The 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season got off to a roaring start at Angel Stadium this weekend, as perhaps the strongest field in supercross history filled the starting grid in this year’s 450 class. Not to be outdone, the 250 class was pretty deep as well.
And while the 250 class played out pretty much as expected, with defending champ Eli Tomac taking the win over last year’s East Coast 250 runner-up, Ken Roczen, the 450 class produced a surprise winner in Davi Millsaps.
It’s no wonder Millsaps flew in under the radar. His last 450-class supercross win came at the San Diego round of the 2010 season. And the three-year period that followed was filled with multiple injuries and two team changes. Furthermore, many wrote the Georgia rider off when last year he signed with Rockstar Energy Suzuki, a squad that some perceive as one of the “B” teams.
However, in front of a rowdy sellout crowd, Millsaps battled tooth and nail with factory Honda’s Trey Canard throughout an exciting 20-lap main event, making a determined pass on the final lap to pick up the third win of his career. Millsaps looked every bit as solid and graceful on his new Suzuki as any one of the five top riders picked beforehand to win this race. And his gutsy, last-lap pass was an impressive one.
“It was definitely a fun race, me and Trey were right there the whole time,” said Millsaps. “I got off in the lead and then when he passed me I stuck right with him. Then I found a couple of good lines that I hadn’t seen before and that’s how I got him in the end. There were two main lines before the double that was before the whoops. Those ruts were ridiculously deep, but to the very inside there was a nice one. So he took the main rut and messed up a bit and I took the inside one and I had a better drive and I just pinned it through the whoops as fast as I could go.”
Canard’s story is even more impressive. The redheaded Oklahoman is returning from a broken back he suffered in last years series. Before that, he came back from a broken arm and two broken legs (at different times), and each time he came back even stronger. Could 2013 be the year Canard finishes out a full year without injury?
In any case, Canard took a very popular second place finish, but he could have just as easily won A1 ahead of Millsaps had he not “locked up” with two laps to go. In the end, both riders pulled away from third place finisher Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey.
“I’m really at a loss of words,” said Canard. “I didn’t know if this would ever be possible again, and I’m just thankful to be here. I felt like the first 15 laps I really just tried to find a good groove and hang in there. And then I was planning on charging the last five. I started charging and I just got to the last two laps and I just locked up. I was thinking, ‘don’t mess up, don’t mess up.’ And I wasn’t focused on riding. But this is a win here for me tonight.”
Ryan Dungey rounded out the podium, the Red Bull KTM rider making his usual consistent ride behind the two front-runners.
Dungey kept Millsaps and Canard within striking distance for most of the race, but a bobble with four laps to go dropped him a few seconds behind.
“I got a decent start, I was up there in the top five, and those first 15 laps we were all bunched up there at the front,” said Dungey. “Everybody’s riding really good and we were playing cat and mouse with each other, and then I ended up making a mistake and fell down and Barcia got me, but then he made a mistake and I was able to get on the podium. I think this first race we wanted to see where everybody was at and just try to make it out if here healthy and with no major mistakes. And I think we did that. Overall, I think we’re in pretty good shape going forward.”
Dungey was running a new shock on his KTM that Roger DeCoster confirmed was an “air shock” although he would not give any further details. Dungey did say that the new shock “felt good.’ “It’s still in the early stages,” Dungey continued. “The guys over at WP did a great job on it, but it’s still young and we’ve still got a lot to try and I think that shock has a lot of promise.”
The Ryan Villopoto that showed up for the main event couldn’t have been the same Ryan Villopoto that scratched his way through the pack after a bad start in his heat race to almost nip Muscle Milk Honda’s Justin Barcia at the finish line.
Villopoto got off to a bad start in the main, and from there things just went down hill for the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider. RV1 was working on passing JGRMX Yamaha’s Josh Grant when Grant took him to the tufblocks and Villopoto went off the track. A few laps later, Villopoto crashed with Broc Tickle before the giant “sky jump”. Another crash later in the race convinced the defending champ to cut his losses and settle for 16th.
According to team officials, Villopoto suffered no injuries on the night and will be ready to go next week in Phoenix.
After setting the fastest qualifying time in practice, James Stewart finished the day only slightly better than Villopoto, finishing eighth, just behind Barcia.
In defense of Stewart, the Yoshimura Suzuki rider tweaked his right knee on the last lap of qualifying and had to skip the opening ceremonies while he iced down his swollen knee. There was some speculation that Stewart might not make the evening program, but when his heat race lined up, number seven was ready to go.
In the main event, Stewart got off to a mid-pack start and was never able to work his way up higher than eighth.
Justin Barcia put in a spectacular ride in his heat race, stealing the lead from hole-shotter Mike Alessi and then turning up the after burners in an attempt to keep Villopoto from catching him. Barcia just barely did, crossing the line just feet ahead of the Kawi rider.
Eli Tomac capitalized on a great start to take the win in the 250 class, beating Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen by just over six seconds. Tomac took over the lead on the first lap of the race when TLD Honda’s Jessy Nelson cart wheeled out of the lead just after the first turn. From there, Tomac ran a fast and steady pace as he methodically pulled away from Roczen.
“This is the way I wanted to start the season,” said Tomac. “After the heat race, I was scratching my head, wondering what I was doing wrong. But that’s what happens when you don’t get a good start. In the main, I got a good start.”
Ken Roczen was spectacular while winning his heat race, but couldn’t handle the pace that Eli Tomac set in the early stages of the 250 race. Roczen committed a few mistakes, which didn’t help his cause, but the former MX2 champ leaves A1 in good shape for Phoenix.
“I had a good jump but then I hit neutral when I shifted, so I was back aways on the start,” said Roczen. “I moved up pretty quick when all those guys went down after the first turn, though. I rode around behind Tomac for a while and then I cased the quad and hurt my wrist. Other than that, I think I’m in good position, I just need to keep working hard.”