Sunday, 8 January 2012

Anaheim 1 450 Supercross 2012 race report

Anticipation was high as Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California was set to host the opening round of the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross FIM World Championship series.

The 2011 edition of the series saw a thrilling 5-way battle for the championship, the likes of which hadn't been seen in decades. Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed, Ryan Dungey, James Stewart and Trey Canard all won races and thrilled fans at each of the 17 rounds with unpredictable racing filled with drama and excitement.

Enter 2012 and all the usual contenders mixed with a few new faces and some old-blood hoping to get back in the mix, and you have one high-excitement season opener.

The day started off much like some would expect, with James Stewart setting the pace in qualifying practice, something he has done more often than not throughout his career. James was looking good in his debut for the JGR/Toyota MX team.

Also setting fast times in qualifying was last years champ, Monster Energy Kawasaki rider, Ryan Villopoto. Villopoto had his #1 KX450F on top of the board in the first round of practices, but ultimately wound-up a little over a second off of the pace set by Stewart by the time the final practice had wrapped-up.

Another one of the big question marks coming in to the 2012 season, was how 2010 champ, Ryan Dungey, would transition from his tried and proven Suzuki RM-Z450, to the all-new Red Bull KTM 450. Dungey was able to start the day off the right way, slotting into 3rd in qualifying.

The veteran of the title-contenders, Chad Reed, was back for his sophomore season with his own TwoTwo Motorsports team, this year picking up factory Honda backing to aid in what he hopes will be a winning season. Reed was a solid 4th in the first round of qualifying, but seemed to struggle the second time out and could only manage to qualify in 8th.

Last year's rookie-sensation, Trey Canard, wasn't present in qualifying, as he made a decision to sit the first round out to continue recovering from a broken collarbone.

The first heat race of the night featured two of the biggest names in the sport, Ryan Villopoto and Chad Reed, as well as new factory Honda/Muscle Milk rider, Justin Brayton. When the gate dropped, it was the #800 Motoconcepts Suzuki of Mike Alessi grabbing the first holeshot of the 2012 season, with Chad Reed quickly into 2nd. Ryan Villopoto suffered a poor start and was forced to work his way through the pack. Alessi led the first couple of laps before Reed eventually found his way past and began to open up a gap. Villopoto wasted no time slicing through the field, and by the time the 8-lap heat race was over, was nipping at the heels of Alessi for 2nd. Justin Brayton went down in the first corner and would be forced to go to the last chance qualifier.

SX Heat 1
1. Chad Reed.
2. Mike Alessi
3. Ryan Villopoto
4. Davi Millsaps
5. Ryan Morais
6. Broc Tickle
7. Josh Hansen
8. Jimmy Albertson
9. Chris Blose

The second heat race of the evening featured top qualifier James Stewart and new KTM rider Ryan Dungey. Rounding the first turn ahead of the field was Andrew Short on his Honda, with Dungey behind him. Stewart didn't get the greatest start, but made a few quick moves to get towards the front. Ultimately, Stewart was able to pass both Dungey and Short, and the man who won the most heat races in 2011 started off 2012 with another victory. Dungey held on for a close 2nd and Short an equally-close 3rd.

SX Heat 2
1. James Stewart
2. Ryan Dungey
3. Andrew Short
4. Jake Weimer
5. Ivan Tedesco
6. Brett Metcalfe
7. Josh Grant
8. Kevin Windham
9. Kyle Chisholm

The last chance qualifier featured some big names including Justin Brayton, Tommy Hahn, Nick Wey, Jeff Alessi, Josh Hill and Austin Stroupe. It was rather humbling to think that only two of the above mentioned riders had a shot at making the night's main event. In the end it was Honda-mounted Justin Brayton taking the win, riding a steady race to put his #10 bike into the main. Tommy Hahn would take the 2nd and final transfer spot while Nick Wey would be the first rider to miss the main event taking 3rd. Hearbreak for Hart and Huntington/Dodge/Kawasaki's Josh Hill, who, in his return from injury, crashed on lap 1 and had to leave the track in the back of a medic Mule.

1. Justin Brayton
2. Tommy Hahn

At last, the moment everyone had been waiting for. The first 450 main event of the 2012 season. All the hype that led up to this, as the excitement reached a fever-pitch. It was time to see who had done their homework and was truly prepared for the grueling 17 round championship battle.

As the bikes rocketed into the first turn, it appeared that Chad Reed would grab the holeshot, but Ryan Villopoto made a move on the inside and stole it away. Reed would be 2nd off the start before briefly being passed by Ivan Tedesco, but was able to get the position back. Ryan Dungey was into the top 5 early while James Stewart suffered another poor start, outside of the top 10 early-on.

Ahead of the field, Villopoto was charging and in the first few laps, had already pulled out a commanding lead. Reed was in a comfortable 2nd, but behind him, a battle began to brew. Dungey, in 3rd, had washed the front wheel out and gone down, allowing Stewart, who had worked his way into 4th, to go past. Dungey re-grouped, though, and began challenging Stewart again. Dungey was able to get by and back into 3rd just as Chad Reed made a mistake in a turn, beginning a three-way battle for 2nd between Reed, Dungey and Stewart.

It appeared that the battle for 2nd was going to go down to the finish, until Stewart made a mistake on a table-top and crashed, falling back outside the top five. Dungey, free of the pressure from Stewart, began to apply some pressure of his own to Reed in pursuit of the runner-up spot. By this time, Villopoto was on cruise-control, the victory well in-hand.

The battle between Reed and Dungey came down to the wire, but Reed was able to hold on. Justin Brayton rode a great race for 4th while Stewart rebounded for 6th.

Main Event
1. Ryan Villopoto
2. Chad Reed
3. Ryan Dungey
4. Justin Brayton
5. Jake Weimer
6. James Stewart
7. Andrew Short
8. Kevin Windham
9. Mike Alessi
10. Josh Hansen
11. Brett Metcalfe
12. Broc Tickle
13. Ivan Tedesco
14. Kyle Chisholm
15. Ryan Morais
16. Davi Millsaps
17. Jimmy Albertson
18. Chris Blose
19. Josh Grant
20. Tommy Hahn