Chad Reed claimed second at Freestone last year before his results started to slip. Can he do better this year?
The 2011 AMA Pro Motocross Championship kicked off with gusto at Hangtown, but things are about to get much hotter. With temperatures expected to be in the high-90s for the second round at Freestone, each rider’s fitness will be put to the ultimate test. Couple that with a stacked field of talent, Texas humidity and some of the gnarliest track conditions on the 2011 schedule and you have the makings for an action-packed event.
In the opening round, TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed was seen having fun and mixing it up with Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey for the overall win. Last year Reed managed the same dominance in the opening round, but began to slip as the season progressed. Will it be different in 2011? Dungey has already proven he’s a force to be reckoned with on the outdoor circuit. With a total of 10 wins last year, Dungey didn’t just win the 2010 MX Championship – he crushed it. Only time will tell if the defending champ can repeat his previous perfection, which started at Freestone last year. If Memorial Day weekend hasn’t already been booked, I strongly recommend a trip to Texas for what’s sure to be some awesome motocross racing.
Reed and Dungey are currently tied in the series with 47 points as they approach Round 2. Freestone will offer both riders the chance to break the tie and move ahead in the series, which is important seeing as any number of accidents could spell ruin this early in the series. KTM’s Mike Alessi had a run-in with misfortune before the gates even dropped on his first race of the season, so staying healthy and fit enough for each moto is essential.
Ryan Dungey took his first of 10 wins at Freestone in 2010 and looked strong in the previous round at Hangtown.
One of the highlights of Freestone is sure to be the track layout, which will promote passing opportunities through its large layout. As usual, the hallmark of Freestone will be a series of sand whoops, also known as “The 12-pack,” which never fails to disappoint with crashes and intense position battles.
After toughing it through Hangtown recovering from sickness, 2011 Supercross champion Ryan Villopoto finished third overall with moto performances that were rather dull by his high standards. A lack of outdoor testing was primarily to blame, but it’s still too early to gauge the champ’s full potential. After all, this is RV’s first return to Motocross since 2009, and it will take a few rounds for him to settle in and find his groove.
One rider who would have benefitted from Freestone’s technicality is James Stewart. However, the 25-year-old who finished fourth overall in the 2011 SX series is still absent from the outdoor scene with no updates as to when he and his San Manuel Yamaha teammate, Kyle Regal, are expected to return.
Other riders to keep an eye on are Geico Honda’s (Factory Honda) Kevin Windham and Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Brett Metcalfe. Windham managed decent starts in both motos at Hangtown, and if it weren’t for a mechanical problem, the veteran may have made it to the podium. Meanwhile,
Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto struggled with bike setup at Hangtown but hopes for better luck at Freestone.
Metcalfe has established himself as a premier MX rider after moving up to the 450s last season. After struggling in Supercross this year, Metcalfe returned to racing at Hangtown to post fifth-place finishes in both motos despite being away from the track for three months.
The Lites class was filled to the brim with competition at Hangtown. Mitch Payton’s Pro Circuit Kawasaki team remains the target for the rest of the field after it swept the podium in the first round of the series.
One of the most powerful workhorses for Pro Circuit, Blake Baggett, demonstrated superb fitness after setting some of the fastest laps late in the day at Hangtown. It’s Baggett’s ability to withstand tough conditions that will make him a difficult force to overthrow at Freestone. Teammates Dean Wilson and Tyla Rattray are no slouches either. Wison nabbed a victory in the first moto and looks hungry for his first title after coming close in the 2011 East Coast Lites SX Championship. Meanwhile, Rattray finished second in Moto 2 and won a race at Freestone last year. Also, don’t discount the 2011 West Coast Lites Champion, Broc Tickle, who had a poor start to his outdoor season but will look to rebound in Texas.
Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett has set high expectations in the Lites class after winning the season opener.
Team Green has many rivals in the series, but none more potent than Honda and KTM. Geico Honda’s Eli Tomac and Justin Barcia each snagged holeshots at Hangtown, with Tomac finishing on the podium in the first moto. Barcia proved a little too eager out of the gate and had some crashes which set him back, but his aggressive riding and speed may be the perfect recipe for success in Texas.
KTM’s efforts in motocross have been bolstered by reigning FIM MX2 champion, Marvin Musquin. In his first AMA MX race Musquin claimed moto scores of 4-6, giving the rookie fifth overall at Hangtown. He came from dead last in Moto 2. With results like that, it’s only a matter of time before Musquin lands on the podium.
Round 2 of the 2011 AMA Pro Motocross Championship will take place in Wortham, Texas on Saturday May 28. Practice and qualifying start at 8:30 a.m. with racing beginning at 1 p.m.