winning the last three 250 class championships, he became only the second rider to then sweep both motos at Glen Helen in his 450 class debut. Ricky Carmichael also achieved the feat on a Kawasaki in 2000. It wasn't easy for Villopoto who had to fight his way to the front during the 30 minute plus two lap motos.
"It's tough coming up through the pack," said Villopoto. "In the first moto it wasn't too bad, but in the second moto I was back in tenth at the start so I had to work hard. I have to say this is one of the toughest tracks I have ridden at a national. It was really rough and it was good. I liked the track. It really separated the riders. My bike was good and I could ride a good pace."
Mind the Gap
During the second moto Villopoto worked his way up from 10th at the start to second on the sixth lap. When he moved up to second he was 16 seconds behind the leader. Over the next five laps, Villopoto caught up to and passed the leader to take his second moto win.
"Right from the start, Mike (Alessi) pulled a big gap on me," said Villopoto. "I knew where he was and I was paying attention to who was out front. I just kept doing the lap times I was doing. I wasn't trying to ride over my head and I wasn't getting discouraged, I knew I had a good pace and I saw that I was catching him pretty quick."
Rattray's first race in America was a good one as he finished fifth in the first moto and followed that up with a runner-up finish in the second moto. Rattray came across the holeshot line in fourth during Moto 2 and then rode a patient race to slowly move up to second.
"I really enjoyed the race today especially the second moto," said Rattray. "In the first moto I got a little arm pump so I just rode as best I could and I'm happy to get third overall. The second moto was a lot easier to pass. The track was rougher and there were more lines to choose from. The first moto it was more difficult to get by guys, but I think everyone did a great job. The track was awesome."
One of the advantages of racing in Southern California is getting plenty of track time before the season starts. Nearly every rider in the race had tested and practiced weekly at Glen Helen Raceway. Though the track was familiar, it was prepped different for the national.
"Today was a lot different than the regular Thursday riding and testing at Glen Helen," said Villopoto. "There are a lot of bumps on Thursday and slower riders, but today there were giant bumps. The bumps were deep, there were a lot of ruts and the track prep was different. During practice it seemed every turn was about 18 inches deep of thick mud, which made it a little one lined."
Pourcel found a familiar position after the first moto, the top step of the podium. The French rider rode a smooth and patient race to get the win.
"The first moto was good for me," said Pourcel. "I didn't get a great start and it was kind of crazy. I was in fourth when the leaders made a mistake, and I got by them. I just rode really smooth until the end of the race."
With Villopoto's two moto victories, the Kawasaki KX450F now has won 26 motos straight.
Coming to America
After winning the MX2 World Championship in Europe last year, Rattray came to the United States to race against different competition. New tracks aren't the only thing that is different for Rattray.
"The track was really rough and the intensity was more than I'm used to," said Rattray. "That is the biggest difference racing here in America, other than that it is pretty much the same."
The rutted conditions combined with an already difficult track made for a long race day at Glen Helen. For Weimer, the tough conditions made it difficult for him to overcome mid-pack starts, but he knows there is still a long season ahead.
"It was tough," said Weimer. "I just struggled with the starts. It was tough to pass because everybody is so fast here. Having to restart the first moto after the red flag was kind of a bummer. That was my best start of the day and we had redo it. The track was rough and I didn't get the results I wanted."
Since winning the MX2 title in October, Rattray has not competed in a race. The South African rider joined the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team early in 2009, but did not race during the supercross season.
"I know racing is different than just riding, so I just wanted to go out and get the best result I can," said Rattray. "My fitness isn't at 100 percent yet because I haven't raced in seven months, but I know it can only get better."
Glen Helen not only marked Rattray's first race in the United States, but also his first race on the Kawasaki KX250F.
"I'm really enjoying riding the Kawasaki," said Rattray. "It is a great handling bike and we have great engines. Put the bike with the team and it is even better. Everyone at Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki works really hard. I've got a good team behind me."
Looking to Improve
Though Villopoto swept both motos, he still sees areas for improvement. Not one to rest on his laurels, the 20-year-old rider is planning to work hard during the week to put in another good performance at Hangtown.
"Nobody likes to come from the back but that's what I had to do today," said Villopoto. "We are going to work on our starts. I don't think I come from the back all the time, but when I have too I can. I'm just hoping for some better starts to come."
Ferry came to the race still recovering from a broken heel and rode the first moto. After the moto Timmy and the team decided it would be best to concentrate on his recovery.
"I've only been riding for about a week," said Ferry. "I'm not at 100 percent yet and I kept going as long as I could. I'm going to get back out this week and ride some more and get ready for Hangtown."