Monster Energy Kawasaki Turns Out the Lights in Thunder Valley

July 1, 2008 6:25am

Irvine, Calif. (June 30, 2008) – Monster Energy Kawasaki’s James Stewart made it five-straight overall wins, sweeping both motos under the lights at Thunder Valley just outside of Denver. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider Ryan Villopoto also swept his motocross lites motos, making it four straight overall wins for the 19-year-old.   Both classes made history as the Thunder Valley event was the first AMA Toyota Motocross Championship event run at night.  Stewart’s teammate Timmy Ferry finish sixth overall. In the lites class, Brett Metcalfe rode to a valiant 13th place result, while Austin Stroupe finished 38th.

Monster Energy Kawasaki Under the Tent

On Top Again
Stewart is continuing to have a brilliant season and even racing at night can’t seem to stop him. In both motos, Stewart got off to a good start and worked his way to the front early in each race. Once he was up front, Stewart gapped the field to win each moto comfortably.

“It took me a couple of laps to get used to running under the lights,” said Stewart. “Once I got used to it I just wanted to get good lap times and I was able to get the job done. It always feels good to win. I think with running at night it kept the field a little closer. I think it was a good weekend. Everyone did their best in the conditions. I’ve got to thank the boys and everyone on the team. They’ve been working hard and it’s paying off.”

Nine in a Row
Villopoto’s moto sweep wasn’t as uneventful. In the first moto, he got a good start and took the lead on the first lap. In the second moto, he crossed the line ninth at the end of the first lap and worked his way through the field. Villopoto took the lead with four laps to go, building a 1.5-second cushion by the checkered flag.

“It is definitely easier to start up front,” said Villopoto. “It makes it a lot easier on me, the bike and everything. It’s also cool to come through the pack and show everybody you can do it.”

After coming out of the gate mid-pack, Villopoto’s string on consecutive moto wins looked to be ending at eight. In the first couple of laps, he was able to get up to fourth and by the eighth lap he was running second. Villopoto continued to ride strong, moving right behind the leader and even racing side-by-side for most of the 13th lap. He made his move right before the finish line to take the lead for good.

“The turn before, I got on the outside of (Josh) Grant,” said Villopoto. “He stayed on the outside and had momentum coming down to the next turn. I blew the ruts to go to the inside so I had to go outside and he just came in and took the line away from me. We battled for a little more that lap and I got him right before the finish by going outside and using the momentum to get by.”

Getting it Right
So far the season has gone according to plan for Monster Energy Kawasaki and James Stewart. The 22-year-old rider has won all 10 motos this season, with his Kawasaki KX450F running flawlessly throughout. 

“The bike was pretty good tonight,” said Stewart. “I was better than I thought it might be because of the altitude. My guys have been working hard to make it better. I think our results prove we have a strong team at Kawasaki.”

Altitude Not a Factor
With the Thunder Valley track located a mile above sea level, the thin air made it difficult on both the riders and the bike tuners. With this year’s race being run at night, the cooler temperatures seemed to counteract the effects of the altitude.

“Normally it is hot out and that plays with the bike too,” said Villopoto. “Since we rode at night the altitude was not a factor. Even on us, it wasn’t a factor because it was so cool out it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Top Ten
After getting a slow start in the first moto, Ferry was battling all night trying to get the best finish he could. After coming out of the gate in 22nd, the 33-year-old rider slowly carved his way through the field to finish eighth. In the second moto Ferry got out of the gate much quicker and was able to run in the top-five throughout the moto to finish fifth. With his 8-5 finish, Ferry took home sixth overall and currently sits fourth in the season’s standings.

“The second moto was a lot better than the first,” said Ferry. “I got a much better start and that was the key. It was very difficult to make passes. There was only one line so you couldn’t make any passes stick. The track was smooth to keep the shadows down, but that made it really hard to pass.”

Riding Hurt
While training for the event at Thunder Valley, Metcalfe had a serious crash where he was knocked unconscious and suffered a grade two separation of his right shoulder and a partial strain of his MCL ligament. He sat out Friday practice to receive more treatment and then was ready to ride on Saturday. Metcalfe fought through the pain to finish 15-12 for 13th overall.

“I’ve got mixed feelings,” said Metcalfe. “Waking up this morning I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t expect to be in so much pain. It really shocked me how much it hurt.  I still was able to get through both the motos, which was my goal. I wanted to be in the top 10 and I fell short of that. I gave it my all and that’s all I can ask for. The track was high speed and that was what hurt the most. When I had to brake it was really difficult.”

Not the Same
With the lights on, the Thunder Valley track was a different animal than when it is run during the day. For Ferry, the change took one of his favorite tracks and made it pretty hard to enjoy.

“I love the track at Thunder Valley,” said Ferry.  “I just hope we race it in the daytime. You really couldn’t see. There were lights the were straight into your eyes which made it tough for sure.”

What Could Have Been
Stroupe had a difficult night at Thunder Valley as he crashed in both motos and was unable to keep riding. The 38th place result doesn’t tell the whole story as the 17-year-old was fast through all of the practices and was running in the top three both times he went down.

Tear Off’s
Throughout the motos the riders faced a difficult decision with their goggles. The clear plastic tear off’s they use to keep their vision clear during the race were creating a glare. The riders had to decide if they wanted to battle the glare or the dirt on their lenses with most opting to get rid of the tear off’s and wiping their lenses clean with the hand during the race.