(top) Mike Alessi finally got his day in the limelight after winning the 450 class at Hangtown. (middle) It was also Chris Pourcel’s first Motocross Lites career win. (bottom) Ashley Fiolek maintained her usual good form to take the overall in the Women’s motocross competition.
Both Alessi and Pourcel’s wins marked the first of their careers in their respective classes at the Hangtown Motocross Classic, but they were challenged throughout both motos by the likes of JGRMX/Toyota/Yamaha’s Josh Grant, Honda Red Bull Racing’s Ivan Tedesco, GEICO Powersports Honda’s Justin Barcia, and the aforementioned Dungey.
While Honda Red Bull Racing’s Ashley Fiolek grabbed her second win of the season, her rival Jessica Patterson closed the gap with an impressive second moto victory, setting the stage for yet another dogfight between the series’ top two women.
This weekend, the series makes its first foray outside of California, deep into the heart of Texas and Freestone Raceway for the Third Annual Flagstar Bank Motocross National in Wortham. After two years on the schedule, the series’ youngest track has provided some of the schedule’s best racing. A sprawling layout caters to high speeds and high-intensity action each and every lap. Same-day television coverage of the Flagstar Bank Motocross National will air on SPEED, Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.
The biggest news coming out of Hangtown was the sidelining of title favorite Ryan Villopoto, of Monster Energy Kawasaki. After capturing the season opening victory at Glen Helen, the Washington rider appeared primed for a run at the championship. However, he injured his knee in a mid-week crash and despite trying to battle through the pain in a valiant first moto, he will be sitting out the remainder of 2009 after undergoing surgery. To add to the team’s woes, veteran rider Timmy Ferry will also be foregoing racing for the next couple rounds as he continues to recover from a broken heel.
Despite losing its two stars, Monster Energy Kawasaki will still be in full force at Freestone with two new faces on the team. Experienced competitor Branden Jessemen will take his shot on a full-fledged factory effort for the remainder of 2009. Joining him is successful WORCS and Endurocross racer Ricky Dietrich. Both riders are expected to make their debut in Texas.
With one of his rivals out of the picture, Alessi took full advantage of the opportunity to open a gap in the standings over the rest of the field and carries an 18-point advantage coming into Wortham.
“I’m pretty excited about Freestone this weekend,” boasted Alessi. “I’m really looking forward to it. The last two years, I’ve finished second twice so now I’m looking forward to going out there and getting first. Also, it would be great to get the points lead a little bigger.”
With another race under his belt, Rockstar/Makita/Suzuki’s Chad Reed is inching closer to the front of the pack. Last weekend he ran a strong second moto to reach his first overall podium since returning to the series and with the confidence he gained from Hangtown, we will be looking to get on top of the box this weekend.
“I’m actually excited for the series to head East,” stated Reed. “I’m excited that I’ve been home this week. It’s been six weeks since I’ve been home, so I’ve been getting back to my normal schedule now that I’m back in Florida and riding in the humidity again. I don’t know a lot about Freestone. I’ve seen it on video but videos never do the tracks justice. But it looks good, it looks fun and I’m looking forward to racing at a track where I’ve never been.”
Teammate Michael Byrne has been quiet so far this season, still getting into top racing form after a multitude of injuries throughout the supercross season. He rode deep in the top 20 at Hangtown, but continues to get better each week.
“Going into Freestone, I’m still just trying to improve on what I’ve been doing,” explained Byrne. “I came home this week and it’s good to try and be back on track with my program and have a little ‘me’ time and get prepared for the weekend. It’s been hard being on the road so much and now I’ll be able to focus on my riding and getting my shoulder stronger. At Freestone last year, I had a good second moto that kind of got the ball rolling for me and hopefully we’ll have something like that again this week.”
Honda Red Bull Racing bounced back in Sacramento after a somewhat disappointing team outing at the season opener. Ivan Tedesco led the way for the red riders with a pair of inspired runs of second and fourth to capture second overall. Moreover, the Florida rider led the majority of the first moto before a riding gear malfunction slowed his progress.
“It was great to be back up on that box,” exclaimed Tedesco. “It’s been a little while since I’ve stood up there but it felt great to see both the Honda Red Bull Racing teams and my hard work pay off. The weekend flowed smooth for me and everything just worked great.”
Andrew Short was able to walk out of California with a solid result as well, tying Reed in overall points for the event, but just missing out on the podium as a result of second moto finishes. The Texas resident always performs well in his home state and after a third overall in Wortham in 2008, he has the confidence, speed and familiarity with the conditions to hold a slight advantage over his competitors as he searches for that first career victory.
The third member of the Honda stable, Davi Millsaps, suffered a mishap-plagued race in Hangtown. After injuring his foot in practice, Millsaps soldiered on through the motos, only to take a hard fall in the final moto and exit the race. With some time to recover, he will look for redemption this weekend.
Jagermeister KTM’s Justin Brayton showed what he was capable of last weekend by running solidly in the top 10 in both motos to bring home a career-best eighth-place finish in the 450 Class. As each race goes by, the Murrieta rider gets a little more comfortable on his bike and as a result gets a little faster. Look for him to move up the standings this weekend.
“I try to train everyday I can to continue to improve my results,” explained Brayton. “This week I am focusing on my starts.”
His teammate Josh Summey has had a series of bad luck to begin the 2009 season, but the North Carolina native understands it’s a part of the sport and will continue to work hard during training in hopes of having his luck turn around.
