Welcome to the Weekly Dirt, your place for the latest in off-road news. This week we’ll check in to see what Kevin Windham and Andrew Short are up to and get an update on the opening round of the H&H series on the West Coast, so sit back and enjoy your serving of dirt for the week!
Will Villopoto Continue To Gain Momentum At A3?
Ryan Villopoto was confident and relaxed when he talked with a small group of the press in the Monster Energy Kawasaki team hauler just about an hour after running away with his second-straight win in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series. There was no hesitation in his voice whatsoever as he spoke about quickly working his way back into the series points lead after the disappointing start he got off to at the opening two rounds. Judging from the performance he had just delivered, no one in the room had any doubts that the fiery redhead could – and would – deliver on his words. That’s bad news for the competition.
After this weekend, no one appears consistent enough to stop the Kawasaki rider from completing the coveted “three-peat” that he’s determined to come away with. Sure, James Stewart has been the fastest rider in qualifying at most of the rounds, but so far that has netted him an eighth, a seventh, a 12th and a 19th. And Stewart’s problems seem to go deeper than just not being able to get through the first turn clean. Besides, Villopoto is proving that qualifying times aren’t as important as race speed… and getting a good start.
Ryan Dungey was fast in qualifying, too, but the Red Bull KTM rider is having trouble getting off the line and just hasn’t been aggressive enough to move up though traffic after getting a fifth or sixth place start. His M.O. of “consistency wins championships” isn’t working; there are simply too many capable riders on the track this year. The Minnesota rider is going to have to make a move soon if he’s going to have a chance at another title.
Davi Millsaps and Trey Canard sit first and second in points and so far have been the most consistent of all, but do they possess the speed to beat RV1 heads up? Hopefully we’ll finally get to see the three riders go head to head at A3, which is something that hasn’t happened so far. It seems that when Millsaps and Canard get out front, then Villopoto is back in the pack and, and visa versa.
I had hopes that Chad Reed would be in the mix in Oakland, I think the TwoTwo Motorsports rider has the potential to win a round or two, however, if you saw the race in person or on TV then you know what happened to Reedy. I think Reed will be a podium guy this weekend.
At the very least, Villopoto will make this year’s series exciting as we watch him gobble up championship points in his race back to the top of the standings.
In the meantime, Eli Tomac’s three race winning streak to open the 250SX West series came to an abrupt end on Saturday night after a nasty crash in the 250 main.
The GEICO Honda rider fell twice in the opening laps of the main event, with the last fall occurring in the whoops section. Tomac sat on the side of the track for a moment. He was able to leave the track under his own power, but his bike was too damaged. Tomac wasn’t able to continue and carded a 20th place finish.
“It was a frustrating night, for sure,” Tomac said. “I didn’t get the kind of start that I wanted and wound up getting in a big pile up. I was able to get back up from that but a little while later I just lost it in whoops.”
The bad night also cost Tomac his points lead, falling to third in the season standings. Tomac trails new leader Ken Roczen, who won Saturday’s race, by 15 points and second place Cole Seely by four points with five races left in the West season.
“The competition is so close in this class that you can’t afford to have bad nights like this,” Tomac said. “I’ll just head back, focus on my starts and get ready for next week. It’s a bump in the road, but there still time to come back and get the red plate back.”
Shorty Carries On
Last week there was speculation that Andrew Short might be retiring after his team L&Mc Racing issued a statement saying they were pulling out of racing as a result of circumstances beyond the team’s control. A short time later, Shorty officially announced that he and L&Mc Racing had parted ways. This past weekend, however, Short showed up at the Oakland round on a nearly stock production bike that he had bought with the help of a friend and recorded an impressive sixth in the 450 final. He obviously has no intentions of retiring just yet.
“Basically, my primary concern is right now is to just stay on the track,” said Short. “With everything that evolved, I just wanted to keep racing, so that’s what we are doing this weekend until we find the best way to move forward. Mr. Kranyak and Paul Delaurier called me and wanted to help out and we just put together the best program that we could. As the weeks go on, I think it will get better and grow, but for me, I just need to stay on the track and stay focused.”
Hopefully something comes along in the near future for the talented rider that will keep him on the track. He has a host of fans pulling for him.
What’s K-Dub Gonna Do?
