Racers Gear Up For Hangtown

Kit Palmer | May 20, 2011

The opening round of the Lucas Oil Motocross Championship is officially underway and, just like last year, it all got started with a press conference and meet-and-greet on the steps of the California State Capitol Building in downtown Sacramento.Some of the top stars of the sport attended the press conference, including defending 450-class champion Ryan Dungey, new Supercross champ Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed, Brett Metcalfe, Mike Alessi, Christophe Pourcel, Andrew Short, Kevin Windham and even Trey Canard, who won’t be able to race tomorrow as he is still recovering from a broken leg he sustained while preparing for the outdoors.

Jessica Patterson and Ashley Fiolek of the Women’s Motocross Championship were on hand, as well.Most of the riders said they were looking forward to getting the National series started but wished they had a bit more time to prepare and test their outdoor bikes, especially the riders like Villopoto, Dungey and Reed who were all in title contention for the AMA Supercross Championship right up to the very last race just two weekends ago.Kevin Windham had almost zero time getting ready. Windham, who will step in for the injured Josh Grant and Canard on the factory Honda team, has had little time to get ready after injuring his spleen at the Vegas Supercross. It was just a few days ago that he officially announced that he would indeed ride the opening round Rockstar Energy Hangtown National and has little time to prepare. However, Windham said that he’s feeling good and anxious to race tomorrow. Right now, he plans on racing until Grant and Canard returns, but will reevaluate the situation if he’s in championship contention at the time of their return.

Speaking of Grant, he just got the okay from his doctor to start riding again, but he probably won’t be able to race for at least another four weeks. Grant had major knee surgery early in the Supercross series.Christophe Pourcel showed up in his new MotoConcepts Yamaha gear and said he’s ready to go, too. Pourcel, who nearly won the 250cc outdoor title twice, hasn’t raced since injuring his shoulder at the final National round last year at Pala. Pourcel says he enjoys racing the 450 much better than the 250.Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Brett Metcalfe is back following an injury that took him out for much of the Supercross series. In fact, he’s been ready to race since before the end of the Supercross series but decided to wait and focus all of his attention on the upcoming outdoor championship.

Red Bull KTM’s Mike Alessi says he’s 100 percent ready to go after suffering a hard get-off that prevented him from riding last weekend’s U.S. GP at Glen Helen. Alessi is fired up now that he is riding the larger-capacity KTM 450. Last year, Alessi made his 350cc debut at Hangtown and rode well but never had the same success the rest of the series.A few well-known riders won’t be racing, however, such as San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart who says he and the team just aren’t “ready” to race the outdoors yet, which means his teammate Kyle Regal won’t be racing either.Muscle Milk/Toyota/JGR Yamaha’s Justin Brayton is out with an ankle injury, and Dodge Powersports/Hart & Huntington Kawasaki’s Ivan Tedesco will miss the entire series after recently having had knee surgery.After the conference, the riders who attended the media day were rewarded by getting a chance to take a few laps around the Hangtown track, which sees a few modified sections this year, such as the finish-line jump being moved to a new location on the track, near the first turn. At 6:30 p.m., the riders were given 30 minutes of free-time on the rough track, which was hammered by a long day of amateur racing.

Weather in Sacramento can’t be much better. It’s clear and warm, and the forecast for tomorrow’s race is pretty much the same but a little cooler. Right now, there is no threat of rain.The first round of motos will be televised live on FUEL TV at 4:00 p.m. EST. The 450 class will get underway first, with the gate scheduled to drop at 1:10 p.m.

Ryan Villopoto looked fast and in controlChad Reed won here last year and is hoping to do the same.Ryan Dungey hopes to retain the number one.Kevin Windham says he’s feeling good after his Vegas crash.Reed knows the Hangtown track well, his first race here was in 2002.This will be Villopoto’s first outdoor race since 2009.Christophe Pourcel looked good on his Pirelli-shod Yamaha.Villopoto and team discuss bike settings.Starts will be important tomorrow – Villopoto made a lot of practice runs.Mike Alessi looked very fast on the KTM 450.Alessi discusses suspension set-up.Brett Metcalfe is healed up and fired up to race again.Andrew Short says he thinks the 350 KTM should work well on the rough Hangtown track.




Kit Palmer | Off-Road Editor

Kit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes every since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.