Ryan Villopoto is just two rounds away from securing the 2011 Motocross Championship. Can he take it from Ryan Dungey?
The penultimate round of the 2011 AMA Pro Motocross Championship is fast approaching. Set in the deep loam of Delmont, Pennsylvania the Steel City circuit will host Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto and the rest of the MX field on Labor Day Weekend as it charges toward the last two rounds of the championship.
Last year the venue saw Kevin Windham post his first motocross victory since 2007 ahead of Brett Metcalfe and Justin Brayton. This time around Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey is looking to rebound from his most difficult round of the season in order to gain the lead in the series. If anyone’s at a disadvantage here it’s Villopoto. RV’s last trip to the circuit was back in 2008 during his final season in the 250 ranks when he was outgunned by Dungey in both motos. As Villopoto remains only eight points ahead of Dungey, the next round will be crucial in determining the overall champion.
Located in a valley just outside Pittsburg, the Steel City circuit is known for its huge berms and fast braking bumps. The track also features many off-camber turns which add an element of difficulty for riders. Not only will Dungey look to get over his struggles in the last round, but he’ll also try to redeem himself from a tough DNF last year when he suffered a broken brake rotor in the opening moto.
Honda’s Justin Barcia is carrying momentum after landing his first win in the 450 class. The rookie is proving to be the most dangerous off the line as he’s taken holeshots during the past two rounds. While his aggressiveness didn’t seem to be working in his favor in the 250s, it’s doing wonders for him in the premier class as he’s able to get up front early and stay ahead of the carnage. One way Bam Bam might inflict the most damage is by wedging himself between this year’s two championship contenders. We’ve already seen him do this before during his debut in the premier class, and if it happens in the next round it could spell ruin for whoever ends up in Barcia’s roost.
Metcalfe is coming to Delmont fresh off his first-ever overall victory in motocross. The Aussie posted 3-2 scores at Southwick to take top honors and has a good record at the upcoming circuit. While his championship position is pretty much decided, he’s still a threat for the frontrunners with his consistency and ability to sway the championship. Look for him to follow up his best performance in motocross with another great result in Pennsylvania.
Chad Reed may have lost his opportunity at the title this year, but the Aussie may still have some wins left.
Don’t count out TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed. While he’s been off his rhythm since his crash at Millville, he’s still capable of winning motos as evidenced by the first half of the 2011 season. In the last round the Aussie eliminated himself from the title this year by notching two DNFs on his record – his worst result since forming his own team. Perhaps more than any other rider Reed will be on the hunt for absolute dominance so he can quickly forget about his misery in the last round.
In the 250s Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson is heading toward his first pro title. The Scotsman has maintained the highest finishing average in the entire AMA Motocross series this season , finishing in the top-three during 18 of the past 20 motos. In 2010 Wilson struggled in his opening moto at Steel City, posting a 17th-place finish. However, he collected himself in the afternoon to earn the holeshot and a top-three finish. Wilson currently leads the series by 38 points, so if he can hold it together in the last two rounds he should be fine.
Wilson’s teammate, Tyla Rattray, offers the strongest opposition to the leader on paper at Steel City after finishing third last year. Already taking wins this season during some of the hottest and most rugged rounds, Rattray is still trying to make up ground in the points race following his disastrous performance at Unadilla. But as we’ve seen all it takes to lose the championship is a couple of bad rounds, and the man who’s in
Dean Wilson has put himself in prime territory for his first title with the highest finishing average in the entire series.
line to benefit if this happens to Wilson is Rattray.
The 2011 Motorcycle-Superstore.com WMX Championship is also prepping for its penultimate round of the series at Steel City. Honda’s Ashley Fiolek currently has a 30-point advantage ahead of DNA Shred Stix Yamaha’s Jessica Patterson, with Fiolek capturing the overall in the last round at Southwick. But Fiolek now heads to a circuit that JP$ tasted victory at last year, so Fiolek will have to stay on her game in order to keep the advantage. Meanwhile, TLD Honda’s Tarah Gieger has been keeping her season together with a total of eight top-three finishes, and she’s currently third in the championship as Round 7 approaches.