Now that Kevin Windham has retired, the question is what’s he gonna to do? I spoke with the GEICO Honda rider this week and told me he had a couple of things up his sleeve. “Well, I’m still a GEICO Honda rider,” Windham said. “I’ll still represent the team and do team functions and help my team any way I can. But I also plan on doing six of the TV broadcasts for the Supercross series, at the races that Ricky [Carmichael] can’t attend. I’ll try to be fair and balanced and give my assessment of the race for the fans through my eyes. Most of all, though, I want to go around and say goodbye to the people who have made my career and say goodbye to my fans.”—Shan Moore
Dirt Rider Legends Ride Day
The Dirt Rider crew recently held a private ride day at Perris Raceway in honor of the legends of our sport. Appropriately known as the Dirt Rider Legends Ride Day, the event featured a cast of industry icons and famous racers, all of whom enjoyed epic weather and fun track conditions, along with a catered lunch. The event will be featured in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rider, but we can give you a taste of what went down in the following video, which took place during the Mini Bike Showdown. A single-elimination race that put racers up against each other on CRF100s, this event went down on Perris’ legendary flat track and created for some of the best racing we’ve seen in a while. This onboard clip shows a battle between Klim’s Jesse Ziegler and DR Test Rider Joe Melton, who ended up getting more than he bargained for:
Meanwhile, the DR test crew has had its hands full evaluating a host of new off-road bikes, including the all-new Beta 300 two-stroke and the always-popular KTM 500 EXC. In addition to the bikes, the new product has been rolling in like crazy, with full-on evaluations in progress on Oakley’s newest Airbrake goggle, along with Sidi’s Crossfire 2 boot and a handful of exhaust systems. Stay tuned to the magazine; you’ll be seeing these tests as soon as we’ve dished out our usual amount of abuse!
It’s A Wrap: The 2012 GEICO AMA EnduroCross Championship Series
The 2012 GEICO AMA EnduroCross Championship series is officially in the books, and what a season it was! The race for the title came down to the final round in Las Vegas, where a double main event format provided racers with an opportunity to gain—or lose—huge amounts of points. In the Pro division, KTM’s Taddy Blazusiak went in to the final round with a target on his back, and the Polish racer did not let up on his way toward a clean sweep of both mains and a dominant championship victory.
It was an exciting season for sure and you can read more about it at: http://www.dirtrider.com/features/what-really-happened-las-vegas-endurocross-finals/ —Chris Denison
Kendall Norman returns–at least temporarily
“Over this last year I really realized that my true passion is riding a motorcycle. I mean, I do a lot of different activities, I live an active lifestyle, but when I get on my motorcycle, it’s what truly makes me happy,” Kendall Norman declared. “Coming out here is just living for the moment, for the day, enjoying the course, enjoying my motorcycle, enjoying the people I’ve got with me and enjoying everything about it was fun.”
The fact that he’d just won the opening round of the AMA Racing/FMF/GPR National Hare & Hound Championship Series probably wasn’t too far from the top of the 2010 champ’s list of top moments, and that’s something that hasn’t happened since…well, the last time he raced a National in 2011. (He won that one; in fact, he won three of the the last four rounds he raced.)
Since he’d skipped the entire 2012 H&H season and still had no ride for this year, no one even expected him to show up for the 46th Annual Winter Classic hosted by the Desert Motorcycle Club in the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area near Lucerne Valley, California. The favorite had to be two-time and defending series champ Kurt Caselli of the FMF KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team, despite the fact that he was coming off two weeks of his Dakar Rally debut, an event that has never been considered ideal training for sprint-paced races.
But as it turned out, luck wasn’t on Caselli’s side and he DNFed, though not before helping a friend who’d broken his leg.
With Caselli on the sidelines, Norman took a convincing win on his private Honda followed by similarly unemployed David Kamo (who was able to borrow his old race bike from Johnny Campbell Racing Honda just a couple days before) and Off-Road Support Kawasaki’s Jacob Argubright.
The 2013 Kendall Norman has matured and appreciates his past successes even more today.
“I had a lot of bad luck in 2011 compared to my 2010, which was honestly the year of my life,” he explained. “No one can take that year away from me.
“I felt like I had some really good races; my speed was better than ever and I was in the prime. But things didn’t work out with [the JCR Honda] factory ride that I had. I think I lost a little motivation. I had some stuff happen to me. Things were changing in my life. I went from I thought I knew everything to realizing that I knew nothing! I think I needed some time off.
“I just wanted to put 2012 behind me at the start of this New Year. Since the New Year, I’ve just been riding every day and having a good time and just having fun with it.
“I have some really great people behind me with Red Bull and also everything that I’ve learned over the years and all the experience I have, it’s allowed me to fine-tune my program to exactly what I want and exactly what I need and nothing else,” he continued. “That makes a difference–coming out, really being stoked, being happy to be here and wanting to do it. Out on the course, I didn’t feel like I was racing people–I was just riding the course for everything it was worth! That alone made it so much fun.”
However, it takes a lot of money to fund an entire race season and that’s something Norman hasn’t got lined up so his current H&H aspirations are up in the air. He still wants to race in Baja, he’d like to go to Europe for a few more extreme enduros and he’d love to fund another run at the Nationals. But should fiscal reality prevent those goals from being reached, you know that all Norman really needs are his bike and somewhere to ride it. —Mark Kariya
That’s all for this week, be sure to check in next week for more news from the off-road world.