SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The highly anticipated Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship made its season premiere last weekend with a memorable South Point Hotel & Casino Motocross National from Glen Helen Raceway. Monster Energy Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto became just the third rider in history to win his 450 Class debut, overcoming rivals Mike Alessi and Josh Grant in addition to Chad Reed to capture his first motocross victory in the big class.
A deeply talented field of 250 Class competitors lived up to expectations as a handful of riders battled bar-to-bar for the overall win. In the end, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki's Ryan Dungey stood atop the podium while GEICO Powersports Honda's Justin Barcia turned heads in his professional debut, leading the most laps.
The Women's Class of the Lucas Oil Motocross Championship also made its first appearance as part of the race day schedule with Honda Red Bull Racing's Ashley Fiolek sweeping both motos to garner her first win as a factory-backed competitor.
This weekend, the series makes its annual trip to Northern California for the legendary Hangtown Motocross ClassicTM. 2009 marks the 41st year of the event and after running the course in the opposite direction last season, it makes its return to the traditional layout that has been the site of so many memorable moments throughout the years.
To add to the excitement of Saturday's race, the Hangtown Motocross ClassicTM will mark the first of six races to be broadcast live in 2009. SPEED will carry the coverage with Jason Weigandt, David Bailey and Erin Bates beginning at 9 p.m. ET. A live video feed of the first motos in each of the three classes can be seen streaming live on the internet at www.allisports.com beginning at 1 p.m. local time on the West Coast.
Villopoto carried his late-season supercross momentum into the outdoor season. After suffering from starts deep inside the top 10, Villopoto showed signs of the proven motocross champion that he is. Working his way through a highly talented field, Villopoto overcame considerable deficits in each moto to take the pair of victories. As a two-time Hangtown winner in the 250 Class, he will look for more of the same this weekend.
"I just want to get as many points as I can before the first break," said Villopoto. "Riding in the 450 class is tough and my goal is to win the championship. The best way to do that is to get as many points as I can during every moto. I'm going to keep riding hard and try and stay on top of the points after Hangtown."
"I know I'm not back to 100 percent yet," stated Ferry. ""It is tough trying to get better and still race, but that is what I want to do. I'm making progress every day and I'm going to stick with it and try and get some good finishes this weekend."
Mike Alessi kicked off the season with a pair of strong rides aboard his Rockstar/Makita Suzuki. The holeshot expert grabbed the top spot on the opening lap of both motos, but suffered heartbreak in each when he lost the lead. Despite coming up short in his bid for victory, Alessi brought home a runner-up finish to start the season off strong.
"Hangtown is a good track for me," said Alessi. "We won there in 2006 - both motos. I like that track a lot and I think it'll be good for the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki RM-Z450. So this weekend, we'll go there and do the best we can and hopefully get the win."
Chad Reed's return to the motocross scene was also promising. Even though he just missed out on the overall podium in fourth, he showed that despite missing a couple seasons, he still has and knows what it takes to get the job done outdoors.
"I'm looking forward to Hangtown," stated Reed. "It's a track that's been difficult in that I've had some good races there, but some bad results. So I'm kind of looking forward to going there next week. I believe it's backwards from the last time I raced. In fact, there are a lot of tracks that are going to be kind of new to me. But at the end of the day, it's still similar dirt that you're used to and I think it's going to be fun to race a track that's been changed up a lot."
Honda Red Bull Racing experienced mixed results at the season opener. Davi Millsaps led the way for the team with a fifth overall while Andrew Short captured a disappointing 10th-place finish due to some misfortune in the second moto while running in the top five. Ivan Tedesco experienced a forgettable Saturday after a moto one fall left him sitting on the sidelines for moto two. While Millsaps hopes to maintain the momentum he started, Short and Tedesco look to bounce back.
"Last year Hangtown was a good race for me because I finished the event third overall," said Tedesco. "I am very determined to replicate that podium finish again this week."
After a rough first moto at Glen Helen, Jagermeister KTM's Justin Brayton recovered well to bring home an impressive ninth-place finish in the second moto in his first 450 Class race. Despite the incident in moto one, Brayton ran up front and showed signs of speed, showing promise for a successful rookie season.
