What Really Happened
Historical Weekend in Phoenix
Photos and Type-Os: Scott Hoffman
Two weeks into the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series and we already have a race for the title in both classes. Yet few will remember who finished 2nd or 20th in Phoenix on January 14. The only thing they will remember is what color bike won and who was riding it. On any other night, the motorcycle manufacturer rarely overshadows who was riding it. However, on this special day it was all about KTM.
Yes, it was a historical night and the first time in the 40-year history of supercross that KTM won a race in the premier Supercross/450 class. Yes, NEVER before. Not to say this was the first non-Japanese motorcycle to win a supercross, just the first for KTM. The last time a non-Japanese brand won a supercross race was way, way back in 1977. Jimmy Ellis took the Houston round riding a Can-Am, which was a Canadian-manufactured motorcycle with a Rotax engine. Ironically, Rotax is an Austrian company just like KTM. The only other two brands to win in the premier class were Bultaco (Jim Pomeroy) and CZ (Jaroslav Falta) both in 1974. Ellis is also the only supercross champion to win what was called the 250 class, which is now the Supercross/450, on a non-Japanese machine. He did it on a Can-Am as well.
The track layout seemed much improved compared to Anaheim 1 but still lacked the real technical sections or gnarly whoops. It was a good layout for racing and favored a smooth rider. Unlike A1 where the track went from loose during the day to tacky at night, Phoenix got rutted up and ended up getting loose, especially during the mains. Sound testing stress in the pits appeared less stressful and no drama this week with regard to tire brand swapping between qualifying.
The Phoenix supercross put KTM on the map with regard to US Supercross. This win also upped the value of the 400 limited edition Factory Edition 450 SX-F that are due to hit dealers starting March 1st.
-OK, Dungey won the race and made history with a wire-to-wire win and almost made it look easy. He was smooth and the pressure stemming from the fact he was about to create history didn’t phase his performance. I don’t recall him making a single mistake during the main.
-Who is the fastest man in 2012? Hands down it’s Ryan Villopoto. He found himself in last place after smacking into a downed Davi Millsaps on the first lap. Never to admit defeat, RV proceeded to get going and put on a 19-lap riding clinic that made nearly the entire field look like novice riders. He sliced and diced his way through the pack and on the very last lap overtook Kevin Windham to take the final podium position. It is pretty obvious that he also logged in the fastest lap of the night.
-Jake Weimer also put in the ride of his 450 career with a solid second during the entire race. Weimer has now graduated himself into the “Could Win” club along with RV, Stewart, Dungey, and Reed.
-A week ago some might have said Windham’s time in the limelight is fading and it is time for the veteran of the sport to think about heading to the pasture. That was last week. This week the Windham of old reared his head and put in a stellar ride and almost landed a podium. Windham loves to ride and when he’s on he can battle with the kids. Windham will turn 34 in February and rode his first supercross in 1994.
-Another bad week for the Hahn family, Wil was hurt last week and now Tommy pulled off the track mid-race holding his arm. Bummer, the full privateer was having a good start of the season.
-Stewart, Stewart, Stewart. Rumor in the pits pre-race is that James was under the weather most of the week. In fact, Stewart failed to ride the second timed practice in order to conserve energy. He was the fastest qualifier in the first timed session but fell to 6th when he sat out of the second session. Then in the main, the COW (Crash or Win) was on a mission after getting a terrible start and was riding an amazing race when he went down in the sand section. He remounted but seemed to be overriding the track trying to make up time and ended up finishing 8th.
-Nick Wey and Kyle Partridge, both who failed to qualify for the main in Anaheim, made the 20-rider main in Phoenix. Wey ended up pulling out early after getting landed on. He was OK but pulled off.
-Lots of talent did not make the main this week including Pro Circuit’s Broc Tickle, Jeff Ward Racing’s Josh Grant, and Star Valli Yamaha’s Ryan Morais.
-Dungey and Villopoto are both tied in points now (45) for the championship, yet Dungey will likely sport the red background going into Los Angeles since he scored the latest win. Jake Weimer and Chad Reed are tied for third, scoring 38 each.
-Phoenix also marked the return of injury-prone Trey Canard on his Muscle Milk Factory Honda. Canard was still recovering from a broken collarbone, yet posted a very strong ride finishing 7th following a nice battle with Andrew Short for most of the main.
-So after two weeks who is going to be champion? You have to give credit to Dungey for making history on the KTM but in all honesty there is no beating Villopoto when he’s on his game or doesn’t run into dumb luck. Dungey may not have been able to hold the lead in Phoenix if RV hadn’t tangled with Millsaps and went down. Racing is racing is racing and after what went on last year, anything can happen in 2012. My current pick is for Villopoto to retain the number one plate.
It took Pro Circuit less than one week to get back to where they like being every week–in the winners’ circle. PC put two bikes on the podium sandwiching a KTM in the middle. There was not a lot of action in the main up front. Everything exciting was taking place from 4th place on back. This is where Eli Tomac, Cole Seely, and Zach Osborne battled for position. The point chase also changed up as Seely lost his red number plate going into Los Angeles.
Despite allegedly not feeling up to snuff, Monster Energy Pro Circuit’s Dean Wilson took the win and addrf some points to his quest for the Lites West title.
-Although he has yet to win, Tyla Rattray is in the lead for the championship with Seely one point behind. Third is also a tie between Dean Wilson and Marvin Musquin.
-Speaking of Musquin, the two-time World MX Champion raced to his first supercross podium on the Red Bull KTM. This was another piece of history because it was also the first time KTM had bikes on the podium in both classes. With Ken Roczen out of the action and slated to race in the East, Musquin was forced to hold the banner up for KTM and thus far he is doing better than most expected for an outdoor expert riding his first season in the Lites class.
-A lot of people are talking about Tomac and his skills. Although he finished 4th in Phoenix, he did have a pretty remarkable ride coming from mid-pack in the main and battling with Seely and Osborne.
-Cole Seely’s weekend in Phoenix was not as stellar as A1 after rounding the first lap in 8th and then making his way to 5th at the finish following a nice battle with Tomac. Seely has a shot at the title if he can win a few more and stay up front each week.
-What can you say about the Monster Energy Pro Circuit team and Dean Wilson? Deano struggled a tad in A1 finishing 6th after going down in the main and being sick but redeemed himself with a commendable win in the main in Phoenix.
-We have to give credit to Zach Osborne(338). Not known for his supercross skills, the World Championship contender is back in the States riding supercross before the GP season kicks off. Osborne rode much of the race in 3rd and even made a few moves on Rattray for 2nd early on before falling back to 6th when Seely and Tomac came barreling through.
-Michael Leib made his first career Lites main event in Phoenix after missing it at A1 by one position. The privateer, sponsored by Rocket Exhaust, pitted out of a truck and small trailer and finished a solid 11th in his first main.
-After two rounds there is no way to predict who might win in the West. There are five riders that have the skills to win on any given Saturday. If I had to put money on one rider, I would probably need odds to pick a winner because it is too close to call.