The motos have yet to start here at the Peterson CAT Washougal National, but the action has already started in the form of the morning qualifying sessions. No surprises in the 250 class, as Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen and GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac are leading the way, but in the 450 ranks it was JGR Toyota Yamaha’s Josh Grant who created mild surprise by beating out Ryan Villopto and James Stewart for the fastest time in session one. More on that later.
The weather here in Washougal is amazing. The air is cool and crisp and thanks in part to a layer of misty fog, temperatures are still hovering in the sixties. With a high of 85 degrees expected today, conditions are perfect for the fans and riders alike, and if the overcast conditions stick around, the dark afternoon shadows cast by the towering fir trees that line the course will be less of an issue than normal for the riders.
The track itself looks fantastic, although the dirt, which always looks deceptively superb, is still slick and greasy in places underneath the top layer. They put some rollers in the bottom section of Horsepower Hill, and there’s a very cool step-up jump that many of the riders were throwing massive whips off of in practice.
Ken Roczen was killing it in qualifying
As mentioned above, Roczen and Tomac led the way in practice. In the first session it was Ken Roczen who topped Tomac with a 2:09.558 to Tomac’s 2:09.951. Marvin Musquin was third fastest with a 2:10.761, followed by Kyle Cunningham (2:11.012) and Jason Anderson (2:11.581.) In the second set of qualifiers it was more of the same, with Roczen topping Eli Tomac’s 2:09.204 with a 2:08.763. Blake Baggett had a 2:10.862, followed by Musquin’s 2:11.557. Jason Anderson rounded out the top five in the second session with a 2:12.010. Rock River Yamaha’s Alex Martin wasn’t present in qualifying and he won’t be racing today due to a concussion suffered in practice during the week.
In 450 action Josh Grant was fastest in the first practice with a 2:08.122, although local hero Ryan Villopoto wasn’t too far off the pace with a 2:08.721. James Stewart threw down a heater on the final lap of session one, but his 2:09.202 was only good for third fastest. It was certainly an entertaining lap to watch though. The Yoshimura Suzuki rider scrubbed a few jumps so hard that his butt patch at the next round should probably read, “The Dishwasher.” Trey Canard was fourth fastest with a 2:09.633, Ryan Dungey’s 2:09.976 was fifth fastest and Malcolm Stewart was sixth fastest with a 2:10.049.
In session two Villopoto would not be denied, and he was the only rider to dip below 2:08, setting a scorching 2:07.993. He’s never won an overall here before, but if he avoids crashes and brings that kind of speed to the motos, today could be his day. Stewart was second fastest with a 2:08.642, followed by Dungey (2:09.416), Justin Barcia (2:10.386) and Malcolm Stewart (2:10.640). Weston Peick is back this weekend, and his best lap, a 2:11.480, was twelfth fastest overall.
One of the coolest things to watch in the second 250 qualifying session took place on the Built Ford Tough drop-off jump. Some breaking bumps developed before the drop-off and Roczen was using them to bounce his wheels into the air and scrub down the drop-off. After a while guys like Musquin, Tomac, Wil Hahn and Cole Seely started to pick up on the line, but nobody quite matched the flowing style of Roczen. Hopefully a TV camera captures him doing it during the motos because it was a thing of beauty.
On a more serious note, Gared Steinke had a nasty looking crash as he was charging up Horsepower Hill, and it was serious enough that officials stopped practice. Steinke later left the track in an ambulance. Here’s hoping it’s nothing serious.
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For a complete qualifying list, go here.