Irvine, Calif. – Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett commanded his fourth overall win of the 2012 AMA Pro Motocross Championship at Moto-X 338 in Southwick, Mass., with an exciting late-race pass to steal the win with a 3-1 moto result. Baggett battled through erratic weather, a challenging track, and a field of hungry competitors to extend his point lead and keep the red plates on his KX™250F for the ninth-consecutive round.
In the 450 class, teammate Broc Tickle rode skillfully throughout the day to earn his second podium of the season, landing in third place with a 6-4 result. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Tyla Rattray grabbed the second moto win, his first moto win in the 450 class, but problems in the first moto saw him finish fifth overall with a 20-1 result. Teammate Jake Weimer showed speed all day, but a few mistakes would leave him finishing 18th with a 13-19 moto result.
Baggett came to Southwick a few days early to participate in press day and take a few laps on the dry and sandy track. By Saturday, storms had inundated the area and saturated the track, completely changing the dynamic of the sand-based track. Baggett quickly adapted to the conditions and set the second fastest qualifying time in the 250 class. In the first moto, Baggett got a good start and rode to a third-place finish. In the second moto, Baggett got a better jump off the gate and rounded the first turn in third. He made a pass for second on lap three and began pacing the leader. As the track continued to break down, Baggett kept pressure on the leader while testing new lines. Battling back and forth, Baggett finally got the pass for the lead to stick with two laps remaining. The exciting battle ended with Baggett on top of the podium with a 3-1 result, marking his ninth moto win of the season, and extended his points lead to 24.
“I gave it everything I had out there,” said Baggett. “In the second moto I was trying different lines and feeling out every possible place I could to get around Ken (Roczen). I was tired, but dug deep and was able to get the pass to stick to take the win. I really enjoy racing against Ken, its fun racing against someone who is creative with their lines and races clean. The track at Moto-X 338 is pretty gnarly because it’s really tight and has a lot of bumps. I grew up in Southern California so riding in the deep sand doesn’t come naturally for me, I prefer hardpack. I’m happy I was able to stretch my points lead and want to keep earning as many points as possible to cushion myself as we head into the last rounds of the season. It only takes one point to earn the championship so I am going to fight for every point.”
Back on the Box
Tickle came out swinging at Southwick and earned the fastest qualifying time of the day aboard his KX450F. In Moto 1, he got a good start and rode to a sixth-place finish. In the second moto, he came off the gate in 10th position and starting picking off riders. He was able to move through the pack to finish fourth and earned third overall on the day. The podium marked Tickle’s second career podium finish outdoors in the 450 class. He currently sits fifth in the championship standings.
“Practice went really great,” said Tickle. “I ended up setting the fastest lap time on the track so I earned the first gate pick. Overall, I think the track was brutal. You had to stand up a lot more than usual and try to carry your momentum around the track because as soon as you lost it, it was difficult getting back in a rhythm in that sand. The track conditions were difficult because it was a combination of deep sand with a hardpacked base. You want to set your bike up for the bumps, but you also have to set it up for the hard stuff, so you have to find a happy medium. We made a few changes to the bike between motos and it really worked out. I’m happy to be on the podium again. Now we’re going to head back home and put in some more hard work before we head to Unadilla and try to repeat.”
Back in the Groove
After spending a good amount of time testing during the three-week break, Rattray came to Southwick prepared to contend for the podium. In the first moto, Rattray got tangled up in a first turn pile up and found himself in last place. He was able to work his way past half of the field and up to 20th place before crossing the finish. In the second moto he got a good jump off the gate aboard his KX450F and rounded the first turn in ninth. Rattray went to work on the familiar course and started reeling in the leaders. By the third lap he had moved into third place and by lap 12 he had taken over second place. A mistake by the leader gave Rattray the lead and he never looked back. He went on to take the first 450 class moto win of his career in the outdoors and earned fifth overall on the day.
