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On the podium Villopoto celebrates another win and a 100-plus point lead over fellow podium racers Kevin Windham and Justin Brayton.The Monster Energy AMA Supercross series made its annual trip to Canada for the Toronto round of the series. For the most part, riders come to expect crappy tracks and low turnouts at Toronto because of the dirt that's used; however, this year the race drew its biggest crowd ever, at around 49,000. Most of the riders still complained about the track, however, but at least the dirt wasn't frozen underneath the top layer like it was a few years ago when the series regulars raced on what they called the "moon's surface".
This year, both Ryan Villopoto and Justin Barcia came in as clear favorites, and neither rider disappointed. In the meantime, James Stewart was a no-show after suffering a slight concussion (among other minor injuries) last week in Indy, and decided at the last minute to take another week off to recover.
This race is usually cold and rainy or snowy, which makes it hard on the guys working in the pits. The pits are outside and across the street from the Rogers Center, and most of the big teams either work on the bikes inside their rigs, or put up tents for the mechanics to work in. The smaller teams move tools, parts and bikes inside the stadium into the corridor that runs around underneath the seating areas. It's a cramped situation, but it seems to work.
It's always interesting getting factory rigs with bikes and parts across the border for this race and each year there's usually some kind of controversy, although this year seemed to go pretty smooth since most of the teams have had several years of experience with the process. Interestingly, the teams with really big rigs rented shorter tractors for their semis in Indy because a tractor/trailer rig can only be a certain length from nose to tail to cross the border and most of the U.S. rigs are too long.
Ryan Villopoto enjoys a "Monster" lead in the AMA Supercross series, and after his latest win in Toronto he sits a full 79-points ahead of Ryan Dungey in the standings. When asked if it's tough to focus with a lead that big RV said, "It puts you in a tough situation. You don't want to make any big mistakes and give it all away, so you tend to ride timid; but then those guys are going for it and coming after you... they see opportunities. It's just tough to find a happy medium."
At next week's round in Houston, Villopoto has a mathematical chance of wrapping up the title early, which he says will allow him to start outdoor testing, something that hurt him last year because he wasn't able to test for outdoors during the SX season due to the intense title chase that went down to the final race.
Brayton now has two consecutive runner-up finishes and now wants nothing more than to get his first win. "I want to get a win so bad I can taste it," said Brayton. "I feel like I definitely ran his pace in the beginning and I think I'm getting there. He's really good, but I think I can get there. I think my [leg] injury is catching up with me a little bit at the end of the races. I have great fitness, but to run that speed for 20 laps; people can't imagine, it's tapped out. I was really happy with my holeshot; that was my first holeshot of the year. It was really cool to get out front in some clean air, that was huge. But the track was difficult, and RV was riding really good."
Kevin Windham was unsure if he would be able to race in Toronto after suffering a back injury the week before when he crashed at Indy. According to the GEICO Powersports Honda rider, he didn't throw a leg over a bike all week, and spent that time in therapy, getting his back adjusted and getting ultra-sound treatments. The first free practice was kind of a test to see if his back would hold up and he made the decision to go for it after turning relatively good lap times. In the race, Windham worked his way though traffic, passing Davi Millsaps and Jake Weimer to take third.
Davi Millsaps was no fan of the track and couldn't seem to find a good rhythm. "It wasn't that good of a race for me," said Millsaps. "I just couldn't get the track down and I couldn't get a flow going. Towards the end, I started picking it up when I started getting in a groove, but I struggled the whole main. I ended up fourth, which is okay, but I really want on that podium. I'll just go home and do more laps and get ready for Houston. The track wasn't very good at all, it was probably the worst track of the year; it was just horrible."
Wil Hahn got the call to ride Trey Canard's Honda in Toronto and came away with a 10th place finish. "I spun off the gate and I was bummed with my start," said Hahn. "The pace was high, and I haven't raced all year and these guys are in a groove right now. I'll eventually learn it, but it will take a few weeks. I'm just thankful to get the opportunity."
The Lites race would have been boring had there not been so much action going on in the race for third, fourth and fifth, between Eleven10 Mods Honda's Alex Martin, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Darryn Durham and Rockstar Energy Suzuki's Blake Wharton. Out front, Justin Barcia grabbed the holeshot, but was passed just after the first turn by Ken Roczen. Roczen led for three laps before Barcia put a pretty hard pass on the KTM rider. And from there, no one could touch the spectacular Barcia.
Justin Barcia was super-fast and kind of on the edge all weekend. After grabbing the holeshot to start the main, the GEICO Powersports Honda rider lost the lead to Ken Roczen. However, after chasing the KTM rider for a couple of laps, Barcia put a forceful pass on Roczen to retake the lead. "That was sick pass," said Barcia. "I seen the opening, I was getting him down the straight every time and I just put it in there. I didn't think he was ready for it, but it was a pretty good pass. I'm glad he didn't go down, because I wasn't trying to be dirty, I was just trying to make a good, clean pass."
Like Windham, Ken Roczen almost didn't race in Toronto due to being sick with the flu. "Overall, I did a solid race," said Roczen. "I made a good pass on Barcia at the start of the race; I tripled onto the tabletop and got by him and I was happy about that. But then Barcia passed me back kind of hard, but what are you going to do? If you go inside in that turn, he's going to double and pass you, so I had to try to stay ahead."
After taking a big win last week at Indy, Rockstar Suzuki Racing's Blake Wharton finished third in Toronto. "I had a pretty good start, but the first turn was no good," said Wharton. "I managed to recover, though, and ended up on the podium. It wasn't the finish I wanted but I'll take it. The track was tough, and Canada is always interesting, with the ruts and hard-pack. It's a tough combination to figure out. I won last weekend, and I want to keep this going, so we will continue to work hard and go full steam into next weekend's race."
Official Monster Energy Supercross Results
Supercross Class Results
1. Ryan Villopoto (Kaw)
2. Justin Brayton (Hon)
3. Kevin Windham (Hon)
4. Davi Millsaps (Yam)
5. Jake Weimer (Kaw)
6. Marvin Musquin (KTM)
7. Kyle Chisholm (Kaw)
8. Broc Tickle (Kaw)
9. Robert Kiniry (Yam)
10. Wil Hahn (Hon)
1. Justin Barcia (Hon)
2. Ken Roczen (KTM)
3. Blake Wharton (Suz)
4. Jake Canada (Hon)
5. Darryn Durham (Kaw)
6. Alex Martin (Hon)
7. Tommy Weeck (Hon)
8. Justing Bogle (Hon)
9. Matthew Lemoine (Kaw)
10. Jeff Gibson (Hon)
James Stewart put out a press release on Friday before the Toronto race explaining that he was disappointed that he wouldn't be racing the Canadian round. According to team owner Coy Gibbs, Stewart is still kind of "banged up" and needed another week to heal. "He tried to ride Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and he said he never really felt good," said Gibbs. "He passed a concussion test, but he's just hurting all over and needs the extra time."
For the first time ever, Justin Brayton turned the fastest time in qualifying, posting a time that was two-tenths faster than Villopoto.
Red Bull KTM rider Ken Roczen was suffering from flu-like symptoms on the day of the race, and skipped the non-timed practice session.
Broc Tickle ran a set of prototype "air" forks on his Pro Circuit Kawasaki in Toronto, which are being tested for possible use on future production models.
Other than various lines through the whoops, there were no obstacles on the track there were done by a few and not by the others. The Lites guys were able to do all the same obstacles as the "big guys".
Words and Photos: Shan Moore