The race was over before it really started. Many expected Josh Grant to be the main competition for Ryan Villopoto—he won three Lites SX mains last year in the East to RV51’s single win out West—but Josh’s frightening practice crash (think RC at St. Louis last year) left him with a bruised lung. He tried to go, riding hard for second in the first heat, but he could hardly breathe on the whole last lap. With such an injury, it’s way better to be safe than sorry.
That left French import Christophe Pourcel and Red Bull KTM’s Josh Hansen to lead the challenge. Pourcel was highly impressive in his U.S. SX debut, finishing much better than even the great Jean-Michel Bayle did in his debut back in 1989, where he watched most of the main from a hay bale after crashing on lap one. Pourcel’s effort was reminiscent of Mickael Pichon’s surprise win at the ’94 San Diego 125cc SX: Mickael was just testing the waters before heading home to France, then came back to win two titles here.
Hansen, however, couldn’t hold the pace. He’s been out of action for a while, and while he looked fast, his mid-race fade does not bode well in the face of Villopoto’s smooth speed and confidence.
And what about J-Law? The biggest surprise to many was Jason Lawrence, who overcame a mid-pack start and worked his way up to the second podium of his SX career. Lawrence was strong throughout, and he just might start living up to the high expectations many have for him (and his thanking former team manager Dave Osterman on the podium was pretty cool).
But for now, the most likely challenge to Villopoto will come from Josh Grant, as soon as he’s healthy again. Otherwise, it could be a long winter out West for the rest of the 250F class.