Dungey had his first major let down of the ’11 outdoor season when his motorcycle was unable to last in the Texas heat.
How hot was Freestone this year? Hot enough to boil fuel and stop a bike, that’s for sure. Sweltering heat and challenging track conditions pushed the 2011 AMA Pro Motocross Championship to new highs this past weekend in Wortham, Texas. Crashes, broken bikes and disappointment were in full supply at Freestone, but it was Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey who surfaced with the biggest storyline in Round 2. Ultimately robbed of the overall win after the gas in his bike slightly boiled and caused his bike to shut down in the final moto, the defending champ handled his misfortune well considering he had more than a 20-second lead in the final two laps ahead of TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed when the incident occurred.
“It’s a bummer for the team and myself – for all of us together, as we’re all in it together,” said Dungey. “I feel bad because we all work too hard for something like this to happen. We just need to keep looking forward; keep moving in the right direction and keep our heads down. We have a lot of racing left, so we have a lot to be thankful for. We have a weekend off and we’re gonna do a little testing and see if we can’t improve on a few areas and be ready for High Point. It’s a great track; it’s got some hills and elevation and the dirt’s awesome there. It’s a fun track and I was able to get a win there last year, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Staying hydrated was a challenege at Freestone. Several riders were using portable hydration systems, like the one on Brett Metcalfe’s back pictured below.
Hosting its fifth AMA Pro Motocross National this year, Freestone offered its typical layout consisting of very few elevation changes but a whole lot of sand. Although temperatures were 100-plus, a stiff wind offered slight reprieve for both riders and fans. The thick sand, however, proved too much for engines as several riders joined Dungey with mechanical failures, including Honda’s Kevin Windham and MotoConcepts Yamaha’s Tommy Hahn. In addition to taking a toll on their machines, multiple riders also succumbed to heat exhaustion.
As if the environmental challenges weren’t enough, some riders just didn’t like Freestone’s design, like Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer.
“I’m not a big fan of this track, it seems pretty flat and there aren’t too many line choices,” said Weimer. “I got a really good start in the first moto and held onto fourth or fifth for most of the race, but got a little tired at the end and finished in sixth. The second moto I started out around fourth, but didn’t have a whole lot left after the first moto. I ended up finishing in seventh, which is not where I want to be.”
Aside from the torturous heat there was awesome racing to be had in both the 450s and 250s. Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda’s Christian Craig nailed the holeshot in the first moto of the day and led for the first eight laps. Christophe Pourcel had a good start, but the Frenchman continued to struggle with the fork on his Motoconcepts Yamaha and had to pull off in the first moto. He returned in the second moto with a new triple clamp, but suffered a broken shock and recorded his second DNF for the day. Red Bull KTM’s Andrew Short had a top-10 start in Moto 1 but crashed around a tight right-hander, falling into a busy line of traffic.
“I just remember getting hit by quite a few riders and it took me about 30 seconds or so before I was feeling good enough to get back on the bike,” said Short. “After about half a lap everything clicked again and I was able to get back to my race pace.”
KTM’s Andrew Short earned the Muscle Milk Recovery Award at Freestone after grabbing sixth in the final moto.
The KTM rider later received the Muscle Milk Recovery Award after improving dramatically in the second moto to finish sixth.
“I am bummed that I crashed in the first moto and had a bad start in the second but overall I feel good about my ride today and am glad to come out and get a solid race under my belt,” Short said.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto started both motos at Freestone outside the top-five as he continues to find his place in MX. He finished with 3-5 moto scores for his second overall podium finish of the season.
“I’m still getting back up to speed and have a few things to work on,” said Villopoto. “I didn’t have the greatest of starts in the first moto, but was able to work my way back up to third. The second moto started off good, but I pushed a little too hard and went down. The heat definitely made it harder to get back up. I know I have the speed, and my KX450F is running great, I just need to work on some things.”
JGRMX Yamaha’s Davi Millsaps survived the conditions to take second overall at Freestone. The 23-year-old is still suffering from kidney complications following his crash at Budds Creek last summer, but fought his way from inside the top-10 to finish just shy of the podium in fourth during Moto 1. The next time around Millsaps secured a better start and was in the top-three when Dungey suffered his misfortune. As a result Millsaps picked up the overall runner-up spot, leaving Freestone third in the series with 72 points.
Former WORCS champion Ricky Dietrich put his outdoor skills to good use in Texas. The Valli Motorsports rider took fifth overall with 8-4 moto scores, and finished ninth in the season opener at Hangtown last week. A full-time rider in the MX series this year, Dietrich grabbed runner-up in the 2010 WORCS Championship, and his experience is truly showing off.
In the 250 division Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin was the fastest in practice but had a surprise waiting for him in Turn 1. During the start of the first moto Honda continued to dominate off the line with Justin Barcia snagging the holeshot ahead of Musquin. Just like last week, however, Barcia was a little too eager on the front brake and went over the handlebars, flipping his bike right into the path of Musquin. The impact was audible as he slammed hard into the bike, the Frenchman breaking his thumb and injuring his hand.
“I am very disappointed in this race,” said Musquin. “I felt very confident today and was really excited about this season and racing in the U.S. I just recovered from an ACL injury and can’t believe that I am hurt again. I am sad that it is not my fault and just a racing accident that I couldn’t avoid. I will do my best to recover to 100% as soon as possible so I can return to racing and put on a good race for the fans.”
Justin Barcia (above #17) had a digger in the first turn that resulted in Marvin Musquin (below) breaking his thumb.
The Texas venue also wasn’t nice to Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett, who was out front with a clear lead in the first race when he dropped the ball.
“It just wasn’t my weekend,” said Baggett. “I wanted to get back on the podium, and was pushing hard, but just made a few mistakes that cost me. I’m still fourth in the points so I just need to do better next weekend. There are 10 rounds left in the season so I have plenty of time to get back to the top of the points.”
Fitness proved crucial to success at Freestone. The overall winner in the 250s, Tyla Rattray, explained that being in the best shape of his career is what largely led him to outperform his rivals to claim his first win of the 2011 season.
“It’s been a long time since I felt this good,” said Rattray. “Between the weather and the track, I knew it was going to be a tough race. I’ve really fine-tuned my training and am feeling like I’m in the best shape of my life. The track got super gnarly by the second moto, all the sand got pushed off to the sides of the track, which made it really rough. That second moto was really all about endurance. I know when to push and when to pace myself, and when everyone started slowing down I pushed out front.”
This fact is demonstrated by Rattray’s lap times, which saw the South African putting in some of his best laps in the final stages of Moto 2. Rattray’s Monster Energy PC Kawasaki teammate, Dean Wilson, also hooked a win in the first moto after Baggett’s crash. It wasn’t an easy win though as the Scotsman had Rattray breathing down his neck for most of the time.
“I felt like the day went pretty good,” said Wilson. “I really liked the track out here, it was rough, but I felt like I found some good lines. I won the first moto, which I was pretty happy about. I felt like I had the second moto, but was a little too impatient. I got tangled up with (Justin) Barcia and went down. I was pretty upset with that, but picked myself up, kept pushing, and never gave up. I finished in third, which is not exactly what I wanted, but I’m happy to leave with the points lead.”
The series now breaks for a week before heading east to High Point in Pennsylvania. The week off will give many riders in the series a chance to recover from various injuries and dial their equipment in better.