Southwick is a sand track, but no sand track in the world is quite like this one. The track looks sandy, but most riders commented on how hard the base of it really is, which gives it a strange combination of sandy rolling bumps in some spots, and choppy square-edged stuff in others. Plus, traction is an issue when you’re digging into the harder, slippery stuff out of corners. “It makes the rear end want to come around even more, and then you’ll hit a bump which makes it even tougher,” explained Ryan Dungey.
He didn’t make the podium, but Brett Metcalfe turned in one of the most impressive rides of the day with fourth overall in the 450 class. We haven’t seen the Aussie in the States since he suffered a big crash after running out of gas during a practice moto at Glen Helen at year ago. Now he’s leading the points in the Canadian National Motocross Championship, and put together his own deal with the Australian Dave Racing team to get to Southwick. “I can’t tell you how much work went into this,” explained Metcalfe. “For the last two months, I’ve had to be team manager, just coordinating all this, getting the bike ready, the sponsors. It was a lot. But I had fun.” Metcalfe says he’ll be back for the Unadilla round in August.
You’re trying to figure out which Ryan is getting the edge over the other. It’s darned hard to tell. Last week, you could say Dungey had a slight edge on Villopoto, because in the second moto, he marched away even after Villopoto got into second, and Villopoto admitted he was trying to go after him. This week, they squared off in the second moto, and Villopoto turned the tables, as they started 1-2 and Villopoto was able to find some good lines and pull away from Dungey in the second half of the race. Villopoto had the clear speed edge early in the season, but now they appear to be close to dead even, with the moto wins going back and forth each week.
The overall wins in both the 250 and 450 classes were actually determined in the waning moments of the first motos. After two first lap crashes, Villopoto got within sight of Justin Barcia and Andrew Short on the last lap of the first moto, but ended up fourth. That made it nearly impossible to win the overall despite his strong second moto. In the 250s, Ken Roczen was all over Blake Baggett trying to get second in moto one, but he lost the front end and fell, holding him to third. Had he finished second, he would have won the overall via 2-1 scores. The competition is that close!
Dungey had gotten slowed by a big first-turn crash in that first moto, but Villopoto had it even worse, going down in the first turn. Then he ran into another pileup later in the lap! Villopoto rallied back, and somehow late in that first moto, Dungey, Short, Justin Barcia, Villopoto and Metcalfe were all on the same part of the track on the last lap!
James Stewart can tell you about the highs and lows of Southwick. He grabbed the Motorcycle-Superstore.com holeshot in moto one and began inching away from Andrew Short. With the Ryans in the back and Stewart, who was fastest in qualifying, opening a gap, it looked like the perfect time for Stewart to claim his first moto win of the season. Instead? Another crash out of nowhere, this one a big one as his bike kicked sideways on the face of a rutted jump. That was the end of Stewart’s moto. He came back to finish fourth in moto two.
Short can also tell you about the highs and lows of Southwick. He started second in moto one and then led after Stewart crashed. Dungey, meanwhile, was running second, but had come from so far back that he thought he was leading. It took a bit for Dungey to realize he had one more rider to catch, then he went after Short and got him for the win, with Short a season’s best second. Then a first-turn crash claimed him in moto two. He finished sixteenth, still good enough for fifth overall.
And a sign of life from TwoTwo Motorsports Chad Reed, who was a solid seventh in moto one. But he, too, was down in the first turn of moto two and ended up 19th.
Eli Tomac is a darned beast on this track. He was clearly the fastest rider in the 250 Class here last year, even though a crash in the second moto cost him the overall. Nearly the same story here, as he dominated moto one, but then got a bad start in moto two and had to come all the way back to finish second, just edging Roczen in the overall. Just watching him rail around this rough track is a thing of beauty, though.
Metty! Metty! Metty!
A pair of first turn crashes ruined Tyla Rattray's day.
But Roczen was happy to bounce back and win moto two. His points lead is down to seven over Tomac now, but the German feels he made progress in a few areas. First, he feels better physically after a stomach virus sapped him of some strength at Budds Creek. Winning the second moto certainly proves that. Second, he says some bike set up issues that he was having now appear to be solved.
Rough day for Roczen’s teammate Marvin Musquin, who went down in turn one of moto one and came back for tenth. Second moto, he ran second early but got passed back to ninth. “I just wasn’t able to run that pace,” said Musquin, who obviously wasn’t happy with the day.
Blake Baggett has actually overtaken Musquin for third in the series standings, but he left some points on the table with a small crash in moto two, which left him with an 8th in the moto. His 2-8 finishes left him fourth on the day.
Yeah! The Rippah! Jimmy Decotis returned to the U.S. scene by banging two big starts in his 250 motos and running up front for most of the day. Unfortunately an engine problem on the last lap of moto one ended his run for points there. He grabbed 13th in moto two.
Worst luck ever? Wil Hahn holeshot the first moto but then had his moto end with his engine let go while running fifth. In the second moto, his bike stalled on the parade lap, and he couldn’t get it started! Literally, his race was over before it started.
Chad Reed was seventh in the first moto.
John Dowd hung it up after this one--but he finished his career by scoring points in the final moto of the day.
Simon Cudby photo
Mike Alessi struggled at Southwick after popping a rib out of place last weekend in a second moto crash at Budds Creek. He said he only got to ride one moto during the week, and it was at half speed. He hopes to feel better at RedBud next weekend.
In the wild mix of the 250 class, Jason Anderson and Cole Seely also had good days, running in the front of both motos. Anderson was exceptionally stubborn when Eli Tomac caught him for third in the second moto, and they went at it in a battle for the position. Seely was also solid for sixth overall, his best race of the year. After missing all of last year’s Nationals with an injury, Seely is coming around.
Andrew Short nearly won the first 450 moto.
Great racing in the 250 class.
Simon Cudby photos