Welcome to Weekly Dirt, your place on the Internet for off-road news from around the world. Today we have an update from Dakar, plus a preview of this weekend’s Phoenix Supercross, so settle in and let’s get down to business!
Millsaps, Canard Lead The Way Into Phoenix
There was plenty of hype to go around heading into the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series opener at Anaheim and very little of it centered around Davi Millsaps. And that’s probably just the way he likes it. The two big dogs – Ryan Villopoto and James Stewart – encountered problems along the way and left town with relatively disappointing results.
Millsaps got good starts all night and laid down some pretty impressive times, so it’s obvious he’s not lacking in the engine or suspension departments. The Rockstar Energy Suzuki guys do their own motors in-house, but they do have the benefit of factory Showa suspension so it’s obvious they’re not inferior in any way to the factory teams, at least when it comes to performance.
Millsaps has been on a long, tough road since his last win at San Diego in 2010, and that road involved multiple injuries, the loss of a kidney and two team changes. But with the help of his trainer, Ezra Lusk, Davi stuck with it and maybe this will be his year to shine. For sure, he won’t be able to sneak up on anyone this weekend in Phoenix… and perhaps he’ll get some pre-race hype.
Trey Canard is an equally impressive story, fresh off a major back injury; he’s had to spend much of the last three years coming back from various injuries. His faith and his Oklahoma work ethic are key ingredients of his makeup and on Saturday night the redheaded Honda rider kicked off his latest comeback in an impressive manner. Had he not tightened up with two laps to go he could have just as easily stood at the center of the podium instead in the runners-up spot. Look for Canard to get even stronger as the series rolls on.
Stewart did a good job of salvaging points out of a bad situation, hanging in there with a swollen knee he tweaked on the last lap of practice and coming away with seventh place points, which is much better than Villopoto’s 16th place finish. Here is a post race interview that Stewart posted on his website: http://js7.com/2013/01/2013-anaheim-1-supercross-post-race-update/
What the heck happened to the defending champ in the main event? In his heat race Villopoto looked unbeatable as he clawed his way through traffic to finish just behind Justin Barcia, but in the main he had problems, to say the least. Yeah, he got a bad start, but he got a bad start in his heat race too. So, bottom line, he might have just been a little impatient trying to get to the front. Two crashes and one off-track excursion is not a typical night for RV1. With A1 out of the way, Villopoto should be a little more settled in at PHX. Look for a statement ride from Villopoto this weekend.
Ryan Dungey might be in the best position off all. The KTM rider has snagged more titles by being “Mr. Consistency” than anyone in the field and you have to figure that coming out of the series opener, anything on the podium is a good start to the season. The Dunge was running a prototype WP shock on his KTM that was obviously “spring-less”. Roger DeCoster confirmed that it was an air shock but wouldn’t comment further. The shock is also being tested in Europe for the GP season, so it will be interesting to see how this evolves.
Barreda Wins Fourth Stage, Pain Takes Overall Lead At Dakar
Cyril Despres is the man that most predict will win this year’s Dakar Rally, and after three stages the Red Bull KTM rider proved the pundits right. However, yesterday’s fourth stage was dominated by Speedbrain Husqvarna’s Joan Barreda, who commanded a particularly hazardous fourth stage of the Dakar, a 289 km special test covering all types of terrain through Peru. In the meantime, Despres suffered a disastrous day, finishing 15th.
Barreda, on the Husqvarna TE449RR, battled his way to an eight-minute lead over Frenchman Olivier Pain, and managed to come from behind in the process. This is the second win for Barreda and Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain so far in this Dakar and allows the rider who hails from Castellon to move up to fourth overall place (18th yesterday).
“I really rode well today. I’m very pleased,” said Barreda. “I knew it would be a tough one today, so I wanted to push hard. My starting place in twenty-fourth didn’t really favour it especially with the first 20 kms of dust. What’s more, I had the electronic road book broken and I had to move it forward manually throughout the whole stage. I did a perfect stage!”
With yesterday’s finish, Despres dropped out of the overall lead and into third overall, as Pain and fellow Yamaha rider David Casteau take over the first and second place spots overall. Pain has been the most consistent of the lot and takes a two minute, 24 seconds lead over Casteau into today’s round.
Kurt Caselli, who is riding on the KTM team in the place of the injured Marc Coma, sits 20th overall after finishing 17th in the stage results. The American KTM rider was an impressive fifth in stage two. Meanwhile, Honda’s Johnny Campbell sits 100th overall.
The caravan rolls on tomorrow to Arequipa ad Arica with 411km of road work, including 136 km of special tests.
Overall Classification After Four Stages
1. Oliver Pain (Yam)
2. David Casteu (Yam)
3. Cyril Despres (KTM)
4. Joan Barrera (Hsq)
5. Jordi Viladoms (Hsq)
6. Ruben Faria (KTM)
7. Jeremiah Isreal (Hon)
8. Francisco Lopez (KTM)
9. Alex Botturi (Hsq)
10. Jakub Przygonski (KTM)
Alessi Readies For PHX
On Tuesday I got the unique opportunity to visit Tony and Mike Alessi at their “secret” compound out in the high desert. At Anaheim, Mike was in a lot of pain thanks to an incident at a race in Germany where he tore his thumb nail completely off! If you’ve ever had a fingernail or toenail torn off then you can sympathize. Anyway, Mike pulled one of his signature holeshots in his heat race at A1 and led for several laps before settling into third behind Justin Barcia and Ryan Villopoto. Unfortunately, #800 went down in the main event, which ended his day.
The bottom line is, I got to see Mike working on his starts, and it’s unreal how precise this guy is in every aspect of his starting procedure. He really has it down to a science, which is why he’s the master at it. I have to admit that he looks lean and mean and more fit than ever. I expect Mike to have some good finishes during the supercross season, but when the outdoors roll around everyone better look out for #800. I’m just sayin’… —Shan Moore
That’s all for this week, be sure to check in next week for more news from the off-road world.