This season the folks at Feld Motorsports, promoter of the Supercross series, have instituted a format change that sees the main event grid in the premier 450 class grow by two riders to 22. Curiously, the 250-class main remains unchanged with 20 racers vying for three podium spots.
“It’s just a format—it’s just a way to get to the main event,” says the reigning 450-class champ, Ryan Villopoto, who just learned of the change from young gun and fellow Team Green racer Adam Cianciarulo. “It never crossed my mind that they changed it and I didn’t know. It really doesn’t matter to me. More than likely we’re all going to be in the main event.”
“The changes, to be honest I won so many heat races that I don’t ever remember going to a semi,” says two-time 450 champ James Stewart. “I think it’s cool. I think it will give a guy a better chance because sometimes when you go to an LCQ it is nerve racking. I don’t really think it matters that much. The biggest thing is getting out of here safe with some points.”
“A lot’s changed over the years,” tells Chad Reed, whose TwoTwo Motorsports outfit has switched bike brands from Honda to Kawasaki. “It will be different but the same. Anaheim has a lot of pressure and hype around it. But when you’ve been here a time or two it’s kind of fun and you can enjoy the moment. You know, it [the championship] can be lost here but can’t be won here. Everyone has high expectations and coming off a lot of down time.”
For ’14 KTM factory rider Ken Roczen graduates to the 450 class competing on KTM’s newly introduced 450 SX-F Factory Edition. Despite suffering a practice injury during the off-season, Roczen says he’s ready to race this weekend.
“I’m feeling really good,” says the 19-year-old German, who has spent the off-season training in Florida with reigning three-time champ and factory Kawasaki pilot, Ryan Villopoto. “I had a little get off in Florida but I was never really too worried about not being at A1. When I went to the doctor over there he said I might have fractured my humerus. But it turns out it wasn’t really that bad. I am stoked to be here and am going to have some fun this year.”
Although they ride for different motorcycle brands, Villopoto is happy to be riding and training with the series rookie.
“Where I am at in my career I need that extra push. Someone to chase and keep me on my toes,” says Villopoto. “Ken is a rookie—he is obviously going to have a learning year. But I think we’re using each other to both get better. I think it’s good for us and it’s a good combination. We have a lot of fun. He is a little younger than I am. I tend to take it more serious, while he is joking around a lot more. But it brings a lot of good things to the table and I think it’s going to help us both out.”
“It’s tough,” elaborates Villopoto, in reference to the amount of physical training and dedication required to be a front-runner in this highly competitive series. “There are a lot of expectations. Everyone who is behind us—they all want to do good—they all want to win. But really it all comes down to us. We’re the ones who sit down on the motorcycle and make that happen. So the pressure starts to get pretty big. If you can relieve that pressure it definitely can help out through the season.”
The real question however is will Roczen and Villopoto’s relationship hurt the rookie’s teammate and Supercross and outdoor motocross champ, Ryan Dungey. Until this season Dungey has raced by himself with KTM and his former employer Suzuki, keeping the Minnesotan the star of the show. Will this hurt him?
“I’ve never had another guy alongside me,” tells Dungey. “I think it’s good. Being on the same team, on the same equipment and seeing what it’s capable of [in another rider’s hands]. He likes to have a good time. Maybe I tend to be a little too serious. I think it’s a good combination. He’s hard working and definitely has a lot of talent. If anything it will benefit both of us.”
After a career plagued with injuries, factory Honda rider Trey Canard suffered another setback at his test track in Oklahoma, crashing almost five weeks ago and breaking the radius bone in his left arm. Canard had the bone surgically repaired and is currently waiting on a go-ahead from his doctors to begin riding again.
“Everything is going great. It’s just a minor deal really,” explains Canard. ”The doctors expect six to eight weeks for the bone to heal. I go back in two weeks to see where I’m at. Right now I’m just training anyway that I can—like stationary cycling. All is well and I am just kind of waiting. [My arm] feels great that’s the bummer part. It’s plated so it’s not going anywhere. It’s hard to not do more than you should. I’m not going to come back right away. I don’t feel the need to. I want to come back ready and not still digging myself out of a hole. I want to come back healthy, confident and ready to race.”
The opening round kicks off at Angel Stadium this Saturday, January 4, at 7:00 pm PST. Additionally the race will be shown live on Fox Sports 1. Lastly, if you haven’t already done so check out Motorcycle-USA’s Fantasy Supercross racing game. It’s free to play and top points earner will receive a pair of TCX Pro 2.1 Motocross Boots.