“Jake (Weimer) and I were able to get some good testing in over the break and came to Southwick feeling much more comfortable on the bike,” said Rattray. “Now I think we’re in a good place with the bike and I’m really happy with the team and all their hard work. They’ve been putting in so many hours getting me and the bike prepped for this race, I really can’t thank them enough. I’ve won at Southwick the last two years on a KX250F so I felt confident I could pull it off on the KX450F as well. The first moto was a disaster. I had a bad start, got caught in a pile up and went down several times. The second moto I really felt like my old self again out there. I really expect to be out front fighting for the podium every moto and now I feel like we have the ball rolling again. To be able to earn a win for the team at Southwick felt awesome. It’s great to be back on the box.”
After spending time testing in California, Weimer was hoping to be a podium contender at Southwick. In the first moto, he got caught in the same pile up that claimed teammate Rattray and remounted his Kawasaki in 37th place. He put together an impressive charge, passing 24 competitors to finish the moto in 13th place. In the second moto, he got a good start, but a crash on the second lap left him in 28th place. He began picking off riders and finished the moto in 19th place to earn 18th overall. Weimer currently sits third in the championship standings.
“It was a rough day for sure,” said Weimer. “My starts were pretty terrible and I couldn’t stay off the ground all day. I crashed once in the first moto and twice in the second moto and there’s not much you can do when you’re lying on the ground. It’s just frustrating because I’ve never really done well at Southwick and I really hoped to change that today, but things just didn’t go my way. I’m ready to put this race behind me and head to the next round at Unadilla and try to pull it together there.”
The challenging track at Moto-X 338 is unlike any other on the outdoor circuit. With its combination of deep sand and a hard-packed base, selecting the right tire for the job can be a difficult decision. While paddle-style tires work great in sand, they do not work so well on the hard stuff. Last season, Dunlop developed the MX11 tire specifically for mud and sand tracks like Southwick and has seen success on both the KX250F and KX450F.
Junk Yard Dog
Just before the Moto-X 338 national returned to his home track, John Dowd, a.k.a. Junk Yard Dog, celebrated his 46th birthday. The local legend came out to the track on Thursday with his son to talk with the local media and throw down a few practice laps aboard his Chaplin Kawasaki KX450F. The local hero has grown such a large fan base that the track crew even placed a small dog house next to the track in his honor. In the first moto, Dowd got a mid-pack start and worked his way through the pack to finish 10th. In Moto 2, he got another good start, but laid his Kawasaki over in a tight corner on the first lap. By the time he got back on the bike he was in 26th position. Dowd worked his way back to 16th before the checkers to finish 14th overall on the day. The exciting run was important for Dowd as he earned enough points to keep his AMA Pro Motocross National number of 16 for another year.
Headed to Belgium
On Saturday, the official announcement was made naming the 2012 Motocross of Nations (MXoN) United States team. Baggett earned a spot on the team for a second year in a row along with Ryan Dungey and newcomer Justin Barcia. The most prestigious international motocross race of the year will take place in Belgium from September 22-23, 2012.
“I’m looking forward to heading over to Belgium,” said Baggett. “I’ve been putting in time practicing on the sand at Ryan’s (Villopoto) ranch in Florida. It was good to get more seat time in the sand at Southwick before heading to MXoN, but it’s a whole different ball game out there. Even though the track at Moto-X 338 and the track in Belgium are both sand tracks, that’s where the similarities end. Just from some of the videos I’ve seen on the internet, the track in Belgium seems faster and a lot more open with more flowing lines than the track at Moto-X 338. After the final round at Lake Elsinore I will be putting in some extra time testing in the sand before I head overseas and see what we can do out there.”
Next weekend, Monster Energy Kawasaki heads Unadilla MX in New Berlin, N.Y., for the Round 10 of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship series. For live event coverage tune into FUEL TV on August 18, 2012, at 12:30 p.m. EDT to catch the first motos in both classes, then switch over to NBC at 3:00 p.m. EDT for the second 450 class moto and NBC Sports Network at 4:00 p.m. EDT for the second 250 class moto.