From rocks to mud, Red Bull KTM’s Andrew Short & the rest of the field braved difficult racing conditions at High Point.
Roost can hurt. Ask any rider who participated in Round 3 of the 2011 AMA Pro Motocross Championship at High Point, because more than a few have bruises to show for the experience. Take TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed, who had to ice his collarbone in between motos after a rock nailed him in the chest, as proof. Flying debris wasn’t the only obstacle they faced in Pennsylvania.
Reed and the rest of the field were thrown a curveball during the debut eastern round as the series faced the first mud race of the year during the second moto. The Mt. Morris track consists of a clay mixture that turned to thick, slippery porridge in the rain. Despite struggling in the first moto, Reed’s mud racing experience came in handy later that afternoon when the Aussie won his fourth moto of the season. Ultimate honors for the day, however, fell upon Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto as the reigning SX champ secured his first victory of the outdoor season in the first moto.
“It was definitely good to get the monkey off my back,” said Villopoto. “My last win was in 2009 and I just wanted to get this one out of the way. It’s been good getting back to the East Coast and I’m really excited for the next few rounds.”
Seen here without goggles, Chad Reed snagged another moto win while facing the first mud race of the season.
High Point marked the return to action for Red Bull KTM’s Mike Alessi and his 4-4 finish shows he could be a force in the remaining races. The 23-year-old originally stirred-up the ’11 MX scene by attacking the first qualifying session of the season at Hangtown, taking the fastest time by nearly a full second before crashing hard and leaving with a concussion. The severity of his injury was visible at High Point as he was forced to undergo medical checkups between each moto. The first race saw Alessi literally tear the starting gate out as he jumped too early on his KTM 450 SX-F. Despite the rocky beginning, Alessi put together some solid laps and managed to finish in third, but his misjudged start ultimately cost him the podium result after he was docked a position.
“I am happy with my results today,” confirmed Alessi. Of course, I would have liked to finish in the top three but I am just glad to be back to racing and doing what I love. I want to thank all the doctors that have helped get me back in racing shape over the past few weeks. I hope to be on the podium at the next round.”
Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey had strong starts in both motos, but small mistakes ultimately cost the defending champ a chance at victory. In the first race he had a small bobble right after pulling the holeshot. While small in itself, the error allowed Villopoto to run away with the lead in the opening laps. Dungey had another great start as dirt turned to mud in the second moto, but couldn’t keep it together and crashed twice while Reed and Villopoto distanced themselves ahead. It proved a quiet day for Dungey and his team despite taking second overall.
High Point has a unique uphill start that had some riders literally tearing through the gates. It cost Alessi a podium.
“It was a good weekend,” said Dungey. “I had a couple good practices and we were good going into the two motos. I got the holeshot in the first but had a little bobble and got passed but was able to get back to second. I lost some time in those first few laps. All in all, I felt good. My Rockstar Makita Suzuki team made some changes on my RM-Z for the second moto, but it rained really hard just before the start, so the track was really muddy, slick and very technical. I got off to another good start but fell twice in the beginning but was able to catch up for a third and a second place overall. It’s a good step in the right direction. We just gotta keep plugging away and improving in the areas that we can and be consistent and put ourselves in a good spot to be there in the end. Next stop is Budds Creek and I really like that track. I was able to come away with the overall last year there and I’m looking forward to another good result.”
Dungey’s teammate, Brett Metcalfe, made the best of High Point despite two poor starts. Accustomed to getting excellent starts, the Aussie was out of the top-10 in Moto 1 but eventually found his way up to eighth. The start of the second race was even worse for Metcalfe after he became tangled in a first-turn pileup. From nearly dead-last he pushed through riders, mud and fatigue for 10th in the order and to take eighth overall.
“It was a pretty tough day for me at Mt. Morris,” said Metcalfe. “I didn’t get the results I wanted and I had two bad starts at a track where it’s really important to get a top five start in order to be in contention for a decent overall finish. It was just one of those days where things just didn’t happen.”
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer may have barely made it to the top-10 overall, but it was a breakthrough round for the 23-year-old. As one of the highlights of Moto 1, Weimer’s battle with Reed for seventh looked like a fight for the win. The two were at it for awhile with Weimer closing all the doors on Reed. It was great to see the youth capable of such defense, even though Weimer couldn’t hold it together for the rest of the moto and finished seveth.
You wouldn’t know by looking at him but Davi Millsaps rode well and has earned top-six finishes in every round this year.
Meanwhile things fell in all the right places for Muscle Milk Toyota Yamaha’s Davi Milsaps in the first race. The No. 18 bike benefitted from Alessi’s false-start penalty which moved him up in to third in the first moto. As was the case with many riders, Moto 2’s quagmire made things much more difficult. Despite Millsaps strong record in less than perfect conditions, he fell in the opening lap while running third. He eventually climbed his way to ninth at the finish line jump and earned fifth overall – giving him top-six finishes in every round so far.
Action in the 250s moved into uncharted territory as privateer riders Nico Izzi and Darryn Durham started the first moto with the top-two positions. Home turf advantage and experience played into the favor of Durham as the Pennsylvanian swept into the lead. For three-quarters of the race it appeared a non-factory rider was going to take the win. It was a great feeling.
Enter Blake Baggett. Ruffled from his poor result at Freestone, Baggett started just inside the top-10 but had to put in major work to cut through the field. With four laps to go Baggett got around teammate Dean Wilson, and just moments later easily overtook Durham for the win. Fans
Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett had two come from behind wins at High Point and is on his way to the top in the 250s. Only his teammate stands in his way.
were reminded just how determined Baggett was in the second moto when he overcame even worse odds after crashing and being more than 10 seconds down. Wilson, Tyla Rattray, Eli Tomac – it didn’t matter; no one was riding with the same intensity. Without a doubt this guy is fast and looks to be in great shape for the 250 title this year.
“It wasn’t the easiest day for me, but I felt good in both motos,” said Baggett. “The second moto was a lot tougher with the rain that had come down, but after my crash I was able to get back into a groove really fast. I think that helped me because it’s easy to get frustrated with all the mud that was out there. It’s good to win and it helps make up some points.”
After looking back on the 250 results from High Point, I’m predicting some future in-house tension over at Pro Circuit Kawasaki between Baggett and Rattray. The two teammates were going at each other in both races, taking away lines and practically running each other off the track to gain an advantage. Although Baggett has much less experience than Rattray, the youth doesn’t back down to a challenge. Expect some awesome racing between these two as the championship continues.
“It’s nice to have the points lead, but I’m not going to be thinking too much about that right now,” said Rattray. “I just want to put in solid finishes week after week and hopefully I can be there at the end. I feel good right now and I am going to work hard this week to try and get another good finish at Budds Creek.”