The series heads to the beautiful Pacific Northwest for round nine of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. Washougal, Washington, is undoubtedly the most scenic race on the calendar and a favorite for many fans. The winding river road leads through the massive fir trees and up to the famed racetrack. It’s a breathtaking drive especially for first timers. My first trip to Washougal was 1998 and being from Florida, the scenery seemed like something from another planet. On clear days, like we will have Saturday, Mt. Hood looms in the distance providing yet another unique aspect to this event. There is a lot to love about the Washougal event and we haven’t even discussed the track yet.
This track is a tricky one. The track looks like it offers loamy, epic traction, but riders will be slipping and sliding their way into the ground if they aren’t careful. The course is cut into what resembles a river bed, as the sides of the track are much higher than the course itself. With the track digging down into the base, it creates a very hard surface come race time and only gets harder as the afternoon sun sets in. Throttle control is incredibly important at Washougal. Riders will be constantly balancing between aggression and finesse, hoping to maximize their intensity without spinning the rear tire. This is also an event where fuel maps and the permitted version of traction control can become very useful. For a rider like myself, I needed that help from fuel injection. My instinct is to grab handfuls of throttle when I get ready to exit a corner. At Washougal, that aggressive approach can spell trouble. Toning down my fuel map helped me keep the tires driving forward instead of spinning myself into slower lap times. Watch for the best riders on Saturday to be aggressive where possible but also maintaining their momentum to avoid having to rebuild speed on a hard and slippery surface.
There are two other aspects of Washougal that I always focused on. Washougal’s trees create shadows, and they were always a difficult obstacle for me. On a sunny day, the stark contrast between the open sections and the covered sections take time for eyes to adjust to. Some of those same sections are also high speed, not really providing time for my eyes to catch up. I would charge into some of the downhill sections before the finish line virtually blind. Many riders try different goggle lenses, both darker and brighter, to help with that transition but it’s still a difficult proposition for everyone. On overcast days, the contrast was lessened and didn’t affect many but on a day like will have this Saturday, rest assured that riders can’t see much of anything in those dark, shaded sections.
The other section of note is the long whoops section before the finish line. They have changed in size and shape over the years but they still represent a big chance for riders to make up time and also set up riders for a pass. Those riders who are willing to fully commit can really make a dent in their lap time but that commitment comes with consequences at times. Justin Barcia had a huge get off here a couple of years ago, a reminder that things can derail quickly. Watch for riders to pick a different rut or even swing out wide in hopes of getting alongside the rider they are following, beating them to the left hand bend beyond the flag stand.
Questions I Want Answered:
Is this 250 title all but over?
Washougal is a great track for both Tomac and Musquin. Who emerges victorious?
Can Baggett take another step forward?
Will Savatgy finally put two motos together?
Will Mitch Payton have any hair left at the end of 2018?
How will Josh Grant file in to the 450 field?
How will the 90-plus degree temps affect the results?
Aaron Plessinger has dominated the last four motos and really put a stamp on this 250 points chase.
Eli Tomac got back on track, putting in a huge charge in the second moto for the Spring Creek sweep.
Ken Roczen led laps and looked to be back on the improvement path last weekend.
Justin Bogle has had a rough comeback to racing. Spring Creek was a tiny step forward but it’s still been a bit underwhelming.
Austin Forkner has been riding really well but he has had tough crashes three weekends in a row, effectively ruining any chance for solid points.
Dylan Ferrandis just didn’t find his groove in Minnesota after running up front at Southwick and RedBud. Washougal is a technical, tricky track that usually meshes well with French riders.
Joey Savatgy leads a lap.
Eli Tomac, running out of ways to one-up himself, hits 88 mph in the Washougal whoops and travels back in time. (Back to the Future movie, google it if you’re under 30)
Ryan Villopoto joins Weege and GL in the booth. Following Dungey’s guest spot last week, RV up’s the ante with four eff bombs, 2.5 Bud Light burps, and a reference for anyone and everyone to “suck it”.
Steve Matthes turns wrenches for Alex Ray and both rider and mechanic suffer heat related DNF’s for the day.
Aaron Plessinger puts up another 1-1.