The rivalry between James Stewart (above) and Ryan Villopoto is taking shape as both have two wins so far in 2011.
The 2011 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship will be turning around and heading back to Southern California for the second and final Anaheim round at Angel Stadium. Featuring its second annual PINK themed event in support of finding a cure for breast cancer, Anaheim 2 will help raise funds for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure 60-mile walk. Now more than four weeks into the series, San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart has stripped the championship lead away from Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto – but only by a mere two points. Sharing two wins apiece, both Stewart and Villopoto have emerged as the dominant forces in the 450 class. But anything can happen in a race, and as Villopoto discovered last year only a minor slip-up can spell disaster for an entire season’s worth of hard work.
In front of more than 44,000 fans last week Stewart pulled off an incredible feat in Oakland. Suffering two major crashes during practice which left him shaken, the ’09 SX champ returned in the main to claim a major victory by more than eight seconds. Crashes have haunted both Stewart and Villopoto this year, but in Oakland Stewart remained undeterred by his mistakes and notched a momentous win to give him a two-point lead in the series.
“This is a great win for me and the team,” said Stewart. “It’s a long season and it’s all about winning a championship. The rain tonight made it a little difficult, but I am glad I came out on top.”
Now more than ever Villopoto will be looking for another victory as he goes on the offense against his nemesis. RV has surpassed many people’s expectations this year in terms of brute speed. Only in his third year of competing in the premier Supercross class, however, injuries have proven to be Villopoto’s Achilles’ heel. The question this season is whether Villopoto can consistently keep up the pace while keeping the rubber side down. In Oakland Villopoto hit the deck twice and eventually finished fourth – his worst result so far.
Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey took another podium finish at Oakland. The returning Supercross champ has regularly been in the fight for the top-three this year, but he’s yet to lay down a performance that’s considered title-winning material. Heading into Anaheim 2 Dungey remains 12 points adrift of Villopoto and 14 points behind Stewart.
Ryan Dungey narrowly missed second place in Oakland but has three podium finishes in the last four rounds.
“It will be great to go back to Anaheim,” said Dungey. “We know more what to expect there and hopefully we can get a good start and put the Rockstar Makita Suzuki up front.”
TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed is coming off his best performance so far this year. The two-time Supercross champ managed a pass in the final turn at Oakland to overtake Dungey, and in the process moved one point shy of Honda’s Trey Canard in the standings. Essential to Reed’s solid performance was his start. The Aussie was second out of the gates and despite struggling in the mud he found a rhythm near the end of the race.
“Being calm and patient is the only way to play the game when the track is slick and unpredictable like that,” said Reed.
Suzuki’s Brett Metcalfe also had an upturn in his fortunes at Oakland after getting an okay start and gradually working his way through the field. After being passed by Canard for fifth with just a few laps remaining, Metcalfe buckled down and reclaimed his position on the final lap for his first top-five finish of the year.
Competition in the Lites class is growing as Kawasaki teammates
Broc Tickle and Josh Hansen remain separated by only one point
in the championship.
In the Lites class Mitch Payton’s Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team witnessed its second rider take to the top step as Broc Tickle scored his first win of 2011. The race was tense and incredibly difficult for riders as heavy rain fell throughout the 15-lap main. After Honda’s Eli Tomac lost control of his bike and crashed out of the lead, Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen took over on Lap 4. The race saw four different riders up front but only Tickle managed to stayed consistent enough for the win.
“I knew it was going to be really slick out there, so I tried to ride smooth and take it lap by lap,” said Tickle.
After his most recent win Tickle is one point away from teammate, Josh Hansen, and the battle for the West Coast Lites championship is in full swing.