Sign of the (Lap) Times: Unadilla

Sign of the (Lap) Times Unadilla

August 11, 2015 2:00pm

Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey is well on his way to a third 450MX championship following his second 1-1 performance on the year at Unadilla. Now 79 points clear of Justin Barcia, all Dungey needs to do is stand pat this weekend in Utah and he will clinch following the first moto, as a possible 75 points will remain at that point. It was also made official this past weekend at Unadilla that after six consecutive years, Dungey will not compete in the 2015 Motocross of Nations in Ernee, France, citing a need for a break. "I really feel like this is good for me just to be able to get some time off," he said post-race. "By no means am I disrespecting the country. I definitely want to do this, but it just doesn’t come at a good time. You line up at Anaheim, and you don’t really give yourself that break. I realized last year how important that is to just unwind and be able to step away from it a little bit, because if I take two weeks off, I’m going to have to get back on the dirt bike and go racing and back in race mode." 

Two former 250 (SX and MX) champions returned at Unadilla, as Justin Bogle made his 450 debut following a shoulder injury at the opener, and Dean Wilson returned after tearing his ACL and MCL in January. Bogle ran a strong third in the first moto until things unraveled around the six-minute mark and he faded back to tenth. After claiming the holeshot in the second moto, Bogle crashed hard while battling with Barcia. He was able to get back on the bike, but only completed eight laps. "That was a rough day at the office, but it was a lot of fun to race up there with those guys," Bogle said in a team statement. "I appreciate the opportunity, and the bike was awesome today. I look forward to getting another chance on it in Utah." Bogle will race the final two rounds of the series in the 450 Class.

In his first outdoor race on a 450 since the 2013 season, Wilson was a consistent 11-10 for tenth overall, but admitted after the race that his conditioning still needs to improve after missing the last seven months. "The parachute came out pretty heavy in the first moto," he told Racer X’s Steve Matthes. "Just both motos I was running like a seventh each time. The first one, I hit a wall pretty hard—I wouldn’t lie."

For as fast as he’s been the last two rounds—trust us, he’s been fast—the first lap has been the undoing of Jason Anderson. At Unadilla, Anderson rounded the first lap of both motos outside the top fifteen (twenty-fourth in moto one, twentieth in moto two). Anderson clocked his fastest lap in the first moto on lap thirteen (of sixteen) and came back to seventh. After falling on the first lap in the second moto, Anderson worked back to fourteenth. "It wasn’t the greatest day, but it wasn’t the worst," he said in a team statement. "I had some positives to take away from the first moto. Even though I had a bad start and a couple mishaps, I still rode really well."

Christophe Pourcel, a multi-time winner at Unadilla in the 250 Class, was expected to contend for his first 450 overall on Saturday after qualifying fastest ahead of Dungey and Broc Tickle. But Pourcel crashed early in the first moto and finished twenty-third after pulling into the mechanics area for repairs. He bounced back in the second moto to claim his second podium in the last four motos. "I was fourth in the first moto and then tangled with another rider in the second turn and went over my bike," he said in a team release. "I just knew my weekend was going to be bad after that. I just have to make the best of it. I got a decent start from the outside in the second moto and ended up with the top four guys. It was a good learning experience and the weekend was okay overall. The goal was to be on the podium this weekend. I’ll try to regroup for the next race. I still feel good, so that’s good."

Following a season’s worst 22-12 performance at Washougal, Broc Tickle bounced back with a sixth overall at Unadilla. The third fastest qualifier, Tickle had his best moto finish (sixth) in the first moto since a fifth at RedBud. "My starts weren’t the best, but I felt like I was strong in the first moto," he said in a statement. "It took me awhile to get around [Josh] Grant and once I did I passed three or four guys and got to sixth. I was pretty pumped with it because that’s the best I’ve felt all year from the middle of the moto until the end.

"Second moto played out basically the same way. I was just a little further back on the first lap. I was behind Grant again, for probably twenty-five minutes, and then I made the pass on him. I passed one more guy and that’s about all I could catch. Everyone else was too far gone." 

