Stewart leads right out of the gate and keeps the momentum going with a 1-1 finish at Hangtown.
Round 1 of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships kicked off over the weekend, the race being the 44th running of the FMF Hangtown Classic held at Prairie City OHV Park in Sacramento, CA. The weather was perfect all day Saturday and conditions couldn’t have been any better for some good old American outdoor motocross racing.
Big news heading into the weekend was James Stewart
's return to the outdoor Nationals with a new team after suffering some disagreements within the JGR stable. Stewart, who recently signed with the Yoshimura Suzuki squad, wasted no time getting used to his new RM-Z450 and came out swinging in the first practice. By the time it was all said and done Stewart was two seconds faster than second-place qualifier Davi Milsaps, who respectively threw down a fastest time of 2:00:409.
A 1-1 finish for Stewart answered a lot of questions for many people. The Suzuki-mounted rider looked to have won both races effortlessly, just like Bubba of old would have done. It was good to see JS7 back where he belongs, happy and fast, with a big smile on his face.
“I’m back,” stated the Red Bull athlete. “It was a good day, we were fastest in practice and it just seems like we got better as the day went on. We had a great practice, and a great first moto, it couldn’t have went any better. In the second I got out to a good start there and Mike (Alessi) pulled the holeshot, Dungey was in second, and I was in third. I had to battle and I passed those guys around Lap 5 or something like that. Me and Dungey went 1-2 and we just raced and it was fun.”
Milsaps had a solid start with a podium in Moto 1 but a Moto 2 crash set his progress back and he left Hangtown in 7th.
As for Davi Milsaps, he and his wife are expecting their first child any day now. This obviously had no effect on him because the Toyota JGR Yamaha Pilot really put in a strong effort all day long on Saturday. After qualifying second, Milsaps went on to grab the runner up spot in the first moto. Moto 2 didn’t go as well with an early race crash that popped out his elbow. After popping it back in, he charged back to 14th, securing a seventh-place overall finish at the end of the day.
had a solid day with 3-2 scores that earned him the runner-up position. The KTM pilot said post-race: “First moto, I didn’t get off to a great start, but we made up a lot of ground and got ourselves into third and salvaged as much as we could. Second moto we got a better start and I was right there behind James. I tried to make a move but we ran into a couple of lappers and lost a little bit of time and he ran away with it.”
Third place overall went to MotoConcepts Suzuki's Mike Alessi. He finished seventh in Moto 1 but a third place in Moto 2 put him on the box.
Mike Alessi got his bike dialed in for Moto 2 earning him a spot on the podium with third overall.
“First moto, really, really , struggled for sure with the bike setup,” said the Suzuki rider. “I wasn’t happy, didn’t get a good start and didn’t ride well at all. Second moto, we made some changes to the suspension, got the holeshot the second moto, and the bike was working exceptionally well. I’m glad we could come out swinging in that second moto and get a podium.”
A big surprise that came out of the weekend was Ryan Hughes’ one-race return to professional racing. At 39 years of age Ryno, who still frequently rides and races at a pro-am level, decided he would race Hangtown. Hughes didn’t have the best day, with some crashes in his motos and bad luck. The Fox rider would end up with a pair of DNF’s. Props to Ryno for putting himself out there!
Hangtown belonged to Blake Baggett as he went 1-1 after a surprise come-from-behind win in Moto 1.
The 250 class racing was some of the most exciting of the weekend. After a Monster Energy Supercross series that wasn’t the greatest, Blake Baggett
secured the top spot in both motos. With an eight second gap between him and the leaders at the halfway point in Moto 1, the Kawasaki rider flipped the switch to beast mode for the second half of the race, catching the leaders – Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia. This battle made for some of the best laps we have ever witnessed at an outdoor national.
“This track is always pretty gnarly so we knew what to expect coming here,” said the Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider. “I got an okay start in the first moto and faded back to eighth. I was able to get both (Ken) Roczen and (Justin) Bacia on the last lap to take the win. It was a super intense race and by far one of the gnarliest battles I’ve had. You really have to watch it on television to even understand it.”
Geico Honda’s Barcia took second-place honors at Hangtown with his 3-2 score putting him ahead of Roczen. The German pilot and reigning MX2 World Champion seemed to have a good day as it was his first American outdoor race, but the Red Bull KTM rider had a different outlook on the day.
“This was my first National,” said Roczen. “I’ve never ridden here, I don’t have a system, I don’t have training. I don’t have anything. I was running decent in the first moto, and I got passed on the last lap a couple corners before the finish, so I wasn’t happy about that. I have to learn moto by moto.”
Eyes were on Kawasaki's Ivan Tedesco at Hangtown after a suprise switch to the 250 class.
A big surprise in the 250 class was the return of Ivan Tedesco
aboard the Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki. He definitely showed he still has what it takes to be a top contender in the class. Last time Tedesco competed in the smaller displacement class was in 2005, also with Pro Circuit. With Tedesco and Baggett, the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team is going to be a huge threat this season.
“I came out of the first round with fourth so I’m happy with that,” said Tedesco. “I need to work on my fitness but coming into this with such short notice I knew that anyway. These kids are fast. It’s a little different being back on the KX250F but I’m having fun with it.”
WMX races were exciting. Muscle Milk Honda’s Ashley Fiolek and Rockstar Suzuki
’s Jessica Patterson battled it out early in Moto 1, but AF67 would go on to take the moto win.
2011 WMX champ Ashley Fiolek may not have gotten the sweep she was looking for after coming just shy of an overall win.
“Today was pretty good, the first moto went pretty well for me,” said Fiolek. “The other girls rode awesome. It’s not a bad way to start the season, I’m just happy to leave here healthy.”
Separate crashes by both Fiolek and Patterson in Moto 2 would give the win to Australian rider Meghan Rutledge. Due to an eighth in Moto 1, Rutledge would end up fourth overall. Patterson remounted after her fall and charged her way back to second. The 2-2 score would be enough to give the Rockstar Suzuki rider the overall.
“I got the overall, so I really can’t complain,” said the WMX veteran. “It wasn’t exactly what I would really want but I’m leaving here with the points lead and the red plate. I’m looking forward to next weekend and turning it around and maybe getting that 1-1.”
Make sure to check out all the Round 2 results and reports from this weekend’s races in Texas!