Washougal, Washington, is host to this weekend’s round of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. The track sits just outside of Portland, Oregon, and the route up to the track is a winding river road. The Northwest turns out in droves to support their trademark National and for good reason. Most of the industry loves making the trek to Washougal and several companies make their yearly debuts at this round. It’s one of the “can’t miss” races for most of the moto world.
Easily the most picturesque venue of the season, the track is a bit polarizing throughout the field. The hard and slick characteristic works for some and not so much for others. It changes drastically throughout the day, too. The early morning practices are about as good as it gets. Good traction, smooth lines, and cool temperatures are ready and waiting as riders roll onto the track Saturday morning. By late afternoon, those once attractive traits turn into slippery hard-pack, sharp braking bumps, and 90-degree heat. For the West Coast riders who grew up on this type of soil, it’s business as usual. For the East Coast guys, though, how to attack the sketchy black dirt is a learning process. Finding the limit without crossing the threshold is an art form that many have struggled to master.
Part of the allure of Washougal is the abundance of trees smattered across the property. They add epic background and atmosphere but for the riders, they also add hundreds of shadows. The contrast from bright sunshine to dark shadows on very dark dirt is a tough combination. The sections just before the finish are a guessing game as rider eyes are trying to adjust to the lack of light. That guessing game becomes very unnerving as riders come barreling down the rutty and rough hillside towards the infamous whoops. On overcast days it wasn’t such a tough situation but on the brightest of days, like we will have this weekend, it was not fun. Shadows might seem like the unlikeliest of track difficulties but it is definitely a topic every year.
The usual suspects for Washougal success are those with good throttle control. Kevin Windham and Marvin Musquin are two names that come to mind when I think of this skill. They are also two names that typically had Washougal success. The slippery turns and lack of topsoil force riders to manage their wheel spin and maximize efficiency. Transferring all of that torque and horsepower into forward drive is the name of the game. Having said that, it’s interesting that Eli Tomac was able to dominate this event last year, as Ken Roczen is widely considered to be more adept at finesse riding. Roczen is the rider who likes to lug his bike in higher gears and lower RPM yet Tomac was able to run away with the overall. He forced the Washougal track into submission with zero mercy. It was impressive to watch and very atypical for Washougal success. This year will again be a showdown of different approaches again as Musquin brings momentum and finesse against Tomac and his mad-dog brutality.
Questions I Want Answered:
Was Millville a fluke or is Musquin back to his red plate level?
Will the real Joey Savatgy please stand up?
With RCH Suzuki’s future in doubt, can Justin Bogle maximize his leverage in the final few rounds? [Ed note: An announcement came earlier today.]
Musquin went 1-1 in Millville seemingly out of nowhere. He was good at Southwick, but nothing like we saw in Minnesota.
Zach Osborne has a huge points lead and his closest rival is missing Washougal with a shoulder injury. He can put this way out of reach with a win this weekend.
Savatgy won his second overall of the season and looked great doing it. He has been all over the map this year so who knows what he does in Washington.
Dean Wilson has really stepped it up in recent weeks. He has had to fight hard to stay near the front, but resiliency is strong in that one.
Martin Davalos has been right around the top five in the 450 Class for a few weeks now. No one saw this coming but he should be commended for his summer.
Alex Martin crashed this week and will miss Washougal and maybe more. He was second in points so this one is painful on many levels.
Jeremy Martin struggled at his home race. He has the speed to win, but it seems to be hard to produce every weekend.
Adam Cianciarulo qualifies fastest on Saturday.
Jason Weigandt weighs in on the chances of Eli Tomac chasing down Eli Tomac for the points championship.
Musquin does several elaborate wheel-taps to quintuple combinations in the whoops.
The Washougal Free Press does a brilliant exposé on Alex Ray.
Tommy Weeck finishes inside the top 10.
Zach Osborne puts up a 1-1.