The 2003 U.S. Open was the last time Ricky Carmichael raced a supercross, and after a full year away from it, he was more than ready to see if he had lost any speed in the discipline he had once owned before Chad Reed rose to the top. Although Reed won the ’04 championship with RC on the sidelines, the Australian had displayed his speed by beating Carmichael in six rounds of the 2003 season. As if taking an unwanted hiatus weren’t enough, RC had been riding his new Suzuki RM250 for only about two weeks before the Open and had just eight days of testing under his belt aboard his new bike with his new team. With all the hype surrounding these two riders, the race that used to be about the money was now about their getting into each other’s head going into round 1 of the AMA supercross series January 8 at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium.250-Class Surprises
We all knew the U.S. Open would be the “Ricky and Chad Show” as the two have something to prove to each other in supercross. They both showed they have speed, but in Friday night’s racing, Reed looked a bit more polished in taking the win. RC actually let Reed by for the lead a few laps into the race and cruised to an easy second place for the night. Saturday night was a different story; RC had a commanding lead over Reed when the Aussie washed out and went down. He quickly picked himself up and resumed in second place, 8 seconds behind a charging Carmichael. With the laps winding down, RC began to experience clutch problems and fell in a tight corner, surrendering the lead to Reed. After the fall, Carmichael’s night turned even worse as his RM250 stopped running due to a fried clutch.We used the U.S. Open for testing. We tried a few things Friday night that didn’t work, so we made some big changes to the bike for Saturday’s race and the bike was much better. I felt faster, but I had some problems and was forced to pull out. Motorcycles are mechanical, and things are going to break from time to time; I just feel really bad for the whole team. Everyone is trying hard and it was a letdown, but we are still in our early stages of testing so these things are more than likely to happen,” Carmichael philosophized.The 2004 Open also marked the return of Mike LaRocco. After racing only one outdoor event this season and opting to take some vacation time this summer, LaRocco struggled a bit both nights but admitted to being out of shape. “I’m not in shape right now and I have a lot of work to get done in the next few months. I’m off Ricky’s and Chad’s pace, so this weekend was kind of embarrassing for me; but I now know what I need to do,” LaRocco said.After falling victim to a shortage of factory rides, Nick Wey put in one of the best performances of his life. Riding an MDK Motorsports Honda CR250R, Wey was consistent all weekend and had a handful of factory riders covered. “I just started riding my new CR a week before the race. I like the bike and am really happy this MDK Motorsports deal came together. I learned a ton about testing last year racing for Suzuki, and I’m using that knowledge to help me with my new deal. I really have to thank Pro Circuit, MB1, MSR and MDK Motorsports for getting me here. I’m just happy to be racing motorcycles; it’s what I love to do,” Wey said.125-Class Surprises
Over the last few years the Factory Connection Honda team has come on super-strong, with a crew of riders consistently running up front. The 2004 U.S. Open marked the supercross debut for the team’s newest members, Tommy Hahn and Josh Grant. As Grant did at his first National, Hahn made a name for himself at the Open. He charged hard both nights, riding with pure aggression and making no real mistakes. Hahn went 2-3 for a third overall; look for him to be a front-runner in 2005.Troy Adams put his Kawasaki on the second spot on the podium with a 3-2. The WBR Kawasaki rider rode smart all weekend and showed he could be a top contender in 2005. Adams will be leaving the WBR team and will be heading over to the Samsung Radio Shack Honda team for the 2005 season.The biggest surprise of the weekend was the strong performance of veteran Greg Schnell. GS won both of his heat races and smoked everyone in both mains, basically going unchallenged all weekend. He hopes to carry his momentum over to the 2005 supercross season, and if he continues to ride like this, he will no doubt be a threat for a title.The upsets of the weekend came from Davi Millsaps and Grant. Both riders struggled, not qualifying at Saturday night’s main events. Millsaps injured himself when he crashed out of the main while leading on Friday night. Grant also had a problem staying on two wheels, but both riders showed some speed and will be in the mix when the 2005 season rolls around.A Small Preview
The 2004 U.S. Open offered only a glimpse of what the 2005 supercross season will bring. Without a doubt, Ricky Carmichael and Chad Reed will be front-runners, but will James “Bubba” Stewart be the spoiler? One thing is for sure, both RC and Reed are thinking about Bubba and know he is more than a threat. And you can’t count out Kevin Windham, either. If he brings his A game, he can run with anyone. With Bubba out of the 125 class, the series is up for grabs. Look for Ivan Tedesco to be up front with his fresh No. 1 plate. A slew of new riders are also ready to take a shot at the big time, but at the same time veterans such as Grant Langston will be back, healthy and ready to win! For the first time in a few years, both classes are wide open, competitive and loaded with talent. The 2005 supercross season should go down in the history books as one of the best.