Irvine, Calif. (June 3, 2008) – It was a perfect weekend for the Monster Energy Kawasaki racing team as James Stewart and Timmy Ferry claimed the top two spots at the 40th Anniversary of the Hangtown Classic in Sacramento, Calif. and Ryan Villopoto claimed the lites overall win.
Stewart earned his second straight AMA Toyota Motocross Championship overall win once again winning both motos. Ferry finished 2-2 on the day to take home the second overall spot. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Villopoto also stood on the top step of the podium twice during the event. Villopoto swept the motocross lites motos to claim his first overall win of the season. Austin Stroupe finished 3-4 in the motos for an overall finish of fourth, just ahead of his teammate Brett Metcalfe, who finished 4-5 to claim fifth overall. Branden Jesseman finished 6-12 and eighth overall, placing all four of the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki riders in the top 10.
Monster Energy Kawasaki Under the Tent
On Top Again
For the second straight week, Stewart led every lap in both motos en-route to another dominant overall win. In the first moto, Stewart nailed the holeshot and rode away from the pack winning the 17-lap race by more the 30 seconds. The second moto went much the same way as the first for Stewart, just missing the holeshot. He raced side-by-side for much of the first lap, but once clear, Stewart started gapping the field once again and rode to another impressive victory.
“I’m just happy to be back racing,” said Stewart. “I really appreciate everything that everyone has been doing for me. The fans have been treating me great and I’m just happy to get another win. I want to keep getting better every week and just keep working hard.”
Villopoto proved why he is the two-time defending AMA Motocross Lites champion sweeping both motos in impressive fashion to claim his first overall win at the Hangtown Classic. After finishing 2-1 and runner-up overall last year at this event, Villopoto wanted to leave nothing to chance. His average margin of victory for both motos was more than 10 seconds. The win is Villopoto’s 13th career AMA motocross lites victory.
“This week feels definitely better than last,” said Villopoto. “I got good starts in both motos and I was able to ride my own race. Last week the first moto wasn’t that good. This week I made it all work and I’ve got a little lead in the points and I just want to make that gap bigger.”
Riding to the Front
Ferry joined his Monster Energy Kawasaki teammate on the podium in both motos, finishing runner-up to Stewart each time. Ferry’s return to the podium wasn’t easy as he had to work his way through the field in typical ‘Red Dog’ fashion. The second moto in particular showed Ferry’s passion for the podium as he passed 17 riders in 13 laps on his way to second place.
“My start was horrendous in the second moto,” said Ferry. “I kind of flubbed it. I did something I haven’t done in a while; I rode really aggressive and made a lot of passes in the first few laps. That was the difference in me getting back into second place. I knew James was long gone, but I wanted that second spot really bad.”
The 33-year-old Ferry hears the same thing every week from his fans. ‘Thanks for making us old guys look good,’ is said at every autograph session and even when he is just standing under the tent. This weekend Ferry ensured he would continue to hear the encouragement as he passed many younger riders on his way to second overall. Some of the riders he competes against are 10 to 15 years younger, but Ferry knows with the age also comes good experience.
“My age didn’t affect me fitness wise,” said Ferry. “I think it gave me a bit of a mental edge. Knowing some of these guys are so young, it gave sort of a high or a mental boost when I passed them.”
Stroupe came to the Hangtown Classic having never raced on the track. Though he is already a motocross lites overall winner, he has made only five AMA professional starts including this weekend. The 17-year-old rider used the confidence gained from last week’s win to quickly learn the track and battle for a podium finish.
“Fourth is a good result,” said Stroupe. “This being my first year racing here, I think I adapted to the track well. I was going faster in every session and in the motos I was going faster at the end than I was at the start.”
Top Five Again
All weekend long Metcalfe showed he had the speed to be at the front of the field. The Australian rider challenged his teammate Villopoto for the top spot on the time sheets during practice and after two slow starts, worked his way close to a podium finish. This marked the second week in a row that Metcalfe has finished in the top-five overall.
“Finishing 4-5 was good,” said Metcalfe. “I’m happy with how I rode, but my starts weren’t good enough. I need to get better starts if I’m going to be on the podium. I also went down once in each moto. I need to get rid of those mistakes and I will be right there.”
As the track changed so did the lines of all the riders trying to post the fastest lap times. For Metcalfe the changing conditions caught him in each of the motos.
“Every turn on this track takes 100 percent concentration,” said Metcalfe. “I’m not sure if I was not cautious enough, or maybe overcautious I don’t know. In both motos I lost the front end in about the same spot. Maybe I was just too confident on that slick surface.”
The weather in Sacramento was nearly perfect, at least for the spectators. For the riders who raced for nearly 70 minutes the warm weather and tough track meant conditioning was key to staying in front.
“I feel like today everyone’s endurance really showed,” said Stewart. “That may be why sometimes I had an even bigger lead. Endurance was a key today. This week was definitely challenging and it showed.”
The Cream Rises
At the Hangtown Classic the track changed dramatically throughout the motos, unlike the last weeks event at Glen Helen Raceway. The track kept getting rougher as each lap clicked off and with the track changing every lap it, it appeared to separate the riders.
“When the track gets rough it gets harder to ride,” said Villopoto. ”That’s when the good guys shine. The top five guys hope for rougher track conditions and for it to be hot because that is when we excel.”
Ferry has been coming to the Hangtown Classic for more than 10 years and has seen the track go through many changes. He has ridden it the traditional clockwise direction and also in reverse, as they raced it this weekend. Through all the years, the biggest changes have come in the starting area and Ferry thinks this year’s was the best they have ever had.
“The start was wide and short” said Ferry. “So it wasn’t scary like the Glen Helen start. It was wide through the first two turns and the then it tightened up which spread everyone out. The dirt was good too. They put a lot of sand at the start and overall I think it was one of the biggest positives this year as far as the track is concerned. “