The Dirt Wurx crew had its work cut out for it this past week in San Diego, California with Mother Nature working against them in the days leading up to Saturday night’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross race inside Qualcomm Stadium. The sporadic mid-week rain showers caused havoc for track builders but when the track was finally unwrapped, prior to the start of the shortened practice schedule, we learned yet again why Dirt Wurx gets paid the big bucks.
In between the practice sessions and heat races there was a flurry of on-track activity with workers armed with bulldozers and shovels constantly shifting dirt around in order to try and reduce its mucky consistency. For the most part it worked and the track remained in incredibly good shape even when the rain began falling through the evening.
Feld Motorsports claimed that in excess of 53,000 fans showed up, but it certainly didn’t appear so judging by the view from the parking lot. Traditionally jam packed with tailgaters and beer consuming party animals this year was much mellower compared to past events. The same could be said inside the stadium as there were many vacant seats and it didn’t look anywhere close to capacity. Still the folks who did show up were treated to one of the most entertaining races of the year due challenging track conditions.
(Above) Dirt Wurx crew did an excellent job of shielding the track from the elements over the weekend. (Center) San Diego is famous for its Supercross tailgate party antics.
The stars of the evening were TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed and Geico Honda’s Eli Tomac who piloted their Honda CRF450R and CRF250R motocrossers to the top of the podium in their respective classes. Reed has always ridden well in the mud (remember the ’08 Daytona Supercross mud-fest that he nearly won if his bike wouldn’t have broken down?). And by judging by Tomac’s dominant performance he looks to be an absolute animal in it too.
“This is incredible,” said Reed after taking his first win of the season. “I‘ve put so much work into this team to make it the best it can be. To win with your name on your chest makes everything so much better. This one is emotional.”
After nailing the holeshot in the 20-lap main, Reed eventually got passed by the factory Honda of Trey Canard. The ’10 250 class Motocross champ then began pulling out a gap before he crashed alone which allowed Reed to re-gain control of the race. Canard remounted quickly but tipped-over again during the closing stages of the race. Despite falling down twice, he still finished fourth.
“I just followed Trey because he was showing me some lines,” Reed said who is now tied for third place in the series’ points with Canard. “When he went down [the first time], it became just about putting together 20 clean laps.”
Similarly to Canard, San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart made a costly error when he momentarily stalled his YZ450F in the final laps of the race. This allowed reigning Supercross champ and Rockstar Makita Suzuki rider, Ryan Dungey to take second place earning him some much needed Championship points.
“I just stalled it,” commented a frustrated Stewart after the race. “I’m trying my best. I don’t want to just throw it away like that, but I’m glad to get on the podium. I had nothing for Chad tonight, he was riding great, but I made up a lot of points.”
Supercross point’s leader Ryan Villopoto recovered well from a first lap crash and worked hard to maneuver his way through traffic and into a seventh place finish, just behind the JGR Yamaha ridden by last year’s race winner Davi Millsaps and KTM’s Andrew Short.
There’s been a lot of talk this year about the competitiveness of KTM’s recently released 350 SX-F motocrosser as tested in the 2011 KTM 350 SX-F First Ride and 2011 KTM 350 SX-F Comparison reviews. And in the slick conditions it was quite visible that the mellower bottom-end engine power allowed the KTMs to “hook up” better out of corners. It was amazing actually because despite being 100cc’s down in terms of engine size, Short’s KTM would consistently achieve better drives than some of the 450s including the RM-Z450 ridden by Dungey’s teammate, Brett Metcalfe. I also noticed that it seemed more difficult if not impossible for the KTM’s to clear some of the jumps from the inside line.
(Above) 2011 AMA Supercross San Diego podium results (left to right): James Stewart, Chad Reed and Ryan Dungey. (Below) Chad Reed rode to his first victory of the season in San Diego despite the slippery conditions.
In the Lites class, rookie Eli Tomac decimated the competition with his flag-to-flag win. Even if he hadn’t gotten the holeshot he still probably would have killed everyone as he was visibly the fastest rider in pretty much every track segment. Tomac put in a textbook performance going slow when he had to and then absolutely hammering the throttle when track conditions allowed.
“The first five laps I just put my head down and pulled away. It was kind of crazy,” Tomac said. “The track was really tricky and slippery. I got a little nervous out [front], but overall it was really good. I’ve learned a lot this season and I’ve gotten a lot better in recent weeks.”
Tomac has matured quickly this season and will continue to become a force to be reckoned with as he gains more experience. As it sits now, Tomac is 12 points behind series’ point’s leader Josh Hansen with two West Coast races remaining (Salt Lake City, Utah and Seattle, Washington).
Speaking of Hansen the veteran rider (it’s difficult to consider him a veteran but he’s been racing in the Lites class since ’03) is in full damage control mode having recently broke a bone in his hand at the second Anaheim race. The West Coast point’s leader was visibly off pace but soldiered on to a sixth place finish, one spot behind Geico Honda’s James Decotis who is filling in for a still recovering Will Hahn. Decotis put in a solid ride running as high as second place before succumbing to pressure from the remaining two Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasakis of Tyla Rattray and Broc Tickle. Rattray was back in action after the South African withdrew from Anaheim 2 race with a back injury. He would go on to finish second Saturday night. Meanwhile Tickle secured the final podium spot and is now within striking distance of this year’s West Coast Lites championship trailing Hansen by only three points.
After winning his heat race, KTM’s Ken Roczen had a host of problems in the 15-lap Lites main. The 16-year-old German got caught in a first turn pile-up and then crashed again himself. Despite falling down twice Roczen still finished seventh. During the break, Roczen will travel to Daytona to race in the premier class aboard a 350 SX-F. After, he’ll travel to Europe for the start of the MX2 World Championship before flying back to America to race the final two West Coast Lites races.
The Monster Energy Supercross series now travels east to Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Make sure to check out MotorcycleUSA.com for news and results throughout the weekend.