Daytona Beach, Fla. (March 10, 2008) – Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider Ryan Villopoto battled a deluge of rain and a deteriorating race track to earn his second-straight podium in the AMA Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Class. Villopoto never ran lower than his runner-up position on his way to the podium. His teammate Branden Jesseman failed to qualify for the main event. In the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM Championship, Travis Preston got stuck in the mud twice before finishing 14th.
Kawasaki Under the Tent
Making a Charge
Villopoto’s run to second place was hard fought. He battled torrential rains and a race track that began wet and eventually flooded, causing all the riders to roll most of the obstacles rather than jumping them. In his heat race, Villopoto raced to the holeshot and drove away from the field to earn his second heat win in as many races.
“By far these were the worst conditions I’ve ever raced in,” said Villopoto. “It was a matter of survival. You just try and make it around the track and hopefully your bike stays running. I started getting close to the leader, but then I went down.”
The treacherous track conditions began at the starting gate for Jesseman. In both his heat race and the last chance qualifier, the former champion over-spun the rear tire in the swamp-like conditions on the grass at the starting gate. From there it was a battle with limited visibility to try and salvage a transfer spot.
“It is the same track for everyone,” said Jesseman. “I just got a bad start and when you get a bad start, vision is a problem and you make a little mistake. Then you only have a couple of laps to make it up and there just isn’t enough time. In the last chance race, I got another bad start and then another rider got into the back of me and by the time we untangled it was too late.”
Racing in the final event of the night, Preston faced a flooded track from the start. Twice during the shortened main event, Preston had to pull his bike out of the deep mud after getting stuck and finished the night in 14th.
“That was the worst mud race I’ve ever ridden in,” said Preston. “I seriously think I would have been better off on a Kawasaki Jet Ski® 800 SX-R™, it was that bad. You couldn’t see the ruts or even the ground. It was just water everywhere you went. I would go into holes and water would just come over the entire front end of the bike. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
One of the most important pieces of gear the riders wear is their goggles, and on a night like the one in Daytona they become even more important. With all of the mud and rain, visibility was a major problem. After not being able to clean his goggles on the first lap of his heat race, Jesseman took them off.
“I actually took my goggles off after the first lap,” said Jesseman. “It was really tough to see then because you get mud in your eyes and even when your eyes are open you can’t see because it is so blurry.”
With the Daytona supercross being the home race for both James Stewart and Timmy Ferry, it was a full-house in the Monster Energy Kawasaki transporter. Even though the riders weren’t at Daytona to race, both Stewart and Ferry came up from their homes to sign autographs at Kawasaki’s Consumer Events Display in front of Daytona International Speedway.
Preston did his best to avoid boredom during the afternoon by watching “American Gangster” on DVD. Preston brings his own movies to each event to help him relax, but the crew also brings their favorite flicks to give him some variety.
Not Just Rain Showers
When the team took delivery on its new transporter, a shower for the riders was one of the new features that paid dividends in Daytona. After Preston qualified for the main event from his heat race, he was able to shower off the mud and freshen up before the main event. At the starting gate. Preston was clean and sporting fresh gear. Of course, that didn’t last long.