“It feels good to be at home training this week,” said Summey. “I have had some bad luck in my motos so far this season and I hope to turn it around in Texas.”
At Factory Yamaha, Josh Hill continues to make progress in his outdoor abilities. A stellar start in the first moto last weekend allowed him to run up front and get an idea of where he places among the field. However, a rough second moto brought a disappointing end to the day with 15th overall.
The 250 Class is still a showcase of talent each time it hits the track. While Dungey and Pourcel are slowly asserting themselves at the top of the ladder, a long line of fast challengers are lurking right behind them.
Dungey experienced a rough first moto in Sacramento when he fell early and found himself outside the top 20. However, the points leader proved why he is atop the standings and battled his way through the pack to salvage a seventh place finish. He blasted out of the gates in moto two to take a convincing victory and grab the third spot on the overall podium. After a runner-up finish in Wortham last season, Dungey looks to take the next step up on Saturday.
“I’m pretty happy with the first two races of the season – one win and one podium,” said Dungey. “This week, I’m just doing my regular program and focusing on getting myself prepared to give 100 percent at Freestone next weekend. I was second there last year and hopefully we’ll come away with a win this time.”
East Coast Lites Supercross winner Chris Pourcel is looking forward to a head-to-head duel with the West Coast SX Lites Champ Ryan Dungey.
Pourcel has been solid all season and his performance at Hangtown showed he will be a force to be reckoned with each and every week. The Frenchman stalked moto one leader Justin Barcia for the majority of the race before making his final move late to steal the win. In moto two, he rode smart, sticking behind Dungey knowing he had the overall win wrapped up. While he crossed the line in second, the overall winner was penalized and dropped to third, leaving him two points out of first place instead of being tied with Dungey heading into Texas.
“Every moto is important in this championship,” stated Pourcel. “I want to go out and ride as good as I can. If I do I know I can keep winning. I want to score as many points as I can every week.”
Tyla Rattray, like Pourcel, will be making his first visit to the Texas track. Known for being a fast layout and a tough test for the riders, the South African rider will rely heavily on his training to endure each of the 30-minute plus two lap motos.
“I hear the track is pretty flat,” said Rattray. “That will be a change from the first two races. It also is going to be really hot, but I’ve been training hard and I know I’ll have the endurance for both motos.”
Jake Weimer made progress in Sacramento thanks to his recent determination to improve his starts. The Idaho native will continue with that mentality heading to Freestone where he finished fourth last season.
“The biggest thing for me this weekend is getting a good start,” explained Weimer. “That is what has been holding me back this season. It’s difficult to have to fight your way up through the pack, especially when the weather is like it’s supposed to be in Texas.”
Unfortunately for fourth Pro Circuit member Austin Stroupe, a big crash in the final moto last weekend has left him a little banged up heading into Texas. However, the tough North Carolina rider will soldier through any pain in hopes of replicating his podium finish from 2008.
“I was really charging before the crash last week,” said Stroupe. “I made a couple of passes and then I was hit by someone else’s bike. I’m sore, but I will be able to ride through it and hopefully I can get back on the podium. I was third here last year, so I like the track.”
The GEICO Powersports Honda team was in full force last weekend at Hangtown. Led by Trey Canard who’s second overall is a career best finish, the GEICO boys turned a lot of heads and will be a threat on Saturday.
“Hangtown was awesome,” exclaimed Canard. “Finishing on the podium at both rounds so far this season is definitely the way I wanted to start out my 2009 campaign. I’m feeling in top shape and the bike feels great, so I really think it’s going to be a rewarding season for me.”
Barcia was also impressive yet again, almost capturing his first moto victory in the day’s first race. However, while battling through the field in moto two, he went down hard, taking himself and Stroupe out of the running.
For Brett Metcalfe and Blake Wharton, California ended on a high note with overall finishes of fourth and seventh, respectively. Metcalfe is quickly coming into top form after a collarbone injury while Wharton will be at the top of his game with the chance to race in front of his hometown fans in Texas.
For Muscle Milk/MDK/KTM, Great Britain native Tommy Searle could not duplicate his season opening performance as misfortune relegated him to 13th overall. However, he has been training hard this week in preparation for his third U.S. race.
His teammate Wil Hahn returns home for the Wortham round and couldn’t be happier to race in a familiar environment.
“I am stoked for the race this weekend because it is only an hour from my hometown,” stated Hahn. “I will have a lot of my close family and friends around to cheer me on.”
Fiolek has snagged all the oversized holeshot checks dealt out this season by MotorcycleUSA.com in WMX.
The WMX Class once again saw Fiolek atop the overall podium, making her 2-0 since joining Honda Red Bull Racing. Last season in Texas, she and Patterson showcased one of the best races in women’s motocross history and after Patterson’s impressive second moto run at Hangtown, fans could be in store for another historic race.
“Hangtown was a lot of fun,” boasted Fiolek. “I rode really well winning the first moto but in the second race I just tired a bit and Patterson got by me for the win. But finishing first and second was enough to give me the overall win which I am really happy about. I couldn’t ask for a better way to start the series; back to back round wins.”
While same day television coverage is available on SPEED Saturday night, fans can catch live video feed of the first motos in each of the three classes streaming on the internet at www.allisports.com beginning at 1 p.m. CT.