Despite a slight bobble on lap five of the 20-lap main event, James Stewart came on strong to take an impressive win at the opening round of the 2006-2007 Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross Series held at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, tonight.
Stewart, who won last year’s opener, as well, easily won his heat race and then passed Chad Reed to take the lead in the final, only to fall on the fifth lap of the race and relinquish the lead to defending series champion Ricky Carmichael. However, the Kawasaki-mounted Stewart was just too fast on the rough and technical course and re-passed the Suzuki-mounted Carmichael before pulling away to an easy victory.
“I have never felt this good on a motorcycle,” Stewart said on the podium. “After the Canada races, it kind of woke me up. I went back and really put some hard laps into it and I am really excited about going to Phoenix next week and see what happens.”
Stewart was consistently the fastest rider all night long on the Anaheim course, which included a long and rough set of whoops and a difficult sand section, and his only sign of weakness came when his front wheel slid out from under him while landing from a jump. However, he was quickly up and back around Carmichael and went on to finish the race with plenty of cushion.
A capacity crowd of over 45,000 people attended the race to see if Carmichael could close out his illustrious career with a win at A1, a race-win that has eluded him over the years, and the Makita Suzuki rider was easily quick enough to get the job done, however, in the end, he seemed content to finish behind the flying Stewart.
“I was just a little bit off the whole night,” Carmichael said. “He could exit his turns a little bit earlier and I would come on the inside and I’d be too far out coming out. So I was just looking for a mistake on his part at that point. I was just a little bit over the edge.”
Reed turned in a gritty performance to claim the final podium position on the night. After injuring his collar bone in a practice crash less than a week ago, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians-backed Yamaha rider grabbed the holeshot and led the opening lap, before giving way to Stewart and Carmichael.
“It hurts like hell, but come Vegas I think I will thank myself for riding tonight,” Reed said. “I wouldn’t do this for any other reason than my will and my want to win a championship. It’s a shame (to have the injury) because I think I had something for them this weekend. I don’t think I have ever so happy to get third.”
Fourth place went to Sobe/Samsung Mobile/Honda’s Travis Preston, who held off a late charge by Team Kawasaki’s Tim Ferry and MDK/Honda’s David Vuillemin for the position.
Another rider who was riding the Anaheim race in pain was Makita Suzuki’s Ivan Tedesco, who is still recovering from the hand injury he received in Toronto. Tedesco grabbed the holeshot in his heat race, but backed off the pace after coming up short on a jump. In the main, “Hot Sauce” started the race inside the top 10, but ended it in 14th positon.
In the Lites division, Ryan Villopoto proved his was worthy of all the hype by putting his Monster Energy Kawasaki on top of the box after taking a run-away win over teammate Christophe Pourcel.
Pourcel, the defending MX2 World Champion, grabbed the holeshot at the start of the main event and led the 20-rider field before Villopoto found his way around on lap two. Once Villopoto took the lead, Pourcel rode a smooth and steady race to finish second ahead of Yamaha of Troy’s Jason Lawrence.
Perhaps the best battle of the race was for fourth place between KTM’s Josh Hansen and Sobe/Samsung Mobile/Honda’s Jake Weimer. Hansen held the early advantage after getting a great start, but Weimer found his way around at the midway point and the two riders went back and forth until Hansen finally claimed the position at the finish.
Sobe/Samsung Mobile/Honda’s Josh Grant, who was considered one of the favorites to claim the west coast Lites title, crashed hard in practice and was checked out by the medical staff. He rode his heat race and qualified for the main event, but was a no-show when the main event gate dropped.
1. James Stewart (Kaw)
2. Ricky Carmichael (Suz)
3. Chad Reed (Yam)
4. Travis Preston (Hon)
5. Tim Ferry (Kaw)
6. David Vuillemin (Hon)
7. Nick Wey (Hon)
8. Heath Voss (Hon)
9. Kevin Windham (Hon)
10. Michael Byrne (Suz)
1. Ryan Villopoto (Kaw)
2. Christophe Pourcel (Kaw)
3. Jason Lawrence (Yam)
4. Josh Hansen (KTM)
5. Jake Weimer (Hon)
6. Troy Adams (Suz)
7. Mathew Lemoine (Yam)
8. Chris Gosselaar (Kaw)
9. Kyle Chisholm (Kaw)
10. Justin Keeney (Kaw)