Phoenix Supercross Preview 2012

January 10, 2012
Matt Davidson
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Danger, adrenaline and competition are what fuel this moto enthusiast. Driven by a spirit for sportsmanship, our racing guru here at MotoUSA can be spotted at finish lines the world over as he delivers the latest battles from the two-wheeled realm.

Ryan Villopoto - 2012 AMA Supercross at Anaheim
The 2012 AMA Supercross series now heads for Chase Field in Phoenix where Ryan Villopoto will try to keep his momentum.

Only a few days after striking the first blow in the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, Ryan Villopoto and company will move on to Phoenix’s Chase Field this Saturday to continue the fight. It seems overnight the 23-year-old has become the top prospect for winning the title again after only one round as his skill and fitness remain unrivaled. Not lacking any determination, Villopoto plundered every lap of the opening round at Anaheim in front of a sold-out crowd despite high nerves and pressure. Staying calm and collected, Villopoto’s laid-back demeanor come race day served him well as he became only the sixth person in history to win back-to-back opening rounds.
“I’m really happy with [Anaheim],” said Villopoto. “We’re right where we need to be with my KX450F and fitness, and we will just keep pushing into next week. There are a lot of rounds left, so we will just keep doing what we’re doing and stay consistent.”

As much as RV dominated his field, there are still 16 races left. Last year Villopoto also won the opening round but was denied a second victory by none other than James Stewart. In looking forward to the next round, TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed was one of the few riders to excel over Anaheim’s tricky conditions. The day started on a poor note for the  Aussie, who was uncomfortable and struggling during practice and qualifying.

Chad Reed - 2012 AMA Supercross at Anaheim
Chad Reed may not have matched Villopoto’s speed at Anaheim, but the TwoTwo Motorsports rider was persistent even though he wasn’t at the top of his game.

“The track was totally different to what we had tested on in the lead up to the start of the season,” Reed explained. “It really only had one line so it was very hard to pass on.”

The team owner/rider overcame the challenges when his team made radical changes prior to the heat race, which allowed the veteran to win the match and secure a top gate pick. In the end Reed finished the night in second despite a fall on Lap 14. Salvaging a great result under difficult conditions, Reed proved he can be strong even on a night when not everything goes his way.

There’s still no word if Honda’s Trey Canard will return at Phoenix. After suffering two broken femurs and a broken collarbone in 2011, many would expect the 21-year-old’s return to the podium to be slow. However, this little birdie believes Canard will easily find the box during his first return and maybe more, so keep a lookout for the No. 41 bike.
Just one round into the season and Ryan Dungey is already setting milestones for KTM. The Austrian marque landed its first SX class podium with the former champ after battling with Reed in the final laps. Following the team’s short celebration, however, the bar has already been raised for Dungey. Under stiff guidance from team manager Roger DeCoster, most felt RD5 could have passed Reed if he were more aggressive. This will become a deciding factor in Dungey’s career as his cautious nature is currently preventing him from possibly winning another championship.

Ryan Dungey - 2012 AMA Supercross at Anaheim
Despite earning KTM its first podium in Supercross, Ryan Dungey is facing pressure from his team to be more aggressive.

While JGRMX Yamaha’s James Stewart remains a looming threat for the next round simply because of his past success, his recent performance has proven quite the opposite. Too eager and careless, Stewart threw away a podium finish at Anaheim after his chance for winning the round was eliminated. It seems Villopoto has perfected a magic formula for getting rid of JS7 in a race, which is to break away fast and early and let Stewart ruin his own chance of success.
The opening round also shed light on several additional riders who have the potential to become race winners in 2012 if conditions are right. L&M Honda’s Andrew Short was fast, aggressive and not willing to give up his position. The Colorado native had a largely silent season in 2011 aboard KTM’s 350 SX-F, but his return to Honda with team manager and most winning SX rider ever, Jeremy McGrath, is already proving to be a good move. Honda’s Justin Brayton also rose to the challenge at Anaheim after having to qualify for the main through the LCQ. Having reached a new level of success in his career, look for Brayton to excel as he adjusts to his factory Honda sponsorship.
Chase Field will also host the second round of the Western Regional SX Lites Championship, which saw TLD Lucas Oil Honda’s Cole Seely grab his third career victory during the opening round. Many are predicting a breakaway year for Seely, who showed spectacular speed and desire at Anaheim while racing against a stacked field of talent.
“Obviously it feels amazing to start the season with a win, but I know we have a lot of races left to run,” said Seely. “I want to just keep putting myself in good positions with starts and stay out of trouble. I’ve got a great program this year

Cole Seely - 2012 AMA Supercross at Anaheim
Cole Seely: “Obviously it feels amazing to start the season with a win, but I know we have a lot of races left to run. I want to just keep putting myself in good positions with starts and stay out of trouble.”

working with Justin Brayton and I’m really happy with things here at Troy Lee Designs. We’re going to keep working hard and try to keep the momentum going in Arizona.”
South African Tyla Rattray also got a great start for the Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad at Anaheim. After nearly taking the holeshot, Rattray was consistent and held off attacks from his rivals to finish runner-up to start the season. The former MX2 world champion is still looking for his first SX Lites victory and is well on his way to accomplishing it given his first round effort.
“I’m glad to get the first race out of the way and shake the cobwebs out,“ said Rattray. “We are very happy with the work we have done to the bike and there’s still a lot of racing left.”
Instead of the traditional feud between Kawasaki and Honda in the Lites class, this year may shape up to be an in-house war at Big Red. Seely and Geico Honda’s Eli Tomac both showed blistering speed, though Tomac had a poor start which prevented him from battling for the lead. I predict there will be some awesome racing in the future between these two youths as they attempt to snag a championship.

Eli Tomac - 2012 AMA Supercross at Anaheim
Honda’s Eli Tomac looks like he has a few wins in him this year if he can get some decent starts.

Practice and qualifying at Chase Field will take place Saturday, January 14th at 12:30 p.m. with the main program starting at 7:00 p.m. local time. Also, on January 15th KTM will be holding its first off-road demo of the year in Phoenix. Demos will be available on select SX, XC and XC-W models at Arizona Cycle Park.

Make sure to get into the Supercross action by playing the Motorcycle USA Fantasy SX 2012 gameSigning up is easy and free, with players battling for the grand prize of an FMF Prize Pack valued up to $800. Visit the MotoUSA Fantasy Racing page and sign up now!

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