It was a weekend of firsts at the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship opener held at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California. It was the first motocross national held on a Saturday, the first race of the first series to be run by MX Sports and the first race won by Ryan Villopoto in the 450 class. It was also his first start on a 450 outdoors.
Another first was Chad Reed racing his first national in a while and while he wasn’t probably happy with his finish, I thought it was a great showing by the 22. He came from way back in the first moto to track down some great riders and the second go around showed that he’s just a smidge off right now. And a smidge probably isn’t too bad for the late starting Reedy.
To say that the field was wide open wouldn’t be quite correct, but for the first time since 1999 there wasn’t a clear favorite at the start of the series. When forty riders rocketed fifth gear wide open around the banked first turn to start the day (450 first – yet another first!) it was Mike Alessi taking control of the race and at least we saw something that we were familiar with.
That didn’t last long though, and Josh Grant grabbed the lead after a bottomless rut grabbed the 800 and the race was on. Villopoto stalked Grant the whole race and you never really got the sense that RV was going to let this win go, he seemed to be biding his time like a killer shark swimming around the seal. He made the pass late, proving the “He needs time to adjust to riding a 450” crowd right. He did need some time. Like nine laps.
There was a sense of calmness about Ryan on the podium afterwards and when he mentioned that Mike started right behind him after getting out of the rut and that he had pulled him, well that put a bit of frosting on the win – and started the mental games.
The second moto saw Ryan get the kind of start that costs people motos, and of course, Mike Alessi got the holeshot. It was a sixteen second lead for Mike at one point before RV got on his horse and gobbled up those sixteen seconds like he was Pac-Man and the seconds were pellets.
We know what happened, the Kawasaki rider got the Suzuki rider and that was it. Ryan made a statement that if Mike couldn’t hold a lead here at The Helen, well it just might be a long summer of Mike chasing another Kawasaki rider around.