Villopoto Scores First Moto Win at Hangtown

Larry Lawrence | May 18, 2013
  In the 250 class at Hangtown Red Bull KTMs Ken Roczen scored a strong win to put himself halfway to earning his first AMA Motocross National victory. After battling early  Roczen made his move from third to first and then methodically pulled away.  Kit Palmer photo

Photography by Kit Palmer

If there was any question on who would be the favorite in the outdoors this summer, that question was definitively answered in the first moto at Hangtown. Ryan Villopoto’s return to Lucas Oil Pro Motocross competition was flawless. In his first ride back in the series since 2011, Villopoto took the lead on the first lap and simply walked away on his factory Monster Energy Kawasaki. His margin of victory over the defending champ, Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, was an eye-popping 21.503 seconds. James Stewart finished third on his Yoshimura Suzuki, 19 seconds back to Dungey.

In the 250 class Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen scored a strong win to put himself halfway to earning his first AMA Motocross National victory. After battling early, Roczen made his move from third to first and then methodically pulled away. Second was GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac who had to overcome relentless pressure from defending champ Blake Baggett in the final laps of the moto.

450 Moto 1
Stewart nailed the holeshot and took the early lead, but halfway through the first lap Villopoto squeezed inside on a tight left hander and moved into the lead. Villopoto immediately hit the checkout button on his Kawasaki KX450F and had a 2.5 second lead at the end of the first lap. From there he just pulled away at a rapid pace.

“I got a good start and that made my life real easy,” Villopoto said. “I was right behind James and was able to get around him fairly quickly and just tried to put in some clean laps. I was able to do that. We ran into some lappers pretty bad towards the end there, but everything was working good on the Monster Energy Kawasaki. We’ve done a lot of work in the short amount of time we’ve had. I’m happy with where we are at in the first round.”

Dungey was initially battling for the lead, but chose a wrong line and was pushed back to fourth behind Josh Grant. Dungey charged back though, got back by Grant and then a couple of laps later moved past Stewart and into second. By the time he was clear Dungey was 3.5 seconds behind the leader.

About halfway through the moto early front runner Grant crashed and Justin Brayton was forced to pit with a flat front tire.

A great mid-moto battle shaped up between Dean Wilson, Andrew Short, Malcolm Stewart and Mike Alessi. It was Stewart, 22 minutes into the moto, who made an aggressive move past Short. Stewart was riding as a replacement rider on the Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda team for Christian Craig and with his bigger stature he looks even better on a 450 than he does on the smaller 250 machines. Unfortunately for Stewart’s his bike gave up with two laps to go.

About 25 minutes into the moto Mike Alessi crashed when he ran into the back of Ryan Huffman. About the same time Wilson stalled his bike and lost a bunch of positions, eventually finishing 17th.

Trey Canard made a solid comeback to the series. He beat fast qualifier and fellow Honda rider Justin Barcia in the battle for fourth. The closest race inside the top 10 was between Andrew Short and Jake Weimer. In the end Short held off Weimer for sixth. Ryan Sipes and Tyla Rattray were fairly close in finishing eighth and ninth respectively. Chad Reed battled his way from well back in the pack to finish just inside the top 10 at the end of the moto.

250 Moto 1
Baggett, not known for his great starts, got one in the first moto at Hangtown. He powered his Kawasaki into the lead early, but was being pressured by Marvin Musquin nearly the entire way. On the second lap Musquin made the pass and gradually began to pull away from Baggett.

There was a tremendous battle for third early on with Tomac, Roczen and Cooper Webb. On the third lap Tomac and Roczen both zipped by Baggett, who is still battling a bum right hand and wrist, which does not have full range of motion.

Tomac immediately closed the gap on Musquin bringing Roczen with him. The three then battled for several laps with Baggett staying within range of the leading trio.

Four laps into the moto Roczen made his move. In quick succession he passed both Tomac and then teammate Musquin to take over the lead.

Musquin and Tomac swapped second back and forth a few times with Tomac taking over about halfway through the moto.

At the same time Baggett proved he wasn’t done. His fitness started showing through and he pressured and eventually got by Musquin. Then with about six minutes remaining in the moto he applied constant pressure to Tomac in a battle for second. Baggett drew side by side with Tomac a few times with two to go, but then made one little slip allowing Tomac to open a gap that he held to the finish.

Contender Martin Davalos suffered a hard crash over a jump and staggered off the track holding his wrist as his bike flipped over and over.

Darryn Durham returned from injury to put in a surprisingly solid ride to sixth after he and rookie Webb put on a great show in their battle, which Webb won. Earlier Webb battled and then got away from teammate Jeremy Martin.  Martin finished seventh. Kyle Cunningham, Zach Osborne and Joseph Savatgy rounded out the top ten.

In the end the margin of victory for Roczen was 4.89 seconds. He was happy for the win and looking for more.

“My start was not that great so I had to fight my way through,” Roczen said. “I’m really happy. I made some good passes. I’m really proud of myself. It was a pretty good race and I’m just looking forward to the second moto.”

Interestingly four manufacturers were represented in the top five finishers.

Hangtown 450 Moto1
1 2 Ryan Villopoto Seattle, WA Kawasaki KX 450F
2 1 Ryan Dungey Belle Plaine, MN KTM 450 SX-F F
3 7 James Stewart Jr. Suzuki RMZ 450
4 41 Trey Canard Oklahoma City, OK Honda CRF450R
5 51 Justin Barcia Pinetta, FL Honda CRF450R
6 29 Andrew Short Smithville, TX KTM 450 SX-F
7.12 Jake Weimer Rupert, ID Kawasaki KX 450F
8 35 Ryan Sipes Elizabethtown, KY Suzuki RMZ 450
9 28 Tyla Rattray Wildomar, CA Kawasaki KX 450F
10 22 Chad Reed Dade City, FL Honda CRF450R

Hangtown  250 Moto 1
1 94 Ken Roczen Murrieta, CA KTM 250 SX-F
2 17 Eli Tomac Cortez, CO Honda CRF250R
3 1 Blake Baggett Grand Terrace, CA Kawasaki KX 250F
4 25 Marvin Musquin Corona, CA KTM 250 SX-F
5 175 Cooper Webb Yamaha YZ 250F
6 44 Darryn Durham Butler, PA Kawasaki KX 250F
7 77 Jeremy Martin Millville, MN Yamaha YZ 250F
8 38 Kyle Cunningham Aledo, TX Yamaha YZ 250F
9 338 Zach Osborne Honda CRF250R
10 176 Joseph Savatgy KTM 250 SX-F

Larry Lawrence | Archives Editor

In addition to writing our Archives section on a weekly basis, Lawrence is another who is capable of covering any event we throw his way.