Suzuki City OTSFF Rockstar wrapped up the Lites East series in style in front of the 48,698 Supercross fans who jammed the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis April 19. Jimmy Albertson, Justin ‘Pooh’ Sipes, Willy Browning and Kyle Gills hammered their Suzuki RM-Z250Fs around what many considered to be the best Supercross track of the season.
Team Manager Michael Nasakaitis was very happy with the event, but was especially proud of his rider’s performance under the lights Saturday night. “St Louis was awesome!” he exclaimed.
“The only way it could have been better is if everyone had made the main event. All of our guys rode really smart and we had two guys in the main! Willy and Kyle both should have been in there too but they got into some run-in’s and bad luck that kept them back. Speed-wise they were on it! Everyone was pumped on the layout of the track and really enjoyed it.” Albertson was stoked about the St. Louis track as well, saying “The track was really fun and I enjoyed it a lot. It had lots of cool rhythm sections and wound through the stadium a bit and did some different turns…it was just a really fun race track!” Browning thinks it was the best track of the year, and was happy with his Suzuki City RM-Z250F that he says “…was working great, really great actually!”
In timed practice Albertson ended up 13th with Sipes a couple spots back in 15th and Browning and Gills clocking in at 27th and 31st respectively. That good practice result didn’t come easily for Albertson, who went down hard after a collision with another rider. “In my first practice I got involved in a wreck,” he explains. “I came over a blind step-up…they didn’t have the flaggers out yet and I landed right on someone’s bike. I was feeling fine after that, just a little sore but not sore enough to make me ride badly.” Browning had his own struggles, saying “I went down in both of my qualifiers. There was a first turn pile-up, then I tried to stuff my way past someone and bent the shifter under my bike and it stuck in neutral and I fell over.”
All four Suzuki City OTSFF Rockstar riders made the night program, and through some quirk of fate all ended up in the same heat race. Sipes ran strong until a tiny mistake knocked him back a position. He tells “I was running sixth the whole moto but on the last lap, but the race was pretty clean up to that point.” Albertson was obviously riding great but was not feeling great about it. “I didn’t get a really good jump off the gate in my heat, about a tenth place start, and then got bumped a bit in the first turn,” he says. “I passed a few guys and got into a good qualifying position. I should have passed a few more guys…whatever, I made it to the main but I just don’t feel like I was riding all that well for some reason. It was just one turning into one of those ‘off’ weekends.”
That ‘off’ ride was enough to earn him eighth, right behind his teammate! Gills was in the top 10 until, like Sipes, a little mistake knocked him back out of a direct transfer position. Gills describes “In my heat race I was in ninth right up to the white flag when I got cleaned out by the guy in tenth.” Laughing, he says “He took advantage of it but took himself out at the same time! I was riding really well and the bike is feeling great and I feel very comfortable on it. I was right behind my teammates Sipes and Albertson until that guy came in and us both out.” Browning was right behind Gills at the finish line after his crash filled moto. “In my heat race I went down twice!” Browning says. “Both times I went down I ended up dead last. I went from Last to 12 and then back to last again. Oh man I was working hard but I just had such bad luck! That sucked because this was my favorite track of the year and I felt good!”
For Gills and Browning the pressure was on in the LCQ. For a while it seemed that either one of them might make the main. “I was about 10th and battled the whole time and ended up sixth by the last lap,” Gills says. “I was gaining ground. Then my teammate Willy Browning was battling with another rider in front of me and they got tangled up and he went down and I moved into sixth.” Browning’s fall knocked him back to 14th, unfortunate since he had made such a great charge after getting a terrible start. For the two riders the Supercross series was over but both are excited about the future. “This track was really fun and the dirt was really good,” says Gills. “I enjoyed it and that’s what it’s all about. The bike was the best it’s ever been and this was the best racing I’ve done all year. I mean, I know I’ve made two mains before and I missed the main this weekend but really I was riding better in St Louis than I have all year long. I just had a little bit of bad luck but feel like I rode well. Now I just have to put my head down and train hard and get ready for racing outdoors in California. It’s funny all winter long you can’t wait to race outdoors, then all summer you’re itching to get back inside and race Supercross!” Nasakaitis agrees that Gills was riding great in St. Louis, saying “Gills has progressed so much in the past few weeks. If it wasn’t for a little bobble in the whoops he’d have made the main event. This is the best he’s ridden all season!”
For Browning the outdoor series will be like a fresh start. “I was just getting bad starts in St. Louis, which seem to be the story of my life lately, but things will change when I get outdoors. I’m excited about the outdoor season and I’m definitely ready!”
Albertson lined up for the Main event focused but still not feeling quite right. “I figured I could turn it around in the main but just couldn’t shake it,” he explains. “I was botching turns and stuff. I knew what I was doing but I just couldn’t get into a groove and pass people. I need to get to a point where I can ride in the main like I do in practice before the outdoor season starts.” Albertson rode well and finished 14th, just in front of his teammate Sipes. “I got a bad start but then passed a couple guys and just stayed there with Jimmy in front of me,” tells Sipes. “We stayed about the same, me not gaining on him and him not pulling away, for about 12 or 13 laps until the leaders started passing me. I didn’t want to screw with the championship so I let them by.”
For Albertson, his finish netted him enough season points to go to the East/West Shootout at the Las Vegas Supercross May 3. Excited about Vegas and the future outdoor series, Albertson laughs “I didn’t feel like I rode very well this weekend but I made it to the main and survived, so it wasn’t all horrible! I gained more experience and finished the season with enough points to go to the shootout in Las Vegas next month. I like riding outdoors and I know this is a big goal but I’d like to make top-10. I know I can do some damage for sure. I’m pretty much done practicing Supercross, at least after Vegas, but I can’t wait to get outdoors. I’m excited about what’s coming up, it should be really fun!” For the rest of the team, it’s time to get ready for the outdoor series now. “Albertson is going to Vegas,” plans Nasakaitis. “Sipes has the points to go but he really wants to focus on getting the RM-Z450F ready to go for the outdoor series. We were late getting the 450s and are a little behind in testing them. He knows how important it is to get the 450s dialed in before we head out to California. We’re glad to come out of the season with everyone healthy and ready to go racing outdoors this season with no injuries. Jimmy rode really smart and fast this weekend but didn’t push it and risk messing up Vegas. It’s just a matter of getting the boys on their outdoor bikes now and getting our testing done.” For Sipes, that means getting back to Kentucky and pounding laps. “I’m heading home to ride and train for the outdoor season. It’s hard to get a fast enough bike for the outdoor series but I’m sure we will and I’m looking forward to it! My goals are top 10s for now, but maybe I’ll step that up as the season progresses. Last year I got some top 12s and top 15s and stuff, so I know this season will be really good!”
Helping Suzuki City OTSFF Rockstar make their mark are team sponsors Rockstar Energy drink, RG3 Biloxi, Answer, Suzuki Genuine Accessories, Wiseco, Boyesen, Crew Wear, American Suzuki, Millsaps Training Facility, Suzuki Auto, PR2, Hindle, Alpinestars, K&N, Works Connection, Factory Effex, VP Race Fuels, www.suzukionly.com, Sunstar, Pirelli, Pro Taper, Braking, Dragon, and CV4.
For more information on team Suzuki City OTSFF Rockstar, please contact:
Suzuki City Inc, Biloxi, MS
or visit them online at www.racelikearockstar.com