Monster Energy Kawasaki Stars Shine Bright in Houston Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider Christophe Pourcel returned to AMA racing and the top of the podium at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. At the season opening round for the AMA ...
Monster Energy Kawasaki Stars Shine Bright in Houston
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider Christophe Pourcel returned to AMA racing and the top of the podium at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. At the season opening round for the AMA Supercross Lites Eastern Region season, Pourcel showed his injuries over the last two seasons haven't slowed him down as he earned his second AMA career win. His teammate Austin Stroupe finished fourth in the main event. It was a night of firsts in the supercross class as Monster Energy Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto led the main event and earned his first career podium with a third place finish. Teammate Timmy Ferry finished eighth.
Top of the Box
Pourcel nabbed his second win in as many races, taking the checkered flag first at Houston. Of course there was a nearly two year break between starts as Pourcel recovered from serious injures. His race on Saturday showed he had not lost any of his competitive fire or skill as he led wire-to-wire for the victory.
"It's good for me, and the team," said Pourcel. "It is an amazing feeling for me. I feel awesome. It's good to be back on the bike and back racing. It was a technical track and I think the fastest way around was just to be smooth. I tried to be smooth all race and it paid off."
After riding a strong race, Villopoto climbed up on the podium in Houston, earning his best finish to date in the supercross class. After leading the main event early, RV settled into second, continually running fast laps and keeping the leader in site. Near lap 12, Villopoto went down just before the finish line, giving up second place, but he recovered quickly and held on to third place.
"I'm not going to say I had second place in the bag," said Villopoto. "But I definitely had a shot at it if I didn't go down. We're making steps forward and that's what we want to do. I just want to minimize mistakes and I should be on the podium again."
Stroupe's return to Houston started to look like it would be a repeat of last year, when he earned his first professional win at Reliant Stadium. The 18-year-old showed a lot of speed early, winning his heat race. After a good start in the main event, he was ready to go back to the top of the podium. A difficult section midway through the first lap caught some riders out and after some contact, Stroupe was forced off the track. He regrouped quickly and started to come up through the field, making an amazing pass of two riders at once to move up to fourth.
"My start was decent," said Stroupe. "I think I came out about fifth and I thought I could make a move on the tabletops. I went on, on, on in that section and someone hit the brakes hard at the end of the section and I had nowhere to go. I hit him head on and went off the track. A lot of guys got by there and then I just got back up and came up as far as I could."
After falling in his heat race, Villopoto had to ride his way up through the field to secure a good gate pick for the main. With his sixth place result, RV had 12th gate pick, but the lack of choices didn't keep him from getting his best start of the year as he rocketed into the first turn and took the lead on the first lap.
"I went down in the heat race so I didn't get a good gate pick and had to start on the inside," said Villopoto. "I got an awesome start on my Kawasaki KX 450F and by the third or fourth turn I was in the lead. It was a good race. I led for a couple of laps. I felt James (Stewart) come up on me and he passed me, then I passed him right back. We were a little racy there and it was fun."
Keys to Victory
Pourcel took the lead right out of the starting gate in the supercross lites main event, and never looked back. Having not raced in nearly two years, Pourcel showed he hadn't lost any of his reaction time or determination as he sped into the first turn to grab the holeshot.
"I was close to the middle of the gate," said Pourcel." I was just inside and I focused on getting a good start. I just imagined no one was near me and I got the holeshot twice. My Kawasaki KX 250F was really fast out of the gate. I think it is really good to be focused on getting a good start."
Ferry got a good start out of the gate, but the tight turn complex after the start straight looked like a crowded highway at rush hour. With bikes all fighting for position, the tuff blocks marking the track were strewn throughout the turns adding more obstacles to the already difficult track.
"I came through the first turn pretty good," said Ferry. "The switch-back made it really difficult, the tuff blocks were bouncing around and were all over the track. I lost time when I went in between the tuff blocks, but it was the same for everyone where I was."
First Race Nerves
Though he is entering his second season as a pro, Stroupe still felt the nerves of the first race of the season. A good performance in the heat race helped to calm his nervousness and with one race now behind him, he's ready to challenge for the championship.
"I think it is good to get the first race out of the way, because I was nervous," said Stroupe. "It was cool to win the heat race. I have that under my belt and now we have a couple of weeks before the next round. I know what I need to work on and I am just concentrating on getting ready for Atlanta and the rest of the season."
Out of Sync
Despite the congestion on the first lap, Ferry was methodically working his way through the field and looking to get back into the top five. On lap 13 of the 20-lap main event,
Red Dog got out of sync with the flow of the track and lost time to the riders he was gaining on. Though he was able to regain the rhythm of track, Ferry had to settle for an eighth-place result.
"I had a really good pace going," said Ferry. "Then just after halfway, I missed the triple and swapped out in the whoops and just didn't get the rhythm section right. Before that I was catching the guys in front of me and I thought I could get a good finish. After that I lost the flow of the track for a couple of laps and just had to settle in where I was. I'm going to look at the race on video to see what I can work on."
Villopoto is nearly a quarter of the way through his rookie campaign in the supercross class and he continues to move up in the standings. After earning his first career podium, Villopoto is looking to return to the podium next week.
"The season started a little rough, but it's getting better", said Villopoto. "We just want to keep moving forward and last week we got fourth, this week was third, so now we are looking for a second and a first. I was getting a little irritated about not getting on the podium and riding like I know I can. Overall it was a good race for me, but without the fall it would have been better."
Pourcel was slated to race for the West Coast title before an injury in late November changed the teams plans. With the East Coast season starting later and finishing earlier than the West Coast, Pourcel was able to heal fully from his broken collarbone and also will be able to look ahead to the motocross season.
"I was focused on the West Coast season until I broke my collarbone," said Pourcel. "Then I shifted my focus to the East Coast. I think going for the East Coast championship is more for me. It gives me more time to prepare in the winter and also for the motocross season this summer. I think that is good for me. "
Heading to Houston also meant Ferry was heading back East and getting closer to home. Ferry lives in Florida, but with the first four rounds closer to the West Coast, Red Dog became a temporary California resident. Even though the tour returns to the Golden State for the next three rounds, Red Dog is going to commute from his Florida home, taking advantage of the familiar surroundings.
"I haven't been home in almost a month, said Ferry. "I'm looking forward spending some time at my house. I've been living in a hotel for a month now and by going home I'll be able to get back into a good routine. I'm going to chill out this week and hope San Francisco isn't muddy."