Irvine, Calif. – The excitement of the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross season carried into Round 2 at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz., on Saturday as Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto fought to his first win of the season. With the main event win, his first in Phoenix, the reigning champion took over the championship points lead and will return to running his familiar red number plates. Jake Weimer bounced back from a rough opening round to win his heat race but an early collision with another rider in the main event saw him finish 18th.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson once again established himself as one of the fastest riders in qualifying and captured his first heat race win of 2014. In the main event Wilson started within the top-10 and worked his way forward to battle for the podium, ultimately finishing fourth. Justin Hill had a strong heat race for the second consecutive week finishing third and despite a crash in the main, he finished a respectable eighth. Darryn Durham was forced to qualify from the Last Chance Qualifier and finished 14th.
As three-time defending champion (hyperlink to Infographic), Villopoto knows what it takes to win a title and win races. When the gate dropped for the main event the champ got pinched off in the first turn and rounded the first lap in ninth. Methodically, he and his KX™450F carved through the field making clean, smart passes. He pressured the leaders and was able to carry more speed through the rhythm section following the start straight, passing for the lead in the following corner on Lap 14. Villopoto kept his lap times consistent for the remaining six laps and took his first win of 2014 and his first at Chase Field.
“Tonight was not easy,” said Villopoto. “The track was really difficult and very slick which made it hard to be aggressive. It feels great to get a win this early and to have the points lead is ideal. We weren’t big fans of the white backgrounds.”
Weimer had a night he’d rather forget in Anaheim, but he did not let that affect him coming into Phoenix. The No.12 Kawasaki KX450F hooked up off the start in his heat race and he rounded the first corner with the holeshot. He sprinted early to try and build a gap and was able to lead all six laps to take his first heat race win of the year. Confident going into the main event, Weimer could not replicate his heat race start and was just outside the top-10. Making moves early, he got tied up with another rider and went down. Remounting in last place, Weimer charged through the 20 laps and salvaged 18th.
“Tonight was an improvement on last week,” said Weimer. “I’m still a little beat up from my crash in Anaheim but no excuses. I had a great heat race and made a costly mistake in the main. We’re headed in the right direction and we have the right pieces in play so we’ll head back to Anaheim and I plan to redeem myself.”
In the Hunt
Wilson has stayed consistent through the first two rounds with two fourth place finishes, although he expects more of himself. He has battled down to the hundredth of a second for the top qualifying spot two weeks in a row and on Saturday night he followed that up with a heat race win. In the main event the top four riders in the class emerged once again and finished in the same order as the season opener. Wilson sits fourth in points, but still has six rounds remaining to come back from his deficit.
“This weekend was a lot better than last, even though the result was the same,” said Wilson. “I felt awesome coming off my heat race win, but got caught up with some riders early and just didn’t ride like myself. We’ll continue working this week and look to be on the podium next weekend.”
Riding the Edge
Hill has shown aggression and intensity in the first two rounds and it is only a matter of time before that translates into results. Following a third place finish in his heat race, Hill got off to a top-10 start on his KX™250F and battled for fifth for much of the 15-lap main event. Hill made the pass stick at the half way mark for fifth place and was trying to track down fourth, when he clipped a tuff block and was thrown to the ground. Hill remounted quickly and only lost a few positions to finish eighth.
“I’m pretty bummed about crashing,” said Hill. “I felt really good tonight and a top-five finish was all mine. I had knocked the tuff block over a lap before and when I came around the next lap it was sticking out into my line and it put me on the ground.”
Durham had a spectacular crash in his heat race when he drifted off track over one of the doubles and slid along the plywood like one of the Arizona Diamondbacks stealing third base. Although he had to qualify through the LCQ, it allowed Durham to get the holeshot and lead the race start to finish. Giving him confidence for the main event. In the main event he started just outside the top-five but a mistake on Lap 3 sent him to the back and he recovered to finish 14th.
“It felt good to get out front again and lead,” said Durham. “Just not in the LCQ! We definitely made improvements from last week and I think my confidence should only continue to grow as the season continues.”
Every Place is Home
With Villopoto’s 35th career 450SX win at Phoenix, he has now won at least once at every stadium on the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross schedule that has hosted at least one race. The three-time champ was missing only Chase Field on his checklist after having won at Ford Field in the 250SX class in 2008, the series only stop at the venue, which leaves just Metlife Stadium in New Jersey as the only stadium where he hasn’t ascended to the top step of the podium.
The dirt at Chase Field is one of the trickiest the riders encounter throughout the season. The day begins with sticky, clumpy dirt and as that dries, it gets pushed off the track and becomes a very hard and dry surface.
“This track doesn’t suit my riding style per say,” said Villopoto. “It gets so slick that you really have to be careful on the throttle which I tend to be the opposite. That said it means a lot to get a win on the track I know isn’t my best.”
The series returns to Angel Stadium for its second of three visits on Saturday, January 18th. Many riders who did not have the best showing at the season opener will be looking for redemption in front of another sold out crowd.