This Year in  Photos: Kawasaki SX

This Year in Photos: Kawasaki SX

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By: Jason Weigandt and Chase Stallo

Throughout the past month we have rolled through the seasons that were for Honda, Suzuki, KTM, and Yamaha. Now it's Kawasakis turn. Enjoy!

[Note: Click on the brand name to view the past entries.]

[Photos: Simon Cudby, Andrew Fredrickson, The Medium Group]

Weimer Sidelined

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It looked like a bad omen for the 2011 season when Monster Energy Kawasaki's Jake Weimer went down with a broken arm before the season began. A harbinger of things to come? Luckily, no, as the rest of the top factory talent made it to Anaheim ready, and presented a superb season. But for Weimer, he fell way behind in his 450 transition and only made it back for the last two rounds of the season.

Villopoto Comes Out Firing
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The other Monster Energy Kawasaki rider had no problems. Ryan Villopoto showed up at Anaheim a lean, mean machine thanks to his new trainer Aldon Baker. His leg injury from 2010 was clearly behind him as he ripped off a strong start and went on to win the opening round of Monster Energy Supercross. It would turn out to be a wild season, but right from the start, Villopoto proved he was a player.

Hansen Rolls Early
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After an up-and-down season with Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 2010, Josh Hansen came out firing in 2011, winning the opener in Anaheim and following it up by taking round two in Phoenix. Hansen appeared to be past all of the drama that had plagued him in past years. Right?

Villopoto Stops Stewart in LA
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By the third round of the series, a historic first-ever event at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Villopoto, James Stewart and Ryan Dungey had their programs sorted, the nerves pushed away, and were ready to do battle. And what a battle they had, as Villopoto raced through the pack to catch his rivals--thought to be impossible--and challenge Stewart for the lead. Then Stewart washed out and Villopoto sailed past for one of the most impressive come-from-behind wins seen in years.

Tickle Grabs Win in Oakland
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Broc Tickle handled a muddy Oakland supercross with a near-perfect ride. Coupling this win with consistent efforts through the first three rounds, and Tickle was in position for a championship if Hansen faltered....

Hansen Hurt
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And Hansen, indeed, faltered with a rare (for him) crash in the whoops during Anaheim 2 practice. With a broken hand, Hanny should have been out for the night, but instead, he put together an all-time effort of heart and grit to win the main event, anyway. With that ride, he saved his season. Right?

Rattray Struggles with Injuries
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At least Tyla Rattray made it to the opener this year! He elected to skip supercross in 2009 to focus on his transition to American Motocross, and a broken shoulder erased him from the stadiums in 2010. His 2011 SX debut started well with an Anaheim podium, but a back injury and a few other problems left him with just one more podium before the year was up. But Styla would perform much better outdoors.

Izoird Replaces Weimer
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It took forever for Monster Energy Kawasaki to find a replacement rider for the injured Weimer--several were rumored, Jake Moss, Billy MacKenzie and Matt Lemoine--but none worked out. Enter Frenchman Fabien Iziord (ee-zwah), who had made a few main events on a privateer Kawasaki in 2010. He did what he was supposed to do on the factory bike, putting it into 10 main events.

Wilson, Barcia Rivalry Continues
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Fireworks were not reserved for opening ceremonies at the Lites East opener in Houston. Justin Barcia and Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Dean Wilson were not friends before the year began, but things went from bad to worse during a bar-banging duel in the main event. Barcia was most comfortable with that style of racing, and he won the race, prompting Wilson to say, "I'm Barcia's bitch."

Wilson Rocks the ATL
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After referring to himself as “Barica’s bitch” after their skirmish at the opening round in Houston, Dean Wilson came out firing on all cylinders when the series returned two weeks later in Atlanta. Barcia’s teammate Blake Wharton went down while leading opening the door for Wilson to knife through and get the win. Wilson looked like the heavy championship favorite after the win—and the subsequent aftermath in which it was reviled that Barcia was suffering from a broken hand.

Baggett Wins, Wilson Struggles
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When the series hit the sunny beaches of Daytona, two Monster Energy Kawasaki riders found themselves in the thick of a heated championship battle. Dean Wilson, who was established himself as a title favorite after his win in Atlanta, and Blake Baggett, who was riding high after his back-to-back podiums to being the year. Baggett shined under the lights of Daytona, taking his first win under the Pro Circuit tent, while Wilson struggled to an eighth place finish after an early crash, causing a snowball effect the next week in Indy, basically taking him out of the title hunt.

Lemoine Becomes a Contender
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After a less than stellar 2010 SX season Matt Lemoine, the former Star Racing Yamaha prodigy, was left trying to resurrect a once promising career. A slow start would once again handicap the Texas native through the first three rounds of the East Lites series. But Indianapolis proved to be the turning point Lemoine had been searching for. Although he would fall short of his first career podium, finishing fourth, Lemoine looked to be back at the forefront of the Lites class. Lemoine would back up his breakout ride in Indy with another top five in his home state of Texas, and cap off a career season with a sixth at Vegas. The Kawasaki privateer would finish the season sixth overall in points, including eight top 10’s in nine races.

