Story and photos by Shan Moore.
With the series winding down, Ryan Villopoto and Eli Tomac helped their championship hopes with big wins at one of the most iconic racetracks on the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross circuit. With just two races remaining on the schedule, both Villopoto and Tomac are on track to claim titles in their respective divisions.
Ryan Villopoto had about as good a day as you could have at a national motocross. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider dominated practice; he grabbed both holeshots and he led every lap of the two motos to take the overall win at Unadilla. He was absolutely untouchable! After his worst performance of the year two weeks before at Millville, Villopoto came into New York with a new bike setup and a couple of suspension changes that the team made over the break. This, according to RV, was the difference in his performance, but you can’t rule out the fact that Villopoto looked as relaxed and as comfortable on track as he’s been all year. In the end, the Kawi rider sped off to huge leads in both motos, finishing moto one with a 20 second margin over Ryan Dungey, and then backing that performance up with a 12-second margin of victory over Justin Barcia in moto two. “We struggled at Millville because our settings were off a bit, so we spent the week off working on that and came in here with some new stuff and that made a big difference,” said Villopoto. “Perhaps my highlight of the day was getting the two holeshots, I haven’t done that all year. I was able to get two clean starts and get out front, and that’s huge.”
Justin Barcia got huge support from the crowd as the local favorite rode to second overall with a 4-2 moto tally. The Team Muscle Milk Honda rider was impressive in moto two in particular, despite finishing a good distance behind Villopoto. Barcia stood for almost an hour after the race outside his semi signing autographs for his fans. Still looking for an outdoor win, Barcia talked about the work he has ahead of him. “I’m still learning and getting stronger,” Barcia admitted. “The two Ryans are killing it out there and I’m still learning the 450, but I feel I’m getting better with each race and I just have to keep going for it.”
Ryan Dungey had a solid race in moto one, finishing second to Villopoto and beating James Stewart to the line by almost seven seconds. The Red Bull KTM rider seemed to struggle in the second moto, however, after getting off to a poor start. Dungey battled with Josh Grant for most of the first half of the race, and then once around Grant, Dungey was not able to get around Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer for third. The end result was a 2-4 performance for third overall. “Today was one of my tougher days, sometimes things just don’t click,” said Dungey. “We really fought it in practice today, and it was tough. We had some new stuff to try coming in here, and you really shouldn’t be testing on the day of a race but we wanted to try it. I just didn’t have anything for Villopoto in that first moto; he was on such a roll. And then in the second moto, I didn’t get such a great start and just kind of fought things and had problems moving up.”
Josh Grant had one of his best races of the season, going 5-5 for fifth overall. The JGRMX/Toyota Yamaha rider actually crashed with two laps to go in the second moto and suffered a deep gash in his arm, but still recovered with a solid finish. “The second moto, I started just inside the top 10 and moved up behind Metcalfe on the first lap and I got around him on the second lap,” said Grant. “I ended up running just ahead of Dungey for seven or eighth laps, and he ended up getting by me about halfway into the race. Dungey got into a battle with Jake Weimer after that, which let me catch back up to both of them. I made a mistake, though, with two laps top go and fell down and cut my arm. Luckily I had a big enough lead on Metcalfe that I could hold on to take fifth.”
Despite suffering a practice crash during the week leading up to the Unadilla race and coming into the race with a sore neck, James Stewart put in a solid ride in moto one to finish third behind Villopoto and Dungey, although he admitted later that his neck and shoulders tightened up near the end of the race. In the second moto, however, Stewart crashed on the opening lap and landed on his head, which aggravated his neck injury. At that point, the Yoshimura rider elected to call it a day.
At this point, Eli Tomac is definitely on a roll in the 250 class. The GEICO Honda rider got poor starts in both motos (he was eighth after the start of moto one), but still managed to work his way to massive leads in each race. It’s going to be interesting to see Tomac on a 450 next year, because at this point he is simply the cream of the crop in the quarter liter class.
Jeremy Martin is starting to make a name for himself in the 250 class. The MyPlash/Star Racing Yamaha rider went 2-3 for second overall and looked like he belonged there all the while! “I finally found out what I was doing wrong at the start of the season, I wasn’t breathing,” said Martin. “Once I corrected that, I was able to turn things around this season.”
This year, the Unadilla promoters decided to make a few changes to the historic Unadilla course, which may have upset a few of the Unadilla traditionalists. One of the iconic turns of the track – perhaps one of the most photographed turns in the sport – was taken out and a new giant “wall” berm turn was added in next to the gravity cavity area. Most of the riders praised the changes. “I think it made the track made the track flow a lot better instead of having that chicane, which kind of forced everyone into single file going through there,” said Josh Grant. “It just kind of opened up the track, which was good.” On the other hand, local rider Justin Barcia regretted the fact that the old “Apple tree” turn was taken out. “I don’t know, that old turn was pretty cool, it was a good section,” said Barcia. “I think I would have liked to keep the track the same, but it ended up being a good”
1. Ryan Villopoto (Kaw) 1-1
2. Justin Barcia (Hon) 4-2
3. Ryan Dungey (KTM) 2-4
4. Jake Weimer (Kaw) 9-3
5. Josh Grant (Yam) 5-5
6. Andrew Short (KTM) 6-7
7. Brett Metcalfe (Kaw) 10-6
8. Broc Tickle (Suz) 8-8
9. Justin Brayton (Yam) 7-13
10. Phil Nicoletti (Yam) 13-9
1. Eli Tomac (Hon) 1-1
2. Jeremy Martin (Yam) 2-3
3. Ken Roczen (KTM) 5-2
4. Zach Osborne (Hon) 3-6
5. Blake Baggett (Kaw) 4-5
6. Justin Bogle (Hon) 10-4
7. Wil Hahn (Hon) 6-8
8. Marvin Musquin (KTM) 8-9
9. Cole Seely (Hon) 9-10
10. Martin Davalos (Kaw) 13-7