Noren will remain with Honda HRC for the remainder of the season.
Noren will remain with Honda HRC for the remainder of the season. photo: Cudby

Fredrik Noren, who signed with Honda this off-season with a stipulation in his contract that he would be the fill-in rider for HRC Honda if Trey Canard or Cole Seely were injured, was once again back under the factory tent at Unadilla filling in for Seely, who will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. Honda has made out well in the deal, as Noren has raced all ten rounds of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross with the factory team. With so much moving and shaking, though, Noren has worked with three different mechanics throughout the year. Rich Simmons, Seely’s mechanic, now working with Noren, had to leave Unadilla on Friday due to a family matter (we hope everything is well, Rich), meaning Noren would be working with a fourth different mechanic, as Jason Thomas had to step in. (No, not that Jason Thomas. This one works for Honda.)

"It was fun being Freddie’s mechanic for the day,” Thomas said in a statement. “I enjoyed getting the tools back out for a little change of pace. I’ve gotten to know him really well working with him during the week and testing, so we have a good relationship, which made it easy to work with him since we’re comfortable together."

Noren finished an impressive fifth in the first moto before crashing early in the second moto, which led to an eighteenth. "I had a start crash in the second moto—not quite sure what happened, but I had to go in the pits right away to get my handlebar and front end adjusted a little, and got going from there," he said in a statement. With Seely’s injury, Noren will finish out the season with HRC Honda.

450 Class Moto 1

Lap Rank Finish Best Lap In Lap Avg Lap Time Rider
1 1 2:14.222 3 2:16.101 Ryan Dungey
2 2 2:14.741 3 2:16.878 Justin Barcia
3 16 2:14.833 4 2:17.395 Ken Roczen
4 3 2:14.996 2 2:18.188 Trey Canard
5 10 2:15.632 3 2:20.560 Justin Bogle
6 7 2:15.677 13 2:18.912 Jason Anderson
7 4 2:15.790 3 2:18.584 Shaun Simpson
8 23 2:16.483 4 2:23.556 Christophe Pourcel
9 5 2:16.547 2 2:18.739 Fredrik Noren
10 9 2:16.564 11 2:19.551 Josh Grant

No doubt about it, Ryan Dungey was on the gas at Unadilla. Although it's Justin Barcia's home-state track, Barcia admitted the track didn't work well for him. Meanwhile, good charge from riders like Ken Roczen and Jason Anderson, who were way back and fighting traffic for most of the race.

450 Class Moto 2

Lap Rank Finish Best Lap In Lap Avg Lap Time Rider
1 2 2:12.928 4 2:14.533 Ken Roczen
2 1 2:13.552 6 2:14.593 Ryan Dungey
3 3 2:14.845 3 2:18.588 Christophe Pourcel
4 4 2:14.988 2 2:18.898 Justin Barcia
5 6 2:17.183 3 2:19.581 Trey Canard
6 14 2:17.511 8 2:21.885 Jason Anderson
7 5 2:17.543 9 2:18.775 Weston Peick
8 8 2:17.951 3 2:20.528 Shaun Simpson
9 4 2:18.105 3 2:20.000 Blake Baggett
10 10 2:18.165 3 2:20.742 Dean Wilson

Roczen didn't win this moto, but this was a significant step forward compared to the last few races. He shadowed Dungey throughout the moto and logged the fastest time. We talked to Kenny on Saturday morning and he told us that, although the title is out of reach, he's not giving up on the season and still wants to finish strong and win races. Everything he learns late this year will pay off for next year.

250 Class Moto 1

Lap Rank Finish Best Lap In Lap Avg Lap Time Rider
1 1 2:14.295 4 2:16.693 Jeremy Martin
2 2 2:15.246 3 2:16.976 Joey Savatgy
3 4 2:15.329 3 2:17.059 Marvin Musquin
4 5 2:15.405 2 2:18.830 Christian Craig
5 6 2:15.417 3 2:18.920 Jessy Nelson
6 3 2:15.648 7 2:16.959 Chris Alldredge
7 11 2:15.789 3 2:20.661 Jordon Smith
8 18 2:16.535 6 2:20.300 Cooper Webb
9 8 2:17.168 4 2:19.385 Alex Martin
10 7 2:17.477 4 2:18.897 Shane McElrath

No surprises here.

