2013 – An Extremely Brief Look Back
After a dismal opener in 2013 Villopoto wasn’t even among the top-10 in points. Rockstar Energy Suzuki’s Davi Millsaps took advantage of RV’s off night to claim his first SX victory since 2010. Millsaps maintained his points lead through the first half of the season as Villopoto clawed his way back up the ranks, but at Daytona the Kawasaki ace reclaimed his position at the head of the pack. RV maintained the lead through the remainder of the season, cinching up the title one round early in Salt Lake City. Besides Millsaps, Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey and Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia claimed race wins during the season, as did Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart, who took the checkers once in Atlanta. Two Two Motorsports’ Chad Reed and Barcia’s teammate, Trey Canard, each earned a handful of podium results throughout the year, but neither was able to finish on top.
Ryan Villopoto during the finale in Vegas in 2013, where he walked away with his 10th win of the season.
Villopoto is already recognized as one of the sport’s greats, and a fourth title would further solidify his position in the record books with the likes of Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael. McGrath is the only rider to have achieved four consecutive SX championships, and he and Carmichael are the only riders to have won more than three titles in their careers. RV is currently fifth on the all-time win list, entering the 2014 season with 34 450SX class wins to his credit. He’s also in his prime, starting the season at 25 years old on his trusty KX450F. Additionally, his main event race win totals have successively grown since his first championship in 2011; he took six mains in ’11, nine in ’12 and 10 first-place finishes in ’13. Villopoto is, in short, the man to beat.
Dungey returns with Red Bull KTM in ’14 and Stewart remains with the Yoshimura Suzuki crew. Dungey took the top-spot in 2010 but has since finished each season in third-place. Dungey missed out on second overall in 2013 by a single point, and was a consistent top-five finisher all year. The KTM ace will be a regular podium threat in 2014.
Stewart has struggled during recent seasons, finishing 10th in 2013 and 7th in 2012. Bubba has faced all manner of injury, mechanical issues and bad luck but if recent interviews and video blog posts are any indication, his attitude and approach are stronger than ever. The once volatile rider appears calmer in the face of frustration and recently proved he still has what it takes to battle at the front of the pack, winning the 2013 Monster Energy Cup. JS7’s last 450SX title came in 2009.
Barcia is back with Team Honda Muscle Milk after finishing fourth in his rookie premier-class effort last year. He finished in the top-five 13 times and scored two wins. He twice won the 250SX East division, in ’12 and ’11, and will continue to trouble the lead pack as he gains experience on the 450 machine. Veteran and former champ Chad Reed continues to campaign with his Two Two Motorsports team, though he’s switched from Honda to Kawasaki in hopes of better results this year.
Millsaps, the second-place finisher in ’13, has switched bikes as well and will compete on a KTM in 2014 rather than the Suzuki he piloted last year. Unfortunately, the Rockstar Energy Racing rider will not be present at the A1 opener as he continues to recover from a knee injury sustained during pre-season training. Canard is also out thanks to a broken arm sustained during practice. Though it’s unlikely either will return to action and legitimately vie for the title, both are capable of challenging for top-three positions and could factor heavily in the points spread throughout the season.
The Premier Class Rookies
Geico Honda’s Eli Tomac and Wil Hahn enter the premier-class full time in 2014, as does Dungey’s teammate, Ken Roczen. Hahn and Roczen each captured 250SX titles in 2013, and Tomac was a fierce challenger for the top-spot in the West division, falling short of the KTM rider by two points in the final race. Tomac made amends in the outdoors, earning the ’13 title. Tomac and Roczen have both raced in the premier class before, most notably at Daytona in 2013 where Tomac finished fourth and Roczen took seventh. Both riders contested the 2013 Monster Energy Cup as well, where Roczen finished third overall followed by Tomac in fourth.
Returning for 2014 are semi-final rounds in the 450cc class. There will now be two heat races, from which the top-four riders will advance directly to the Main Event. Two semi-final races follow and positions 1-5 will advance to the Main followed by a single Last Chance Qualifier where the top four riders will earn a spot in the main event. There will also be 22 riders lining up for the final gate drop, instead of 20 in previous seasons.
With Roczen and Hahn moving up to 450cc, the East and West Division titles will be up for grabs in 2014. Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin was a favorite to challenge for the top-spot, but he recently tore his ACL during practice and is uncertain when a return will be possible. Riders like Blake Wharton, Dean Wilson, Zach Osborne, Malcolm Stewart, Cole Seely or rookies like Cooper Webb and Adam Cianciarulo now have a clearer path to the crown.
And last but not least…
Check out Motorcycle USA’s Fantasy SX 2014 and earn some bench racing bragging rights. It’s free to play and the top points earner at the end of the season will win a pair of TCX Pro 2.1 Boots. Set up a MyMoto account, if you don’t already have one, and then click on Fantasy Racing and sign up.