Reigning champ Ryan Dungey will face his most difficult season yet as veteran riders converge for the crown.
We’re just days away from the gates dropping at the first round of the 2011 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series. Teams are frantically prepping both riders and machines for one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory as a field of unprecedented talent embarks for Anaheim Stadium in Southern California. In 2010 a rookie stole the limelight as Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey joined legendary Jeremy McGrath as the only other first-year champ in Supercross. But the racing scene has changed dramatically during the off-season, and in just a few days the youngest SX champion in history will ride through the tunnels of Angel’s Stadium with a pack of victory-obsessed riders looking to de-throne the young stud.
The upcoming race at Anaheim features a trio of past and current champions. Winner of two Supercross titles, Chad Reed will be featured for the first time racing aboard his own newly formed TwoTwo Motorsports team. San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart is returning from hiatus and will face more pressure than ever to reclaim the glory from his 2009 title-winning season. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto, who has yet to take a premier class title, was on the verge of doing so in 2010 before a broken leg crippled his hopes. And of course there’s Dungey, who had a spectacular 2010 season in Motocross that went largely unchallenged. Things will hardly be the same for Dungey in the upcoming Supercross season, however.
Ryan Villopoto returns to Anaheim determined to set things right after breaking his leg last season in St. Louis.
Villopoto stands out as one of the most focused and motivated riders in the pit. Battling heart-breaking injury last season the 22-year-old was forced into a five-month rehabilitation process which led to changes in his training regimen. As a result RV is coming to Anaheim with his game face on, determined to pick up where he left off.
“I’ve never been more motivated and never been in better shape than I am in preparing for 2011,” Villopoto added. “I want that title and I’m ready to take on everyone.”
Two other riders hoping to rebound from hard times during the 2010 season are Reed and Stewart. While both are exemplary figures in the sport of Supercross neither experienced memorable performances in the past season, and for the first time in their professional careers they find themselves crossed off the list of pundits who favor Dungey and Villopoto. As a result both Stewart and Reed come to the opening round looking to set their names right with a first round blowout.
Following time off both Chad Reed (above) and James Stewart (below) are optimistic of their chances in 2011.
“Everyone keeps talking about how competitive this season is going to be that I feel like it’s going to be the young guys versus the old guys like James (Stewart) and I,” said Reed.
In addition to the existing talent in the 450s a graduating class of 250 riders like Honda’s Trey Canard and Suzuki’s Brett Metcalfe will add even more excitement and mystery. Canard enters the premier class as the reigning Motocross 250 Champion after an intense tussle with Frenchman Christophe Pourcel.
“I really just want to be prepared.” said Canard. “I want to come in ready, learn, and do the very best I can do. That’s all I can ask of myself.”
Metcalfe ran the 450 bike to second overall in the 2010 MX Championship and was one of the most consistent riders in the field. With the chance for the 2011 SX title being decided by just a few points, both Canard and Metcalfe deserve mention as riders who could easily sway the series with unexpected wins.
Debuting on the 350 SX-F with Red Bull KTM, Andrew Short is another veteran in the lineup who is sure to be in the mix. In 2010 Shorty suffered an ankle injury early in the Supercross series and missed most of the season. He performed much better in the outdoor circuit where he claimed third
Brett Metcalfe will debut in the 450 class after taking second in the ’10 AMA Motocross Championship.
overall behind Dungey and Metcalfe. Fresh off helping Dungey and Canard win for Team USA at the 2010 MXoN, Short will now attempt to put his own name at the top of the charts with the help of new Team Manager Roger DeCoster.
“We have a good base with the 350 and I decided that we didn’t need to even try a 450 for Supercross, and that our best option to be competitive was to race the 350,” said Short. “A lot of hard work has gone into it these last few months and now we just have to go racing and see where we stand against the other bikes.”
Contrasting the roster of young bloods flooding into the premier class is Geico Powersports Honda’s Kevin Windham. The 32-year-old has been racing for the past 17 years in the professional ranks and is coming off a great performance in the Motocross series while filling in for the injured Davi Millsaps. In 2010 K-Dub pulled off a great Supercross season by finishing second overall and scrapping his way to a pair of wins, proving he still has more in the tank. A fan favorite, Windham is still searching for his first title.
Tyla Rattray (above) and Justin Barcia (below) are some of the major players who will kick things off in the Lites class at Anaheim.
The Lites class also has the makings for a great season. While decisions about which regional series each rider will participate in are ongoing, the Geico Powersports Honda and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki teams remain the two biggest forces in the regional championships. Featuring Dean Wilson, Broc Tickle, Blake Baggett, Tyla Rattray and Josh Hansen, the Pro Circuit team is a powerhouse coming into the opening round. Meanwhile Honda’s corner will include Justin Barcia, Eli Tomac, Blake Wharton and Wil Hahn – all who finished inside the top-10 in the 2010 AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
While much attention has revolved around these two teams there are numerous veterans housed at other teams throughout the pit. Rockstar Energy Suzuki, DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing Yamaha and Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda will all throw down with a mixture of young and old talent. An added element of excitement will be provided by Red Bull KTM after signing MX2 Champion Marvin Musquin and 16-year-old Ken Roczen of Germany. It will be Musquin and Roczen’s debut year in the AMA ranks as the international stars try their hands in the world’s premier Supercross series.
The opening round kicks off Saturday January, 8th at 7:00 p.m. Click here to check out 2011 Supercross broadcast dates.