Photography by Jeff Kardas
Again it was Monster energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto and Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen coming through with first moto wins Saturday in the Lucas Oil Motocross National at Lakewood, Colorado. For Villopoto there was some drama brought on by some mistakes early in the moto, but he gathered it up and eventually pulled away to another convincing win.
It was a lot tougher for Roczen in the 250 class. He built up as much as a six-second lead, but was chased down late by Eli Tomac. It came down to the final lap and Tomac pushed too hard, while Roczen stayed steady to earn the hard-fought victory.
Class rookie Barcia nailed the holeshot on the uphill, sandy, wide open first turn. Being up front early was important with major drama happening in the pack. Chad Reed was among those who fell in the first turn. Dungey cleared in second with Villopoto right behind him in third.
Just as Villopoto made his move past Dungey and closed on Barcia, he got seriously sideway out of a tight turn, somehow kept his Kawasaki on two wheels, but lost his drive and fell back from the leaders.
James Stewart crashed with Jake Weimer and Stewart had a tough time getting his Suzuki re-fired and he ran at the very back of the field. Not long after Justin Brayton was in the pits with some issue.
Up front the top three came together in an exciting set of laps midway through the moto. Just past the halfway point Dungey made the pass on Barcia over a rutted downhill section heavy on the brakes. A lap or so later Villopoto tried to get past Barcia, but overshot a jump in the process and ran off the track, seriously roosting a flagman on his way back to the track.
With a little over eight minutes to go Villopoto found another gear and in rapid succession got past both Barcia and Dungey to take over the lead. He got by Barcia by staying on the gas, running out wide in a turn, while Barcia had to come out of the throttle just a tad because of his tighter line. Then Villopoto was faster over a long, low whoop section and moved in on the inside of the KTM rider to go to the front.
Once out Villopoto did what Villopoto does, and that’s open up a gap on the field. Dungey seemed save in second as did Barcia in third.
A good battle late in the moto developed for fourth between Trey Canard and visiting FIM World Motocross competitor Clement Desalle. Perhaps Desalle had a slight advantage late in the moto owing to the longer FIM races. But Canard dug deep and held off Desalle by three seconds.
At the flag Villopoto had a 10.175-second lead on Dungey. Barcia was a little over 11 seconds further back. Then came Canard and Desalle, followed by Mike Alessi and Tyla Rattray winning out in a tough battle with Josh Grant, Malcolm Stewart and the other FIM rider Kevin Strijbos just inside the top 10. James Stewart and Weimer recovered from their crashes and fought back to 15th and 16th respectively.
Interestingly while most riders turned their fastest laps in the first five, Villopoto’s came on lap 11, a real testimony to his training regime with the legendary Aldon Baker.
“I was second and I almost fell over in the turn,” Villopoto said of his early mistake. “Dungey got around me and it made it kind of tough and I just had to wait. I tried to make some passes, but those guys were riding really well. Then it was time to go and I made two really good passes and was able to get away. The track’s rough and I made some pretty big mistakes out there like jumping off the track, but I’ve just got to try to keep it going for the next moto.”
Dungey seemed encouraged by leading and finishing closer to Villopoto this weekend.
“I wish I could have got around Barcia a little quicker,” Dungey said. “He was riding really good putting a good push at the beginning. Actually Ryan was too, he made a couple of mistakes in the beginning and I was able to capitalize on it, but when Villopoto got by me he was pushing a good pace. We got a little closer and we’ll regroup and get ready for the second one.”
For Barcia it was a good day – a holeshot and leading for half the race. “I think this is where I belong, but I still need to pick it up a little more speed,” Barcia said. “Both Ryans are incredibly fast. I just need to pick it up a little bit in the second moto.”
Zach Osborne earned his first holeshot of the year, but it was Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen pushing hard and taking the early lead in the moto. GEICO Honda teammates Osborne and Tomac battle side by side for second before Osborne took a jump too wide and landed off the track and crashed. He was quickly back up but had dropped to 10th.
That put first round winner Roczen solidly out front ahead of Tomac and Marvin Musquin moving past Jason Anderson to take over third.
Defending champ Blake Baggett had issues and had to work hard to get inside the top 20.
For most of the moto Tomac ran about four seconds back from Roczen and sort of maintained that gap. With about nine minutes to go before the two-lap board Tomac started narrowing the gap. With eight minutes to go he had it down to a 2.5 second gap. Meanwhile rookie sensation Cooper Webb squared off a turn and ruthlessly took away third from Musquin.
A break came for Tomac late when lapper Jackson Richardson occupied the main racing line slowing Roczen down. That set up a showdown for the closing laps.
On the final lap Tomac was right on Roczen’s tail bringing the partisan crowd to its feet, rooting for their homestate hero. In spite of the relentless pressure Roczen never folded. Instead he picked up the pace keeping Tomac at bay. With a few turns to go Tomac threw caution to the wind in an effort to get by Roczen, but unfortunately for him he washed out in a tight right hander and that allowed Roczen to run to the flag free, 2.07 seconds ahead.
Tomac picked up his bike and finished second and Webb, over 43 seconds behind Tomac, held off Musquin for third.
“The lappers were not in a good spot for me,” Roczen said. “I love to win a race like that, in the end battling. I fought to the end and it was good. I'’ super excited to get another 25 points. It’s all about resting up now because we don’t have a lot of time between motos. I hope to do the same thing in the second moto.”
For Tomac there were no regrets that he gave everything he had to get to the front.
“We were down to the last lap literally,” Tomac said. “On the last lap I ended up losing my rear end.I was trying to get as close as I could to Ken before another right hander after that where I thought I might make the pass, but I got a little antsy and tried to make it happen too quick. It was an unfortunate mistake, but it was a good race and good battle and I’m looking forward to moto two.”
For Webb, finishing on the podium this early in the season was a pleasant surprise.
“Honestly I had no idea,” Webb said when asked if he thought he could score a podium so soon. “I was thinking maybe at the end of the season I could get a podium. To do it in my second race is pretty awesome. To come through and pass Marvin was awesome.”
Lakewood Moto1 Results
1 2 Ryan Villopoto Seattle, WA Kawasaki KX 450F
2 1 Ryan Dungey Belle Plaine, MN KTM 450 SX-F
3 51 Justin Barcia Pinetta, FL Honda CRF450R
4 41 Trey Canard Oklahoma City, OK Honda CRF450R
5 925 Clement Desalle Suzuki RMZ 450
6 800 Mike Alessi Canoga Park, CA Suzuki RMZ 450
7 28 Tyla Rattray Wildomar, CA Kawasaki KX 450F
8 33 Josh Grant Corona, CA Yamaha YZ 450F
9 32 Malcolm Stewart Murrieta, Ca Honda CRF450R
10 922 Kevin Strijbos Suzuki RMZ 450
1 94 Ken Roczen Murrieta, CA KTM 250 SX-F
2 17 Eli Tomac Cortez, CO Honda CRF250R
3 175 Cooper Webb Yamaha YZ 250F
4 25 Marvin Musquin Corona, CA KTM 250 SX-F
5 21 Jason Anderson Edgewood, NM Suzuki RMZ 250
6 338 Zach Osborne Honda CRF250R
7 40 Martin Davalos Cairo, GA Kawasaki KX 250F
8 77 Jeremy Martin Millville, MN Yamaha YZ 250F
9 1 Blake Baggett Grand Terrace, CA Kawasaki KX 250F
10 43 Cole Seely Murrieta, CA Honda CRF250R