It was a weird and wonderful night at the Fairplex at Pomona, especially for two-stroke fans or anyone who loved motocross in the 90s. The Red Bull Straight Rhythm went full retro in its fifth annual running, dusting off the expansion chambers and breaking out the premix for the two-stroke-only race. Some former heroes came out, with Ryan Dungey and Ryan Villopoto headlining the event, but in the end it was Shane McElrath who stole the show and came away with the trophy (a ratio-rite spray-painted gold).
The Ryans, Dungey and Villopoto, joined the TLD KTM rider on the overall podium, with Dungey taking second place after a close showdown with McElrath. RV rounded out the podium following a showdown between him and Jordon Smith.
“Racing Ryan (Dungey) was kinda crazy,” McElrath said. “I didn’t really know what to think about it but I felt I could give him a run. I thought, ‘alright he’s going to be really good, but I have to be better if I’m going to do this.’”
In a best-of-three duel, it came down to the third race between Dungey and McElrath for the overall. “By the third race I knew I had to do something,” said McElrath. “It was do or die. I was wanting to go all the way with it. It was crazy to come across the finish line ahead.”
In the 125 class (allowing up to 150cc), it was Carson Brown who emerged victorious aboard his Jensen-built JMC Husqvarna TC 125, besting AJ Catanzaro in the final bracket for the overall win. Luke Renzland rounded out the podium after beating Chase Marquier.
“It was craziness, the whole day from start to finish,” said Brown. “I got first position on qualifying. I was like, ‘Oh man,’ I wasn’t really expecting that. Kept the momentum rolling through the whole night show and it was just so much fun. 125s, all two-strokes, just pinning ‘em, finding big rhythm with your buddies, I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that!”
Catanzaro and Renzland both showed up to Red Bull Straight Rhythm in full dress, each paying homage to their heroes. AJ Catanzaro ran a number 259 on his Kawasaki KX125 and rocked hot pink and zebra print gear complete with a “Bubbalicious” butt patch in a nod to James Stewart. Luke Renzland went Jeremy McGrath circa 1991 with his full Team Peak guise, running the number 125 on his Yamaha YZ125 and full retro gear.
The crowd on hand was treated to some incredibly close duels, many of them ending so close that even the riders didn’t immediately know who won. In some of the photo finishes, riders were within knobs of each other at the line. TLD KTM teammates Shane McElrath and Jordon Smith were absolute mirror images as they blitzed down the course side by side with only their helmets (and numbers) to distinguish them. In other matches, the lead went back and forth only to draw to a virtual near-tie at the end.
“I feel like every one of my finishes was a photo finish!” Catanzaro said with a laugh. “And you can’t tell. When you’re in the moment, you think you win it… you don’t know. I think it was three or four times I crossed the finish line and I didn’t know if I won or not.”
It was a disappointing night for some of the anticipated star players of the 2018 Red Bull Straight Rhythm, including defending two-stroke champion Gared Steinke and the infamous Ronnie Mac.
Steinke (Stank Dog), who graced the cover of the “Cycle News” event program, crashed out of the event when he got out of shape in the whoops, lost control and managed to front flip himself over the finish-line jump. Steinke walked away from the crash, but was done for the night, having reportedly injured his elbow in the crash.
As for Ronnie Mac, the elusive character apparently had some mechanical issues with his 1998 Honda CR250 “Screamin’ Eagle” and was unable to qualify for the race. Other reports simply say the party in the pits was a little strong…
Look for the full report coming in Cycle News issue 42.
250 Class Results
- Shane McElrath (KTM)
- Ryan Dungey (KTM)
- Ryan Villopoto (Yam)
125 Class Results
- Carson Brown (Hus)
- AJ Catanzaro (Kaw)
- Luke Renzland (Yam)
Click here to watch the Red Bull Straight Rhythm Finals.