"I had a bad first moto at Glen Helen," explained Brayton. "It started with a bad start and then once I worked my way through the pack I lost it all when I crashed on the second to last lap and finally crossed the finish line in 21st. The second moto was better when I finished ninth but I am focusing on being a top five contender before the season is over. That is my goal and I am going to try for it again at Hangtown."
Some of the best 250 Class racing in recent memory highlighted round one at Glen Helen. In both motos, a handful of riders battled it out for the top spot, leaving the Southern California fans cheering for more when all was said and done. In the end, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki's Ryan Dungey came out on top with an impressive 2-1 performance on the day. The win was a big statement for Dungey in his bid for the 2009 title.
"I really like Hangtown," exclaimed Dungey. "It's usually a hot one but I'm definitely looking forward to racing my Rockstar/Makita Suzuki RM-Z250. It gets super-choppy there... and I think it's going to be a fight for sure, but that's one track that I'm definitely looking forward to."
The day's other moto winner came from the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit stable with France's Christophe Pourcel. The Frenchman finished in the runner-up spot and was very impressive in moto one, with a late-race pass of Dungey to take the win. His teammate Tyla Rattray was equally impressive in his U.S. debut, putting together a pair of solid moto performances to bring home third overall. Now that the South African has a taste of what it's like to race in America, he will continue to get better.
"(Hangtown) is the first new track for me," said Rattray. "Opening the season at Glen Helen was good, because I was able to ride and test there leading up to the season. Now all the tracks we are going to will be new to me, so it's going to be tougher."
Jake Weimer was quiet at Glen Helen, but still put together a top-10 overall finish. The Idaho native struggled off the line all day, forcing him to work his way through the pack. A concentrated effort on starts this week should help get him towards the front of the field.
"I'm working on my starts all week," explained Weimer. "This is a really deep field and you can't put yourself at any disadvantage. I know I have the speed to ride up front, I just need to get there."
The biggest surprise out of Glen Helen in the 250 Class was GEICO Powersports Honda's Justin Barcia. In his first career professional race, Barcia led the most laps on the day and if not for inexperience in competing in grueling 30-minute plus two lap motos, he could have stolen the overall victory.
"Everything about my first pro event went really well," said Barcia. "The week leading up to the race and Saturday just flowed good. My team, GEICO Powersports Honda, has been so supportive and helpful; making sure my transition into the pro ranks is as smooth as possible. It was good for me to see how I faired in comparison to the top, very experienced riders; most I hadn't ever ridden or met before. So I think I did really good to get out front and hold my own for quite a few laps in each moto."
Trey Canard also kicked-off 2009 with a great opening round. The sophomore rider battled with teammate Barcia for the lead throughout the first moto, but was caught in a large, heated battle inside the top ten. His third and eighth place moto finishes put him fifth overall.
"Finishing on the podium at the first moto of the year was a great way to kick-off my 2009 campaign. The GEICO Powersports Honda team gave me an awesome race bike to tackle the rough Glen Helen track. I'm really determined to have a good outdoors season this year and to finish on the box as often as I can."
For Muscle Milk/MDK/KTM, England native Tommy Searle made his U.S. debut and battled with European rival Rattray throughout the day. Searle led the way for the KTM stable, finishing just off the podium in fourth.
"I am definitely happy that I finished inside the top five at the first round," commented Searle. "I know where I need to improve. I am hoping for a podium finish at the second round."
The Women's Class of the Lucas Oil Motocross Championship put on a great show for the fans in its return to Southern California. Honda Red Bull Racing's Ashley Fiolek bested her competitors in both motos to take the overall and the early-season momentum.
"Finishing on top at the opening round of the series was a great way to start my 2009 season," exclaimed Fiolek. "I know I am going to have to be on my game each week if I want to win the Women's Class Championship again this year because there are a lot of fast girls racing. Winning any race feels good but it felt especially good to do it at my debut with the Honda Red Bull Racing team. The amount of support I've received from everyone on and around the Honda team has been amazing."
For more information about the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, please contact media coordinator Brandon Short via email at email@example.com or by telephone at (949) 365-5752.
For fan and racing information on the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, log onto www.allisports.com.
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