The 2008 AMA Toyota Motocross Championship Series is officially underway following today’s practice and timed qualifying sessions for tomorrow’s big race at Glen Helen Raceway.
The weekend’s festivities, however, got off to a very wet start when heavy rains pounded the track early Friday morning, leaving small rivers running through the paddock and all around the facility. The track quickly turned into a quagmire for the amateur racers, and motos were reduced to just one.
Saturday was again cold and cloudy but the rains stayed away, so far (and it looks as though it will for the rest of the weekend, which will probably remain cloudy). Track crews did an excellent job making the track rideable for today’s practice. In some lower sections of the hilly course, where some of the amateur bike the day before met their demise in the thick goop, layers of deep mud were simply scooped up, put in dump trucks and hauled away, leaving the track in rather good shape.
Many riders were making their return to the track after spending all or most of the Supercross series sidelined with injuries, including Honda Red Bull’s Ben Townley and Ivan Tedesco, and Makita/Rockstar Suzuki’s Michael Byrne and Mike Alessi. Of course, the most anxiously awaited return was that of Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s James Stewart who is back on the bike again after having reconstructive knee surgery just four months ago. But this didn’t seem to slow him down any.
Except for one small crash in the first practice session, Stewart looked very good and very fast. In the first combined 450-class practice session, Stewart was a full second faster than the next-quickest rider, Honda Red Bull’s Andrew Short. Stewart’s best time around the long and fast track was two minutes and 42.278 seconds. Short, who looked aggressive on his Honda, turned in a 2:43.294. Third fastest was Alessi with a 2:44.135, followed by Jeff Alessi, Tim Ferry, Steve Boniface, Cody Cooper, Byrne, Millsaps and Tedesco, who were all in the second session with slightly better (drier) track conditions.
Townley was 31st quickest, but he’s not riding at 100 percent. Townley recently crashed while practicing at home and is riding with a sore shoulder and wrist.
In the Lites class, West Lites Supercross Champion, Boost Mobile/Yamaha of Troy’s Jason Lawrence came out swinging, posting the quickest time with a 2:44.053. Next quickest was Monster/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto who checked in with a best-lap time of 2:45.150. Third quickest was Villopoto’s teammate Austin Stroupe, followed by Makita/Rockstar Suzuki’s Nico Izzi, East Lites SX Champion, Trey Canard and Ryan Dungey.
All the riders came out for a second, timed qualifying session, but only the non-seeded riders’ times are documented, though, according to Team Kawasaki, Stewart again had the quickest times in the MX-class. In the two timed qualifiers, a total of 24 riders made it into tomorrow’s National, including the 10 seeded riders from last year’s final standings. Those who did not make it in today, while try again in the consolation sessions tomorrow. Some of those who will be riding for the remaining six positions, include Charles Summey, Chris Blose, Kyle Lewis, Ryan Clark and Michael Blose in the MX class, and Tyler Bowers and Phillip Nicoletti in the MX Lites class.
There was some actual racing action on the day in the two-stroke only exhibition race that paid a couple of thousand dollars to the winner. Over 30 riders participated and former World and National Motocross Champion Greg Albertyn, riding a Suzuki RM250, took the win over Phil Lawrence.