‘I’m Ryan Villopoto and I’m here to crash the party…’ Essentially this is the statement – near enough anyway – that RV2’s performance provided Saturday Night in Oakland, California. Not only to us fans but to his competition too.
As the gate dropped for the fourth 450 Main Event of 2014 the stage was set for yet another supercross spectacular. The expectations were high after the awesomeness of A2, the ‘deepest field in history’ was amped up for their chance to prove themselves, ‘the deepest field in history’ was ready to do a ‘Reed…’
Ryan Villopoto had different ideas. The #1 machine grabbed a good start, third around the first turn, and within half a lap the champ had muscled his way straight into the lead… And we know all too well that this is certainly not good news for the rest of the pack.
Despite this the running order was incredibly stacked up front, with Villopoto followed closely by Chad Reed, Justin Brayton, Ryan Dungey, Will Hahn and James Stewart. In the early stages of this race Chad Reed looked as though he was riding his momentum from last week like a wicked wave of the coast of California, he looked menacing in that second position and stalked the champ throughout the first quarter of the race.
However, Chad’s wave seemed to crash upon the shore a little too early for him to mount a fully fledged attack for the lead. The only man that seemed to have the fight and the flow to bring it to Villopoto on Saturday night was James Stewart and unfortunately for us (and him) Stewart was stuck back in sixth position initially, as Villopoto squirted away with the lead.
This incredibly deep and talented field of riders, the same field that had blessed us with the race of the year a week previously was now a curse and the only thing standing in the way of a classic slugger match between three-time champ Ryan Villopoto and two-time champ James Stewart.
Luckily enough for us watching around the globe the Bubba that we saw turn up at Anaheim 1 seems to have returned and he was definitely in attendance at Oakland on Saturday night – meaning that the incredibly tough uphill climb from his current position to the front of the field was very much achievable. With half the race gone and 10 laps to go Stewart had gotten around the likes of Dungey, Brayton and Hahn. He now had his sights set on his old rival, Chad Reed – a complete reversal of last weekend’s situation.
Now, I’d just like to take this opportunity to point out that, in my opinion, Bubba is still one of, if not THE, most talented rider to ever grace the earth. And he is certainly still one of the most exciting to watch. The man can do things on a motorcycle that no one else can – and he does it consistently.
That first rhythm section on Saturday night for example. Yes, other riders such as Reed and Dungey, managed to hit the quad jump within the section a few times but Stewart was the only rider – that I saw anyway – hitting the quad jump consistently. It’s not only the impressive rhythm section leaps that makes me think this, there’s the little things too. If you watch Stewart intently throughout the race you’ll see that everything he does has purpose. Just go back and watch how he enters corners and sets up his entrances as he is still manoeuvring the Rhythm sections. It was these little things together with that bad-ass quad jump that saw JS7 around last weekend’s conqueror, Chad Reed.
Ultimately though, no one, not even Stewart had an answer for the outrageously fast and consistently smooth Villopoto that we saw on Saturday night. If that RV2 turns up each and every weekend until May then god help us all!
But I am going to predict differently. I think, in 2014, we are going to see Villopoto crash or win. We’ve seen it already so far this season over the first four rounds. Villopoto has won the races in which he has not crashed, and done so rather convincingly – although not as convincingly as times gone by. And unfortunately for his competition, when Villopoto has crashed it hasn’t been disastrous which means that he now has his hands on the red plate and I can’t see him giving it up very easily at all.
One thing is for certain, if any of these guys wish to defeat RV2 and claim the #1 plate from his clutches they can most definitely not afford to give him a head start like they did this past weekend in Oakland.
The white flag warrior, the final lap phantom, the last minute maestro strikes once again. Jason Anderson takes the Oakland win, in bizarre fashion…
Let’s back things up a little bit shall we. Believe it or not – I’ve got the proof if you want it – in the days leading up to the weekend I was talking to a buddy of mine that lives in the States doing a little bench racing and I actually called Justin Hill to take the win in Oakland… And well I was almost right!
After a little ding dong with his Pro Circuit team-mate Dean Wilson, on the opening lap of the 250 Main Event, Justin Hill would take command of the race for a good majority of its duration. One thing that was certainly clear early on in this race was that Pro Circuit is most definitely back on form. With two of their riders in the first and third positions – something that we have not seen in way too long, as far as Mitch Payton is concerned anyway – with championship antagonist Jason Anderson splitting the two in second place.
Whilst the Pro Circuit team seemed to be turning things around for the better, the same couldn’t be said for the (then) current red plate holder, Cole Seely. Seely did not seem to be same rider he has been throughout the first three rounds of the season. Could this be due to the pressure of holding the red plate weighing him down? Or maybe he was just struggling to gel with the Oakland track?
We’ve seen it before with Seely where he has had an incredible start to a season to then fall off the rails later on. Although I wouldn’t call his fourth place finish in Oakland ‘falling off the rails’, I would say though that he cannot afford to have too many performances such as this in such a short series if his fiercest championship rival seems to be riding to near perfection each and every week… Which Jason Anderson seems to be doing!
As the 250 Main Event continued on, Justin Hill proceeded to hold his own in the lead, fending off multiple attacks and challenges from the in-form Jason Anderson whilst his Pro Circuit team-mate lurked quietly in third place. As the race progressed Dean Wilson started to look more and more comfortable until he was able to pass both Jason Anderson and Justin Hill in what was essentially one fell swoop. From there on out Deano was able to stretch away from his competition and go on to what was going to be an easy win…
But it wasn’t to be. As the white flag fell Deano charged around the first two turns until he made it to the first of the large triple jumps on track. Suddenly, for some unbeknownst reason Deano’s bike lost all power and he was forced to roll the triple. By this time the #17 KTM had found a way around Justin Hill into second position. Jason ‘The final lap Phantom’ Anderson was now able to capitalise on Wilson’s misfortune and bring home the win.
Although Anderson will go down in the record books as taking the win in Oakland I really feel as though Wilson will walk away knowing that he was the real winner on the night. He had the race sewn up until he was struck with that anomaly. It was obvious from his ride on the weekend that Deano has his mojo back and knowing that he would’ve had that race sewn up if not for a bike malfunction will surely give him that boost in confidence needed to mount an assault on this 250 West Coast Supercross Championship… This is great news for him and for us British supercross fans – not so great news for his competition!
We’ll have to wait until Anaheim 3 to see if I’m correct. Go Deano!