Southwick has traditionally been known as a track that can change the face of the AMA 125/250cc U.S. Motocross Championship Series. A poor start at Southwick is more penalizing than normal, hence a shakeup in the point standings is always a possibility. The high-speed sand course gets brutally rough and it claims several victims each year. And there’s no other track in the 12-race series that favors locals as much.
Once again James Stewart was absent from the entry list. Last year’s champion is still recovering from his broken collarbone and we may not see him in action for a few more weeks. Sans Stewart, a good title fight has been brewing between Mike Brown and Ryan Hughes. It’s likely that one of them will be crowned champ in September; however, neither broke the top 10 in Massachusetts.
The surprise winner was Australia’s Craig Anderson. The Yamaha of Troy rider managed to pull off a second place in the first moto behind countryman Michael Byrne. During his first full season racing in the States, Anderson’s only top 10 moto was a ninth at High Point. Coming into the second moto at Southwick, Anderson had more motivation to try harder. Moto one claimed Mike Brown and Grant Langston in a first turn crash, and Ryan Hughes broke his fibula (lower leg bone), but still managed to finish 10th.
In the second moto Anderson grabbed the early lead, teammate Brock Sellards was second with Byrne third. The three riders stayed close and in that order most of the race. During the last few laps, the three riders took turns in the lead, but Anderson never dropped further than second. Byrne tried a pass 30 minutes into the moto, but clipped the rear wheel of Anderson’s YZ250F in a high-speed right hand turn. From that point on, Anderson held on to win by a two second margin. Anderson’s 2-1 gave him the overall, topping Byrne’s 1-4 and Sellards’ 9-2.
Andrew Short put in his best finish since winning the 125cc East/West Shootout last month at the Las Vegas Supercross. A 7-5 moto score earned him fourth overall ahead of local Ryan Mills. The youngster from Clintondale, New York went 3-12 for his first top five finish, beating Kelly Smith, Tony Lorusso, Stephane Roncada and Michael Brandes. You have to go all the way back to 10th to find the title favorites. Although Brown rode the first moto without a left grip (it fell off when mechanics were pulling his KX125 and Langston’s bike apart in moto one), he used a 22-3 for 10th. Langston finished one spot behind after falling again on the first lap of moto two. The surprise in the second moto was the sight of Ryan Hughes with a taped up leg. The Red Bull/KTM rider opted not to ride the parade lap, but then put in a heroic ride to finish 10-16 despite the pain in his lower leg.
Hughes’ managed to score five points in that moto which allows him to keep Brown in check. Brown currently leads Hughes 156-151. Langston is third with 131, and Eric Sorby is a distant fourth with 116. Sorby collided with Langston in the first moto and fell in a tight right-hander, and then he DNF’d moto two after cartwheeling.
The big question right now centers on Hughes’ long-term health. After next week’s race at Budd’s Creek in Maryland, there are two weekends of before Red Bud.
The 250cc class was another Ricky Carmichael sweep. The factory Honda rider used two good starts to win rather easily. The surprise was 37-year-old John Dowd. The KTM support rider was actually catching RC during the end of the first moto, and scored a runner-up slot with a 2-3 finish. In fact, Dowd reeled in and passed Tim Ferry in moto one, much to the delight of his home track fans. Kevin Windham completed the podium with a 4-2 – passing Dowd in moto two.
Ferry actually rode really well, but fell at the start of the second moto. He came from last to finish sixth in that moto for fourth ahead of Mike LaRocco’s 5-4. Chad Reed had an off day, but not nearly as bad as his teammate David Vuillemin. The Cobra never saw the leaders until they came around to lap him in moto one. The Frenchman finished 12th overall with an 18-8.
-Doug Henry, the 1998 AMA 250cc National MX Champion, made his yearly appearance in the series, and was still plenty competitive. The sand specialist battled for the lead in the first moto for a short time before slipping to sixth. Unfortunately, Henry cartwheeled his mostly stock YZ250 at the start of the second moto while battling for the lead and damaged his left wrist. “This place is special to me,” said Henry. “I’m a local here, and Southwick fans mean a lot of me. I really wanted to get a top five, but today wasn’t the day. I still had a lot of fun, and I felt real strong until I crashed.”
-It appears that this will probably be Mike LaRocco’s last year racing the outdoor series. Insiders confirmed that LaRocco is pursuing a Supercross-only contract for next year.
-David Vuillemin is shopping around for rides. He’s apparently asking Suzuki for $850,000, but it doesn’t appear that the team is very interested in the newly married Frenchman. Kevin Windham is also talking to Suzuki as Roger DeCoster contemplates how to rebuild his race team.
-Two-time AMA 125cc National MX Champion, Steve Lamson, has been approached by Team ECC to ride the new RM-Z250 four-stroke for 2004. The Suzuki satellite team is talking to Lamy about adding one year to his current deal. For the last three years Lamson has had a difficult time. He had problems with his works Husqvarna’s in ’01 and ’02, and motor troubles have plagued him this year on his RM125.
-It appears that Honda has decided to keep Nathan Ramsey. Rumors floating through the pits at Southwick indicate that Ramsey and Honda have come to terms, and are just ironing out the new contract.
-Team SoBe Suzuki’s Sean Hamblin might be done for the rest of the season. He twisted his knee during the first moto. With Sebastien Tortelli out and Stephane Roncada dropping down to the 125cc class, Suzuki no longer has a healthy 250cc rider.
-Word on the street has Michael Byrne replacing Ezra Lusk on a 250 at Team Chevy Trucks Kawasaki. At this point, it’s unsure where Lusk will land since he’s fallen off the pace since winning the Phoenix Supercross in January.
-Honda’s race team has been playing around with the new CRF250R on the dyno, but apparently no one has really started testing it on the track. The team is expecting to get a half-dozen bikes in the coming weeks, then they will begin testing for its stateside debut.
-Yamaha of Troy’s Ivan Tedesco and Josh Hansen both broke their collarbones this past week. At this point it’s unknown if either will require surgery, such as James Stewart underwent in May, but it is possible they might be back in as little as six or seven weeks.