Villopoto Gains Momentum in Indy
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Following back-to-back wins in Atlanta and Daytona, Ryan Villopoto was quietly running away with the 2011 championship. After early season fireworks from Stewart, Reed and company, RV was beginning to show his dominance. Indianapolis would prove to be the tipping point in Villopoto’s season, as he once again ran away from the field en route to his third consecutive victory. It was beginning to look like the RV show the rest of the way until…

Baggett, RV DNQ at Jacksonville
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After capturing his first win with his new team in Daytona—Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki—Blake Baggett entered Jacksonville brimming with confidence and right in the thick of the title chase. Meanwhile, in the Supercross Class Ryan Villopoto has just reeled off three consecutive wins and was in total command of the points lead. Then came Jacksonville.

The right hand first turn would wreck havoc on the Kawasaki duo. First it was Baggett that got caught in a first turn pile up in the LCQ, with Villopoto doing the same moments later—tangling with JGR’s Justin Brayton. Villopoto would escape with minimal damage done, as James Stewart would also succumb to the wrath of the first turn and gained only three points. But it was a different story for Baggett. He lost valuable points to Justin Barcia and Dean Wilson, essentially taking him out of the title hunt.

Tedesco Takes a Bump
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Rumors prior to Anaheim 1 suggested that Ivan Tedesco was loving his new Dodge Motorsports Hart & Huntington Kawasaki, which put him back on the brand he rode to a bunch of Lites Championships. IT9 showed speed and aggression right from the start in Anaheim, but inconsistent starts held him back. Then came crashes and injuries. Tedesco didn't give up and tried to ride the season out with a torn ACL, but he finally had to throw up the "wait 'till next year" flag.

Privateer Magic Out West
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In the murky waters of AMA Monster Energy Supercross three privateers shined bright out west—and it just so happens they all did it aboard a Kawasaki. Long-time journeyman Ben Evans produced one of his best seasons to date in 2011, finishing inside the top ten in points—helped by two top-ten appearances in San Diego and Salt Lake City.

One of the truly surprising and under-the-radar riders in 2011 was Bruce Rutherford. After back-to-back top ten performances at Oakland and A2 many were left searching their programs wondering just who was #795? Hindered by some missed main events, Rutherford would finish the season fourteenth overall in points, but he opened the eyes of many with some fantastic rides throughout 2011.

Last, but certainly not least, in the privateer carousel out west was Jake Canada. Although he banged on the door of the top ten all season, Canada was never able to breakthrough. But he did finish seventeenth overall and turned a great performance outdoors into a ride with MotoConcepts for the 2012 season.

Weimer Returns
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Coming off a 2010 SX West Lites title Jake Weimer was poised to join the ranks of Reed, Canard, Stewart and the Ryans at the forefront of the Supercross Class. But it never came to fruition as Weimer was sidelined with a broken arm after crashing during testing. After spending almost the entire season on the mend, Weimer would make debut at Salt Lake City. Showing a little rust, he finished seventh. Weimer would back up his impressive debut with a sixth at the season finale in Vegas.

Hansen Taken Out of Title Hunt
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Championship pressure was in the air, as the series embarked on the snowy mountains of Salt Lake City. And no one was feeling that pressure more than Josh Hansen. After getting off to a commanding lead with consecutive wins to open the season, Hansen had been reeling since suffering a devastating hand injury. Things got feisty early between Hansen and fellow title contender Eli Tomac as the two rubbed paint in their heat race. The feisty battle quickly reached a boiling point in the main as Tomac got off to an early lead with Hansen in tow. The wily veteran wasted little time trying to pressure the young rookie into a mistake, running Tomac high early and often. Then Hansen made a desperation move early and went after Tomac hard. Hansen went down, with his championship hopes not far behind, while Tomac ran away with the victory keeping his title hopes alive.

Blose Finishes Strong
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Dodge Motorsports Hart & Huntington's Chris Blose battled through most of the 2010 supercross campaign with injuries, so he was pumped to get another shot with H&H for a healthy 2011. Unfortunately, the competition was much deeper this year, though, with a healthy Reed, Stewart and Villopoto back in the mix, and Trey Canard launching a great rookie season. Blose didn't light up the results column until the final round of the season, where he finished a strong fourth in Las Vegas--the best finish the team garnered all season.

Villopot Inches Towards Title in SLC
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Missing the main event in Jacksonville took some wind out of Villopoto's sails, as he was not the same rider over the next few weeks. The points lead and momentum in the series bounced between Reed, Canard, Dungey and even Stewart, before the Salt Lake City main event, when Villopoto found his old aggression and launched a charge reminiscent of the LA race. Stewart crashed while leading, and Villopoto made a key pass on Reed to steal the win and open a points gap before the finale.

Champions Crowned
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The Lites West finale featured a dramatic championship battle between Tomac and Tickle. The two contenders went back and forth throughout the main event, but Tomac held the advantage late in the race. That was until he got held up battling Cole Seely for position (Seely was recovering from a crash) and later a charging Kyle Cunningham got into the mix. Tickle sliced through the traffic and made clutch passes, grabbing the title in dramatic fashion--but with a touch of controversy.

Things were more clear cut in the big class, where Villopoto only needed a podium to wrap the title. But it got crazy when James Stewart crashed from the lead and took Kevin Windham down with him--Villopoto was barely able to sneak past unharmed. He yielded to Reed and Dungey and clinched his first career AMA Supercross Championship in what many called the greatest season ever. For Kawasaki, it certainly was about as good as it gets.

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