Welcome to Weekly Dirt, your place on the Internet for off-road news from around the world! This week we look back at the St. Louis SX, and look forward to Daytona, a Kyle Chisholm update, a report from the Big 6 GP and a look ahead to this weekend’s San Felipe 250.
Good dirt seems to equal good racing, and the St. Louis round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series offered plenty of both! We had great racing in each of the divisions and a monumental championship battle is shaping up in both classes.
In the 450 class, Ryan Villopoto, by virtue of his latest win and a sixth-place outing by Davi Millsaps, has narrowed the gap that Millsaps holds in the series points lead to 12 points. Not nearly the safe cushion that Millsaps held one week before. With eight rounds remaining, Millsaps can’t afford to finish off the podium too many more times. Of course, James Stewart has a chance to play spoiler. The Yoshimura Suzuki rider is riding well enough to win a lot of the remaining races, and any time he can finish ahead of Villopoto he is helping Millsaps’ cause. On the other hand, if Villopoto wins and Stewart finishes between the two riders, then he’s helping Villopoto. However, none of that matters if Millsaps goes out and wins races. It’s going to be an interesting second half of the series.
As for this weekend’s race at Daytona, we have another “good dirt” situation, and I happen to think these are going to favor Villopoto, who likes to ride loose with the rear wheel. Stewart won there last year in the mud, but Daytona is a brutal race and I’m not sure if Stewart has enough seat time so far to be totally ready for that kind of racetrack. You can’t overlook Chad Reed or Millsaps at that track either. Millsaps is a big, physical kid, and in St. Louis, Reedy was looking like we all expected him to look at the start of the season. The rumor is that Reed has gone back to his 2012 settings. I don’t know it that’s true, but I do know he’s spent the first half of the season trying a lot of different things and he told me flat out in San Diego that he was questioning his choice for forks at that point. I assume he meant he wished he had stayed with last year’s fork instead of the new “air fork”.
In the 250 class, two-straight wins by Wil Hahn has given the GEICO Honda rider a one-point lead in the standings. Like he did the week before, Hahn got off to a great start in St. Louis, while rival Dean Wilson was stuck mid-pack after the first turn. Wilson managed to run down Hahn and actually made a pass on lap 12, but he couldn’t make it stick, as Hahn went to take another win. Hahn has the wind at his back now, along with a lot of confidence, which sometimes is the biggest single factor in sports. Just like in the 450 class, it’s gonna be fun watching this championship battle work itself out.
On another note, I had the opportunity to visit JGRMX yesterday in North Carolina and I spoke with team manager Jeremy Albrecht about Kyle Chisholm, who took the nasty crash at St. Louis which brought out the red flag. According to Albrecht, Chisholm had a thorough check up yesterday and he has a clean break of the left fibula and a sprained right ankle. The doctors also did an MRI on his left knee but that test hasn’t come back yet. Kyle has had a lot of injuries over the years and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Charlie Mullins had more than his share of problems in 2012, from freak mechanical issues, to injuries. In short, the KTM factory rider fell way short of his potential.
This year, Mullins seems to have the world by the tail, at least after two rounds of the Rekluse AMA National Enduro Series. One of his biggest problems last year was an issue with his rear brakes heating up. Riding a beastly 450F in tight woods, chances are Mullins was using his rear brakes a lot more than usual just to keep the big bike in between the trees on the ultra tight enduro trail. This year, he’s riding the smaller, and more manageable 350 XC-F, and according to Mullins, it’s a perfect fit. Mullins won his 2010 enduro title on a YZ450F, and for sure, he likes the four-stroke power in the woods. However, the 350 gives him just the right amount of power, plus, he says it “handles a lot lighter” than the 450. Could be a deadly combination for the competition. —Shan Moore
2013 Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250
San Felipe, 120-miles south of the U.S. Border, is the first stop of the 2013 SCORE Race Series along the peninsula in Baja California, Mexico. According to race officials there are approximately 250 entries from 23 states, 11 countries participating in the 254-mile loop race. Pre-running for all classes started Friday, Feb. 22 and will be allowed up until the night before the race.
