But we can’t dwell on the negatives. While we may be losing RC, we’re gaining two more top riders this weekend, as AMA Motocross Lites contenders Broc Hepler (Team Yamaha) and Ryan Sipes (SoBe No Fear/Samsung Mobile Honda) are both making their return to racing after taking some time off to heal. So how will they do?
All of Team Yamaha will finally be under the awning this weekend
photo: Paul Buckley
Hepler has been out since late January, when a practice crash on the Yamaha test track resulted in a pretty serious concussion. He’s had over five months to heal, but that’s a long time away from competition. If you recall, last season was similar to this year in the fact that he had to sit out the first three AMA Nationals recovering from an injury. He made his return at Budds Creek, and surprised many when he came out and finished second in Moto 1 behind eventual champion Ryan Villopoto. A sixth in moto 2 was good enough for second overall in his first race back. Later on, he strung together three consecutive Lites overall wins (Millville, Broome-Tioga, Steel City) before the final round of the series at Glen Helen. So how did Hepler fare in his last AMA pro race in San Bernardino? Not as well as one would expect. Hepler went 6-16 for eight overall on a track that he’s traditionally been snake-bit on. Now he’s on a new bike and a new team, so how do you think he’ll do?
Ryan Sipes hopes to have a strong showing on his Honda
photo: Simon Cudby
Ryan Sipes, on the other hand, was injured at the Orlando Supercross on March 17, 2006. His results up to that point was 9-8-9, but a freak crash on the first lap resulted in a broken leg for the Kentucky native, who has had a rash of bad luck since joining the Factory Connection squad. And just like Hepler, Sipes was injured for much of last year’s outdoor nationals, and made his outdoor return at this very same track in 2006, going 8-11 for ninth overall aboard a WBR Suzuki. So how will he do in his first AMA national on a Honda? We’ll see on Sunday.