Ryan Dungey: “I was definitely motivated by my teammate tonight. I saw that Marvin (Musquin) got second in the Lites main and knew I had to step up my game to match him and do well for our team.”
Saturday, January 14, 2012 will go down in history as the day Austrian motorcycle brand KTM finally bested the Japanese at their own game in the world’s premier dirt bike racing series: Monster Energy Supercross.
“It feels unbelievably good. Though I thought it was going to take longer than two races,” claimed Roger DeCoster, the man at the helm of KTM’s U.S. Supercross and motocross racing program. “I felt that our bike was on par with the other bikes out there from the beginning. Now for Ryan, I think it’s like a new step. He knows he can do it [win] again and he knows the bike can do it.”
“Tonight was a big step for not only me but the whole team,” smiled Phoenix race winner, Ryan Dungey. “A lot of hard work has gone in to make this moment happen. There’s still a lot of racing left. But I’m really glad we could make a big step in the right direction. I’m happy we could pull this off.”
The night didn’t start off that well for Dungey and company, as he was only third-fastest in practice and fourth in his heat race. Dungey credited his team for predicting track conditions during the main and making the appropriate suspension changes to make it easier to race: “We knew it was going to be hard-pack in the main event and we tried to set-up the bike best for that. I’m really proud of the guys making the right decisions.”
Despite failing to reach the top step of the podium, the Monster Energy Kawasaki squad had a positive result with riders Jake Weimer and Ryan Villopoto finishing second and third in the main, respectively. Weimer is coming on strong building on his top-five finish from Anaheim 1.
“Tonight felt awesome,” revealed Weimer, who also won his heat race over Dungey and his teammate. “I really liked the layout of the track; there was a good mix of elements, but nothing too crazy. I just focused on throttle control, connecting sections, being smooth and clicking down laps. It’s been a long-time since I stood on the podium. I have been working so hard to get up there, it feels so good to have it finally pay off. “
Although you wouldn’t know by his third-place result, Villopoto was without question the fastest rider on track Saturday night. Despite tangling with Davi Millsaps on the opening lap, with both riders crashing, Villopoto managed to slice through the field and move up from last place to third after passing Kevin Windham late in the race.
“It was a tough night,” explained the reigning champ. “I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Davi [Millsaps] went down in the sand right in front of me and I got tangled up with him [which in turn, collected Ivan Tedesco]. I knew I had the speed, and really felt my bike was on, but it took a lot of work moving through the field to finish third. I ran into a little bad luck tonight, but overall I feel good about the ride.”
In practice, James Stewart set the top lap time in the first session but elected to skip subsequent practices after feeling under the weather. Come race time however, he got right down to business winning his heat race. In the main he got pinched out at the start, but like Villopoto, he was able to able to race through the field and move up to fifth position by Lap 8. But as he prepared to put a pass on Andrew Short for fourth place through the sand section, Short checked up a bit and Stewart locked up the front brake and tipped over. After getting back on his bike inside the top-15 he again worked his way through the pack and went on to finish in eighth place.
“I rode really good considering how bad I felt all day being sick,” Stewart disclosed. “Once we get our starts right then it will be good. The start and the crash cost me a podium but we were way better than last week and we will only get stronger. I have faith in my team and the 15 rounds left.”
Ahead of Stewart were the CRF450Rs of Chad Reed, Short and Trey Canard, who was making a return to racing after missing the first round with a still-healing broken collarbone. Having only had five-weeks of recovery time, Canard’s ride was impressive even if he didn’t think so: “It is a bummer for me because I am not right up with the guys that I normally compete with.”
Canard commented that his collarbone didn’t give him any problems but his leg did get a little sore – a problem he’s had to deal with since ’08 when he badly broke his leg.
Reed was another rider to hit the deck in Phoenix, the former champ crashing while chasing Stewart in their heat race. The Australian trail braked too hard in one of the slippery bowl turns resulting in the spill: “The first four laps of my heat race was good, I went forward and was charging. We had an issue during testing last week which rose its head again in the heat and I lost the front.”
Chad Reed: “We were actually better this week to last week but the results on paper just don’t show it. In the main event I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time every time. Everyone I came up on was racing hard and instead of me racing hard and charging forward and putting myself in the right position I was continually in the wrong place each time.”
“In the main event I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, every time,” continued Reed. “I felt like I rode great here and there and it was a step forward in many ways, it’s just the result wasn’t there.”
The Phoenix round took its toll on a few 450-class competitors with both Jimmy Albertson and Tommy Hahn injuring themselves. Albertson suffered a concussion and broke a few teeth while Hahn broke a bone in his leg, effectively putting him out for the rest of the season. Josh Hill is also out having broken his leg in a crash at A1. Supercross racing returns to California this weekend with Round 3 taking place at Dodgers Stadium near downtown Los Angeles.