By Shan Moore
Ryan Villopoto and Jason Anderson take big wins at round four of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series in Oakland, California, and leave Oakland with the points leads in their respective classes.
Ryan Villopoto had a near-perfect night in Oakland, leading all 20 laps of the main event to claim his second win of the season. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider credited a tacky track and new suspension settings for his performance.
“We made some more changes to the bike and it’s a lot more stable and I can corner it better now and it goes through the whoops a lot better,” said Villopoto. “We’ve kind of been changing it since Anaheim 1. Kind of like we did last year, we’re just running through things, I feel like we were a ways off at Anaheim 1, so we’re working on it during the week, and I think we’re kind of getting comfortable on the bike and getting to where I can ride it the way we want to.”
“The biggest thing was the track,” added Villopoto. “The track was good enough that we could really push the bikes and push the track to its limit. When you have a track like Anaheim last weekend, you pretty much tip-toe around it and try not to fall down. It’s hard to race that track; smoother and slower is faster. But here we could ride it hard and see a difference.”
With the win, Villopoto picked up the red number plate again and leads the series standings by seven points over Chad Reed.
James Stewart was finally healthy and over the cold that has been nagging him since Anaheim 1. In Oakland, Stewart showed he has the speed to compete for the win and will only get faster as the series goes on. He also proved he has matured by one of his statements after the race. “The difference in me this year and me a few years ago is I honestly don’t care if I don’t win a race this year as long as I win the championship,” said Stewart. “When I’m out there racing, I’m managing where I’m at. I’m managing my situation; I’m managing points, and all that. I know I still have that “James Stewart” speed, and I know I have the fitness, and when I’m in the zone I feel like I’m going to be tough to beat,” said Stewart.
For Chad Reed, the quad jump on the straight after the first turn was the turning point in the race – James Stewart jumped it consistently, and Reed did not. According to Reed, that gave Stewart the edge and enabled the Suzuki rider to beat Reed. “That quad drove me nuts all day,” said Reed. “I was frustrated with it; I’m not normally one that comes out and jumps things before anyone else. I felt like it was do-able, but no one else was doing it. I was thinking am I just being crazy, I didn’t want to try something that maybe wasn’t do-able. But I heard that Wil Hahn did it in the heat race and I pretty much told myself to just sack up and try it. I did it the second lap and kind of scared myself; it was bigger than I thought. I did it maybe four or five times, and I knew it was a lot faster, but I think I just rushed it. I wasn’t getting it clean and then I just got frustrated with it.”
You might have noticed that this year Reed is running the air forks that he struggled so much with last year. Reed says he is happy with them this year. The reason, he says, is his new bike. “I think the difference this year is the bike I’m riding now,” said Reed. “I struggled with the forks last year, but they haven’t been an issue since I started riding the Kawi. The settings I’m using this year are very similar to what I ran last year, but the Kawasaki doesn’t put a lot of weight on the front, so I think you can run the kind of settings that are consistent with everyone else’s. With all the other Japanese bikes, they all put a lot of weight on the front end, so you have to compensate and make the front a lot stiffer. So I think the benefits of the fork go away when they are so stiff. So I’m glad we can run it with this bike because there are benefits to that fork. Overall, it was just something I wasn’t comfortable with last year, but this year it’s been great.”
Jason Anderson was just as surprised as anyone when Dean Wilson’s bike stalled over a jump, giving Anderson the chance to take the lead and the win. It marked the third race in four that the Rockstar Energy Racing KTM rider has come from behind on the final lap to take the win.
“I was in shock when I saw he didn’t jump that jump,” said Anderson. “I actually wondered if he was a lapper because he was going so slow. I didn’t know what was going on, for sure. Like I said, you have to be in the right place at the right time.
“I can’t believe I keep pulling it off, but three wins in four races is just amazing. I got a couple of points taken away from me last weekend, but I’m back on top of the standings and I’m ready to put it on the line for the rest of the season and get that number one plate.”
Dean Wilson looked to be back on form as he is back to manualing bumps and looks to have his whoop speed back. He’s one of the few riders that do not seat bounce jumps out of corners, which is hard to do considering he’s a tall lanky guy. You watch Wilson and Jason Anderson, they both accelerate out of corners while trying to stand to soak up the triple. Impressive. Dean’s bike problems robbed him of his victory tonight. Justin Hill was really aggressive even with his teammate Wilson in corners. He also has an aggressive riding style like Anderson.
Josh Hill broke his collarbone when he crashed in his heat race while trying to switch up his lanes at the last minute before the dual lane portion of the track. The RCH Racing Soaring Eagle Suzuki rider was running in the top 10 at the time after turning in the 11th faster qualifying time during practice. “I felt great all day, and had the speed I needed. I just made a mistake in the heat coming through the pack,” said Hill. “I’m not in too much pain. More than anything, I’m just frustrated that will have to miss a couple of races.”
Oakland SX Notes
• The total entries for 450 and 250 have gone down tremendously for 2014. The 250 class has a total of 44 entries and the 450 class has 47. That is pretty weak considering the AMA Arenacross Series has over 70 each weekend.
• Chad Reed mention after the race that one of the things he’s struggling with is at home during practice. “The biggest thing I’m struggling with is I’m just not able to replicate the conditions we are getting at the track at home on my practice track,” said Reed. “The things I’m struggling with at the races, I work on them at home and we think we’ve got it fixed and we get to the races and it’s really different. At this point you just have to trust your years and just get through this west coast swing and then I think the tracks will come to us.”
• RCH Soaring Eagle Suzuki’s Broc Tickle pulled out of the race after his heat race, due to a jammed wrist that was the result of an incident with Justin Barcia. “I got off to a decent start in my heat and felt the best I have all night,” said Tickle. “Barcia knocked Weimer down in a berm in front of me and I got on the gas to try and miss his bike, but I clipped it and crashed. I sprained my left wrist and my pointer finger. It swelled up really quickly, so we made a decision as a team to pull out on racing tonight. The last two weeks have been tough. Last week’s crash set me back this week. I did therapy every day and rode a little Thursday. I was sore, but I knew I could come to Oakland and get through it. Practice was tough today and it showed. My ribs are really sore but with each practice session I started feeling better and I knew adrenaline would help me push through it in the races. I’m really bummed and I want to be out there battling. I want to be at 100% and be where I was before my crash last week physically. Going to get therapy this week and do anything I can to get back to 100%.”
1. Ryan Villopoto (Kaw)
2. James Stewart (Suz)
3. Chad Reed (Kaw)
4. Ryan Dungey (KTM)
5. Justin Brayton (Yam)
6. Ken Roczen (KTM)
7. Justin Barcia (Hon)
8. Wil Hahn (Hon)
9. Jake Weimer (Kaw)
10. Andrew Short (KTM)
1. Jason Anderson (KTM)
2. Dean Wilson (Kaw)
3. Justin Hill (Kaw)
4. Cole Seely (Hon)
5. Zach Osborne (Hon)
6. Michael Leib (Hon)
7. Jessy Nelson (Hon)
8. Shane McElrath (Hon)
9. Cooper Webb (Yam)
10. Dean Ferris (KTM)