Brett Metcalfe puts some laps in on the Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F at Glen Helen. Photography By Kit Palmer
It was a packed house at Glen Helen Raceway today as this was the second-to-last open practice day before the first round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship gets underway at the SoCal facility on May 24. Nearly all of the major factory teams and racers were on hand to take advantage of the time and to get a chance to do some valuable outdoor testing. The Muscle Milk Honda Team was there with Justin Barcia and Trey Canard, as well has the Monster Energy Kawasaki Team with Jake Weimer and new recruit Brett Metcalfe, who is filling in for Ryan Villopoto this summer. The Yoshimura Team was on hand, as well, with James Stewart putting in some time on the track, as was the Red Bull KTM Team with Ryan Dungey. Yamaha was in near full force with Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb and Anthony Rodriguez; Toyota/JGRMX Yamaha’s Josh Grant, and its new satellite Valli Motorsport/Yamaha Team with Christophe Pourcel. The TLD Honda Team was putting in the work, as well, with Malcolm Stewart, Cole Seely, Shane Mclrath and Jessy Nelson all hammering out the laps. And so were Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson and Darryn Durham.
For Metcalfe, this was just the third day on Villopoto’s factory bike that he’ll be racing. The 2013 Canadian National MX Champion was all prepared to defend his title in Canada in 2014 until he got the phone call last week that Villopoto was indeed out and he was in. The call informing him that he was officially on the team came on his 30th birthday.
“I was so excited to get the call to be on the Monster Energy Kawasaki Team,” Metcalfe said. “It’s a great opportunity for me and to be involved with MX Sports and the AMA Nationals again. It’ll be a big challenge but I’m excited about it. I was looking forward to defending the championship in Canada this year, but this was a last-minute switch up. It’s a bummer for RV to be out, but I’m happy to be coming on with this team.
“I’ve been working hard for something like this, I was going to race Glen Helen on my own, so I’m prepared and ready to go. But right now, I’m just trying to get as many laps as I can on the bike, getting used to the set up they have here and get ready to race.”
Metcalfe says the bike he’ll be riding, Villopoto’s actual bike, is quite a bit different from his own.
“It’s still a Kawasaki so it’s not completely different, but there are some adjustments that are far different than I had on my own bike. I’m adapting to those and finding out where the strengths are for me.
“I’m just so excited to be returning to the series again,” he added. “I did three last year and felt I was pretty successful, and I feel I have a better program and that I am better prepared.”
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s team manager Dan Fahie says that Villopoto is scheduled to undergo surgery on his knee next Tuesday, and they’re hoping he’ll return for the Monster Energy Cup in October.
A few of the pro riders at Glen Helen today are, however, coming back from injury, like Anthony Rodriguez and GEICO Honda’s Zach Bell, who was flying and looked loose and comfortable on the CRF250R.
“I feel pretty good,” said Bell who broke his collarbone early in the Supercross series. “I’ve been on the bike for a couple of months now just getting ready for the outdoors. The Glen Helen track is pretty rough right now. We’re just working on getting through the races and just getting better and better. Overall, I feel great, the bike is good and times are good right now. I just want to be healthy.”
One rider who put in a ton of laps was Dungey, a two-time 450 National Champion.
“We got some outdoor testing done right after the Seattle Supercross, but after Vegas, we’re now able to go full bore and find the good settings,” Dungey said. “It’s kind of nice this year that we have a little extra time to work on stuff and that’s good. Today is good because it kind of gives you a feel what the track is going to be like, and try to ride the track as much as possible. I’m sure the first round is going to be very competitive with all the guys knowing the track. It’ll be good for racing.”
Dungey says that getting the suspension dialed in for the outdoors is high priority.
“It’s mainly suspension — the motor a little bit — you mainly work around the chassis. The motor, with the motos being longer, you don’t want too much [power] on the bottom, you kind of want good bottom power but have a lot of mid-to-top over-rev, just for how long the straights are. If you don’t, you’ll just be shifting gears left and right. You try to broaden the power out a bit. There are some many ways of doing that, changing the ECU, gearing, motor work, cams, porting, all kinds of stuff, nowadays you have more options than you did before.
“You for sure go softer with the suspension compared to Supercross,” Dungey added. “You want something plush and soft with good hold up — you want the hold up and control but not the harshness. It’s work in progress, that’s why everyone is out here. If it was easy, none of the teams would be out here, we’d just be riding everyday, it takes a lot of time and effort to make bikes good and better and make it right.”
As for Pourcel, who will be competing in the 250 class this summer, the former MX2 World Champion (2006) and two-time AMA 250 Supercross Champion (2009 and 2010) slowly got up to speed on the Glen Helen track. The Frenchman studied the track for a while before putting some fast laps together. Pourcel has been practicing on the Yamaha for a few months now but it wasn’t until recently that his Valli Motorsports Yamaha deal became official.
“I’ve talked a couple of times about working with Chris [Pourcel], and this seemed like the perfect opportunity,” said Erik Kehoe the team’s manager and former team manager for Honda. “Everything has been going good, I can see why he has the makings of a champion — he’s got that speed, he’s a smart rider. He’s been riding the Yamaha for quite a while now, long before I came along, and he’s really happy with the equipment.”