Class 22 is the premiere class among the motorcycle racers at the San Felipe 250. This class includes Pro riders such as Colton Udall, Kurt Caselli, Timmy Weigand, Mike Brown, Robby Bell, Baja newcomer Toby Price and many more. The bikes start at 6am and will start 30 seconds apart from next bike. Last year, it was KTM’s Kurt Caselli who took the San Felipe 250 win, followed by JCR Honda’s Colton Udall. More info on http://www.score-international.com —Lindsey Lovell
Pit stops make the difference as Weigand rolls to another Big 6 GP win
Newer is not always better. That seemed to be one of the lessons learned at the Vince Gongora Memorial/39th Annual Prairie Dogs Grand Prix at Glen Helen Raceway Park, round two of the AMA District 37 Big 6 Grand Prix Series.
The AMA West Coast Grand Prix Series feature race was another Johnny Campbell Racing Honda runaway, with Timmy Weigand holding off Colton Udall for the second round in a row.
But each rider’s approach was different.
Weigand utilized his tried-and-true 2012 CRF450X while Udall employed the 2013 CRF450R. “I wanted to ride the ’13 because I feel really comfortable on it compared to my last year’s bike,” Udall said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a [larger capacity] tank for it yet so I pulled the 15-year-old Acerbis dry-breaks out for the stock tank.”
Resigned to having to make two pit stops to fill the smaller MX tank, Udall set out gamely, knowing his teammate needed only one stop so getting out front and putting time on him was Udall’s only hope to win.
But Weigand jumped out to the early lead and ran fast enough to make Udall’s job impossible, though he stayed within a few seconds for the entire hour and a half, and grabbed the lead briefly when Weigand finally had to pit for fuel.
That didn’t last long, of course, because the next lap found Udall in the pits a second time with Weigand storming past and taking the lead for good to make it two wins in a row. Precision Concepts Kawasaki’s Justin Seeds finished a solitary third in his first Big 6 race as a Pro.
The next stop for the JCR Honda crew, of course, is the San Felipe 250 and after that, expect the team to spend more time getting the 2013 CRF450R dialed in–and, they hope, fitted with a long-awaited bigger tank. As Weigand put it, “I just need to test on the bike a little bit before I feel comfortable racing it. I’ve just been riding my ‘X because it’s the same as last year, I’m comfortable on it. But after San Felipe, we’re going to test the ’13 more so then I’ll be on one next round, hopefully.”
In other JCR Honda team news, Campbell revealed he’s now attracted Rock Star energy drink as a major sponsor. In addition, the team has a letter of intent to sign from Colton Haaker.
“What?” you might ask. “Is JCR trying to turn Colton Haaker into a Baja racer?”
No. JCR Honda is expanding its reach by venturing into the EnduroCross arena and X Games. As of now, Campbell says Haaker is leaning toward utilizing the 450R instead of a 250.
And finally, though some sources north of the border shared a rumor that Red Bull’s Kendall Norman has signed with KTM North America, KTM Off-road Racing Manager Antti Kallonen insists that is “false info” at this time. Norman himself said it was merely a rumor when he responded late yesterday via text and said, “That is not true. Not sure why I’m not there, but it’s OK. I have put my own team together [for San Felipe] and recruited Ryan Abbatoye to be my second rider. Should be interesting.”
That’s an understatement. Not only will JCR Honda have the THR Motorsports/Monster Energy/Precision Concepts Kawasaki (Robby Bell, Steve Hengeveld and David Pearson) and two FMF/KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team duos (Kurt Caselli/Ivan Ramirez and Mike Brown/Toby Price) to contend with, the privateer Abbatoye/Norman pairing could certainly shake things up as well. —Mark Kariya
That’s all for this week, be sure to check in next week for more news from the off-road world.