This Saturday marks the start of the 38th season of Monster Energy Supercross racing, and in anticipation the folks at Feld Motor Sports hosted a press conference at Angels Stadium Thursday afternoon. The top five 450 riders from last season (Trey Canard, Ryan Dungey, Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed and James Stewart) were invited to sit down and share their thoughts before practice begins Saturday afternoon.
Former 1997 Supercross champ Jeff Emig hosted the meeting. The current Speed Channel Supercross announcer and got a little teary eyed during his opening statement, in which he recalled his racing glory days and subsequent early retirement in 2000 due to repeated injury.
It’s common knowledge that there is no love lost between Reed and Stewart, so it was funny that they were seated next to one another. Though the mood inside did feel more relaxed as compared to one year ago. This can probably be attributed to the fact that each rider, besides maybe Dungey and the recently busted Canard, comes into this season much better prepared than this time last year.
“We’ve had a lot more months to prepare for the season this time around,” said Reed, who will again be riding Hondas, this time with full-factory support right from the get-go. “As a rider, coming into the season, I haven’t been with the same bike and group of people in a long time. We have more support from Honda and I think we have the best bike. I think you need to win races now in order to win a championship. Year after year, I’ve been there on the podium, but I’ve only had a couple race wins. I think you need about five this year to be there, so it’s going to take that effort week in and week out to be a contender.”
Not only does Reed have all the trick factory parts (as MotoUSA sampled in the Trey Canard Factory Honda CRF450R MX Test), he’s recruited former factory Suzuki wrench Mike Gosselaar to work alongside his new mechanic and friend Lars Lindstrom.
Following a major deal with Joe Gibbs Racing, James Stewart will aim to give the JGRMX team more wins before transitioning to NASCAR.
It’s common knowledge that Stewart didn’t jive well with his team and bike last season. Although JS7 won five races, he also took a number of diggers and you could tell by the way his bike handled in the whoops that the set-up was less than perfect. This season he remains on Yamahas but with the almost-better-than-factory support of Joe Gibbs Racing.
“The biggest change for me this season is going to JGR,” said Stewart. “It was a good change and one that I needed. I spent a lot of time in the offseason trying to decide what was best for me. The team is good, so we’ll find out. Although it’s been 10 years (as a pro), I’ve had the opportunity to be rejuvenated and refreshed, but I knew I had to make some changes for 2012. We won five races last season, but it still wasn’t where we needed to be. I went to the drawing board and did what I needed in order to make it happen.”
Many are anxious to see how Ryan Dungey will do during the first round at Anaheim after switching to Red Bull KTM.
The man with perhaps the biggest challenge this year is Dungey. After leaving the team with arguably the best 450-class racer, he has joined the KTM squad to do battle with the brand-new but unproven 2012 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition. Despite competing in the premier class for years, the orange brigade has yet to capture a win. Can Dungey be the one to give it to them?
“The opportunity that presented itself at KTM led to the change in teams,” said Dungey, a former long-time Suzuki rider. “It was a lot of fun at Suzuki, but in going to KTM, there was that level of commitment. It was the perfect fit for me. What they’ve accomplished in the time we’ve had, and being back with Roger (De Coster) and Ian (Harrison) has been a lot of fun. Preparations are going well and we had a great offseason. I feel rested and I feel fit, so I’m looking forward to Saturday.”
Honda’s Trey Canard is not sure whether he will participate in the opening round at Anaheim after breaking his collarbone.
Having suffered another injury, Muscle Milk Honda’s Trey Canard is most likely going to miss the opening round this weekend. Although he’s healing up fast and could possibly be race ready come Saturday night, he’s probably going to take the smart route.
“Unfortunately, I’ve learned what to do with my down time because I’ve had so much opportunity to do so (due to injuries),” said Canard. “On the plus side, I’ve been able to do things I don’t always get to do. I also keep training to stay in shape, so I can come back strong. Through all the adversity, I’ve become a stronger person and a stronger athlete. I’m going to continue to strive whether it means more injures or more success.”
Villopoto says he’s in the best shape of his life and comes into this season prepared and high in confidence having won every U.S. championship last season (as well as the international Motocross of Nations). Furthermore he’ll be racing the best stock 450-class motocross bike as determined in our recently published 2012 450 Motocross Shootout from Zaca Station.
”It’s tough to defend the title,” said Villopoto. “Every year is a new year. But, I think a lot of it is based on what you did in the offseason to prepare and coming into the season ready so that on the weekends (at the races) it’s fun. We’re out there to get a job done, and that’s to win. We need to minimize mistakes, and Anaheim has a lot of hype, but you can’t win the championship here. You can definitely lose it though. I’ve put in the work this offseason. I’m ready; the bike is 100%, so I think we’re there. I think we’re all just ready to bring it on.”
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto comes into the 2012 season with a target on his back after dominating last year’s competition.
Opening ceremonies begin at 7:00 pm, Saturday night at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, California. For tickets visit Ticketmaster or purchase them at the event. Lastly, make sure to sign-up for the Fantasy SX 2012 Racing Game. It’s free to play and you could win a new FMF race pipe for your dirt bike. See you at the races!