250 Class Moto 2

Lap Rank Finish Best Lap In Lap Avg Lap Time Rider
1 23 2:15.537 13 2:17.083 Cooper Webb
2 1 2:15.773 13 2:17.843 Marvin Musquin
3 6 2:16.156 3 2:19.415 Alex Martin
4 5 2:16.368 3 2:18.896 Jeremy Martin
5 3 2:16.395 3 2:18.314 Aaron Plessinger
6 7 2:16.410 3 2:19.803 RJ Hampshire
7 2 2:16.547 3 2:18.257 Joey Savatgy
8 18 2:16.645 3 2:22.582 Jordon Smith
9 4 2:16.922 5 2:18.534 Jessy Nelson
10 10 2:17.444 3 2:20.377 Christian Craig

Obviously you know Cooper Webb's story here: he was fast but crashed while chasing Marvin Musquin. But do you think anyone realized Alex Martin had the third-fastest time? Well done, A-Mart.

More News and Notes

Arnaud Tonus’ first season in the U.S. has been one to forget. Out since February with an illness, Tonus returned two weeks ago at Washougal and finished an impressive third in the first moto before his fitness played a part in a twentieth the following moto. We talked to him Saturday morning and he admitted his fitness was still lacking, and he was straight-up tired for that second moto. After qualifying twenty-first at Unadilla, Tonus and the team decided he would not race after experiencing extreme fatigue. Initial reports are the same illness that sidelined Tonus since Atlanta 2 has returned. "I tried to go out and ride, but I got so tired I could hardly hang on to the handlebars after a few laps...I decided to pull off the track, where as a team made the smart decision to not race," he said in a team statement. It’s not known at this time if Tonus will return to racing this year.

Although the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team was without the services of Tonus (or Tyler Bowers or Adam Cianciarulo), it nevertheless had an impressive day at Unadilla. Joey Savatgy broke the Pro Circuit winless drought with a 2-2 performance, and Chris Alldredge found the podium for the first time since Glen Helen. "First moto, I got my best start of the year, which felt nice coming around the corner in fifth," Alldredge said in a statement. "I then worked my way up into second place and latched onto my teammates pace. I worked really hard to stay in a podium spot and I'm happy I was able to do it." We heard Alldredge got a stern talking to from Mitch Payton after Washougal, and the talk seemed to fire him up. Unfortunately, Alldredge crashed in the second moto and tweaked his knee and ankle, and finished thirty-seventh. He is expected to race in Utah this weekend.  

Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs KTM’s Jessy Nelson has broken out of a mid-season lull with consecutive top-six performances. With a fourth overall at Unadilla, and a subsequent off day for Zach Osborne, Nelson has moved to within eleven points of fourth overall in the championship. "I stayed out of trouble and ran near the front," he said in a team release. "Happy to see I’m alone in fifth overall now. We still have four motos left and I’m only 11 points back of fourth, so that will be something I can try and reach for during these last few rounds." 

Jessy Nelson looks to have moved past his mid-season slump.
Jessy Nelson looks to have moved past his mid-season slump. photo: Cudby

Although he missed the first two rounds due to that whole "retirement" thing, Christian Craig has moved to within 6 points of teammate RJ Hampshire for tenth in points. Craig picked up 7 points thanks in part to a fifth in the first moto. "I actually got a worse start [in the second moto]," he said in a team statement. "I was around top ten; I think I was seventh for a while. I was trying to make some passes and ended up tipping over all by myself. The front end washed out, so I had to climb my way back up and finished tenth." Craig finished seventh overall.

What could have been for Craig’s GEICO Honda rookie stable mates. Jordon Smith ran inside the top five in both motos, but untimely mistakes led to 11-18 finishes. "This weekend, I rode a lot better than I have in the past," Smith said in a team statement. "It's probably the best I've ridden, but I just couldn't stay off the ground today. I felt like I let one get away. I felt like I could win the second moto, but ended up falling. I feel a lot better on the bike and I'll get ready for next weekend." 

Hampshire grabbed the holeshot in the second moto, but made a mistake of his own and finished seventh. "I felt pretty good but just made a small mistake and went down," he said in a statement. It’s notable that three rookies—Alldredge, Hampshire, and River Yamaha’s Luke Renzland (13-12 for fourteenth overall)—had some of their best rides of the year at Unadilla. This track hosted their first pro races last year, so it’s the first time they’ve gotten to national track with some experience.