Fans of Monster Energy Supercross can watch the AMA Supercross class race on CBS Sports Sunday at Noon (EST). The AMA Supercross Lites class race will air on SPEED Saturday, March 1 at 6:00 p.m.
As the Western Regional AMA Supercross Lites Championship heads into a break until Seattle, a host of riders have their sites set on removing Villopoto from the number-one position, including Torco Fuels Honda’s Josh Grant, of Riverside, Calif., and Tray Cannard, of Elk City, Okla., Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Branden Jesseman, of New Brighton, Pa., Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Nico Izzi, of St. Clair, Mich., and Yamaha of Troy’s Ryan Morais, of Temecula, Calif.
Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s AMA Supercross class rider David Vuillemin heads to Atlanta with two top-10 finishes under his belt after battling injuries for much of the season. In spite of a crash at last week’s race in Houston, the Frenchman is on the mend and is eager for the upcoming race.
“I am feeling pretty sore and scratched up from my heat race crash in Houston,” admitted Vuillemin. “I just have pain in my neck and road rash on my back, but nothing is broken, and I am good to go for Atlanta. I rode a couple of times this week and also did some testing. I’m excited about Atlanta because I’ve done well there in the past (second in 2000 and 2002), and it’s the biggest crowd of the year. Also, it’s a fun place with awesome dirt -- the track could get pretty rutted with that red Georgia clay!”
For AMA Supercross Lites rider Nico Izzi, the Georgia Dome will be the site of his supercross debut. The 17-year-old rider was one of Suzuki’s most decorated amateur athletes before turning pro during the 2007 AMA Motocross Lites season. In his second-ever AMA Motocross Lites race at Steel City, he finished an amazing fifth overall. He also finished 10th at Millville and ninth at Glen Helen.
“I’m not really that nervous about Atlanta this weekend,” said Izzi. “I feel ready. I’ve been training really hard, I feel healthy, and I’m looking forward to getting out there and racing. I’ve had a lot of time on the Rockstar Makita Suzuki RM-Z250 and the bike is great -- I don’t think you could get much better.”
Meanwhile, Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Michael Byrne will be on-site at the Atlanta race, since the Georgia Dome is the home track for the displaced Australian. While stateside, Byrne makes his home in Newnan, Georgia, which is where he’s been recovering from ACL/NCL/meniscus repair on his left leg.
“Obviously I’d rather be racing at the Georgia Dome,” said Byrne, who injured his leg last December. “I think the Atlanta event is an awesome race because the house is always packed. I think we had 70,000 people last year. It’s great just because of the crowd and the atmosphere.”
Finally, Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Mike Alessi is still recovering from breaking his right collarbone in San Diego and will not race at Atlanta. He hopes to be back in time for the Dallas Supercross in April.
Both riders have adapted extremely well to their new KTM 250 SX-F machines in the past few months and are excited to test the waters in their first AMA Supercross Lites race aboard the orange bikes. “I love the power and the way the bike handles. The bikes are so fast, and I felt comfortable since day one,” remarked Goerke on his new factory ride. His teammate Sipes agrees that the power the KTM puts out is truly its most remarkable quality.
In addition, both riders also share similar goals for the season. Sipes intends to get out front early in order to stay up front through the end. “Atlanta was good to me last year. I held third right up to the end when a last minute crash set me back. But I know I can run up front and that is where I plan to be,” commented the Kentucky native. Goerke, whose training was halted a few weeks back due to a sprained ankle, says he will be 100% for the opener. “I’ve been training hard and aim to stay consistent within the top three throughout the season. I feel my speed is there and I’d like to win.”
Furthermore, both MDK KTM Lites riders will be joined by MDK KTM Factory rider Martin Davalos. The veteran of the KTM teams, Davalos expects nothing short of a win. “I have been training all winter long for this season and feel I am at the top of my game.” He continued, “I feel it is time to put a KTM on the top of the podium, and I would like to be the one to do that.”
Although the Lites race looks to be action-packed, MDK KTM Factory rider Nick Wey also hopes to make a splash on the scene by shooting for his fifth-consecutive top 10 finish of the season in the AMA Supercross class.
“I have remained consistent the past few races and intend to remain well inside the top 10 as we head to Atlanta and the remainder of the races on the east coast.” Wey has been busy training out on the west coast but looks forward to returning to the east, where he still resides part time. “I can’t wait for the second half of the season where my family and hometown friends can come out and support me and the rest of the KTM team.”
On the strength of three straight podium finishes, Monster Energy® Kawasaki’s Timmy Ferry is firmly entrenched in the third spot in championship standings. After a strong run during the west coast part of the season Ferry, of Dade City, Fla., is looking to racing on the softer dirt back east.
“Atlanta is a really good track,” said Ferry. “I know James designed it, and you would expect a lot of big jumps but really it looks like it will be pretty technical, which is how I like it. We’ve been close to getting that win, and I know we can do it. I’m just going to keep riding hard.”
Ferry’s teammate Travis Preston comes to Atlanta ready to ride. After finishing 20th last week in Houston, the 30-year-old rider is ready to get back on track. Preston is still concentrating on getting as many laps as he can on his Kawasaki ™450F.
“I’m just working on my starts and endurance,” said Preston. “Last week I only raced four laps in the main event before the spokes on my wheel broke, so I’m not sure how much I’ve progressed. We had a really good heat race so hopefully we can avoid the bad luck this week and get a good finish.”
In the AMA Supercross Lites class, Villopoto is making his east coast debut. The two-time AMA Motocross Lites champion will be a rookie of sorts as he learns the new venues.
“I haven’t run on the east before,” said Villopoto. “I know the dirt is softer, which is like my track in California. So that’s good; I’ve been riding there and healing up from my off-season surgeries. I’m just ready to get back to racing.”
Though Villopoto may be new to the east, his Monster Energy®/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki teammate Branden Jesseman knows the tracks well, after winning the 2003 AMA Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Championship.
“It feels good to ride with such a great team,” said Jesseman. “It should be a good year and I’m looking forward to racing with Ryan.”
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s James Stewart will also be at the event in Atlanta. Though he won’t be riding because he is still recovering from knee surgery, he will be around signing autographs and talking about his track design.
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