Irvine, Calif. – Three weeks after wrapping up his third-consecutive Monster Energy Supercross championship, Ryan Villopoto kicked off the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship with a dominating 1-1 performance. Villopoto took over the lead before the halfway point in both motos and was unchallenged, winning by more than 20 seconds. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer finished 13th, while Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Tyla Rattray and Dean Wilson finished ninth and 14th, respectively. In the 250 class, defending champion Blake Baggett finished second overall. His teammates Justin Hill, Darryn Durham, and Martin Davalos finished 10th, 14th, and 17th respectively, to open the season.
Making it Look Easy
After fighting for a third straight supercross title the last four months, Villopoto did not have much time to prepare for his first outdoor season since 2011. You would have never known it though, as he handled the competition to take the lead in both motos and win by more than 20 seconds. Monster Energy Kawasaki are some of the few that are running the new triple chamber air fork, which Villopoto put to the test and demonstrated how well it worked on the rough Hangtown track.
“It’s tough coming into outdoors with such little time to prepare after supercross,” said Villopoto. “I didn’t race outdoors last year so we potentially could have been behind everyone else on settings, but that is not the case. In the past I have struggled in the second motos, but today I was strong through both.”
Defending 250 class champion Baggett kicked off the season where he left off last year. He grabbed the first moto holeshot on his KX™250F and battled for the lead in both motos. After breaking his wrist in supercross, Baggett has little range of motion but was strong through both motos and sits second in the standings after a 3-2 moto score.
“We’re working into the season with my wrist,” said Baggett. “Considering I haven’t been behind the gate since January while everyone else raced, I’m happy with my result. I had to make some changes to accommodate my wrist, but it will progress as the weeks go on.”
Both Wilson and Rattray made the jump to the 450 class at Hangtown and had a great showing. Wilson battled for a top-five position in the first moto before stalling the bike on one of the tricky Hangtown hills. A crash kept him from the front in Moto 2, but he showed he has what it takes to run in the premier class. Rattray had a quiet weekend to finish ninth in both motos after coming from behind.
“I actually don’t feel like I rode that great,” said Rattray. “But ninth is a great starting point and I know we can easily climb up the standings.”
First Pro National
Hill did not start his first outdoor national the way he anticipated. Coming into the first turn he tangled with another rider and was thrown to the ground. Hill got up and fought as hard as he could to almost reach the top-10, finishing 13th. In Moto 2, the rookie got off to a clean start and battled to finish ninth, catching and passing many of his former amateur rivals and finishing 10th overall. Hill planned on being joined by fellow Team Green prodigy Adam Cianciarulo, but illness delayed him from making his debut at Hangtown.
“Today went really well considering how it started,” said Hill. “My speed and fitness was right on point to put me in the top-10 and with a good start and running the leaders pace, I know we can be battling for the box. The bike is so fast, it’s on me to put it up front.”
Weimer worked hard on Saturday to overcome a bad start in Moto 1 and a crash in Moto 2. In the first moto, he showed that his training is paying off as he made multiple passes in the late stages of the race to finish seventh. After a crash on the first lap of the second moto, Weimer was able to grab a hold of the leaders as they put him a lap down, and he ran their pace for the remainder of the moto. Weimer will be a threat for the podium in the weeks to come.
“It was not the result I was looking for, but we now have our benchmark,” said Weimer. “I felt strong through the full 35 minutes and have the speed to run with the leaders. With a start I think we can definitely turn some heads.”
One Good, One Bad
Both Durham and Davalos came out swinging at Hangtown. When the gate dropped for the first moto they were both within the top-10 until Davalos crashed hard over one of the rutted tabletops. Durham would go on to battle and finish sixth. In Moto 2, Durham was the one who put himself on the ground after making contact with another rider in air, ending his race. Davalos, although sore from his first moto crash, soldiered on to finish 12th.
“It’s a bummer, but it makes me hungrier,” said Davalos. “I didn’t get to show everything I had this weekend, so I’m even more excited to head to Colorado. That’s my favorite track.”
The series will head to Lakewood, Colo next Saturday at Thunder Valley MX Park. Lakewood sits at nearly 5,500 feet above sea level, which adds an extra element the racers have to face.