Ryan Villopoto (above) posted his first double victory of the season while riding Kawasaki’s 2012 KX450F.
The 2011 AMA Pro Motocross Championship was given a breath of fresh air this past weekend at Unadilla. Rather than the usual headliners fighting for the lead, the 450 class saw a newcomer enter the mix as Justin Barcia pulled off a stunning debut in the premier class. Right away the 19-year-old was on fire as he took the holeshot in Moto 1 and led for the first six laps. More importantly, Barcia’s strong performance created a setback in Ryan Dungey’s attempt to overtake Ryan Villopoto in the championship, with the two rivals now separated by seven points. Meanwhile RV was absolutely glowing after making several passes in both motos to secure the double victory – all on his 23rd birthday nonetheless.
“I knew that I would be bummed today with anything less than a win and I was able to put two good motos together,” Villopoto said.
The moment was made even more significant as Kawasaki solidified the 2012 KX450F as a winning design, putting a stop to critics who questioned RV’s switch to the bike mid-season.
“The bike has been really easy to transition to from the 2011 model,” Villopoto continued. “Obviously the 2011 bike has been good to me since I won the AMA Supercross championship on it, but Kawasaki has found a way to make the bike even better. I’m really happy that we get to finish out the season on it.”
The day wasn’t without its surprises for Barcia, though. In the final moto of the day The Wild Child was in second with Dungey hot on his trail and looking to advance. Right after landing a jump Barcia switched to a different line only to find RD5 practically land on him as the two traded paint.
Justin Barcia had two podium finishes at Unadilla during his first round in the premier class. He finished third overall.
“That really stunk,” Barcia said. “I was taking a different line every lap and there was a lapper in my line that time. I knew Dungey was close, but not that close. I went over, we hit and I went down. But I got back up and kept pushing to the end.”
Barcia’s strong defense against Dungey in both motos is what largely prevented the runner-up in the series from catching up with Villopoto. It was only until the final lap that RD5 managed to pass Barcia, and by then RV was well on his way to coasting over the finish line jump for his seventh moto win of the season.
“I got stuck in third for a little while. I was able to make the most of the bike and the track and also take advantage of some things; and I moved into second place on the last lap. Overall, I’m happy.”
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer recorded his best performance of the season by far at Unadilla. Equipped with the new KX450F, Weimer made work difficult for TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed in the first moto, eventually finishing fifth behind the Aussie. In the last moto Weimer’s resolve was put to the test when Suzuki’s Brett Metcalfe campaigned to get around him for fifth. Duels between Weimer and Metcalfe have become a common occurrence this season, and things came to a head when the pair collided with each other and both went down.
Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey had to settle for second at Unadilla after he struggled getting around Barcia in both motos.
“In the second moto, I had a good ride going and was challenging for fifth,” said Metcalfe. “But I came together with [Weimer] and my front brake got jammed and that cost me. The Rockstar Makita Suzuki RM-Z450 was working awesome and the team was great, so it’s a bummer I wasn’t able to show what I could do.”
Reed lost more ground in the championship during the past round as he continues to recover from the effects of his crash at Millville. The Aussie failed to make it on the podium again for the third race in a row, putting him down 25 points in the championship after he once led by nearly 20. Despite crashing in the second race while battling Weimer, Reed was gifted multiple positions when Muscle Milk Yamaha’s Justin Brayton, Weimer and Metcalfe all went down later. In the end, however, Reed’s prospects at winning the outdoor title this year are rapidly diminishing.
“It was a shocker of a day for me and I only have myself to blame,” Reed said. “I’ll be back fighting hard in two weeks time. I’m definitely not going to give up. I need to say a big thanks to all the fans for their support, they have been amazing.”
In the 250 class Mitch Payton’s Pro Circuit Kawasaki team experienced the most opposition of the entire season thus far. Team Green was on a three-round streak of sweeping the podium with its riders, but the squad’s momentum was eradicated through the efforts of Geico Honda at Unadilla. After being freshly recruited from the amateur ranks, Justin Bogle received strong starts in his first two pro races. The youth put himself smack in the middle of a cut-throat bid for
Justin Bogle’s debut in the pro ranks was highlighted by a tense battle with Blake Baggett in the first moto.
the championship between Kawasaki teammates Dean Wilson and Blake Baggett. Like Barcia, Bogle proved a tough obstacle to get around, allowing Wilson to open the advantage in both motos. Despite his strong starts though Bogle appeared to struggle during the second half, putting him sixth in both motos for fifth overall.
“It went great,” Bogle said. “I was running third in both motos, then I got a little nervous and rode a little tight. I know what I need to do to get ready for next week. It’s been a big jump, but a lot of fun to race under the GEICO banner.”
The man of the hour though was Wilson as he pushed past a significant barrier in the championship by scoring his first overall of the season. The Scotsman’s success was never really in doubt during the second moto as rivals Tyla Rattray and Baggett both earned starts outside the top-10. By taking his seventh moto win of the season Wilson not only retained his status as rider with the highest finishing average, but the 19-year-old also extended his lead in the series to 25 points over Baggett with just three rounds left.
“It feels amazing to finally get my first win,” said Wilson. “I have been chasing for nine rounds now and I was thinking it might never come. One thing that seemed different today was that I told myself to have fun and enjoy myself out there. I
Dean Wilson put himself well ahead in the 250 championship as his rivals struggled with crashes and bad starts.
was whipping it and trying to have the best time I could. It seemed to work. I felt good in both motos. Hopefully this confidence can carry over into the final three rounds.”
Eli Tomac posted his best finish since Thunder Valley back in June. Earning third overall for only the second time this season, Tomac had a great start in the second moto along with Bogle and Geico Honda Factory Connections’ Jimmy DeCotis. On Lap 4 Tomac pushed himself up to second, staying there until the checkers with a consistent ride to make up for his 17th-place finish in the previous round in Washington.
“It was so nice to get some fresh air at the start,” said Tomac. “I nearly got the holeshot, I haven’t done that since Hangtown. My starts have hurt me a lot this year. My first start today wasn’t awesome, but it was good enough to work my way up to fifth in the first moto.”
Geico Honda also experienced upset when Wil Hahn went down hard in the first moto, suffering a concussion and bruised shoulder. The injuries will force him trackside again during the next round at Southwick.