Ryan Dungey headed toward the first turn well after the gates had dropped at Southwick, setting the stage for one of the most commendable performances of his career.
Every once in awhile an event comes along that really tests a rider. Call it a trial of will or just bad luck, the circumstances of these events are subject to change but the type of discipline required to overcome them is always the same. On a rainy afternoon in Southwick, Massachusetts, Ryan Dungey
had his patience stretched paper thin as he stood at the starting gates without his bike. While the rest of the field headed down the starting straight for the parade lap, Dungey stood helpless as his Rockstar Makita Suzuki
team worked feverishly to start his bike. Even as the gates dropped on the second moto of the Rockstar Energy Southwick National, Dungey was left soaking in the rain watching his chances at defending his motocross title disappear around the first turn.
But then his bike emerged with its engine rumbling, and RD wasted little time as he hammered toward the first turn. It was quite possibly the worst start to a moto, but it also led to one of the most epic comebacks in the series' history. Finishing seventh and only losing one point to his championship rival, Dungey turned a race that may have never happened into a cause for celebration among his team.
"At one point, I didn't even think I was going to be able to ride, but then the Rockstar Makita Suzuki team came through,” Dungey said.
Ryan Dungey: "I don't want anybody to take anything away from my team. It's because of them and their hard work that we finished in seventh and were able to pull third overall."
Dungey stayed modest talking about his accomplishment, all the while giving his team credit for the day’s positive outcome.
“I don't want anybody to take anything away from my team,” he continued. “It's because of them and their hard work that we finished in seventh and were able to pull third overall. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't have been out there at all.”
Dungey’s remarkable performance was complemented by teammate, Brett Metcalfe
, who earned his first overall win in the series after eight years of pro level racing. Taking place at a circuit that’s notorious for being the most difficult round on the schedule, the track’s conditions were only worsened as Hurricane Irene moved up the East Coast over the weekend – leading to the muddiest race of the year. Like last year the event wasn’t short of DNFs, with the biggest victims being Honda
’s Justin Barcia and TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed
. While Barcia would go on to make up for his engine seizing in the first race, Reed suffered a second DNF in the final moto following a first-turn crash, putting him 57 points behind Dungey in the championship.
Chad Reed walked away from Southwick with two DNFs to end his 2011 title hopes.
“That was without a doubt our worst weekend since forming TwoTwo Motorsports,” said Reed. “I felt like today I was living a really bad dream but there is no point dwelling on it.”
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto
played it safe through Southwick’s disastrous conditions to keep the lead in the series. The 23-year-old lacked his normal bite in the opening laps and allowed riders like Metcalfe and JGR Yamaha
’s Justin Brayton to stay ahead of him in the second moto. Rather than push the envelope and risk a crash, however, RV played it safe to keep his lead in the series as the title winds down to the final two rounds.
Barcia didn’t let a horrible gate pick ruin his second moto. Following his unfortunate DNF the 19-year-old pulled another one of his cannon-like starts to take the lead in the opening lap. He continued pulling away for the rest of the moto and eventually finished more than 26 seconds ahead of Metcalfe to claim his first-ever 450 win. If there’s one rider I’ve come to bet money on for taking holeshots – it’s Bam Bam for sure.
Fans wishing for the demise of Mitch Payton’s Pro Circuit Kawasaki
squad in the 250 class will be happy to know that it was officially robbed of a perfect season in the last round. DNA Shred Stix Yamaha’s Gareth Swanepoel, a 26-year-old
DNA Shred Stix Yamaha's Gareth Swanepoel won his first-ever moto to end Pro Circuit Kawasaki's perfect season.
from South Africa, claimed his first-ever victory for his team. A major mistake by Kawasaki’s Tyla Rattray
in the first race left the door wide open for Swanepoel, and he was able to gradually pull away from the field in the remaining laps. In the end, however, Rattray’s sand skills proved unbeatable in the final moto as the South African stole the lead from Eleven10 Mods’ Alex Martin in the opening lap. Taking place on a track that had been torn up by all the previous motos, Rattray put his knowledge of rough outdoor riding to use to seize his fourth moto win of the season and his fourth overall victory.
"This track has been good to me," said Rattray. "I've ridden in the sand a lot in my career, so it means a little more to win here. I settled for second in the first moto and knew the track was going to be tough in the second moto, so I pressured myself to get a good start, which I did. I was able to get into the lead, and then I just put my head down."
Things ultimately played in favor of PC Kawasaki’s Deal Wilson
, who pushed his lead in the championship up to 38 after teammate Blake Baggett recorded another mediocre result. Though Wilson finished behind Rattray in both motos, the Scotsman still maintains the advantage following Rattray’s crash and 11th-place finish in the previous round.