Monster Energy Supercross Update: Atlanta

CORONA, Calif. – Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto, competing in his freshman year in the premier SX class of 2009 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, recorded his third podium of the season, this past weekend racing to a 3rd place finish at Atlanta and moving past rival Josh Grant into 4th place in the overall SX class standings, 126-120.
And in ESX Lites class racing at the packed Georgia Dome it was Monster Energy’s Christophe Pourcel, who took advantage of his teammate Austin Stroupe’s mistake midway through the contest, who would take the top spot on the podium. Pourcel is now 2-0 in ESX class action this year.
Beginning with the SX class, Villopoto let it be known early that he was planning another run at a top three position, in which two of the spots week after week have pretty much been a given (Stewart & Reed). The Poulsbo, Wash., native took control of the unique red Georgia clay track with multiple deep sand sections mixed in and put up the third-fastest time in the SX class’ pro practice session, clocking an impressive 49.609-second best lap.
Villopoto then carried that momentum into the first heat race – which was stacked with Monster Energy talent including Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Tim Ferry, Josh Hill (Yamaha) and Boost Mobile/ampm/Monster Energy/Troy Racing’s Nick Wey – and topped Grant for 2nd place in the first heat. Noteworthy: While Hill (4th) and Ferry (6th) would transfer to the main from the first heat, Wey (13th) would have to catch his transfer to the main via the LCQ, where he finished 2nd.
When the gate dropped on the main Villopoto steered his Pro Circuit-tuned Monster Energy KX450F clear of trouble, coming out of the first turn in 4th place then quickly dispensed of Suzuki factory racer, Mike Alessi. It would take a couple laps, but Villopoto would then reel in, track, and eventually pass Yamaha factory racer Broc Hepler to put himself into 2nd place behind Stewart. Running in 2nd place at the halfway point of the contest, Villopoto was passed by Reed – then got Reed right back on the face of the finish line jump. And while Reed would eventually get past Villopoto for 2nd, the young Monster Energy/Kawasaki racer would hold off a field of the veteran talent – the world’s best supercross racers – to take 3rd place.
“It’s been a descent season so far,” said Villopoto. “I’ve got a few podiums and that’s what I’m looking for.”
It should also be noted that Hill made an impressive charge to get back into the top ten late in the race, finishing 9th – one spot behind Ferry (8th). A bit of poetic justice for Hill in that he failed to qualify for the main two weeks ago in San Diego. Wey would finish 15th to round out the Monster Energy SX class racers.
With nearly 70,000 fans in attendance, the amplitude level was at a premium when the gate dropped on the first main event – round two of the ESX Lites championship. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Stroupe and Pourcel were easily the two favorites to top the podium as they put up the day’s fastest lap times in practice and swept the first two Lites heat races – Stroupe winning heat one and Pourcel winning heat two.
In the Atlanta Lites main event Stroupe pulled the holeshot, with Pourcel in 2nd place, then opened up an early lead, thanks in part to a blistering 49.7 lap time early in the contest. Things seemed to be going smoothly and all signs pointed to a 1-2 Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki finish when Stroupe made a mistake in rut on lap nine (of 15) and stalled his KX250F. It took a moment for Stroupe to get the bike restarted, and once he did he found himself back in 8th place. That was all the room Pourcel would need as he went on to record the victory – his second in as many ESX races this season.
“It was a mistake (by Stroupe) and I was pleased to cash in, but my bike was very fast and it wasn’t easy on that track,” said Pourcel. Note: Stroupe would place 7th.
Next up for the Monster Energy-backed supercross racers is this weekend’s inaugural race at Indianapolis’ new Lucas Oil Stadium (Feb. 28).
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